Friday, December 06, 2002

Found: young soul rebels

ITV's 'Rock Legends' programme was last night dedicated to Dexys Midnight Runners, and deservedly so. The narrative traced the sheer hard work of their beginnings in Birmingham, before moving on to consider their three albums (I think there were only three...), devoting particular attention to the record which was regarded as a 'great lost album' almost as soon as it had been released, Don't Stand Me Down.

What was really pressed home by the programme was the incredible chameleon-like changes the band's sound and image underwent over the space of only a few years - they were constantly redefining themselves to the extent that even David Bowie's career seems far more coherent in comparison.

Dexys Mark I - Searching For The Young Soul Rebels: black jackets and hats inspired by the film 'Mean Streets', awesome horn-driven single 'Geno' propelled to Number 1 in May 1980.

Dexys Mark II - Too-Rye-Ay: gypsy chic, dungarees and neckerchieves worn as a marker of group solidarity, lots of fiddles, another Number 1 in the shape of 'Come On Eileen'.

Dexys Mark III - Don't Stand Me Down: serious, difficult, mature, ambitious, inspired by Irish rebel songs, suits and ties, no singles.

It's a shame that, as Kevin Rowland admitted, 'Come On Eileen' "became bigger than the group", and that Dexys will seemingly be forever known for the song that has inebriated wedding guests falling around on their arses up and down the country every week. Whereas on Too-Rye-Ay Rowland confessed they "sold out a bit", 'Geno' in particular has a real uncompromising purity and purposiveness about it, common to both Searching... and Don't Stand Me Down. In the end, a classic tale of "contrary buggers" (Rowland's words again) who, in their fierce independence and perverse adherence to a vision, became the inadvertent architects of their own destruction, leaving in their wake a legacy of great music.

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