Category Archives: dancin’ on air
“Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners
This song, and “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats, is one of the reasons I started this “Lost Hits of the New Wave” project. It really bothered me how these two songs are usually what folks who weren’t there, think the new wave is all about. There was so much more, and so much that has been sadly forgotten. It’s not just “Safety Dance” and “Come On Eileen.”
“Come On Eileen” hit huge in the summer of 1982 in the United States, filling the number one spot in the charts between Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.” Like most acts of the era, Dexy’s Midnight Runners had already had several hits in the UK. The group at this time, was led by Kevin Rowland, who would eventually take lead billing over the Runners, and also included the addition of a fiddle section called The Emerald Express.
The album “Too-Rye-Ay” also introduced a new look for the band, a kind of ragged gypsy farmer fashion that was unique at the time. I remember the first time I saw the music video for “Come On Eileen” was on “Dancin’ On Air,” and the host made much of asking the kids what they thought Dexy’s Midnight Runners looked like. One kid said he thought they were all shiny like ABC. Most were surprised.
“Come On Eileen” was followed up in the States by two more songs from the album that went nowhere, making “Eileen” a true one hit wonder. The Runners broke up after another album, multiple hits in the UK, and even attempted a couple reunions. Supposedly there is a new album in the works, with the latest release date June of 2012.
Don Cornelius was found dead this morning by police, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The creator and first host of the long-running “Soul Train” will be missed.
Now you’re probably asking yourself what this white boy from the suburbs knows about Don Cornelius or “Soul Train,” well, I’ll tell you – a lot. As a kid, and even now as an adult, I am always looking for new music. The AOR semi-metal and bubble gum pop everyone else listened to in high school got old quick for me (I’ve talked about this before here), so I looked elsewhere. I traveled the radio dial, and I watched all the music shows, including Don’s famous train, that I first encountered on UHF channel 48.
“Soul Train” was different. It was a dance show, yeah, but it had more of an edge to it than “American Bandstand,” “The Music Thing” (does anyone else remember that?) or the much later “Dancin’ On Air.” I was on the Train when I was really young, pre-disco, and I trusted The Don to introduce me to new acts and new types of music. Soul, R & B, and Urban Contemporary (if we must use labels) all flowed into my head like wonderful ear candy. And even though Don was slow to let the rappers on stage, when the gates opened, he brought on all the greats. His distaste for the new sound never showed on the mike, he was always professional.
Don was The Man, and I mean The Man in the best way possible. He saw a television market without a musical outlet for his people and their music, so he created it. He opened up a whole new world for everyone with “Soul Train,” even dumb white boys from the suburbs. Thanks, Don.