A Too-Rye-Ay Three Way: Dexys Midnight Runners – “Come On Eileen”
Dexys Midnight Runners are on iTunes.
by Walter Price
In 1982, in America, you were a cute little thing. Bopping to the latest hits by The J. Geils Band, Survivor, Olivia Newton-John, and Quarterflash. But when no one was looking, you’d get all tingly inside when you got your ears on this new music genre the cool kids were calling post-punk. Your little heart would go into overdrive when you heard bands like The Smiths, Talking Heads, and The Cure. Your world was opening wide. But there was one song that had you so intrigued. Maybe perplexed a bit, but that is what drives eager youthfulness. That song was called “Come On Eileen” by a band called Dexys Midnight Runners.
In an era of your life when you were growing to love the synthesizer-driven pop, this song was very different. Banjos, accordion, and fiddle?!! But, wait, it isn’t country or folk. Or is it? The band, led by vocalist Kevin Rowland, looked cornpone with their overalls and farmer-esque attire. But this song was kinda doo-wop and soul as well. Causing so much tantalizing confusion in your young soul.
Lyrically, was it a song about a boy wanting a girl who wasn’t sure about him or was it a tad bit naughtier in nature?
Come on Eileen, oh I swear (what he means)
At this moment, you mean everything
You in that dress, my thoughts I confess
Verge on dirty
Ah, come on Eileen
Here’s the skinny, the song is a factual ode to a young love that borders lustful angst. Sexual exploration, based on the memories of Mr. Rowland’s teenage years. But, for the songwriters out there, here is how the song was created, as told by Rowland himself, “The writing… again, we wanted a really good, jaunty rhythm. We felt under pressure. We really needed to write a song that would make the record company take us seriously, because the single before, which was “The Celtic Soul Brothers,” hadn’t done well.
“We wrote those around the same time, really, “Celtic Soul Brothers” and “Come On Eileen.” 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 felt it was a good rhythm. We came up with the chord sequence ourselves and just started singing melodies over it. I remember thinking, “We’re really onto something here.”
“I came up with that, “Too ra loo ra,” and I remember thinking, “Wow, this is sounding really good.” You get a feeling when you’re writing a song. Something happens. And in the end, it kind of finished itself.
“Then they had the breakdown and speed-up section. My friend, Kevin Archer [the band’s guitarist for their first album], he had that in a song that he’d written, which I heard. His was a different melody. A different melody and a different rhythm, and different lyrics. But it was a speed-down, a breakdown, and a speed-up, like “Hava Nagila.”.
Fascinating. But what is almost as exciting is the way this track has impacted not just you and me, but recording artists as well. I’ve done some digging around and have found three cool, if not, interesting, versions of this 80’s classic.
DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS
Sugarland and Sara Bareilles (live)
Kevin Rowland quote comes from an article at Songfacts.
Kevin Rowland – vocals
Billy Adams – banjo/guitar / backing vocals
Giorgio Kilkenny – bass/backing vocals
Seb Shelton – drums/backing vocals
Mickey Billingham – piano, accordion/backing vocals
Helen O’Hara – fiddle
Steve Brennan – fiddle
Jennifer Tobis – fiddle
Roger MacDuff] – fiddle
“Big” Jim Paterson – trombone
Paul Speare – tenor saxophone 7 flute
Brian Maurice – alto saxophone
Andy “Stoker” Growcott – drums/backing vocals
Music Video directed by Julien Temple
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