Meet Dexys Midnight Runners [PHOTOS/VIDEOS]
You know their biggest song…its one of Jersey’s Favorite Hits! But what do you know about the band behind the hit? Lots…by the end of their turn in the nj1015.com spotlight!
Vocalist and guitar player Kevin Rowland (going under the name Carlo Rolan), and Kevin “Al” Archer (also a singer and guitarist) formed the band in Birmingham, England in 1978.
“Dexy” was short for the recreational drug Dexedrine.
“Midnight Runners” was a reference to the energy that Dexedrine provided the user…in the case of the band, the ability to dance all night.
The rest of the founding lineup of this new band included: “Big” Jim Paterson on trombone, Geoff “JB” Blythe on sax, Steve “Babyface” Spooner on alto saxophone, Pete Saunders on keyboards, and Bobby “Jnr” Ward on drums.
Their first song, “Dance Stance” went to #40 on the British charts in 1979.
In 1980, keyboardist Andy Leek, and drummer Andy “Stoker” Growcott were added…and their next single “Geno” went to #1 in England.
Despite this newfound success, just be aware that Dexys Midnight Runners is still a few years…and a world…away from that BIG international hit!
Image was very important to Rowland. The band was seen dressed in “donkey jackets” (a short, dark wool coat worn by British workers) or leather jackets, and woolly hats. At this time, they projected a “street” look.
Andy Leek would soon leave the band, stating in not so many words that he really disliked being suddenly famous. Go figure, right?
Dexys Midnight Runner’s debut album was released in July 1980.
“Searching For The Young Soul Rebels” front cover featured a photo of a Belfast youth carrying all of his belongings, after being forced from his home. Rowland liked the “unrest” of the photo, and album name.
Rowland’s choice of singles from the album (a hit and a failure), along with personality clashes, caused most of the guys to leave the band. The British music press wasn’t complimentary, either.
Jim Paterson stayed with Rowland, and with new bandmates, Dexys Midnight Runners put out a handful of singles during the rest of 1980, and into 1981.
The band’s new look included hooded tops, boots and pony tails…and Rowland added a workout routine! They guys would even go running before a show…and no drinking was allowed before performances.
By Spring 1981, as the single “Plan B” was about to be released, the band was in a contract dispute with their label, EMI. Further, an ad appeared in which Kevin Rowland asserted that former band members had hatched a plan to throw him out of the band.
Two more Britain-only singles would be released before the Fall of 1981…when Rowland would take the band in a new direction.
Rowland would add violinists Helen O’Hara, Steve Brennan, and Roger MacDuff. Plus Giorgio Kilkenny on bass. Now, the band went into the studio to record “Too-Rye-Ay,” a 1982 album that was a musical hybrid of soul and Celtic Folk.
The first single, “The Celtic Soul Brothers” went to #45 in Britain…
NOW, its time for International fame!
The followup single, “Come On Eileen” would reach #1 in the US, England, Australia, and Ireland (and others).
As you can see in the video (and live BBC appearance), Dexys Midnight Runners had yet another image…I would call it “FARMER” (bib overalls, scarves). Rowland was quoted in the press as saying “a bit of hoedowning is even possible.”
Feeling that their role in the group had diminished following the arrival of the violins, the brass section left the band (later forming their own horn band). Other members would come and go…and Dexys Midnight Runners would tour until 1983, with a core of Rowland, Billy Adams (guitar), O’Hara, and Seb Shelton (drums), backed by other musicians.
After a two year break, Dexys Midnight Runners returned with the 1985 album “Don’t Stand Me Down.”
The return lineup included: Rowland, Adams, O’Hara and Nicky Gatfield (trumpet), along with other “seasoned” musicians.
The new album (above) brought another new look, with the band wearing ties, pin-striped suits, and with neatly combed hair!
At first, Rowland wouldn’t release any singles from the album…and by the time a 3 minute edit (of the 12 minute) “This Is What She’s Like” was released, it was too late to save the album from being a commercial failure.
Dexys Midnight Runners broke up in 1986.
Kevin Rowland attempted the solo career route in 1988, with the release of “The Wanderer.” The album was barely noticed.
Financial problems, and drug addiction plagued Rowland through much of the 1990’s. Despite this, he talked of plans to reform the band with Jim Paterson. Only a 1993 TV appearance happened.
Rowland’s final attempt at solo work was the 1999 album “My Beauty.” It was made of up of Rowland’s interpretations of “classic songs,” and sold poorly.
Just when you think that all is lost for Dexys Midnight Runners…
2003 brought a new, six piece version of the band, with the new name “Dexys.”
“Let’s Make This Precious,” a greatest hits album was released in September 2003, and a successful (British) tour followed. Two new songs, “Manhood” and “My Life in England”, were touted as (new) singles. Despite national radio exposure in England, neither was officially released as a commercial single!
In 2007, a new single “It’s OK Johanna,” appeared on Dexys social site.
Dexys latest album, “One Day I’m Going To Soar,” was released in June 2012.
In the past year, Dexys has played several shows in and around London, and had played in Amsterdam.
You might find it interesting to know that in researching this article, I came across a list of former members of Dexys Midnight Runners…I counted 39 people…then, there’s Kevin Rowland, Jim Paterson, Pete Williams, and Lucy Morgan who are listed as current “Dexys!”
No matter what the future may bring “Dexys,” they’ll always have one of “Jersey’s Favorite Hits!”
Check out “Dexy’s” official site by clicking here.