Yeah, I don’t know, it’s dubious

‎In Australia, Dexys Midnight Runners are remembered, but as a one hit wonder. “Come on Eileen” was huge, top of the charts for six or eight weeks in 1982. But they never had another hit here: not one. Which is odd, because in the UK they were big, and for years. They had seven singles which reached the top 40. They had three top-ten LPs.

I was an avid listener to pop radio back then. If I had heard anything else by Dexys, I am sure I would remember it. This is probably just a reflection of what I wished I could call “the appalling timidity of commercial radio in the 1980s”, except that things have actually got worse. Tune in to FM radio and you will still hear “Come on Eileen”, and other hits from 30-odd years ago, and absolutely nothing that you have not heard (and heard often) before.0317

Why? Radio is terrified of losing listeners. “Don’t play anything which might make people change stations,” is the philosophy. So: nothing new. Nothing old, either, unless everyone already knows it. No jazz. No classical. No country. No folk. No nothing. Strangely enough, this dismal approach is causing commercial radio to slowly die.

Community radio (a bit like college radio in the States) gives the lie to the “don’t lose listeners” approach. Community stations are run on volunteer labour and the whiff of an oily rag, much of the oil coming in the form of voluntary subscriptions paid by listeners. People pay eighty or one hundred dollars a year, and sometimes much more, to support community radio. I do this for PBS 106.7 FM, which is perhaps the weirdest and most wonderful radio station on the planet. If you don’t believe me, check it out.

The thing is, community stations are not allowed to have advertising. Their audiences are easily large enough to support a (modestly) profitable commercial operation. But to build that audience would require commercial radio to play interesting, different, engaging music, to challenge people and take them outside their comfort zone.

Maybe, just once in the hour, you could try something different. Flip the single, and see what the B-side to “Come on Eileen” might be.

Commercial radio. As a muted voice-over in this joyful, solos-all-round, soul-tinged instrumental declares: “Yeah, I don’t know, it’s dubious”.

  • Artist: ‎Dexys Midnight Runners & The Emerald Express
  • Single Title: Come On Eileen
  • Track: Side B “Dubious”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: Mercury
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Catalogue number: 6059 551
  • Year: 1982

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs

Poor old Johnny Ray

Poor old Johnny Ray …

This was a first line of “Come On Eileen”, which was a huge hit in the early 1980s for a UK band, Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I loved the song, but I was a teenager and had no idea who Johnny Ray was, so asked my Dad.

“Hmmph. He was a pop star. He was the first of the Screamers,” he said.

Ray 1956 aPuzzled, I asked what he meant. It emerged that it wasn’t Johnny Ray who screamed, but his young female fans. You know the hysterical screaming which made the Beatles pretty much inaudible when they played live? Apparently this meme started with Johnny Ray.

My Dad was a conservative soul. He loved music, but he believed it had reached perfection in the works of J.S. Bach, and been going downhill ever since, with the possible exception of Gilbert and Sullivan. So, he was never going to approve of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, or indeed Johnny Ray.

He had a point about the screaming, mind.

That was all I knew about Johnny Ray until I bought this 10” 78rpm disc. It is one of the “G.S.” collection, and came out in 1956. This was right at the end of shellac as a popular medium, and shows that “G.S.”, though fond of jazz and swing, liked the emerging pop of the fifties as well.Ray AM

The record stands as a monument of this transition. A jazz classic, Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, is given a doo-wop treatment by a rising rock star. The B-side is altogether different: in “Walk Along with Kings”, Ray shows himself a strong singer of a straight gospel which even my Dad could not disapprove of.

But I would wager this record against a mint condition copy of the first release of “Love Me Do” that it was “Ain’t Misbehavin’” that G.S. bought it for.

  • Artist: Johnny Ray
  • Title: Ain’t Misbehavin’
  • Track: Side A “Ain’t Misbehavin’”
  • Format: 10” shellac disc, 78rpm
  • Label: Coronet KP-032
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1952