During the Fourth of July weekend, I spent those days up at my fraternity house rather than lead a bunch of little kids in my mom’s neighborhood with lighting their fireworks. I had done that for nearly twenty years, and I wanted a different experience, such as unsupervised late-teens/early twenty-somethings with access to booze and illegal in Indiana fireworks. At the frat house, the weekend had success written all over it. So, when I arrived, imagine my surprise when I walked into the house to a dozen guys laying around the living room, watching T.V. and a new station called MTV. And my brothers knew I would be hooked on it. And, they were right! For the next 36 hours straight I watched the original seven V.J.s introduce odd-ball British pop stars singing their soon-to-be-hit-songs on this awesome new station.
Finally, I was getting to hear artists that I had only read about like Adam & the Ants (and without the Ants too!), Duran Duran (“Hungry Like the Wolf” captured me musically and visually) and a little Irish band with one helluva pop song that stuck with me forever. The band was the crazily named Dexys Midnight Runners, and the song was their pop/new wave classic “Come On Eileen”. My eyes were captured by the band’s dress in overalls, all the while miming and lipsynching a life-or-death love song to the ever-mysterious Eileen. I was captured by the unique sound of the singer’s vocals, and I loved the mixed of the Celtic-folk sound and instruments with classic American soul music. I could not believe that someone was FINALLY attempting to bridge the musical gap between Van Morrison and the rest of the world.
First thing I did after that crazy weekend was to purchase the single, since that was all I could find in the lovely tall. I could tell that it was going to be a huge hit, as it had been a huge hit in the UK and all over Europe. Unfortunately, the song took nearly another year to finally hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It was then that I finally found a copy of the album with this brilliant hit song. The album’s title is Too-Rye Aye. And after listening to it, I discovered that the creative mind behind Dexys, Kevin Rowland, was a musical genius, who was set to continue Van Morrison’s venture into the melding of American soul and Celtic folk. It took me another 30 years, but I finally found the band’s debut album, Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, an album that had been released in the UK back in 1980. It too was brilliant.
However, in 1985, the band disappeared. They had released a third album in the UK and Europe, but not in the States. Over the next 27 years, I had heard that the band’s leader, Kevin Rowland, had released two solo albums, but once again, not in the States. But, in 2012, I discovered that a new version of this band had be formed and released an album under the name of Dexys. The album was very good, but it shared very little with the version of the band with which I fell in love.
Then it happened. Dexys just came out with an album! The album is entitled Let the Record Stand: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul, and it is a revelation! Finally, Rowland got back to his wheelhouse by combining soul with that Irish Celtic folk sound. By jumping on cover songs, it frees Rowland up to find his soul muse and apply it to the Celtic folk tradition. No, Dexys will no longer burn up the American airwaves, just like all of our other favorites of yore. But, isn’t it comforting to know that we can go back, find one of our favorite artists from our teenage/twenty-something years and know they are going to deliver a grown-up version of the original musical vision. It’s like they all are collectively discovering this notion right now as many of their peers are dying off. Yes, David Bowie, Prince & Glenn Frey are all gone, but we still have so many artists from our youth that are creating great music in what used to be described condescendingly their Golden Years. They are all making statements that they are vital artists.
The moral of this week is that no matter how much that Van Halen album called Third sucked back in the Nineties, artists that were popular in and around our generation are creating some of their most vital work in ages. Lately, I have reviewed The Monkees, Tom Petty’s other group Mudcrutch, and now Dexys, other artists that we can calls ours have released great pieces of music recently. I am talking about Paul Simon, Cheap Trick, Weezer, Santana, Electric Light Orchestra, Duran Duran, Eric Clapton, Prince (4 albums released in 2014 and 2015!), and former Hüsker Dü leader Bob Mould.
What I am saying is don’t be scared by the old adage that old artists only make crappy music as they get older. If you see a new album by your old favorite artist, go ahead and pick it up. It might remind you of your rocking youth!