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  • Writer's pictureMark Howitt

Songs in the Key of My Life: 10

Geno, Dexys Midnight Runners (1980)

In the last episode of series 7 of Peep Show (later re-made as Succession for HBO, both shows created by Jesse Armstrong) Mark, Jez, Super Hans, Zahra and Hans’ new girlfriend “Yoko” find themselves locked out of Gerrard’s New Year’s party held at a sport pavilion. “This is a private party for live action role players and affiliates of the international fantasy gaming society. Close the gate, Raymond.”

In a desperate attempt to get in, Mark and Jez start tunnelling under the perimeter fence using a couple of handily placed dustbin lids. For Mark it's a last chance to make up for insulting Dobby on multiple occasions and ask her to move in with him, Jez is trying to keep in with Zahra, having convinced her that author Martin Amis is going to be at the party. “We are not missing the bongs. Amis might pop in, that’s what I heard. He might pop in.” From the pavilion, aglow with festive lights, you can faintly hear the same techno track that is played every time in Peep Show when there is a party or a club scene - it was played five minutes earlier in the episode outside Super Hans’ flat, a party that had degenerated into “the heart of darkness”.

But at the moment Dobby agrees to move in with Mark (“Fuck it - alright!”, in the background, Gerrard staring bleakly at the two of them) and with midnight fast approaching, the party DJ puts on something that even then - December 2010 - would have been retro: Geno by Dexys Midnight Runners.

I’ve written about Dexys Midnight Runners many times before, most recently here, and they get a passing mention here. And it’s almost a year since I realised that what the company I worked for really needed was not an accountant with 38 years experience working three days a week, but someone, not necessarily but probably, younger, on call five days a week. My explanation of this was accepted and although I was thanked for my honesty, my oblique reference to a 2012 quote by Dexys front man, Kevin Rowland, left my boss bewildered. Kevin and I go back a long way.

There was a long gap between that first co-funded purchase of Save Your Kisses for Me and the second addition to my record collection. It wasn’t anything by Dexys but the Who’s eighth album Who Are You? which I bought at the record department in Boots on Edinburgh’s Princes Street. Thinking back, I’ve no idea why, as prior to purchase I’m sure I would only have heard the title track, perhaps I just liked the album cover with the four band members (RIP Keith) loafing about on a mass of amplifiers and assorted concert equipment. Also, I must have bought it a couple of years after it was first released because, mere weeks later, I was back in Boots to buy Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, the first album by Dexys Midnight Runners, which included the number one single Geno.

By no stretch my favourite Dexys song, it was the first that I heard and for that reason will always be special for me, donkey jackets, Adidas bags et al. A tribute to Rowland's musical inspiration Geno Washington, it’s certainly heartfelt but on reflection the lyrics verge on the condescending: “now you’re all over, your song is so tame”. Admittedly when Rowland wrote the song, Washington’s career was a decade done but the man was only 37. Rowland has always been nothing if not confident. In any case, the worldwide success of the song Geno sparked renewed interested in the song’s subject, he put the Ram Jam Band back together and started touring again. Still is.

As far as I’m aware no Dexys song featured in any episode of Succession. More’s the pity, Logan and Shiv getting down to Come On Eileen would have livened things up.

Academic inspiration, you gave me none

You were Michael the lover, the fighter that won

But now just look at me as I'm looking down on you

No, I'm not being flash, it's what I'm built to do

Oh, Geno

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