Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Come Off It Eileen

I'd heard the title "Come On Eileen" long before I heard the actual song. It was supposed to be one of the ultimate '80s one hit wonders, some would say the ultimate (it topped VH1's 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s list, for example). Snarky writers would drop its name when attempting to summarize the frivolous and unpredictable nature of '80s cultural taste. I remember thinking, "Wow, all these people keep talking about 'Come On Eileen,' it must be a really great song!"

I imagined that the band was female. Dexys Midnight Runners could have been anybody. Even though the title of the song appeared to depict a person speaking to someone named Eileen, I just heard "Eileen" and thought, "female." And when I finally heard the song, I still thought the band was female.

As with so many "one hit wonders," Dexys Midnight Runners weren't one hit wonders at all - in England. They were, however, two album wonders. Their first album, Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, featured the UK #1 single "Geno," a tribute to Geno Washington, an American soul singer who had only been successful in Britain.

That's Dexys Midnight Runners in a nutshell. The band were extremely British, with the sort of ungodly concoction of imitation Memphis soul and Celtic folk that only a British band could generate, and only a British audience could love. What's surprising, then, isn't that they had only one hit in America, but that they managed to have any hits in America at all.

Hard to say what my fellow countrymen saw in this particular British single over anything by, say, The Jam or The Specials, but there you have it. Lead singer Kevin Rowland's voice is the kind that tempts you to stick your dripping wet fingers into the nearest electrical socket, but other than that, he's not bad. One instrument that really did not need to make a return in pop music was the banjo, but Dexys Midnight Runners obviously thought otherwise.

I mean, really? This is the legendary '80s hit I was missing out on all those years? Give me Billy Ocean any day. Still, although I find the song irritating, I will concede it has that certain intangible something - silliness mixed with enthusiasm? A thousand tempo shifts? A banjo? The bottom line is this: my new love for '80s music is so all-encompassing, I think I'm starting to like songs that I don't actually ... like.


Herr Zrbo said...

I think we're on the same page here. I really just don't like this song. Ok, that's not entirely true. It's somewhat catchy, but in an awful way. It gets stuck in my head, but it's a don't-want-it-there kind of stuck.

I didn't know the band was British, for some reason I always thought they must be Australian, but I have no idea why I have that notion.

Little Earl said...

Maybe because they sound like an asthmatic wallaby being strangled to death? "Too-ra-loo-ra-too-ra-loo-ray-ayyyyyyy..."

I somewhat had that Australian notion too. I used to get Dexys Midnight Runners mixed up with Divinyls, another one hit wonder, but Divinyls actually were Australian. If you're British, you're probably thinking, "Hell, any country that wants to claim Dexys Midnight Runners, you can have 'em."