Sunday 4 February 2018

Record Collection Random Choice (RCRC) - D: Dexys Midnight Runners - Searching For The Young Soul Rebels

Despite it's avowed intention to destroy all that had gone before, Punk Rock always had a "back-to-basics, looking back to the past for inspiration" element.
The basics were three chords, and if thats all you've got then Chuck Berry, and those that followed in the 60s are going to be your guides.

The original set of the Sex Pistols included The Who's "Substitute", The Monkees "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" and Dave Berry's "No Lip".
The Jam's adrenaline fuelled output had it's roots in 60s R&B, The Who, The Small Faces and The Kinks.
Although not part of the initial explosion, The Specials and Madness updated Reggae and Ska for the late 70s/early 80s listeners.

Dexys Midnight Runners joined the "looking back" party providing an update of 60s Northern Soul Revue (indeed their name was inspired by the drug of choice - Dexedrine - used at All Nighters to keep energy levels high and dancing constant).

The band was formed formed from the remnants of Birmingham Punk band The Killjoys in 1978.
Becoming increasingly disillusioned with Punk, Kevin Rowland and was listening to a diet of 60s Soul, including one of the first artists he'd seen perform live (and the soon to be more widely known Geno Washington).  With Killjoys bandmate Kevin Archer, he formed Dexys Midnight Runners.
By 1979 they had adopted their New York Docker gang look (all Donkey Jackets and Woolly Hats, inspired by the film On The Waterfront) and were being managed by former Clash supremo Bernie Rhodes
Their first single "Dance Stance" came courtesy of Bernie Rhodes independent label, which was distributed by EMI.
However, despite scraping into the lower end of the Top 40, EMI noted that the production was not great, and advised the band accordingly.  Kevin Rowland (always single minded, and fiercely protective of his band and music, wasted no time in dumping Bernie Rhodes and signing with EMI.

They had the vision, they had the sound, they had the look, and now they had the support of the big boys.
Second single "Geno" put the band at the top of the charts (despite EMI's belief that "Geno" was the weaker track, and the B Side "Breaking Down The Walls Of Heartache" should've been the lead song).  The first stand-off between band and label resulted in Kevin Rowland getting his way.
The band then began recording the debut album,and on the last day of recording locked themselves in the studio in protest at their low royalty rate from EMI.
They took (stole?) the Master Tapes from the studio and returned home to Birmingham.
The Tapes were returned to EMI after an increased royalty rate was agreed, and the album finally came out in July 1980.

Opening with the sound of a radio tuning to various music stations, and then Kevin Rowland stating "For Gods Sake - Burn It Down", it really has that feeling like this is a new era dawning.
The song is a re-recording (and restoration of original title) of their first single "Dance Stance".
It's full of brass hooks, a thumping bass line, and lyrics namechecking a number of Irish literary figures.  Over this highly polished, exceedingly tight backing sits Kevin Rowland's voice - a touch of thuggery, a touch of theatricality and a soupcon of Bryan Ferry.

The brass riffing continues to form the basis and hook of most (if not all) tracks, with a couple of slower paced tracks (moments to catch a breath?).
Yes, there are a couple of points where Kevin Rowland's voice begins to sound strangulated and breaking when he goes for the high register, and depending on your mood at the time, the arty pretensions of the spoken word poetry recital of "Love Part One" is either completely disposable, or totally tolerable because straight after comes the magnificent closer to the album "There, There My Dear".

Searching For The Young Soul Rebels is a brilliantly enduring debut, and a damn near perfect melange of 60s Soul, Stax, Ska, Mod, Punk attitude and Hard Pop/Rock music - it almost "demands" to be listened to from start to finish.  And there aren't too many better ways of spending 40 minutes.

Burn It Down

There, There, My Dear