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The Unforgettable Earworm “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners

Music | April 12, 2022

The band changed their look for every album, from dock workers to business suits. Napster

1982’s “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners bucked the trend of the ‘80s synthesizers while taking the #1 spot from Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. The good vibes song featuring banjos, accordions, and fiddles over electronic sounds came as a surprise. The band, which was named after the drug Dexedrinel despite the band living the clean life, scored their only American hit with this ode to childhood love. Surprisingly, the band lacked the cohesive happiness of their biggest hit thanks to frontman Kevin Rowland's heavy-handed leadership style. Here’s the tale of “Come On Eileen” and the Dexys Midnight Runners.

Besides growing up religious, Rowland was also arrested 4 times before the age of 15. 45worlds

The Genesis Of “Come On Eileen”

The words of “Come On Eileen'' also functioned secondarily to the easy listening joviality of the song’s uplifting tune. Therefore, you might be surprised to learn that the song was actually based on a real girl in Kevin’s upbringing and their adolescent romance. Due to Rowland’s religious childhood, he served as an altar boy but he couldn’t deny his “dirty” feelings for a girl his age. As it goes, “You in that dress, My thoughts I confess, Verge on dirty.”

Jim Paterson described his additon to Dexys Midnight Runners as "a fluke." globalfilmlocations

UK Success

While the band found success in the UK with their first album, “Searching for the Young Soul Rebels,” they remained far from being a household name. Rowland deeply desired that pop recognition. As the lead singer recalled, “I was hankering after pop success at that point. I’m not saying we wrote it (Come On Eileen) with that in mind. Oh, that I would be that clever. But we did write it, like everything we did, the best we possibly could. We worked our arses off. Every detail counted.”

Supposedly, Rowland even enforced an intense "fitness regime" for the band. twitter

Come On Kevin

Despite the success of their first album, Rowland remained unhappy with the band and changed out everyone except trombone player, Jim Paterson, before their second album. As original guitarist Kevin "Al" Archer put it,

"Kevin (Rowland) ruled the group with a rod of iron - he wouldn't speak to us personally. After shows we'd be in a room on our own, it became 'hate Kevin Rowland time.' We were in Switzerland, we'd played to 2,000 people, and Kevin and I got on a plane to Luxembourg and the rest got in a van and went to England. That was it. Kevin got me to help form a new group. It got too much. We met in the little Nibble cafe in Bearwood and I said I was leaving. He never showed any emotion."

Part of “Come On Eileen” success came from the video which MTV played over and over. tenor

A Tune For The Ages

In the face of such friction, the new version of Dexys Midnight Runners still managed to put together one of the all-time happy tunes. As Rowland remembered, "We wanted a good rhythm and we found one. Lots of records we liked had that rhythm: 'Concrete and Clay,' 'It's Not Unusual' by Tom Jones. Lots of records we liked had that 'Bomp ba bomp, bomp ba bomp.' We came up with the chord sequence ourselves and just started singing melodies over it. I remember thinking, 'We're really onto something here.” Ironically, producer Clive Langer and Rowland’s manager didn’t feel the specialness of “Come On Eileen.”

According to Rowland, “Clive didn't think it would be a hit! He told me that! He said it wasn't as good as Celtic Soul Brothers. And my manager didn't think it would be a hit. He said he thought it was trying too hard. The record company wanted to release 'Jackie Wilson.' But in the studio, we got some things right, and we got that right." In the end, Rowland got the last laugh as he made a hit that in his words, “that you’ll hum forever.”

Tags: Dexys Midnight Runners

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Kellar Ellsworth


Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!