Beyond ‘Eileen,’ Ted Leo Lays Out Why Dexys Midnight Runners Are Worth Your Time

He's taking part in a St. Patrick's Day tribute to the band on Sunday.

Like most Americans, acclaimed indie rocker Ted Leo found Dexys Midnight Runners via their 1982 smash "Come On Eileen." And then like most Americans, he promptly forgot about them.

It wasn't till the early '90s, whereas fronting the mod-punk group Chisel, that Leo took a more in-depth take a look at Dexys. Chisel was drawing on what Leo calls "main sources" like The Jam and The Clash, and he was stunned to study simply how neatly Dexys slotted into that lineage of influences.

"The older you get the extra folks you discuss to," says Leo, who'll have fun St. Patrick's Day by fronting a 10-piece Dexys tribute band this Sunday (March 17) on the Bell House in Brooklyn. "You'd hear these rumors, a minimum of again then, of the fabled 'good Dexys information.' So that turned a kind of back-of-my-mind issues, to at all times be in search of these information. And they had been, in truth, good."

What Leo found the deeper he went with Dexys was a gaggle that got here out of the British punk scene of the late '70s and developed a contemporary sound rooted in '60s R&B. As a music fan, Leo appreciated that combo, and because the son of an Irish mom, he recognized with the Celtic prospers and nods to Irish delight which have at all times been current in Dexys' music.

It was lots simple to overlook all that whereas Leo was rising up in New Jersey within the '80s. All anybody knew was "Come On Eileen," a jaunty sing-along so sublimely bizarre and catchy you work it's obtained to be some form of joke. The music introduced strings and banjos to high 40 radio and topped the Billboard Hot 100 for one superb week in 1983. Much of the success was because of the music video, which options Dexys having a ragamuffin street-corner jamboree in saggy overalls. It was simply the form of cartoonish clip that would make a band's profession within the early days of MTV.

After that, Dexys by no means scored one other U.S. hit. They've since been branded with the one-hit-wonder tag and even obtained dissed within the basic 1993 "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" episode of The Simpsons. Upon studying his group has overwhelmed Dexys for a Grammy, Homer tells Lisa, "Well, you haven't heard the final of them."

But as with many oddly dressed British bands that blew up due to MTV, there's extra to Dexys than one hit music. When they got here on the scene, they performed soul music with the identical youthful aggression The Specials and their 2 Tone brethren delivered to '60s Jamaican ska. The horns on Dexys' stellar 1980 debut album Searching for the Young Soul Rebels are so highly effective it appears like "Big" Jim Paterson's trombone goes to punch via the speaker and poke you within the eye.

Cutting via the brassy combine is frontman and mastermind Kevin Rowland, a yowling road poet who at all times sounds about two seconds from breaking down in tears. This vocal model suited Rowland's songwriting, which regularly pitted the England-born son of Irish immigrants towards the remainder of the world. Searching for the Young Soul Rebels finds Rowland tearing down phonies ("There, There My Dear"), questioning the existence of affection ("Love Part One"), celebrating his Irish heritage ("Burn It Down"), and wailing passionately about plenty of different matters that aren't at all times clear. Even Ted Leo, who earned an English diploma at Notre Dame, has bother making sense of Rowland's extra indirect lyrics.

"More than something, what comes via is his supply," says Leo. "He might be singing a grocery listing, and the way in which he's going to ship it's with conviction. You know what's on his listing. You know he actually desires it. And he actually must go get it."

Leo's favourite music on Searching for the Young Soul Rebels is "Geno," Rowland's tribute to '60s-era American soul singer Geno Washington. The music reached No. 1 within the U.Okay., establishing Dexys as legit superstars an excellent two years earlier than "Come On Eileen" landed them on American shores.

"'Geno' is one thing that actually by no means will get previous for me," says Leo. "That's a music the place you're not fully certain what he's singing about. It's simply the child who's so deeply into the music, practising his dance steps. It's a kind of love-of-the-rapture-of-music form of songs. I'd say that's considered one of my favourite songs usually talking, not simply on the album."

By the time Dexys returned with Too-Rye-Ay in 1982, Rowland had a brand new lineup and a brand new look. Whereas the band had dressed like rugged longshoremen circa their debut, Rowland marked the band's subsequent chapter by buying and selling knit caps and donkey jackets for the soiled overalls and bandanas that will turn into their trademark. The outfits matched the album's sound, the combination of old-school R&B and string-laced Celtic music heard on "Celtic Soul Brothers," the Van Morrison cowl "Jackie Wilson Said," and naturally, "Come On Eileen."

Leo suspects Americans would've acquired Too-Rye-Ay in a different way had they heard Dexys' debut first and understood the place they had been coming from with the classic R&B. "Without that context within the background of 'Come On Eileen,' it's exhausting to even perceive that [soul music] is what's occurring in that music," Leo says. "But that's what's occurring in that music. They simply added violins and banjo."

And then they modified issues up once more. Dexys donned yuppie fits and dialed again the vitality for 1985's Don't Stand Me Down, a business flop that marked the top of the group's preliminary run. (Rowland reactivated the band in 2003 and has since launched two comeback albums.) Leo digs the third album, too, and he's trying ahead to performing a music or two throughout the career-spanning Bell House tribute. He's maybe much less excited concerning the "costume modifications" promised by David Nagler, the Brooklyn composer and multi-instrumentalist who organized the present and tapped Leo to play Rowland.

"I've been busy with a bunch of different stuff," Leo says. "But I assume I've obtained to get some outfits collectively."

The Bell House live performance is likely to be one of many few St. Patrick's Day bashes round NYC to characteristic the music of Dexys Midnight Runners. When the Guinness will get flowing this weekend, you're far more prone to hear The Pogues -- who, like Dexys, had been technically British, not Irish. For as a lot as he's come to like Dexys, Leo understands why that is the case.

"The Pogues performed rather more clearly Irish music," Leo says. "They're regarded as Irish though they had been English. With Dexys, you must scratch the floor a bit to get to the Irish stuff. But it runs deep there when you scratch the floor."

As for whether or not this Sunday's present will assist to vary anybody's notion about Dexys, Leo isn't so certain.

"In America, I'd say 95 p.c of individuals I do know nicely nonetheless don't imagine me once I inform them there's extra to Dexys than 'Come On Eileen,'" he says. "Hopefully there'll be greater than 5 folks within the know on Sunday, after which we will make the purpose. But anyone who involves that is in all probability already on board. It's not one thing you're going to go to out of curiosity."

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