Searching For The Young Soul Rebels - Background

Background

In 1976 Kevin Rowland formed a punk band called The Killjoys, based in Birmingham, England, which gained minor success with the release of their single "Johnny Won't Get to Heaven"/"Naïve" in 1977. Kevin "Al" Archer joined in early 1978, but due to internal arguments and tension between Rowland and the rest of the group the band dissolved. On "a hot night in July 1978" Rowland decided to form a new band, which would eventually become Dexys Midnight Runners, telling Archer "I'm going to do what I really want to do: form a great group. We’ll wear great clothes and make soulful music." Throughout July Rowland and Archer auditioned 30-40 people to join the group, the eventual band consisting of 8 members. Later that summer the band would create their name, after the drug Dexedrine which was used by fans of Northern soul, and began a rigorous rehearsing and writing schedule, practicing for about 9 hours every day. In November 1978 the band entered the UK live circuit and gained a reputation for their strong performances, which included covers of classic soul songs and originals. Rowland and Archer employed a strict code of conduct, ruling out and drinking or drug use before performances, and introduced many of the band members to activities such as shoplifting expeditions and bumping trains.

In 1979 Rowland turned down an offer to join Jerry Dammers' 2 Tone Records after supporting his band The Specials and signed to Oddball Records instead. In November that year the band adopted their signature look for their early recordings, consisting of donkey jackets and woolly hats. It was inspired by New York dockworkers, such as in the film On The Waterfront. After the release of their first single "Dance Stance" in December, which entered the charts and led to the band signing to EMI Records, the band underwent a nationwide tour titled Straight To The Heart in 1980. Their lineup would change slightly at this point, with John Jay being replaced by Bobby Ward who was later replaced by Andy "Stoker" Growcott on drums and Pete Saunders being replaced by Andy Leek on organ. The band released their next single, "Geno", on March 15, 1980, which peaked at number 1 on the UK Singles Chart.

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