"Come On Eileen" by Dexys Midnight Runners was a British single released in 1982. The song was written by Kevin Rowland, "Big" Jim Paterson, and Billy Adams; it was produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. It originally appeared on the album Too-Rye-Ay. The song has had lasting appeal and is often heard in retro clubs and on 80s compilation CDs.
The song begins with Celtic
-style fiddle played over a drum beat, with the bass guitar and piano providing accompaniment. An extended version has an additional intro of a Celtic fiddle solo, playing the Irish song "Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms", by Matthew Locke.
The chorus was loosely inspired by the song "A Man Like Me" by the 1960s British soul group Jimmy James and the Vagabonds.
The bridge of "Come On Eileen" features an improvised counter-melody which begins in a slow tempo and gets faster and faster over an accelerando vocal backing. The chord sequence of the bridge is actually the same as the verses but transposed up by a whole tone.
Throughout the song, there are numerous tempo changes and key changes:
The music video to accompany the single was directed by Julien Temple. It features members of the band wearing sleeveless shirts and overalls.
The "Eileen" as featured in the video (and on the record sleeve) is Maire Fahey, sister of Siobhan Fahey, former singer with Bananarama and Shakespear's Sister. The American singer Johnnie Ray, an early rock-and-roll crooner, is also featured in the video using old film footage, and mentioned in the opening lyrics.
In the British charts, the song spent four weeks at number one in August 1982. This success was repeated around the globe; spending five weeks as the Kent Report's number one
and reaching number one in April 1983
on the Billboard Hot 100
in the United States
. It also holds the distinction of preventing Michael Jackson from having back-to-back number one hits in the U.S. The number one hits "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" were separated by Dexy Midnight Runners' one week stay at the top.
The song was also successful in Ireland, where it reached number one on the charts and spent a total of eleven weeks in the charts.
It is a common example of a one-hit wonder in the U.S., as the band failed to reach similar popularity with any of their future songs, though in the UK they had already reached number one two years earlier with "Geno", and went on to have further hits.
In a poll by the UK TV Channel, Channel 4, the song was placed at number 38 in the 100 greatest number 1 singles of all time. A similar poll by the music channel VH1 placed the song at number 3 in the 100 Greatest One-hit Wonders of all time.
The song reached number 18 on VH1's Top 100 Songs of the 1980s.
The song has been covered by several artists, including the ska
band Save Ferris
(which replaced the strings with a horn section), heavy metal Skyclad
, French art band Nouvelle Vague
, the Atlantic Canadian folk rockers Kilt, Blackthorn, the Japanese band nil, and Badly Drawn Boy
. In June 2004 in the UK, the tune was used for the song "Come on England
", by a group of football fans calling themselves "4-4-2". The song was intended to support the England football team during the Euro 2004 competition. In 2006, a cover version by Hermes House Band
was released as a single in France.
The song was also sung by David Spade
and Chris Farley
in the movie Tommy Boy.
References in popular culture
- The AFL Footy Show showed the music video of "Come On Eileen" in the 'Sam's Mailbag' part of the show as Kevin Rowland was a look-a-like to co-host Garry Lyon. After the music video was performed, another video was shown with hosts Garry Lyon (as Kevin Rowland), James Brayshaw (as Banjo player), Sam Newman (as Violin player) and Trevor Marmalade (as Accordion player) performing a copy of the original video as themselves.
- This song has incorrectly been rumoured to be a reference to methamphetamine. However, the band's name, Dexys Midnight Runners, is a reference to the stimulant Dexedrine.
- The song is featured in the film The Rainbow Warrior.
- The title of the song was mentioned in an episode of Will & Grace. Grace has bought a dog against Will's will, and when trying to convince him to keep the dog, she says "Come on, Eileen!”
- The song was used as the Space Shuttle Discovery crew wake-up call in August 2005, on STS-114 Flight Day 14, in honour of the flight commander, Eileen Collins. The ground control team selected the song to remind the crew "that it is time for your return back home to planet Earth" (a return which turned out to be delayed by a day due to weather).
- The phrase "Come On Eileen" is used as the refrain in the song "Me and my Black Metal Friends" by Atom And His Package.
- The song was used in the film Tommy Boy; Chris Farley's and David Spade's characters sing it together while in the car.
- The song's title was parodied in Clerks as a porno film entitled "Cum On Eileen". There is also a real porn site with this title.
- The song was used briefly in the hit British cult sitcom Spaced.
- This song is one of the '80s tunes that can be heard in the arcade game compilation Namco Museum 50th Anniversary Arcade Collection, for the PS2, Xbox, GameCube and PC. This song is used in the PS2 game Singstar 80's Edition.
- In The Simpsons episode "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" Lisa remarks that Homer's barbershop quartet, the Be Sharps, beat Dexys Midnight Runners for a Grammy Award to which Homer replies, "Well, you haven't heard the last of them." This is an ironic reference to Dexys Midnight Runners' one hit wonder status in the US.
- The song is referenced in an episode of the television series American Dad!
- The song and video are featured in the Singstar 80's karaoke video game.
- The song was used in an episode of the ABC television series Carpoolers.
- The song was used in a Kinder Bueno commercial.
- The song was played during the Jackass 24-hour takeover of MTV.
- Kevin Rowland was parodied at the end of an episode of Big Train, created as a sort of Frankenstein's monster.
- The song was played during the cold open to the episode "Epiphanies" of the popular British television series Spaced, in which a flashback to 1983 shows Brian Topp dancing to the song in a club until he knocks the drink out of the hands of another raver and gets punched in the face.
- The song can be heard on the radio in the 2006 Shane Meadows film This Is England, set in 1983.
- The song was sung by Shawn and Gus from the USA series, Psych. It was used as a "Psych-out" (outtake) at the end of the episode "Black and Tan:A Crime of Fashion"
- In The Mighty Boosh's series 2 episode "The Priest and the Beast," Kevin Rowland is one of the musicians out in the desert searching for "The New Sound," wearing overalls from the video and sporting exaggerated armpit hair.
- In Sex Lives of the Potato Men Johnny Vegas sings a karaoke version of the song.
Musicians (band members)