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You can hide 'neath your covers and cuddle your pain...
December 23, 2010 8:39 AM   Subscribe

In late 1999 Kevin Rowland, vocalist and mastermind behind Dexys Midnight Runners released an album called My Beauty. It had been a bewilderingly long time since his last LP – eleven years. Everything about My Beauty, however, was equally bewildering.

Rowland's concept seemed simple – a record of twelve cover songs that touched him during his struggle with and fight back from addiction. From his sleeve notes: "After being so lost and seeing only ugliness in the world, these songs started to penetrate my frightened world... I realised I needed to record them before I could do anything else." Rowland, however, took the unlikely step of rewriting many of the songs’ lyrics to reflect his recent travails. Opener “The Greatest Love Of All” - like the rest of the record, drenched in lush, soft-rock strings mostly arranged by Fiachra Trench - began with a multitracked conversation between the voices in Rowland’s head, and proclaimed “Everybody’s searching for a hero/people need someone they can look up to/there was nobody around who fulfilled my needs/a lonely place to be/and I tried to depend on me.” The final verse of “The Long And Winding Road” now stated “I know that I’m going home/I’m coming through the door/because I feel I deserve more.” The most complete rewriting was reserved for Squeeze’s “Labelled With Love,” now subtitled “I’ll Stay With My Dreams” and transformed into a harrowing cocaine story: “Sniffs to remember I, me and myself/chops up the coke and drops more beads of sweat/home is a place I don’t know where that is/so the pain has been bottled/I’ll stay with my dreams.” The album was originally slated to include a version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” and the track appeared on the initial promo copies of the disc, but at the last minute Springsteen himself reportedly refused permission due to Rowland’s lyric changes.

The album’s cover featured Rowland standing in front of a pink chair and dressing screen draped with a pink feather boa. Shirtless and holding up a black frock just enough to expose his underwear and the tops of thigh-high stockings, he wore makeup and a single strand of pearls around his neck.

My Beauty was released by Creation Records in the UK, and was accompanied by a video for Rowland’s version of Unit 4+2’s “Concrete And Clay,” filmed in the style of the album’s graphics. A short in-costume performance at the 1999 Reading Festival was met with boos and the throwing of garbage at the stage.

Reviews ranged from savage to confused, and while the album has found a few cautious fans in the years since its release, Rowland is still mainly alone when he remembers the experience as “beautiful, in a way,” though he has described himself as “nuts” at the time.

The record sold poorly – initial estimates were around 500 copies worldwide, but Creation head Alan McGee, whom Rowland blamed at the time for the album’s performance, places the number closer to 20,000. It was never released in the United States, and is no longer in print.

In the liner notes, after a long list of acknowledgements, Rowland offered a final dedication: “I dedicate this record to K. We’re fucking home now boy.”
posted by mintcake! (47 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
wow. If you click only one link in this post, make the the cover!
posted by Blake at 8:51 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this. I really like some of these covers, although that video for Concrete + Clay, that was something....
posted by seventyfour at 8:51 AM on December 23, 2010


Disagree -- if you click only only link, make it the video for Concrete + Clay. It is the cover brought to life and touching itself.
posted by seventyfour at 8:52 AM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


For people who know the Dexys only as "the Come On Eileen band," here's Rowland and DMR at the height of their powers with "Tell Me When My Light Turns Green," from their superb 1980 debut Searching for the Young Soul Rebels.
posted by escabeche at 8:57 AM on December 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I only encountered Kevin Rowland once, in the early 90s at a big recording studio. He was slumped on a deckchair outside in the sun, comatose, with an enormous poodle perm.

I knew then that he was in trouble.
posted by unSane at 9:38 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


While the video for Concrete + Clay is truly extraordinary, it does bear mentioning that it cannot be unwatched. Trust me, I've been trying.
posted by obruni at 9:42 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


His voice is actually pretty great, and Concrete + Clay is remarkably successful, given the rest of the crazy. The video could use more crotch shots, tho.
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:52 AM on December 23, 2010


I remember seeing him on Where Are They Now?, and he was hawking his line of dresses for men.
posted by electroboy at 10:05 AM on December 23, 2010


I was present stage centre for this, stoned to the Bejesus Belt, when Kev's bollocks dropped from the side of his thong and dangled mere feet from my face as he placed a foot on a monitor. Some things can't be unwatched, indeed.
posted by punilux at 10:13 AM on December 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Those lyric changes.... If I were Springsteen I would have done a lot worse than refuse permission.
posted by Zozo at 10:21 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great post!

I'm going to go wash my eyes now.
posted by fartknocker at 10:31 AM on December 23, 2010


This is just fantastic stuff. I disagree completely, Zozo – the whole point of a cover version is to make it yours, and Rowland succeeds with great aplomb in that department. Moreover, I actually happen to like the changes he makes to the lyrics.

Thanks so much for this, mintcake. It's awesome.
posted by koeselitz at 10:33 AM on December 23, 2010


One of the greatest vocalists the UK has produced.
posted by fire&wings at 10:39 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


POTY
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:48 AM on December 23, 2010


Some of you guys certainly sit on the prude side of the fence, sitting propped up against a young (but solid!) tree, eating a flavorless piece of fruit. You watch half-bored as the world on the other side of the fence zips by. It doesn't scare you - no, you're too worldly to be afraid - but rather it secretly confuses, adding a thin cloud over your thoughts. There are a lot of secrets in your life, things, thoughts you hide from everybody including yourself. You're stuck, though, forever propped up against this tree on this side of the fence.

You wish the fruit had some goddamned flavor, though.

Great post!
posted by item at 10:53 AM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I worked on sales and marketing for this album, and UK presales were indeed in the low hundreds (although I think we forced HMV and Virgin to take more on sale or return).

The cover art did Rowland no favors with sceptical store buyers, alas, even though we talked up the music as much as we could. As we used to say, the album "did not trouble the compilers" of the charts.

I still have copies of the promo with the Springsteen cover somewhere -- this post has inspired me to dig one out. Rowland is a rarey gem, a true English eccentric.
posted by vickyverky at 10:55 AM on December 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


item's comment made me lol because i used to actually think like that. (when i was 16.)
posted by entropicamericana at 11:09 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


that's pretty great! thanks for this.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:30 AM on December 23, 2010


The drummer's expression at 1:05 in the Concrete and Clay video was just priceless. Summed up my reaction perfectly.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:38 AM on December 23, 2010


Hearing and watching this makes me actively uncomfortable - he doesn't even seem to know what he's doing as the cameras are rolling... I don't know him beyond "Come On, Eileen," but this just feels like some of those late Michael Jackson moments when you couldn't help but wonder, Is there no one who cares enough about him to simply tell him, "No, that's a really, really bad idea"?
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 12:26 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


You watch half-bored as the world on the other side of the fence zips by. It doesn't scare you - no, you're too worldly to be afraid - but rather it secretly confuses, adding a thin cloud over your thoughts.

I have a pea under my untwisted panties.
posted by y2karl at 12:29 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't that the guy who killed Mozart in Amadeus?
posted by valkane at 12:47 PM on December 23, 2010


The most alarming thing to me in the Concrete + Clay video is KR's combover. There's ill-advised, and then there's ill-advised.

Anyway, glad it seems he got past his demons and the drugs and found a kind of even-keel. I knew he'd been working with Mick Talbot a few years ago, but didn't know much beyond that, so thanks for this post.

Obligatory fave Dexy's song: Geno
posted by scody at 12:49 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I guess I should've added this:

/sarcasm

to my above comment.
posted by item at 1:14 PM on December 23, 2010


OneMonkeysUncle: “I don't know him beyond ‘Come On, Eileen,’ but... ”

Gah, us Americans are so fuckin deprived.

Look, Dexy's Midnight Runners was not by any stretch of the imagination a one-hit wonder band. They had a string of successful UK hits, and lasted a good eight years in the most fruitful chunk of the 80s. That one song that everybody in the US has heard is great, but let's not kid ourselves; all three of the Dexy's albums were absolutely awesome from beginning to end, particularly the last one, Don't Stand Me Down – in part because of their awesome neo-northern-soul sound, but largely because of the genius of Kevin Rowland.

For starters, you've actually probably heard one or two of their hits at some point:

"Geno" [1980] "There, There, My Dear" [1980] "Show Me" [1981] "The Celtic Soul Brothers" [1982] "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)" [1982] "Let's Get This Straight (From the Start)" [1982] "Because Of You" [1986]

Okay, so there's that. But then, for example, give a look at this performance. You can see and hear the influences there, but Dexy's Midnight Runners took those influences and created something crazy and new; there's something primal, immediate, and irrepressible about what they do, and it's completely awesome in my book. So: if nothing else, every one of my fellow Americans should hop on down to Youtube and listen to them for a while. You'll find they hold your attention for a lot longer than the three minutes it takes for them to play "Come On, Eileen."
posted by koeselitz at 1:30 PM on December 23, 2010 [11 favorites]




While the video for Concrete + Clay is truly extraordinary, it does bear mentioning that it cannot be unwatched. Trust me, I've been trying.

You know...I thought "Pfft, exaggerate much?"...and then I watched it (insert "goggles do nothing" comment here)...Marisa Stole The Precious Thing is bang-on about the drummer's facial expressions.

Beautiful voice though.
posted by biscotti at 1:56 PM on December 23, 2010


You weren't in a school brass band the UK/Ireland in the early '80s if you didn't get your mates with the trombones and trumpets to join you and your sax buddies on Geno when the teacher/band leader was off doing something else. You might have had the blue skull-cap on for most of the mid eighties also.

And the sigh moustache.
posted by Sk4n at 2:15 PM on December 23, 2010


koeselitz, thanks for that nice overview of Dexy's best... their cover of "Jackie Wilson Said" is so fucking great.

And yeah, one of the things that was so exciting/vital about them was the wonderful strain of northern soul that runs through everything they did... there were certainly other bands who were creating (marvelous) music informed by soul at the time -- e.g., the Jam, Madness, Fine Young Cannibals -- but Dexy's went several steps beyond the Holland-Dozier-Holland model (100% awesome as it is) into this sort of amazing stew of influences and urgency. Kevin Rowland is really up there with some of the great blue-eyed soul singers -- certainly one of the best of his generation.
posted by scody at 2:19 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


The man can sing. Really, really well. But the Concrete + Clay video was really weird and uncomfortable...I mean, mary janes with that outfit? :sigh: Should've been go-go boots.
posted by smirkette at 2:53 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Still waiting to hear that someone's made a bukkake video titled Come On Eileen.

oh right, like you weren't
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:06 PM on December 23, 2010


Halloween Jack, I was about to write "we love Come On, Eileen because my grandmothers name is Eileen, and it became a family joke to sing it to her as we walked somewhere (and yes, she enjoys the joke and laughs too)".

Now? Eeeew. I really don't need my grandmother and bukkake in the same mental image.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:12 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I don't know what all you nellies are talking about WRT the "Concrete and Clay" video; I thought it was delightfully camp. You want something that you wish you could unwatch, try, oh, just about any random concert footage of GG Allin.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:13 PM on December 23, 2010


I really don't need my grandmother and bukkake in the same mental image.

I am so, so sorry.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:13 PM on December 23, 2010


mintcake!, this a great post, thank you. To the 'Concrete and Clay' list, can I add the feather pile bit at the end? I kept replaying it to see if someone had snuck a bizarre animated gif between frames.
posted by carbide at 4:19 PM on December 23, 2010


Ya know, pop music and sexual ambiguity, that's one thing. But you have to keep it ambiguous. I never did quite recover from the rumour that the Thompson Twins had moved to some remote Irish lovenest and were shagging each other in all possible permutations. And I will never quite recover from that Concrete + Clay video. It's a powerful, powerful argument that even if it means nuking everything south of San Diego, the zero tolerance approach to cocaine is the only one that can save civilisation.
posted by Devonian at 6:00 PM on December 23, 2010


I've got a friend who's a big wheel in the recovery fellowships, and his wife is in hospital undergoing some serious procedures at the moment. As I was looking at the list of well-wishers on her Facebook page, there was one from a Kevin Rowland, and I thought.. I wonder if that's *the* Kevin Rowland?

I'm guessing now that I was right.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:21 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember the panning this got at the time, but I'm also very quietly taken by it. It's no Tony Bennett, but he does do a nice version of The Way You Look Tonight
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:34 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


At least it is *about* something.
posted by gjc at 7:39 PM on December 23, 2010


Actually, "dexy" refers to some other drug.
posted by telstar at 12:15 AM on December 24, 2010


I preferred him in the Killjoys and their classic Johnny Won't Get To Heaven. All the people I know who have met or worked for rowland are of the same opinion, that he is the most vile person they have ever met.

I hope his recovery has sorted that out.
posted by quarsan at 1:18 AM on December 24, 2010


Ah yes...

I forgot. I was watching the UK Saturday morning show, Tiswas, when Sally James interviewed Rowland. It went like this:

James: So how did you get the name Dexy's Midnight Runners?
Rowland: You know what Dexy's are?
James: So when's your next album coming out
posted by quarsan at 1:22 AM on December 24, 2010


James: So how did you get the name Dexy's Midnight Runners?
Rowland: You know what Dexy's are?


What are 'Dexy's'? Enquiring minds want to know.
posted by metaxa at 3:36 AM on December 24, 2010


Speed. Dexedrine = Dexy's.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:06 AM on December 24, 2010


The more I check this stuff out, the more it seems to me that this is less a warning about heavy drug use and more a warning against therapy.

Heed that advice on Ask Metafilter at your peril. You too might end up on-stage with your bollocks hanging out of a thong.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:26 AM on December 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, but, you know, never mind them.
posted by escabeche at 2:28 PM on December 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you can find it, there's a book of writing on being a rock fan, edited by John Aizlewood, which has a brilliant essay on his love of Dexy's as a teen.
posted by mippy at 4:06 PM on December 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


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