The tension between producing passionate and intelligent
music with integrity, whilst addressing the demands of commercialism has always fascinated me. Kevin Rowland and Dexys Midnight
Runners were able to fuse these opposing forces more than once, and as such are among a unique elite in popular music. Of
the very few who recognise this, who are captivated, not just by the reality of the group, but by the ideals they purveyed,
I am one.
Dispossessed and deprived, I identified with the search for truth and the redefinition of soul that the group appeared to
strive for. I believed in the ‘new soul vision’; I needed it. The lyrics spoke of a battle between the mind and
the spirit, of punishing the body until you believed in the soul. I knew about that and I believed in purity and honesty,
and in passion and desire. Rowland sang about winners and losers, of believing in someone, of changing as a person. I assumed
he was an individual who had lived a life not unlike my own.
Embellished by belting horn riffs, stabbing fiddles, gang chants and tense
vocal melodies, the songs reflected the Dexys’ dichotomy of the inspirational and the melancholy. The songs were not
overtly political or obtuse; they were simply about feelings and everyday working class experience. This social element became
manifest in the images, which were not gaudy fashion but reflective of the street attitude and aspirational intent. And the
singer was not an idol; he was arrogant and flawed; he was aggressive and contradictory; he was a poorly educated and enigmatic
eccentric who represented an unpretentious capacity for pure feeling. It is no wonder I believed so fiercly.
Dexys Midnight Runners often refused to comply with
the corporate machine or the carping press; instead they demanded an emotional engagement of an atheistic spiritual experience,
and for impressionable adolescents Dexys offered a clearly defined perspective to identify with. Although many contentious
and adversarial aspects of their stand were reputedly manufactured and the spiritual statements of intent never lived up to,
I saw the beauty in the art of the ideals conveyed, and it was ultimately a positive and enabling influence on me.
The legacy of Kevin
Rowland and Dexys Midnight Runners represents the potential of an art medium that can be worked for beauty and honesty with
a dynamism and originality that has never been equalled. There is nothing incongruous in my admiration; any ambiguities, contradictions
or failures associated with the man and the group simply add greater dimensions to the beauty, a beauty that remains real
and truthful because I believe it; I own it; I live it; I still do and always will.