Off the back of Two Tone I purchased this single back in 79 from this outfit from Birmingham. Their’s was a soul sound, with no hint of reference to ska or reggae. A year later they put out Geno as a single and it raced to no 1 in the charts. Their first lp Searching for the Young Soul Rebels came out a few months later. Eleven tracks and I loved ten of them, worth every penny of my wages. I loved the brass driving forward the melody on tracks such as Tell Me When My Light Turns Green and There There My Dear. Kevin Rowland’s sensitivity was exposed in I Couldn’t Help It If I Tried and Seven Days Is Too Long.
As an act they shunned the interview, preferring to buy advertising space to publish their manifesto. Most of it was way too intense and serious, as Kevin clearly was about his art.
The hit of the summer of 1982 was Come On Eileen which preceded the release of the lp Too Ray Aye it was also on by a month. Even now it is an example of the perfect pop record and when Dexy’s appeared on Later With Jools 30 years ago and played it, everyone knew the words. When I saw them in Brighton with Penny a few years ago, it was the track everyone was waiting for, and they got what they wanted eventually. But not the version they were familiar with. No, they teased the audience with a preamble and when they satisfied their craving served up a special helping with an extended version of this track. But there was more, so much more to this lp than one track. The addition of strings added a Celtic dimension to their soul sound, in the same vein as Van Morrison would occasionally do. They did the Ulsterman a compliment by covering one of his early tracks, Jackie Wilson Said.
On their first lp I rated 10 out of 11 of the offerings. On their second lp I rated all 10 out of 10. Everything from the sentimental Old to the forceful brass which arrives halfway through Plan B. Did that track inspire the artist of the same name? Then there is the old fashioned morality of Liars A To E;
‘You should sleep alone, Open To Suggestions, Is That The Way You Feel?’ which is backed up by a fine set of backing singers.
Then there is the self exposure of Until I Believe In My Soul which even thirty years later sounds like an intrusion into someone’s personal confession.
One news item I remember was that they banned venues from selling alcohol at their gigs. They didn’t want their audience intoxicated. As you may gather there was an intensity about the band and they way they interacted with the rest of the world.
There was a third lp in 1985, Don’t Stand Me Down, but it passed me by at the time. Listening to it over 20 years later it doesn’t have the same production standards as the first two. The stand out track from this offering was This Is What She’s Like, at 12 minutes long with several tempo changes, some dialogue at the beginning and further self exploration about paranoia amongst other things.
Four years ago I spotted that Dexy’s were appearing on Later With Jools and they opened the progeramme with Free, which was the penultimate track on their soon to be released lp One Day I’m Going To Soar. I was blown away with the performance and looked forward to getting a listen to the new LP, which when it arrived, didn’t disappoint. Like the first lp I loved 10 out of 11 tracks. The themes on this lp were a continuation of familiar subject matter, primarily the difficulty in maintaining relationships and making a commitment. The final track It’s Ok John Joe at 7 minutes, 55 seconds is the longest and most exposed of all the material, but ending with a reprise of the hooks from Free, the preceding track. I eagerly purchased tickets for the forthcoming tour and saw them in Brighton with Penny. She and the boys had long been exposed to my love for this band and Penny later said it was the best gig she’d ever been to, despite not being such a big fan of his. They played through their new lp in sequence 1-11 and then blasted through some of their greatest hits, including Tell Me When My Lights Green, which allowed Jim Paterson to blow away on the trombone and take centre stage, rightly, as he is a fine musician. No support acts were needed, Dexy’s on their own was enough.
Researching this blog I came across the news that a new lp is scheduled for release in June, Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul. As you can gather, this act can do little wrong in my eyes.
What became of them between 1985 and 2012? That’s a long time to wait between releases. The facts are vague but Kevin in interviews has alluded to this being a dark time in his life. Did he succumb to the vices he sang so passionately about in his early material? All I know is when I saw him in 2012 I thought ‘he’s back, and still as good as he ever was’. Another theory is that Kevin is a perfectionist and held back until he was happy with what he was making. It was worth the wait. Some are one hit wonders, some are one lp wonders, Dexys are neither. Everything they do shows attention to detail. Long may they continue to create.