From Lucy and the Lovers to The Killjoys.
From Dexys Midnight Runners to Dexys.
From Roxy Music to punk.
From the young soul rebels to Celtic soul brothers.
From the occasional flicker to his beauty.
From projected passion and the look of New York dockers to the gypsy chic of too-rye-ay.
From classic men’s tailoring to women’s clothing that was really men’s clothing.
From burning it down to Jackie Wilson.
From listening to what she said to both sides…now.
Kevin Rowland arrived in Alan McGee’s offices at Creation to sign a record contract after years in the creative wilderness dressed, as McGee has it, as Henry VIII. That incident led to the release of, arguably, the best album of his career…a suite of cover versions that transformed the originals from classics and curiosities and into works of mind bending and heart shredding genius.
Let’s step back.
I’ve landed in the middle.
Let’s step back.
Dexys Midnight Runners arrived after Rowland had already had two stabs at the music business, first as a member of Lucy and the Lovers then as a member of the marginally more successful punk band The Killjoys. The difference between those two efforts and Dexys Midnight Runners was that Rowland knew this was going to be the last chance. It was make something precious or live a life more ordinary.
An ordinary life was never going to cut it for Kevin Rowland.
I think he knew that.
So he projected all his hope, ambition and passion into Dexys Midnight Runners.
That led to the creation of the best debut album by a British band ever.
“Searching for the Young Soul Rebels” is the sound of youth.
Have you ever seen a band who looked more perfect?
I’ll save you the time.
The look was always important.
The look remains important.
At that point they looked sharp.
A mixture of skinhead, mod and New York docker.
They also look like a gang.
And they were a gang.
The leader of the gang was Kevin.
He could see and hear what he wanted Dexys to be.
Then he created the perfect soul vision, all raw talent, blood, sweat and tears.
When you listen to “Searching for the Young Soul Rebels” now it sounds as fresh, as powerful and as pure as it did in 1980.
As the radio dial meanders its way around a variety of stations, nations and sounds at the start of “Burn it Down” you can feel the desperation of the kid trying to find something, anything, worth listening to before Rowland calls out to his troops…”Big Jimmy, Al…for God’s sake, burn it down”.
Burn it down.
A statement of intent.
A declaration of war.
Other bands could be happy with being just a band…Kevin Rowland wanted to be THE band.
Then came “Geno”.
And suddenly Dexys Midnight Runners were the band.
A hymn to being young.
A sonnet to first love…the only love that really matters.
Every kid in every town who has ever wanted to get up, get out and get on understood, understands, what “Geno” is really about. You didn’t have to be there back in ’68…it didn’t have to be Geno and his Ram Jam band…this was about hearing that song, that singer, who feeds your soul, makes you understand that someone else understands. Projected passion.
It is one of the great singles in British pop music history.
The whole album is littered with classic tracks.
“Tell me When my Light Turns Green”?
Seen quite a bit in my twenty-three years
Ive been manic-depressive
And Ive spat a few tears.
Ive been spat on and shat on
And made to eat soap
You get that, right?
Course you do.
Made to wash your mouth out for holding opinions other people don’t like?
It’s not 1980 but everybody, at any time…from any place, who has ever felt that way, felt this way, get’s that.
Or this from “There There my Dear”…
Let me explain, though youd never see in a million years. Keep quoting
Cabaret, Berlin, Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Duchamp, Beauvoir, Kerouac,
Kierkegaard, Michael Rennie. I dont believe you really like Frank Sinatra.
Remember that kid, maybe it was you, who took great delight in letting everyone know how they had been into the in thing long before anyone else…and that they had moved on to the next thing?
“Oh, I liked blah blah blah before they were in the charts. They are rubbish now.”
Was it you?
Course it wasn’t…you’re reading this.
That kid was a phoney.
Kevin saw phonies everywhere.
He saw them.
Took aim and took them down.
Because he had to.
Because for him this wasn’t about being “cool” or being number one.
This was all he had.
This was all he was.
I’ve walked around, seen the town and the crowds
With their frowns on their faces
And occassional traces of doubt
I’ve walked about, worked it out, pissed about
Tried to shout, no one’s listening
It’s all you and your rules and fools and
It’s all you in schools they’ll, tools they’ll
“Thankfully Not Living in Yorkshire it Doesn’t Apply” is not only the greatest song title in the history of song it also contains those lyrics.
Crowds in towns, frowns on faces, traces of doubt…someone, somewhere, trying to get people to listen but nobody is interested in listening because all they care about is their rules. They think this is the way it is and so this is the way it has to be.
When you watch the news don’t you ever think…BURN IT DOWN?
When you pick up a paper don’t you ever think…PHONIES.
When you overhear people talking in the pub don’t you ever think…FOOLS.
Don’t you wish people would just listen?
That makes you a young soul rebel.
That means the search is over.
You’ve found yourself.
Now you just need to find the other people who feel the same way.
There is only one place to start…with Dexys.
With the beauty and tenderness of “I Couldn’t Help it if I Tried”.
With the riot of soul that is their version of “Seven Days Too Long”.
With the aching, tender, passion of “I’m Just Looking”.
Dig the new soul vision.