Come on Eileen
Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Writer(s): Kevin Rowland, Jim Paterson, Billy Adams (see lyrics here)
Released: June 25, 1982
First Charted: July 3, 1982
Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 3 RR, 31 AC, 6 AR, 1 CO, 14 UK, 2 CN, 15 AU, 8 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 1.61 UK, 1.71 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 45.8 video, 630.85 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come on Eileen” hit #1 in the UK and U.S. – eight months apart. The “gloriously gimmicky pop single” AMG topped the UK charts in August 1982 and became the biggest-selling single of the year. SF It topped the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1983, sandwiched between Michael Jackson’s two monstrous chart-toppers from Thriller – “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.” It was the group’s only hit stateside, but they had another chart-topper in the UK with “Geno” in 1980 and also landed a couple of other top-10 hits.
The band went through a variety of looks and sounds. When they formed in 1978, their music had a “Stax Records/Van Morrison-influenced soul flavor” FB accompanied by a street gang look inspired by Rober DeNiro’s character in Mean Streets. FB However, they split up and lead singer Kevin Rowland reformed the group with a more puritanical bent before mixing things up again with a “silly street urchin look” AMG married with the sound of “born-again Celtic soulsters.” FB
It’s that later iteration which is employed on “Come on Eileen” and the parent album Too-Rye-Ay. FB The song is “armed with a cheerful and gay melodic hook courtesy of the band’s new fiddle section and the sort of chorus you can starting singing almost before you’ve heard it the first time.” AMG It also employs banjo, accordian, and saxophone, setting it apart from other hits of the synthesizer-driven era. SF
The former altar boy and one-time candidate for the priesthood was taught by his Irish-Catholic relatives that sex was dirty and used the song to make a point about Catholic repression. WK Rowland has said (but also denied) that the song is about a “a girl who I grew up with basically…and there was a time, about 14 or 15,…sex came into it and our relationship had always been so clean. It seemed at that time to get dirty and that’s what it’s about.” FB In his All Music Guide review, Stewart Mason amusingly describes the song as “about that special time in a young boy’s life when he realizes he wants to shag his best mate.” AMG
First posted 1/20/2021; last updated 9/25/2022.