Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Searching For The Young Soul Rebels (1980): Review


Produced by Pete Wingfield
Label – EMI

As if to simulate the tribal landscape of the late 1970s music scene, Kevin Rowland’s Dexy’s Midnight Runners deliberately fashioned a closely knit gang of soul visionaries that narrowed their inspirations into a spectacular visual and aural show of defiant and intense spirit. Rowland’s focused intention was to carefully hone a team of quality musicians to a magnetic molding of the emotional soul and r&b of the 60s, combined with an approach that borrowed heavily from punk rock’s explosive anger. Visually, the band furthered their “outsider” image with donkey jackets, leather coats and black beanie hats. The look was more akin to New York dockworkers than flamboyant musicians as if to further alienate the band from any popular scene. The three piece brass section of trombonist “Big” Jim Paterson, saxophonist Geoff “JB” Blythe and alto saxophonist Steve “Babyface” Spooner are vital components to the overall sound providing many superb solo’s but more importantly, their upfront input dominates proceedings and provides many irresistible highlights.


Kicking off with the combative riposte to anyone who dare decry Irish culture, “Burn It Down” is a powerful rework of their debut single (“Dance Stance”). Rowlands ire peaks at the line “shut your fucking mouth ’til you know the truth”, only to return again for the tumultuous closer “There, There, My Dear” as he declares “we should welcome the new soul vision”. Both songs are superbly crafted reactionary bookends that house some equally thrilling contents in between. Jim Paterson’s excellent solo and the driving rhythms of “Tell Me When My Light Turns Green” keep the momentum burning, followed by guitarist “Al” Archer’s nostalgic instrumental “The Teams That Meet In Caffs”. Most UK fans would have been introduced to the band via the loyal tribute to Geno Washington on the chart topping “Geno”. The compelling brass riff allied with Rowland’s sentimental lyrics and a foot stomping rhythm make it easy to understands its place in the higher echelons of both critical and commercial acclaim. The sole cover is a frenetic version of Chuck Wood’s “Seven Days Too Long”, one of a number of top class re-interpretations the band recorded during their early days. The real tragedy is that this line up of Dexy’s didn’t reach their potential, as in-fighting and Rowland’s undoubted dictatorial and perfectionist leadership would split the band up soon after this wonderfully fleeting introduction.

You could pile superlative on top of hyperbole and still fail to capture the pride and passion that makes this a magical long player. It’s out there on its own for wilful individualism and outright originality. Nothing else sounded like this in 1980.


Track Rating
1 – Burn It Down (10)
2 – Tell Me When My Light Turns Green (9)
3 – The Teams That Meet In Caffs (8)
4 – I’m Just Looking (7)
5 – Geno (10)
6 – Seven Days Too Long (8)
7 – I Couldn’t Help If I Tried (9)
8 – Thankfully Not Living In Yorkshire It Doesn’t Apply (7)
9 – Keep It (9)
10 – Love Part 1 (Poem) (7)
11 – There There My Dear (10)

12 responses to “Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Searching For The Young Soul Rebels (1980): Review

  1. Hackskeptic. The greatest bands aren’t always appreciated in their day and must graciously accept applause and approval later, even posthumously.
    Dexys ALWAYS enjoyed every aspect of success. Chart toppers, NME worship, a tv friendly radio loving sound, so familiar yet as you say sounding unique as the eighties set sail.
    Good band, great look. Great to see Kev Rowland back on fire in 2015 too. I hope he knows that he DID find those young soul rebels, and deep down his passion still glows deep, red, and hot like the sun.
    Easily a nine out of ten.

  2. Oh you’re correct about Kevin welcoming success. It’s just such a pity he discovered fiddles and dungarees after this outstanding record.

    • As Peter Gabriel said: real artists are a bit like dogs. They see something interesting and they go and sniff it. Searching mark II wouldn’t have been a success so I understand Rowland making a stylistic leap.

      • True! Otherwise we would have never had the quite wonderful “Beauty Stab” by ABC. Martin Fry was certainly sniffing when he recorded that one.

      • Lynx ‘Keef’ I reckon! But you gotta luv the Power of Persuasion! Riff Frenzy!

      • Speaking of ABC :I’m in between tours right now. I’m earning a crust keeping Mark White’s obsessive compulsive sock disorder under control. Each sock is hand woven in Christchurch from the straggly ends of poodle rockers’ hair. I have to catalogue, clean, and obtain UKAS certification for cleanliness.

        It’s no joke!

        Can’t wait to rejoin Liquid Gold’s TOTP TOUR 15/16.

        we kick off in Rhos on Sea in may!

        Dance yourself dizzy Hackskeptic!

      • Yeah Hackskeptic. A real blast from the past. Since the toasting dried up he’d been working closely with Martin Clunes as a diction coach. He jumped at the chance to join the tour and we’ve given him a solo spot. He’s doing acoustic dub mixes of Liquid Gold, Dooleys and Exploited tracks. On the back of the rehearsals Aldi gave him a commission to soundtrack their April Feminine Hygiene sales campaign.

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