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  • Writer's pictureMark Howitt

Dexys: Never Compromise


"Whenever I have compromised, those things hurt me so much."​ Kevin Rowland pictured in 2012

Last month singer songwriter and frontman of Dexys Midnight Runners, Kevin Rowland delivered a version of his 1982 album Too-Rye-Aye, this time 'As It Should Have Sounded'.


Readers of my sometime blog Pilrig74.com will know that despite Dexys being a major influence in my life ("They helped me get older | Pulled me through each bad phase") and although - rather, because - the album contains the band's biggest hit Come On Eileen, it took me 20 years to buy the original release. Even so that's given me two decades to get to know it pretty well. So is this re-working better? Certainly this sounds fresher and on Until I Believe In My Soul especially, punchier, but I don't think 'better' is really the point, it's demonstration that everything changes, and everything stays the same.


Too-Rye-Aye 'As It Should Have Sounded' comes with some bonus material including a recording of a Dexys show from a few months after the release of the original album. Backed by a string section, The Emerald Express led by Helen O'Hara, a full horn section, and Seb Shelton banging the drums, this is an absolute treat.


Kicking off with Old, the concert builds and builds and builds, and after a rousing version of Come On Eileen - a song with which I’ve long since made my peace - climaxes almost unbearably with a closing encore of Chuck Wood's Seven Days Too Long, The Celtic Soul Brothers (More, Please, More Thank You) and I’m Just Looking. At this distance, what my 17 year old self would have made of it I cannot say. But if 40 years on, if was somehow able to time travel back to 10:30pm 9th October 1982 I would be on my knees, weeping, beating my fists on the floor of London’s Shaftesbury Theatre, leaving only at the hands of the security staff. This is Performance with a capital P.


Speaking of fellow novelist Julian Barnes, Kingsley Amis once said “I wish he’d shut up about Flaubert.” Regular readers may wish the same of me about my beloved Dexys Midnight Runners. But they will - I am afraid to say - be disappointed; this love affair is far from over.


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But why publish an article about Dexys on Linkedin? Well, why not? Yes, Kevin Rowland is a maverick but in business that's often an advantage and I think we can learn a few things from him.


Teamwork Pays Dividends One of my earliest memories of Dexys is of the band running together, 3-4 miles a day, no matter what the weather. It was all part of Rowland's emphasis on the importance of teamwork and, listening to the tightness of that Shaftesbury Theatre show, it clearly paid off. Teamwork isn't just a box to tick, it's a worthwhile investment.


Nothing Is Ever Finished Too-Rye-Aye is not the only album that Rowland has revisited. He has returned twice to his 1985 masterpiece Don't Stand Me Down, granted the first time only to amend the cover art. But we should never assume that any work project is finished; it always pays to return to it, if only to review to ensure that the assumptions made originally are still valid.

Reinvent the Wheel After the solid blue-eyed soul of Searching for the Young Soul Rebels no one could have guessed that Rowland would don dungarees and reinvent his band with a Celtic string section. Sometimes in business it pays just to forget what has been before and reinvent. Perhaps that reinvention will produce something similar to what you had before but the process itself - the reflection on purpose - is what is important.

Plan B Always have a plan B.

Never Compromise 2012 saw the release of One Day I'm Going To Soar, a collection of sublimely beautiful songs and Rowland's first new music for 27 years. Interviewed soon after, he said "Whenever I have compromised, those things hurt me so much". Compromise will be quicker in the short-term, today, tomorrow, next week. But it will always come back to bite you, I can guarantee, far easier just to follow your instincts and never compromise.

Come on, my friends, I would now like to propose a toast To the strength that I see that's surrounding me 'Cause I've been scared But now I don't care



First published on Linkedin

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