Dexys Midnight Runners are a British pop group with soul influences, who achieved their major success in the early to mid-1980s. They are best known for their songs "Come On Eileen" and "Geno", both of which went #1 on the UK Singles Chart.
1978-1980: Foundation and first singles
Kevin Rowland (vocals, guitar, at the time going under the pseudonym Carlo Rolan) and Kevin "Al" Archer (vocals, guitar), both previously of The Killjoys, founded the band in 1978 in Birmingham, England, naming the band after Dexedrine, a brand of dextroamphetamine popularly used as a recreational drug among Northern Soul fans at the time. The "midnight runners" referred to the energy the Dexedrine gave, enabling one to dance all night. "Big" Jim Paterson (trombone), Geoff "JB" Blythe (saxophone, previously of Geno Washington's Ram Jam Band), Steve "Babyface" Spooner (alto saxophone), Pete Saunders (keyboard), Pete Williams (bass) and Bobby "Jnr" Ward (drums) formed the first line-up of the band to record a single, "Dance Stance" (1979).
The song was released on the independent Oddball Records, was named "single of the week" by Sounds, and reached number 40 in the British charts, but the next single, "Geno" – about Geno Washington, and released on EMI – was a British Number One in 1980. It featured the band's newest recruits, Andy Leek (keyboards) and Andy "Stoker" Growcott (drums). Rowland had been taken to see Washington perform live by his brother when he was aged only eleven. The success of the song prompted Washington to make a return to live performance, and also saw the departure of Leek, who himself cited the "Top of the Pops thing ... people wanting your autograph and that just because you are in the band" The band at this time dressed in donkey jackets or leather coats and woolly hats, and had a look described as "straight out of DeNiro's Mean Streets". Rowland said of the band's sound and look in January 1980: "we didn't want to become part of anyone else's movement. We'd rather be our own movement". Image was very important to the group, with Rowland commenting "We wanted to be a group that looked like something...a formed group, a project, not just random".
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