'Come On Eileen' was one of the biggest selling songs of 1982 and won the Best British Single award at the Brits in early '83. As well as topping the chart in the UK, Ireland and a number of other countries, it gave Dexys a number one in the US, their only hit in that market.
By the time 'Come On Eileen' soared to the top of the charts this side of the Atlantic in the summer of 1982, Dexys Midnight Runners were already well known here. Their second single 'Geno' - a tribute to soul singer Geno Washington - had reached No. 1 in the UK in 1980.
At that time, Dexys had a distinctive look, with band members sporting donkey jackets or leather coats and woolly hats, a style described as being 'straight out of De Niro's Mean Streets'.
When the time came to record second album 'Too-Rye-Ay', leader Kevin Rowland had a new vision for Dexys, a hybrid soul and Celtic folk sound driven by a powerful string section which he dubbed 'The Emerald Express'. Denim dungarees, scarves and leather waistcoats completed the transformation.
When the album's first single 'The Celtic Soul Brothers' failed to crack the top 40, Dexys believed they needed a hit single to survive. 'Come On Eileen' delivered in spades. Without sythesizers or New Romantic flamboyance, Dexys brought a unique look and sound to the table, their American success helped considerably by a love story video (featuring Máire Fahay, sister of Bananarama's Siobhan Fahy) which became a favourite of early MTV viewers.
'Come On Eileen' replaced 'Billie Jean' at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US, and was in turn knocked off the top spot by 'Beat It', thus preventing Michael Jackson achieving back-to-back number ones.
Contrary to the popular belief that the song was inspired by a childhood sweetheart of Roland's, there was never a real 'Eileen'. 'She was a composite, to make a point about Catholic repression,' he later said.
1 Come On Eileen Dexys Midnight Runnners
2 Fame Irene Cara
3 Don't Go Yazoo
4 Driving In My Car Madness
5 It Started With A Kiss Hot Chocolate
6 Eye of the Tiger Survivor
7 Stool Pigeon Kid Creole and the Coconuts
8 Strange Little Girl The Stranglers
9 My Girl Lollipop (My Boy Lollipop) Bad Manners
10 Shy Boy Bananarama