Dexys – Free From The Need To Be Free
„Always alone, at home or in a crowd, a single man off on his private cloud, ’cause in a world that few men understand, I am what I am, the single man.“ (Frank Sinatra / Rod McKuen 1969)
„I’m gonna be the man I’m meant to be. Tolerating misery that is not for me. I am a man that must be free“ (Kevin Rowland 2012)
May 2009. A moving moment in the Brixton academy at one of the Specials comeback concerts: the warm up DJ fires away some mod classics. The crowd heating up at kickstart speed when The Jam’s „A Town Called Malice“ is played. An eruption like on the Dortmund Nordwand swells up as the opening lines of Dexys’ first number 1 „Geno“ are lashing through the hall, with 5000 evergreen rudeboys and suedeheads chanting unisono „Geno! GENO!! GEEENOOOO!!!“ For 3:30min a soul train rushes through goosebumpville. Dictators and liberators of tomorrow, erase your PPP.
Directly after a debate ensues. Quintessence of the palaver, spoken by the fluffiest skinhead of the night: „I wish Kevin would drum up the old gang.“ On each of the five sold out nights this scenario must have repeated with the prodigal son sensing the waves right inside his London living room. Because nearly exactly 3 years later it’s become a reality: Dexys are here! (cont.)
(from left: Kevin Rowland, Pete Williams, Mick Talbot)
Dexys Midnight Runners are now simply DEXYS. Kevin Rowland no longer runs around the streets at midnight looking for love in all the wrong places. „There’s something wrong with me, I shall not let the world see.“ A flickering timekeeper had been beating in the top old soul boys’ chest. Telediagnosis: holiday heartbreak. For almost 30 years he’s been walking in the wilderness, the mercurial man who always so passionately camped up his headsmashing-against-the-wall.
From the beginning he had been wandering on hostile magazine-paper trails: very early on booking full page ads in the UK press so his unfiltered thoughts could come through, instead of wasting time giving disdainful interviews only to be misinterpreted. The young rebel did not yet understand that the listener defines the meaning of a statement, not the singer. Then „Come On Eileen“ as his first and only proper worldwide number 1 shot to the sun, all the following arrows landing merely on the moon, which he henceforth howled at unceasingly. Rowland became bitter. He got lost in the dark nights of his soul, trawling koka plantations, breaking up with best friends, including those who had been helping him up mount olympus.
In 1999 out of the blue launching into the maddest of displacement punk moves in pop history when exhibiting himself as a cross gender peacock on the album art of his 2nd solo album „My beauty“ in satin, silk and lace unmentionables and being lapidated for it with beer cans at the Reading Rock festival. How solid in comparism – taken out of historical context – seems the rustic rural bowsy style of „Too-Rye-Ay“ or the super smart Ivy League outfit for „Don’t Stand Me Down“, the amazing but at the time unaprecciated 3rd Dexys album from 1985.
The look to him was always vital, as was the sound, the songs, the stance … subconsciously eventually: his failure. But now this burning spear after labyrinthian detours is turning a corner and Rowland confesses: “I know about controlling people, I know about using people, but I’m not gonna do it anymore”. After the „My Beauty“ fiasco he ate humble pie, reconciled with his oldest Dexys buddies Jim Paterson and Pete Williams and in 2003 found the super sidekick in Mick Talbot who once had been „the best thing that ever happened“ for Paul Weller in The Style Council.
Since then Rowland has taken the selfdestruction machine off the grid and exchanged his wildly quivering overemotionial tempest for a focused lazerpointer. „My perfectionism is intact but these days I do not storm out the room insulting people“ (BBC6). The pages of new manuscript were turned so long as to sift out each redundant gram of cynicism. Their essence destilled by him and Talbot – the great empath – infused into a ripened Dexys flavor, a deep soul sound, which in that manner was last taught in the Al Green/Willie Mitchell university of Memphis in the years 1972 – 1978.
Now, to make a point in which league this is all being played in: two epochal egocentric pop standard pieces seem to inspire and inform only the 4th Dexys album in 32 years: Frank Sinatra’s „A Man Alone“ – a song cycle about the prototypical space age maverick of the late 1960s (composed and authored by Rod McKuen) and Marvin Gaye’s stark dramatic divorce log „Here, My Dear“ from 1978.
Music about the unsolvable contradiction of L.O.V.E. and happiness … lived, incurred, contemplated and lastly: transcended by the former greatest exaggerator of soul: Kevin Rowland. At long last he placidly expresses what has been dawning on him since he first fell for a sweet girl (see also first single: „She’s got a wiggle“) and impulsively thought about marriage, eternity and redemption through the OTHER: „I won’t say these three words anymore.“
Many of us are commited to the preservation of the species, some on top to its elevation. Rowland after years of self-chastisement contents himself with plan b and has made his peace: “I can’t be what anybody wants me to be … It’s not the end of the world. It’s okay to be alone.”
Kevin Rowland and Dexys therefor have chiselled together a gospel of his exhalted unbinding nature. He took a long run up for daring to jump out of the heretic belief, that the common ideals of love and home were made for him, the drifter between worlds. As an irish descendant in England („take your Irish stereotype and shove it up your arse.“) and a hardcore romantic in a vile reality he will forever be a fugitive tourist, vistor, nomad. So, where is home to you, Kevin? “Nowhere is home to me” he sings without regret in one of the central songs on „One Day …“. It sounds like the big freedom: free from the need to be free.