Dexys Midnight Runners – Dance Stance

22nd October 2023 · 1970s, 1979, Music, Two-Tone

Dexys Midnight Runners came along with their energetic soul revival sound in 1979, riding the coat-tails of 2-Tone as the punk revolution began to diffuse into new sounds and hybrids.

In the summer of 1979 I went to Camden Town to see a bunch of bands who were doing something different from my steady diet of punk. Word was gathering about something called 2-Tone and the music papers were all over it since the release a month or two earlier of Gangsters by The Specials.

For the first and probably last time, all these new bands were on the same bill at the Music Machine: The Specials, Madness, The Selecter (then billed as Selector) – and a new one to me called Dexys Midnight Runners.

Unlike the other three, they didn’t play a fusion of punk and ska but were a kind of soul revival band. That seemed uncool, and out of step with my usual listening. But they invested their retro sound, complete with brass section – a novelty at the time – with the energy and excitement of punk.

In all honesty I don’t remember a whole lot about their performance that night – there was a pretty lively atmosphere, with an unpleasant undertone of violence thanks to the presence of some National Front-supporting skinheads who followed Madness. I seem to remember the police getting involved.

But I went back to see Dexys at the same venue the following year, by which time they were headlining. Their debut single Dance Stance had crept into the charts early in 1980 and a couple of months later they hit No.1 with the singalong anthem Geno. I was still going to see them when they went all dungarees and fiddles and Come On Eileen but I never became one of those diehard followers.

And the last time I saw Kevin Rowland was when I was at a Clash documentary screening at The Gate Cinema in Notting Hill nearly 20 years ago.

As the film was about to begin, someone in a long red velvet dress, wearing a hat and carrying a matching handbag, shuffled along my row to their seat. I stood to let the ‘lady’ past and my companion said to me: “You know who that was, don’t you…?”