Don't Stand Me Down - Dexys' Great Folly at 36 | The Popjustice Forum

Don't Stand Me Down - Dexys' Great Folly at 36

Discussion in 'Comeback corner' started by Eric Generic, Sep 21, 2021.

  1. Let me make myself clear...


    The third Dexys Midnight Runners album charted in the UK exactly 36 years ago today (September 21st 1985).

    Derided on release, misunderstood for years, shunned by the public hoping for Come On Eileen Pt.2.

    Kevin Rowland's great folly, Don't Stand Me Down.

    But actually it's brilliant. And always has been. Three different versions have appeared, which fiddle with the tracklisting, the production/mastering, and even the artwork. The last of these, The Director's Cut, was released in 2002.

    Every version is now OOP and pretty expensive.

    I would have given this album one of my "Featured Album" slots on the AFDPJ blog, but I've already written about it when covering This Is What She's Like, the 59th single to top my personal charts in November 1985.

    So I'll ramble on about it here instead!
  2. It was a real mindf**k on release back in Sep 1985.. and that was just looking at the clothes they wore on the cover! Then after two months, they finally released a single from it "Tell me what shes 's like?" In edited form...the nail in the coffin was the following Christmas when the theme from the horribly sexist "Brush Strokes" was released as a single and "Because of you" becomes a Top 20 hit...go figure!?!
    Eric Generic likes this.
  3. Absolutely...I'll repost what I wrote for the This Is What She's Like post on the blog:

    “I’m looking for the Celtic Soul Brothers. I can’t find them anywhere! Where have you hidden them?”

    Okay, so I’m paraphrasing a little, and taking some artistic license, but it could apply to the return of Dexys Midnight Runners in August 1985. Three years on from the all-conquering Too Rye-Ay era, with its transatlantic chart-topping Come On Eileen and two other major UK hit singles, Kevin Rowland and his assorted comrades finally emerged with a follow-up.

    Don’t Stand Me Down. The one where they’re all dressed like Wall Street Bankers. Or Ivy League undergraduates. Or, as one critic described them, double-glazing salesmen. (This refers to the original sleeve, by the way, rather than the alternatives which adorned various revisionist reissues in the years since).

    Rowland, the master tactician, the restless spirit, the searcher for the young soul rebels, the artist never happy with standing still, had once again re-invented the band’s image and deconstructed their sound. Over the course of two painful years, of great expense, abandoned sessions and the breakdown of some relationships within the band, Don’t Stand Me Down was eventually completed and then released into the world without a lead single to trail the project, or to whet the appetite.

    The world was, unfortunately, rather nonplussed by what it saw and even more indifferent to what it heard. If the hope was to draw upon the cachet of Too Rye-Ay‘s success and the profile Dexys had been enjoying in 1982/83, and to create an event by launching the album on its own, with no promotional assistance from anything as mundane as, you know, a round black piece of vinyl playing at 45rpm, then the plan backfired quite spectacularly.

    The pop scene had moved on. It was 1985, post-Live Aid, and everyone, however feted and however “alternative”, was playing the game. You needed singles, and singles taken from albums. The Smiths, New Order, The Cure. Even a band like The Style Council had largely given up issuing standalone 45s, and were about to lift a third single from their current album Our Favourite Shop. Only the brave, or foolhardy, would try to do things any other way.

    Upon Don’t Stand Me Down‘s release, retailer WH Smiths had placed it at #2 on their in-store chart, which was usually a reliable barometer of what to expect on the real chart the following week. A little optimistic, maybe?

    Just a little. The album would debut at #22, causing red faces at WH Smiths and white ones at Mercury Records, no doubt. Rowland’s decision was now seen as an act of hubris, and the vultures circled. A surprisingly hostile interrogation on its faliure by Radio 1 and Whistle Test’s Richard Skinner (who had been full of praise for the record on its release) cemented Don’t Stand Me Down‘s reputation as a dud.

    All of which was a bit unfair. Curiosity piqued by this album without a single, with such an odd sleeve, with this growing notoriety, I ordered it from a local library on vinyl. It wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. Though I’d enjoyed most of the Too Rye-Ay hits, you couldn’t call me a real Dexys fan by any stretch of the imagination so I had no real baggage to contend with, no expectations to live up to.

    It was actually quite good, in its rambling, bloody-minded way. Some of it, when the best songs got a chance to breathe and stretch their legs, were better than quite good. Sections of tracks like Listen To This and Knowledge Of Beauty, or the finale of This Is What She’s Like where the head of steam created by the string section is something to behold.

    Perhaps out of desperation, perhaps just to see if they could salvage anything from the project, Mercury (or Rowland, or both) did relent in their “no singles” approach and, in early November, an edited version of This Is What She’s Like was thrust upon the market.

    Chopping around 9 minutes from the original album version, the A-side loses the interminable pre-song dialogue between Kev and his faithful sidekick Billy Adams, but the best thing about the song, its second half, gets omitted (it does at least form the B-side). Which was unfortunate but if they weren’t going to choose the more obvious Listen To This, a necessary evil.

    In a further throw of the marketing dice, the 7″ single was available in a swish gatefold double-pack edition (which yours truly eagerly purchased!), adding a bonus disc that included an unironic cover of Status Quo’s Marguerita Time. The result was a UK chart peak of #78.

    There would be no further singles from Don’t Stand Me Down.


    I agree about Because Of You, maybe it's the Brush Strokes association,I dunno, but I never much cared for that single. I'm including it on a Super Deluxe Edition of Don't Stand Me Down that I'm currently working on (something I wanted to do for years). It sort of belongs to the era.
    Hairycub1969 likes this.
  4. [​IMG]

    I always wanted to put the 3 versions of the album on the same set, and finally I've managed it. Rebought the 1997 Creation reissue recently for half the going rate, et voila!

    The cover shot used for the single - and reused here in amended form for the rear sleeve - is my defining image of the whole campaign. I love it.
    Hairycub1969 and nlgbbbblth like this.
  5. Great write up!

    It's in my all time top 5 - a seriously great work
    Hairycub1969 and Eric Generic like this.
  6. I played the original configuration last night, and it's not aged a bit (apart from some of the socio-political references dating it to the mid-80s). And given I listened to Too-Rye-Ay only last week, it compares really well to that, despite the chasm in commercial fortunes.

    Easy to wonder what if... with the choice to go without a single, and then leaving it so late before eventually choosing one, but...that kind of adds to its allure as a lost, misunderstood classic.
    nlgbbbblth and Hairycub1969 like this.
  7. My favourite album of theirs will always be "Searching for the young soul rebels"...I was never really a big fan of the "Too Rye Ay" era!
    I also hired "Don't stand me down" from the local library and taped it on a C90 with "Our favourite shop" on the other side. I remember thinking that both of the albums sounded good together on the same cassette - although, I think the cassette ran out before the record did for both albums!
    Eric Generic likes this.
  8. I was actually thinking of Our Favourite Shop as I listened last night...and yes, both albums are over 46 minutes.

    A week after Don't Stand Me Down came Hounds Of Love...the ultimate example of how to "do weird" and yet make the public completely buy into it. I only learned yesterday that Cloudbusting was EMI's choice for lead single, not Running Up That Hill. Can you imagine...
    Hairycub1969 likes this.
  9. Sep/Oct 1985 I was looking forward to/Listening to:
    Once upon a time
    World Machine
    Depeche Mode - The singles 1981 - 1985
    nlgbbbblth and Eric Generic like this.
  10. It was an insanely good time for music.

    Maybe because it overlapped with one of the best times in my own life, but I don't think it's just that.

    My tastes had gone a bit off-piste in the summer of 85, but then The Head On The Door, Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti, A Secret Wish and Don't Stand Me Down got me back on track. Then add in Hounds of Love, Believe You Me, World Machine, Easy Pieces, Mad Not Mad, How To Be A Zillionaire, goes on! Plus ones that I got into a bit later, like Suzanne Vega's debut, Tom Waits' Rain Dogs, Promise by Sade, the Arcadia album.

    Crazy days.
    nlgbbbblth, lob0to and Hairycub1969 like this.
  11. Sade - Promise - another great album. Her first four albums are all timeless for me now!
    In Sep 1985 I was still listening to and loving:
    Songs from the big chair
    No jacket required
    Cupid and Psyche 85
    And still trying to get my head around:
    Around the world in a day!
    lob0to and Eric Generic like this.
  12. I was still hammering Tears For Fears, Phil Collins and OMD too. TFF got a boost from seeing them on tour that winter.

    Not sure what Mercury's plan was for Don't Stand Me Down...I guess they hoped for the hype and the expectation coming off the last album to outweigh the possible downside of putting something from it out first and turning the public off before the album had a chance.

    They could have put out This Is What She's Like in August (or Listen To This), seen it flop and the album would have tanked anyway. It's not like they had a Running up That Hill-type smash to lure the listeners in.

    Most "challenging" albums in the 80s were issued without a single first. Spirit of Eden, Neither Fish Nor Flesh....
    Hairycub1969 likes this.
  13. I always got the feeling that Kevin Rowland felt uncomfortable regarding mainstream success. He always seemed to sabotage his career after a major hit! But for him I guess he needed to challenge himself and not do the same thing twice!
    "Around the world in a day" was another challenging album that was released prior to any singles being issued! "The Joshua Tree" bucks the trend though as "With or without you" was released as the first single a week or so after the album.
    Tin Machine (the first album) follows your trend though!
    Eric Generic likes this.
  14. So it was. I forgot that!
    Hairycub1969 likes this.
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