Nov 08


FT + Popular77 comments • 7,212 views

#457, 2nd May 1980

The insight that took Kevin Rowland from punker to star was that the DIY aesthetic which formed some part of punk’s appeal – the idea that inspiration could and should trump technical ability – could as easily be applied to soul. If soul was a passion that emerged from within, why filter it through technique? Love, belief and respect for the past would surely be enough.

The marvel of Dexy’s Midnight Runners is that in Rowland’s case it was: his voice might be a blunt yawp but the sobbing conviction with which he wields it tends to carry him through. In a way it still boxes him in: the band were always most effective when they were singing about passion and fandom as well as with it – stray from that and he risked running smack into his limitations.

So a lot of Dexy’s work – starting with this surprise second-single hit – is an exploration of what being into music means. Really into music, that is – “you fed me, you bred me, I’ll remember your name”: this goes beyond appreciation into devotion, in turn raising the bar for the group’s own fans. The love many otherwise cynical music heads of a certain age feel for the Runners is surely partly down to the band’s own concern with passionate fanhood – it legitimises adoration, turns it into the only proper response. Even though not everything the group recorded was stellar.

“Geno” itself, for instance. You’ll find a lot of people who feel that Dexy’s had one untouchable chart-topper, and one which is a bit of an overplayed millstone. I agree – except this is the one I don’t like so much. The song feels too bitty for me, held together by those imperious horns which make the chorus so driving but turn the rest of the track into a bit of a tar pit: every time I hear “Geno” I’m shocked at how slow it is, crossing the line between stomp and lumber. Rowland himself is still a fierce presence – albeit an incomprehensible one – and his convert’s zeal over Geno Washington comes over fully. An idiosyncratic number one; a group touched by greatness… but never a personal favourite.



  1. 1
    Alan on 6 Nov 2008 #


  2. 2
    Tom on 6 Nov 2008 #

    Dunno why it hasn’t worked!

  3. 3
    Mark G on 6 Nov 2008 #

    I Saw Geno twice in all, once down the Carribbean Club in Reading, and his song was not tame at all.

    Second time, he was due to play at Gabriels Wharf, a freebie lunchtime open-air thing, but it rained. And yet, he was there anyway, singing a rain blues, effortlessly cool with it.

    Sometimes I think Kevin did Geno a disservice, but then again this boosted his profile anyway.

    Oh, and I give him 8 for this one.

  4. 4
    Conrad on 6 Nov 2008 #

    Did you hear the “Searching For Young Soul Rebels” album Tom? I think “Geno” works better in the context of the album, which from cover art to sleeve notes is still for me one of the greatest debut LPs of all time.

    I was thrilled by this single at the time, and the “Geno, Geno” chants at the start really added to the sense that the record was an event.

    But I can kind of see where you are coming from – it is slower than it sounded to me as a kid – and I get more pleasure from other gems on the album, like “Teams That Meet In Caffs”, “Keep It”, a great cover of “Seen Days Too Long” and the truly fab follow-up single, “There There My Dear”.

    Still, it announced the emergence of an exciting and unqiue act as a chart force, and “Geno” has undeniable soul and verve.

    A solid 8 from me.

    and a pedant notes – date should be May 3.

  5. 5
    rosie on 6 Nov 2008 #

    So here we are, the penultimate single I ever bought, the only one I ever bought for no other reason than because it was number one on a particular day, and one which, so far as I know, remains unplayed to this day.

    Not that I don’t like this for itself. I belong firmly in the camp that says that the other Dexy’s number one was and remains the overplayed and overhyped millstone. I like this because I like its raw, slightly uncouth energy, and I like those horns, and it reminds me of one of the very first gigs I ever went to, which was Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band at the Mid-Herts College, and a memorable occasion that was.

    But yes, the real reason why Geno is enduringly important to me was that it was number one on 3 May 1980, the day Hull FC played Hull Kingston Rovers in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, and the day my daughter made her debut at the Hedon Road Maternity Hospital in a ghostly and near-deserted Hull. Perhaps there should be a special pink stork symbol for this – am I the first Populista Parent?

    So, this is the first ‘parent’ number one for me. Bought for the purpose of putting in Karen’s time capsule along with that day’s Guardian, Radio Times, Hull Daily Mail, Hull FC and Hull KR rosettes, and other mementos of the day.

    My scores: 7 or 8 for the record itself. 11 for its personal associations.

  6. 6
    Tom on 6 Nov 2008 #

    Yeah, “Searching” is on balance* my least favourite of the 3 Dexys albums (and “Geno” perhaps my least favourite thing on it) but I still like that album a very great deal. “There There My Dear”, “Burn It Down”, “Keep It”… all terrific.

    *they’re a band where my favourite ‘era’ swings about depending on mood, so sometimes the “Searching” stuff is all that will do.

  7. 7
    peter goodlaws on 6 Nov 2008 #

    This is the first number one I personally recall watching on top of the pops. A stage overcrowded with people doing nothing singing a song about a bloke called Geno who I thought was just some mate of Kevin’s. The problem is that you can’t really sing along to this apart from when he goes “ohhh, Geno”. But then I was only five and so that was always enough excitement for me. I thought this was great and today it holds up for me reasonably well.

  8. 8
    lonepilgrim on 6 Nov 2008 #

    The irony with Dexys was that at the start they were portrayed, partly by themselves and partly by the music press, as another (particularly intense) example of a band ‘keeping it real’.
    In retrospect they now seem like an exercise in Pop Method acting with Kevin Rowland the De Niro-like changeling. In that respect they have more in common with Glam’s play acting but fueled with a Punk like intensity.
    They also represent a self-consciously retro attitude that I’m always a bit wary of in Pop – however for me Rowland’s shifting persona places the emphasis more on style rather than substance unlike the Mod revival acts (or later bands like Oasis) who get stuck in a rut.
    Having said all that I think I’d give it 7 because I always like a good horn section

  9. 9
    Erithian on 6 Nov 2008 #

    Rosie, fantastic post and much-belated congratulations! (and if you could persuade Karen to post her thoughts on this song as well, so much the better…)

    I did the same when our twins were born – all the papers plus the number one album and single. Number one album was Shania Twain’s “Come On Over”, the single obviously I can’t say (but it’s an “artist” who shares his catchphrase with Barack Obama). I was looking forward to sharing the papers with the boys when they were old enough – the fact that “Portillo’s Gay Sex Experiences” were all over the front pages perhaps postpones that day slightly.

    Anyway, “Geno”, yes definitely the more neglected of their number ones, and few songs, let alone chart-toppers, get across more eloquently the relationship between artist and fan from the fan’s viewpoint. (I love the “academic inspiration, you gave me none” line – and the little drum fill that follows it.) Mind you Kevin Rowland must have just about the worst diction in pop – you know how your parents always complained that you couldn’t make out the words in pop songs? This one (and much of Dexy’s material) I could barely make head nor tail of. I knew who Geno Washington was, so that was a starter for ten, but the rest definitely had to wait for a lyric sheet. I don’t have a problem with its pace – more suited for a kind of martial stomp than jumping up and down (although I do remember one lad at a college disco getting so excited he jumped into everyone around him when it came on). An original sound and subject, and a fond memory.

  10. 10
    rosie on 6 Nov 2008 #

    Erithian @ 9: I can ask but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

    As for Barack – it did occur to me at one time that he had all ready his own riposte to Joe the Plumber but maybe it’s as well that he didn’t need it.

  11. 11
    wichita lineman on 6 Nov 2008 #

    Some splendid posts. I went on a German exchange to Berlin the week this entered the chart at 37. By the time I got home it was no.2 which was a huge shock.

    Dexys had appeared on TOTP with their first single, Dance Stance, which seemed moody, hard to get a handle on, and confused me even more when I heard it was about Kevin Rowland’s dislike of Irish jokes. It was probably the first instance of a song, or a band, referencing names I didn’t know in such an intriguing way. Clearly, there was something deeper and stranger going on here than there was with The Selecter or The Beat. Not long afterwards I read The Girl With Green Eyes and Borstal Boy – which I assume was KR’s intention.

    Anyways. Dance Stance had stalled at 40, so Geno appearing at 37 seemed about right. Again, it was referencing a relatively obscure artist, to 15-yr old me at least (as Sting will in a far clumsier way before too long). This, and the “overhyped” one, never sounded like out-and-out number ones to me – both times it was a pleasant surprise. Their chart positions vary more dramatically than possibly any other major act: following this came There There My Dear (no.7), Keep It Part Two (didn’t chart), Plan B (no.58), Show Me (no.16) and Liars A To E (didn’t chart) before they had their second coming in ’82. Power of the press (Keep It in particular got viciously bad reviews)? The quality of the singles surely didn’t vary THAT dramatically.

    Dexys’ wildhearted outsider thing got me completely, same as The Smiths did later. The time clearly taken over the artwork, the ads, the interviews, all were a massive influence on the way I think. Academic inspiration? I learnt more about books and film through these two groups than anything to do with my formal education.

    As for Geno, well, I prefer the Dexys singles either side of it but would still give it a higher score than Working My Way Back To You – a 7 at least.

    Re 8: Before Dexys and before The Killjoys, Kevin R was in an art rock group whose name escapes me, so yr spot on with the Glam slant. I’d say there was showmanship as well as heartfelt sincerity going on in pretty much everything he did.

    Re 9: Lyrics so garbled that half of them literally wouldn’t fit into the song! Reading the words to There There My Dear and hearing the 45 are quite different experiences.

  12. 12
    AndyPandy on 6 Nov 2008 #

    I saw Geno at a soul weekender at Bognor in about 1986 (60s type soul was never played at such weekenders) but another act cancelled and they put Geno Washington on as a replacement on the Saturday dinnertime.They put him on in the funk room where it would have normally been wall to wall 80s funk and soul and surprisingly they went down a storm complete audience participation and 100% excitement.As was the case at weekenders everyone was already off their heads even at midday but the way he carried a crowd who probably didnt know who the hell he was and cared even less for what theyd have seen as dated music made me realise what Kevin Rowland had experienced almost 20 years before in 1968.
    Coincidentally a few years later when I was on a stag weekend (and this time not on a dance weekender) I saw Edwin Starr play in the same (although this time near deserted and completely uninterested) room of middle aged people and stag parties at the same holiday camp.He tried his hardest but it seemed a sad place for him to end up.

  13. 13
    chap on 6 Nov 2008 #

    This would get a 9 from me. The stompiness of the verses is a big part of what makes the chorus so exhilarating. And then the soaringly harmonised brass after the second chorus lift the song into the realm of the sublime.

  14. 14
    Glue Factory on 6 Nov 2008 #

    Like Too Much Too Young, this is another record I found out about, long after it had reached the top and that I couldn’t believe had actually made it to number 1. Perhaps to each generation, the records of the generation before seem noisy and unpolished in comparison ?

    And re#7, I do think it’s hard to sing along with, but at the trying-to-be-cool indie clubs I went to it was important to appear as if you *could* sing along to this.

  15. 15
    LondonLee on 6 Nov 2008 #

    I know I should like this more than I do but Kevin Rowland’s rather strained General Johnson impersonation really grates on my ears. It’s a great song but the beat is sort of constipated and lumbers along when it should swing more, which is par for the course with white English boys trying to play Northern Soul. I liked ‘There There My Dear’ a lot more, at least that moved enough for me to get past Rowland’s vocal.

    I know Geno Washington was supposed to be a killer live act but his studio records are mostly rubbish. The soul snob in me always thinks that if he was as great as the song suggests then why wasn’t he big in America? What I saying is I think I’d like the song more if it was called ‘Otis’

  16. 16
    pink champale on 7 Nov 2008 #

    i suppose this is the start of all that terrible 80’s real soul worship, but i think it’s doing something rather different. the usual tactic of those records is to genuflect before the soul giant in the hope of getting a bit of reflected glory “i like otis redding, aren’t i soulful?”. whereas here there’s no doubt that the important person is kevin rowland (when wasn’t that the case with dexys?) and that geno only matters because of his role in creating kevin. and more than that kevin then goes on to tell poor geno that he’s all washed up and that kevin is much much better than him!

    re ‘method acting’ #8 Michael Bracewell’s excellent book ‘England is Mine’ makes exacactly this point about dexys.

    also, i have a vague memory of once hearing that the geno washington who was big here in the 60’s wasn’t actually the ‘real’ record-making geno washington. does anyone know about this?

    finally, kevin’s diction (which is particulalry shocking here) seemed to improve markedly over their career and by the time of ‘don’t stand me down’ every word is totally comprehensible. as he’s one of the best lyricists in pop (on dsmd in particular) then this is probably a good thing.

  17. 17
    Tom on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Yeah there are definitely more egregious soul references to come and many more which didn’t get to #1: (personal ‘favourite’: Paul Young’s “Now I Know What Made Otis Blue”). Confession time: despite having listened to this many times I’d never worked the lyrics out enough to realise the double-edgedness of the tribute, which is indeed interesting – a kind of oedipal thing going on given “you bred me”!

  18. 18
    Tom on 7 Nov 2008 #

    (& there’s one quite scathing meta-reference to Kevin R on the way too!)

  19. 19
    Matthew H on 7 Nov 2008 #

    I belong in that other camp, the one that believes both Dexys No.1s are unfettered genius – and I still cite Searching… as my all-time favourite album. That may be knee-jerk more than anything else, but I still play it fairly regularly.

    It may be slow, but I’d say ‘Geno’ swaggers.

  20. 20
    Erithian on 7 Nov 2008 #

    I always heard the line “searching for the young soul rebels” as “searching for the old soul records” – quite appropriate really.

    I remember seeing them doing “Dance Stance” on TOTP and wondering where these dustbinmen had come from – like they were all auditioning to be the next recruit to Village People.

  21. 21
    Conrad on 7 Nov 2008 #

    I love how painstaking, how literal was Kevin’s search for those confounded young soul rebels.

    “Where are they? Where have you hidden them? I can’t find them anywhere?”!

    Re 16 – I think that interpretation on the lyrics for “Geno” is spot on. Kevin’s ‘arrogance’ for want of a better word was always somehow oddly likeable. He came across as humble at the same time.

    A great point about the referencing of iconic soul singers as a way of bestowing soul authenticity. This was especially, ahem, true for mid-80s white boy pop.

    The next step was to then track down said soul legend (or their PR person) and let everyone know how thrilled s/he was by the tribute. I seem to recall Martin Fry doing something along those lines with “When Smokey Sings”.

  22. 22
    Tom on 7 Nov 2008 #

    I’m not quite ready to dismiss the borrowed soulfulness thing as all bad, to be honest, though we’ll have plenty of time to discuss it later. I think it falls into the category of cultural moves that are easy to take the piss out of now but made a lot of sense (and not just business sense) at the time. It certainly wasn’t just mainstream ‘white boy pop’ that fell into line – the NME’s 1985 best albums of all time had Marvin at the top, of course.

  23. 23
    Mark G on 7 Nov 2008 #

    re: Geno Wash.. if you ever see a cheap second hand copy of “Hand clappin, foot stompin, funky butt live” go for it.

  24. 24
    Mark M on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Indeed, it’s hard to explain to anyone who wasn’t around at the time just how powerful the soul lobby became by the mid-80s, for a while gaining a hegemonic position over critics, adland, musicians themselves (a key early example being this song) and large chunks of the punterdom (for the eventual backlash, see Simon Reynolds). A process with which Kevin Rowland, inevitably, had a rather complicated relationship. But as the man says, we’ll be discussing plenty down the line…

  25. 25
    Mark M on 7 Nov 2008 #

    “A great point about the referencing of iconic soul singers as a way of bestowing soul authenticity. This was especially, ahem, true for mid-80s white boy pop.”

    But not only: the Commodores’ Nightshift (a UK number 3, Bunny-fearers), for instance.

  26. 26
    Billy Smart on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Seven year old Billy response: My, this lot look like a fierce bunch! As was often the case, I liked the choruses, particularly the call-and response and chanting elements, but lost interest in the verses, especially as this was a song which I had a particularly vague understanding as to what it was about.

    I love Dexys’ now, but I do think that ‘There Threr My Dear’ is the absolute stand-out single from this album and would prefer that we were talking about that.

    As for how ‘Geno’ works, however, I think that its an extension of the collapsing “bundle!” that Kat heard in ‘Too Much Too Young’. This single heaves and sways like the hemmed-in club crowd that the listener is made to think of right from the start. So, although Tom is right to notice how slow it sounds, it also lurches backwards and forwards in speed; like being part of a crowd at a gig (or on a football terrace), trying to keep your balance, while waves of movement carry you along. This fits with the song’s idea of following a group around, forming meaning in your life through watching musicians, a devotion that often requires a degree of physical discomfort.

  27. 27
    Matthew H on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Re 25 – Neatly, Kev and Dexys covered ‘Nightshift’ when I saw them at the Festival Hall five(?) years ago.

  28. 28
    mike on 7 Nov 2008 #

    I’d never thought of “Geno” as kick-starting the rampant soul-referencing of the early-to-mid 1980s, but it does rather fit the chain of events. It’s strange indeed to look back on that phase, which gripped even the unlikeliest of acts. Orange Juice put out a cover of Al Green’s “L.O.V.E. (Love)”, and a single whose chorus ran “Just like the Four Tops, I can’t help myself”. Scritti Politti had “Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)”. The Jam covered “Move On Up”, an early ABC B-side quoted liberally from James Brown, a synth duo covered a Northern Soul tune (SHHH) and Spandau Ballet were “listening to Marvin all night long” (SHHHHHHH). And it became so de rigueur to augment one’s line-up with an authenticity-bestowing trio of hollering soul divas, that even the bloody Undertones did it.

    Like others, I preferred “Dance Stance” and the totally MAGNIFICENT “There There My Dear”, and the choice of a second-tier act like Geno Washington as Rowland’s ultimate soul Godhead seemed perverse indeed. For like many others, Rowland’s mangled diction prevented me from picking up the ambivalence in the lyrics – a misreading that might even have extended to Washington himself.

    (Surfing off the revival in interest, Geno played our university hall of residence in the autumn of 1980, where he was greeted like a hero returning from exile. By the end of the second number, we had been collectively relieved of our illusions.)

    My chief reaction to Rowland’s triumph was astonishment, that another fourth or fifth-tier punk rock also-ran could have struck it so big. I’d bought The Killjoys’ “Johnny Won’t Get To Heaven” three years earlier, as it came out on my local Cambridge record shop’s in-house label, and the only linking factor between “Johnny” and “Geno” was Rowland’s continued incomprehensibility. First Numan had re-invented himself… now it was Rowland’s turn… and it would only be a few months before another miraculous metamorphosis would take place.

    A window of opportunity had opened, and it was anyone’s guess as to who would dive through it next.

  29. 29
    wichita lineman on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Re 25: And this had been going on for a while – there’s William Bell’s Tribute To A King (an Otis redding eulogy) and, though the artist and title escape me, a male tribute to Aretha Franklin from the turn of the 70s. Not forgetting Arthur Conley’s Sweet Soul Music, which was definitely a second-string soul boy going for reflected glory no matter how good it is.

    Re 16: The other guy was called Gino Washington and he recorded a highly rated single called Gino Is A Coward which I’ve never heard. “Geno” copped his name, for reasons unknown.

    Re 28: I still prefer Orange Juice’s L.O.V.E. to Al Green’s, which could be pure nostalgia but I’d like to think not, Edwyn C’s voice being a strangely affecting thing. Yes indeed, everyone was at it, to the point where I don’t recall registering any surprise when Aztec Camera’s Oblivious featured Sweet Inspirations-like bv’s. The Fall were the exception, of course, opening Hex Enduction Hour with the line “Where are the obligatory niggers?”

  30. 30
    Erithian on 7 Nov 2008 #

    another unlikely contender – Billy Bragg’s “Levi Stubbs’ Tears”.

  31. 31
    LondonLee on 7 Nov 2008 #

    The NME really went to town on the soul front, I think they also made Womack & Womack’s ‘Love Wars’ and Bobby Womack’s ‘The Poet’ albums of the year (or close to it). All of which must have been funny to the Farah-wearing, Gregg Edwards-listening real soul boys at the time, I have a ‘Streetsounds Anthems’ compilation from the 80s which takes the piss out of Dr. Marten’s-wearing, johnny-come-lately journalists (or words to that effect) in it’s sleevenotes.

    I knew where the young soul rebels were Kevin, they were down the Lyceum Ballroom on a Saturday night dancing to ‘Jingo’ by Candido played by Steve Walsh.

  32. 32
    unlogged-in lord soülråt on 7 Nov 2008 #

    (“the poet II”)

  33. 33
    Conrad on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Re 28, even Japan had a hit with “I Second That Emotion” and then there was Weller’s attempt to launch Tracie as a soul-pop crossover with a cover of Aretha’s “House That Jack Built”.

  34. 34
    Billy Smart on 7 Nov 2008 #

    As someone who was 13 in 1985, can I say that, by and large, the NME soulboy aganda was largely a good thing for me?

    At an age when one is most liable to fall for docrinaire theories of what one ought to be listening to The Temptations, Aretha, The Impressions, Marvin, compilations on Charly and Ace, etc was a pretty good canon, and one that I’d think I’d prefer to the ubiquitous Beatles that an equivalent teenager with a sense of historical musical curiosity would face today.

    It had got a bit tiresome by the Levis advert stage of 1987, though.

  35. 35
    Billy Smart on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Number 2 watch: A week of Paul McCartney’s ace ‘Coming Up’

  36. 36
    Billy Smart on 7 Nov 2008 #

    TOTPWatch: Dexy’s performed Geno on the three occasions in 1980; April 3rd, May the ist and December the 25th.

    Also in the studio on April the 3rd were; Madness, The Pretenders, The Selecter, The Lambrettas and Prima Donna, plus Legs & Co’s interpretation of ‘Don’t Push It Don’t Force It’. The host was Kid Jensen.

    Also in the studio on May the 1st were; Rodney Franklin, Jimmy Ruffin, Hot Chocolate, The Nolans, The Beat, New Musik, The Chords and Motorhead. The host was Tommy Vance.

  37. 37
    wichita lineman on 7 Nov 2008 #

    The Aretha tribute I was thinking of, long before Scritti’s effort, was by George Jackson and can be found here:


    Covered earlier this year by Cat Power.

    Re 34: Southern Soul Belles on Charly, championed by NME, single-handedly got me into deep soul. My problem with the (someone help me here, obnoxious Scottish NME writer at the time??) take was his undisguised opinion that Black Music was naturally superior to anything white folks could ever achieve. Rather hilariously, this extended to an “I told you so!” editorial when the very black Walk On By and I Say A Little Prayer ranked in the all-time Top 3 singles in an NME mid-80s poll. Another reason for the C86 backlash.

  38. 38
    LondonLee on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Tracie’s ‘House That Jack Built’ was a different song to Aretha’s

  39. 39
    Mark M on 7 Nov 2008 #

    The notion that, as Tom writes, “If soul was a passion that emerged from within, why filter it through technique?” is what got lost over the decade (Billy Bragg notwithstanding), leading to the kind of thing that anticipated the current BRIT School crop.

  40. 40
    LondonLee on 7 Nov 2008 #

    It reminds me a little of modern romantic comedies referencing classic movies and music from the past, whether it’s ‘An Affair To Remember’ in ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ or any number of scenes where the characters all have a good singalong to some life-affirming Aretha or Motown chestnut*. Like Spandau and the others name-dropping Marvin Gaye you feel them hoping some of the magic they’re referencing will rub off on them and class up their efforts.

    *And have you noticed how the characters all know the words? which is far from my experience in America. A friend of mine got married in NYC a few years ago and at the reception his brother tried to lead everybody in a singalong of ‘This Old Heart of Mine’ and no one knew the words (apart from us soul boy Brits anyway)

  41. 41
    Tom on 7 Nov 2008 #

    #39 – The kind of technique the inspirational soulmen did have wasn’t just vocal technique, it was also showbiz technique, acting technique, and as people said upthread Kevin R DID have that in buckets (and later pop soulboys and the BRIT school people have tended not to, or at least to not have anything more than a very rote version of showbiz technique).

  42. 42
    unlogged-in lord soülråt on 7 Nov 2008 #

    (incidentally Lee — and everyone else I guess — I’m temp-subbing at Eye mag in edgy Hoxton tiis week, and the review copy Barney Bubbles book just came back from the scanning house: it will be SO HARD for me not to half-inch it)

  43. 43
    Conrad on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Re 38, thanks London Lee. I would actually like to hear Tracie’s House That Jack Built again but it appears impossible to track down, in digital form anyway.

    Re 36, that April 3 looks a good edition of TOTP.

    Re 35, and “Coming Up” it certainly was. Jumped from 62 to 7. Can’t have been many bigger climbs recorded on the Top 75.

  44. 44
    wichita lineman on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Re 40: I’ve always found the over-familiarity with soul singers (Aretha, Marvin, Otis) as irritating as the rockist, you’re-in-the-army-now surname thing (Bowie, Eno, Dylan, Gillan). King of this at Melody Maker was Ted Mico, who I recall boasting in one editorial meeting that he could get “Smith” on the phone – it took some time for me to work out he was talking about Robert Smith.

    I was dj’ing once and was asked if I’d “got any Marvin?”. I wish to hell that I’d said “yeah!” and played something by The Shadows.

  45. 45
    LondonLee on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Just added the Barney Bubbles book to my shopping list of things to buy when I’m in London this Xmas.

  46. 46
    Erithian on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Meanwhile in the real world, it was while Geno was number one that the Iranian Embassy siege took place in London – ended when the SAS stormed the embassy on Bank Holiday Monday, as covered live on TV to the disgust of many who wanted to watch the world snooker final…

  47. 47
    Vinylscot on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Loved “Geno”, but it stopped me getting my only number one!!

    …sort of, anyway. “Coming Up (Live In Glasgow)” was on the b-side of “Coming Up”, and I am in the crowd. Although they never said which night it was recorded (at the time, anyway) I was there both nights, so as far as I’m concerned, it was my song, with Wings filling in as my backing band.

    Of course in the States the live version was the a-side, and was, IIRC, the biggest selling single of the year over there.

  48. 48
    LondonLee on 7 Nov 2008 #

    My mum was a telephonist at the BBC at the time and she told me people were calling up and complaining because they’d taken the snooker off. You’d think hooded men throwing smoke bombs and absailing down walls on live telly was a bit more exciting than Steve Davis. Then again, watching paint dry would be etc. etc…

  49. 49
    peter goodlaws on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Atually it was Cliff Thorburn and Alex Hurrican Higgins in the final. Even I remember that.

  50. 50
    mike on 7 Nov 2008 #

    #44 – The first time I ever DJ-ed in a club, a kindly middle-aged Nottingham queen waddled up to my booth and asked “Ave yer gorreneh Daina?”

    “Sorry, I’m not with you. Who’s Daina?”

    “You know, Daina Ross?”

    He must have misread it at a formative age.

  51. 51
    mike on 7 Nov 2008 #

    #37 – was the snooty Scottish soulboy Stuart Cosgrove?

    Always loved Southern Soul Belles, particularly Shay Holiday’s sassy “Fight Fire With Fire”. The album was heavily referenced, with great resonance, in a short story by Adam Mars-Jones about a man living with AIDS.

  52. 52
    lonepilgrim on 7 Nov 2008 #

    re 16 (apologies for the belated response) yeah, having read ‘England’s Dreaming’ some time ago thats probably where the method acting idea filtered through from. The strange thing being that while the earlier glam acts performed fantasies of exotic strangeness and/or wealth Kevin Rowland took on a variety of hyperreal underclass personas.

    re the 80s soul revival – it’s worth mentioning that May 1980 saw the first publication of The Face magazine which always had a strong soul leaning.

    There was also a series of cassette compilations of soul and RnB songs from the Ace/Charley labels available through NME during the 80s which opened my ears to a lot of great music. I believe Roy Carr played a large part in compiling those
    I had school friends who were true soul boys with wedge cuts, peg legged trousers and jelly sandals listening to Maze, etc. but it seemed like a subculture too far for me.

  53. 53
    LondonLee on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Didn’t Barney Hoskyns write a very pretentious article in the NME on Deep Soul and Nietzsche?

  54. 54

    salad of all the barneys

  55. 55
    pink champale on 7 Nov 2008 #

    26 – i love that idea about the record heaving and swaying like a crowd.

    44 – ha ha, spot on with the first names overfamilarity thing. i’m totally guilty of this i fear, though in my defence (having a horror of “HENDRIX”…”STRUMMER”….”ANDRE”) i tend to refer to all pop stars by their first name. except dylan for some reason.

  56. 56
    AndyPandy on 7 Nov 2008 #

    Re 52: if you were living in the London suburbs/Home Counties the “proper” soulboys/girls you mention were pretty ubiquitous. From my mid teens till early 20s when acid house hit I became completely immersed in the scene. It was hard not to really (except for a few mod-revivalists) just about everyone in the crowd I hung around with was into it. Pirate radio (JFM/Horizon etc), Caister and Bournemouth weekenders/Robbie Vincent on Saturday dinnertimes on Radio London/Goldmine/Rio/Zero 6/Flicks/club stickers in your motor/Baggy jeans wedge haircuts and checked shirt unbuttoned to show your Al Jarreau tour teeshirt/Bluebird/Blackmarket/Slough Import records…

    And it was massive you’d have 4000+ at Caister probably double that at Bournemouth but completely underground and ignored by the mainstream…even more than Northern Soul had been.But Northern Soul’s distance from the capital and the London based music business gave it a mystique that the South-Eastern soul/funk and jazz scene never had.Although the followers of both were socio-economically pretty similar.

    I suppose the soul boys had the last laugh over the media though as a high proportion of the main faces involved in Acid Housea in 1988 and 89 were products of the soul and funk scene – Danny Rampling/Nicky Holloway/Paul Oakenfold/Johnny Walker/Brandon Block/Colin Hudd etc etc

  57. 57
    Martin Skidmore on 10 Nov 2008 #

    Re referring to soul greats by their first name: this is surely because it is more distinctive – ‘Smokey’ is more of an identifier than ‘Robinson’, whereas ‘Dylan’ is more of an identifier than ‘Bob’. This principle plainly falls flat on its face when applied to that ‘Smith’ example, but ‘Robert’ wouldn’t solve that either. We all know who Otis, Marvin, Aretha and so on are, but no one ever just calls Bobby Bland or James Carr, for example, by their first names.

  58. 58
    unlogged-in lord soülråt on 10 Nov 2008 #

    FAT GOTH BOB, call him by his name

    “my favourite soul singer is bland”

  59. 59
    Mark G on 10 Nov 2008 #

    Whereas James Blunt (or, “helleau, I’m Group Captain Blount” as our Alice refers to him) referred to his influencees being Buckley Major, and Minor…

  60. 60
    AndyPandy on 10 Nov 2008 #

    Rather fitting Steve Davies coming up in this thread (No 48) seeing as he was a bit of a soulboy himself and even used to do a spot of deejaying himself back in the eighties. I remember seeing pictures of him in Blues and Soul magazine with his 1000s of jazz and soul records in his own studio.Saw him play out at an alldayer in a pub in Woking and he seemed a completely down to earth unpretentious bloke. A bit ironic that he had the nickname “interesting” when he was one of the few top professional sportsmen who had a life/interest outside sport.

  61. 61
    Erithian on 11 Nov 2008 #

    And yet he doesn’t come across as much of a soulboy here:

  62. 62
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 11 Nov 2008 #

    i reviewed the first magma show that he promoted, for wire mag in the 80s

    i like the idea that he was a soulboy AND a prog-nerd: good for him

  63. 63
    wichita lineman on 11 Nov 2008 #

    Re 57: I guess both abbreviations bug me. “Listening to Marvin all night long” (sorry, Bunny) is on a par with Bobby Gillespie’s (obviously unintentional) public school, surname-only rule: “McGee, Barrett, Innes”. All rather Unman, Wittering and Zigo.

    As for “Otis”, That’s How It Feels (When You’re In Love) and the Live In Japan version of Love Don’t Love Nobody are intense and tear-wrenching enough to make me come across like a dreadful soul snob, mumbling “What about Otis Clay?”.

    The flip side of this is unromantic first names – Kevin, Phil, Martin. They all crop up, self-referentially, in New Pop classics, bordering on the ironic but totally working. Maybe New Pop died when that “Marvin” reference hit number one. A debate for a later entry, maybe…

    Re 51: Stuart Cosgrove!! Thanks Mike. Anyone remember that programme he did on stabbings, around 93/94? Completely glorified them, and at one point had some shirtless Glaswegian teen slowly turning on a pedestal, showing the world his scars while Suede’s So Young played. One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

    Re 58: I wonder if Mick Hucknall uses this line.

  64. 64
    AndyPandy on 11 Nov 2008 #

    I remember his promoting of Magma…thought it might have been because they had some kind of jazzy side to them (if they did). I didn’t know about his interest in prog though it must have been in abeyance in the 80s and 90s. But like 62 says I think more of him now makes him a bit more individual not the typical soulboy from Romford.

  65. 65
    Tom on 12 Nov 2008 #

    Sweet Zeuhl Music

  66. 66
    Mark M on 12 Nov 2008 #

    Re 61: I’m thinking you didn’t get as far as the Robbie Vincent reference?

  67. 67
    intothefireuk on 26 Mar 2009 #

    Geno Geno Geno – I never actually got much further than that – did Kevin really think that much of Geno ? As I couldn’t understand anything else he was actually singing on the record I had no idea but it sounded important to him at least. Great blasts of horn and a reasonable approximation of the Stax soul sound make for a better than average single but number one ?

  68. 68
    MikeMCSG on 16 Jul 2009 #

    Always surprised me that Dance Stance (the better song) scraped to No 40 then this shot to no 1 three months later. Did I miss some epochal TV appearance in the meantime ?

  69. 69
    punctum on 22 Oct 2009 #

    For a band whose avowed ethic was achievement of art through pure, undiluted physical effort – punishment of the body until belief in the soul issues forth, and we’ll return to that presently – Dexy’s music didn’t half make you dance. Their first and best album, Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, was the most danceable record of my bedroom’s 1980, its only serious rivals being the Beat’s I Just Can’t Stop It and Costello’s Get Happy!! It was a means for Kevin Rowland to pour out with alternating rations of sweetness and grit all the true boldness and belief which he felt had been systematically filtered out of punk, following his abortive career as frontman of the Killjoys (one great single, 1977’s “Johnny Won’t Go To Heaven”), and resuscitating the spirit of punk by means of the Northern Soul, the Stax and the Motown, and, yes, the Foundations and Geno Washingtons of his then not-too-distant late sixties youth. The sleevenotes to Searching tell the story of how Rowland assembled the musicians as though he were recruiting for the Great Train Robbery, with disaffected rookies and veterans stretching from the far north of Scotland to the inner bowels of Harrow.

    Their music was dynamite; literally in some cases – instead of a thrashing guitar Rowland used his three-strong horn section as his lead instrument, and Searching features some of the finest and strongest horn charts on any British record; they prowl (“I’m Just Looking”), proclaim (“Tell Me When My Light Turns Green”) and burn (“The Teams That Meet In Caffs”); they are Rowland’s living and responding alter ego. The opening “Burn It Down,” an incendiary reworking of their underwhelming (in terms of production and performance) debut single “Dance Stance,” mirrors the green/sepia cover shot of a boy (not the young Rowland), laden down with luggage, being evicted at the outbreak of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the late ’60s and delivered a flurry of emotional gelignite at the dying British culture of frilly-shirted, tax-avoiding comedians telling jokes about the supposed thickness of the Irish; Rowland needed to go no further than his self-explanatory, defiant chorus: “Oscar Wilde and Brendan Behan!/Sean O’Casey, George Bernard Shaw!/Samuel Beckett! Eugene O’Neill! Edna O’Brien and Laurence Sterne,” which Rowland then shuts down with a roar of “SHUT IT!” and finally tops everything with his hissed “Shut your fucking mouth ’til you know the truth.”

    His aim and candour were so sure and proud that he could even make that dreaded trap of having a go at music critics sound like a manifesto for the New (the throbbing “There, There, My Dear,” a top ten single later that summer). And his ambitions were so ambitious that Dexy’s even took on and sometimes beat Northern Soul at its own game; their barnstorming reading of “Seven Days Too Long” arguably betters the Chuck Wood original, and the 150 mph rampage through Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon’s 1968 top five smash “Breakin’ Down The Walls Of Heartache” to be found on the B-side of the single of “Geno” was an explosion of intent.

    Thus, of course, “Geno” itself which, with its opening audience footstamping and heraldic brass fanfares, sets itself up to displace God, God in this case being Rowland’s childhood hero Geno Washington; like Hendrix and Walker, an American fleeing to Europe and beating the natives at his own game. Never too successful as a recording artist, his live performances were reportedly legendary in terms of vitality and grit; though to the sixteen-year-old Rowland “after a week of bunking and flunking school” he must have seemed like manna in place of the unavailable Cooke or Redding.

    The song struts proudly, like an endless procedural towards the middle of the boxing ring, before the tempo doubles and the band launches into a driving stomp; and it’s here that Rowland lays his claim to a coup – “And now just look at me, I’m looking down on you,” he says with an arrogance that would be so astonishing if he didn’t convince you so firmly that it was justified, “Though I’m not being flash, it’s what…I’m built to do.” The tension releases back into the strut of the second verse, in the second half of which Rowland recognises that, to survive, he must tear down his own idol decisively, “But they never knew like we knew, me and you we’re the same” – shades of Chapman and Lennon there – “And now you’re all over, your song is so tame – BRRRRR!! – you fed me, you bred me, I’ll remember your name.”

    That “BRRRR!!” is the crucial cynosure of the record, just as General Johnson’s similar exclamation is the heart of “Give Me Just A Little More Time” – Rowland doesn’t quite manage to be Johnson or Jackie Wilson; his Harrow/Birmingham vowels happily mangle and merge into their own new language – it could be construed as the crow of the conqueror, or a sudden frisson of fear at the perceived limitations of his own subsequent life (will he end up the same?) – but the song again cheerleads itself into its now celebratory chorus and more staccato horns, finally retreating into the dressing room, the cheers still audible and palpable.

    Geno himself had little choice but to grin and take it; the record was directly responsible for reviving interest in his own music, and he certainly didn’t mind prospering (to a degree) from the feedback. He had to feign feeling flattered. However, the song is so mightily performed, so attuned to the hip and to 1980 hipness, so redolent of 1968 being made to matter again, that one has little choice but to slip its parent album back on and revel in its golden torches and twisted wheels of – yes – a n*w s**l v*s**n.

  70. 70
    Conrad on 22 Oct 2009 #

    Terrific piece MC

  71. 71
    Waldo on 25 Jul 2010 #

    This seems as good a place as any to record the death of Alex Hurricane Higgins, who as reported above, was engaged in the World Snooker Final during the SAS’s fabled storming of the Iranian Embassy at the time “Geno” was number one. As mad as a box of frogs he may have been but no-one could touch him when he was at the top of his game, which sadly he wasn’t in 1980 and he lost to a talented but very pedestrian Cliff Thorburn. Higgins returned to reclaim the Championship two years later but he was soon facing his many demons again, and to be quite frank, it’s remarkable he lasted this long. As great a sportsman as he was as flawed a man (how many of those could we name?), I’m sure we all hope he’s found peace now.

  72. 72
    ciaran 10 on 26 Jul 2010 #

    (71) – Way too young to recall Alex Higgins myself.I was born in 1982 which was the year he won the world title for the second time.

    As an irishman myself i should look upon alex higgins as a hero but i cant say ive ever been a fan.Hitting a reporter and threatening to have a snooker player from his own country shot during the time of the northern ireland troubles does not make him much of a role model im afraid.Personal demons are no excuse for some of his behaviour over the years.Once read aswell that he tried to punch a journalist who was interviewing him some years ago.

    I dont follow snooker but he seemed like the most exciting thing ever to happen the sport at the time.A wasted talent.Some people may look at this before the madness.

    Its unfortunate that most famous northern irish sportsmen have had troubles – Alex Higgins, George Best, Roy carroll, Keith Gillespie.

    Btw i like “geno”.Would be a 7 from me.

  73. 73
    punctum on 27 Jul 2010 #

    When did all this business about being a “role model” (whatever that means) start? Is it yet another hangover of Victoriana?

  74. 74
    hectorthebat on 24 Aug 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1-1001
    2FM (Ireland) – Top 100 Singles of All Time (2003) 97
    BBC (UK) – Pop on Trial, Top 50 Songs from the 1980s (2008)
    Gary Mulholland (UK) – This Is Uncool: The 500 Best Singles Since Punk Rock (2002)
    Mojo (UK) – The Ultimate Jukebox: 100 Singles You Must Own (2003) 93
    NME (UK) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2014) 117
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (2002) 21
    Q (UK) – The 1001 Best Songs Ever (2003) 124
    Q (UK) – The 80 Best Records of the 80s (2006) 23
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Uncut (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles from the Post-Punk Era (2001) 62
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 12

  75. 75
    Larry on 23 Nov 2014 #

    I visited England for the first time when ‘Geno’ was #1. I was so thrilled to be watching TOTP for the first time (in those pre-Internet days) that I took still pictures of my friend’s TV screen. I have a special place in my heart for both “Searching” and “Too Rye Ay” and often listen to both to this day. (I regret never having seen Dexys live). #8, great comments on the tricky nature of ‘authenticity’ in music. #26, love that comparison of the song to a swaying crowd.

    ETA: I read Edna O’Brien because Kevin namechecks her in “Burn It Down.”

  76. 76
    benson_79 on 27 Jul 2020 #

    Objectivity in music only goes so far – you can eloquently analyze a song’s merits, but ultimately we only like what we like. Still, one of the joys of Popular has been finding out why people love certain songs that leave me cold and vice versa, thereby challenging me to revise my views.

    That said… a poxy SIX??? Geno is comfortably in my all-time top 10 songs and I could listen to it all day without getting bored. I’ve never considered it slow or a mish-mash and I think that’s down to Rowland – he really, REALLY means it (maaaan) and his utter conviction of the power of soul and of his own genius makes his music soar. Even when it’s slathered in schmaltzy strings and he’s sporting a dress.

    A solid-gold 10 for me.

  77. 77
    Gareth Parker on 23 May 2021 #

    Bold, brassy and enjoyable. A solid 7/10 from me for Kevin’s crew.

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