Friday, April 27, 2012

Song #173 of 9999 - Come on Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners

Song #173 of 9999

Title: Come on Eileen
Artist: Dexy's Midnight Runners
Year: 1982
Album: Too-Rye-Ay

This is a song most everyone knows and it's probably a song you either love or hate. But there are multiple reasons it spent so many weeks at the top of the charts in 1982. It's ridiculously catchy, well-structured and -arranged and participatory. Let me expound.

1) Catchy: Well, if I could figure out what makes songs catchy and memorable, I'd be rich and/or famous. But in this case, I think there are obvious factors. The fiddle riff is pretty infectious and the lilting dotted-eighth/sixteenth groove at this specific tempo makes you want to move instantly. The chorus, particularly the bass and drums, is straight out of the Motown songbook. Add to that the "too-rye-ay" nursery rhyme lyric and you pretty much have everyone feeling like a 5-year-old which is a pretty good feeling.

2) Well-structured and -arranged: I am fascinated by the key relationships in this song. Three different keys for the intro (F Major), verses (C Major) and chorus (D Major). Each modulation is direct with no transition yet they seem so natural and seamless. The move from C to D for the chorus is particularly brilliant and uplifting. (It must have been cool to be in the room when someone came up with that idea—wow!) But the real stroke of genius is the slow bridge and accelerando leading into the final chorus. This section with its quasi-chanted countermelody gives Kevin Rowland a chance to flex his Northern Soul muscle, his impressive tenor creating lovely counterpoint with the boys in the band. The Celtic-meets-Motown orchestration with its fiddle, banjo and accordion sounds as fresh today as it did thirty years ago.

3) Participatory: This is a song that not only invites you to join in, it insists. The call-and-response chorus is made for a sing-along and the tempo change in the bridge is designed to get your heart racing right along with the kick drum. But for me, it's the ascending scale on "too-ra-loo-ra too-ra-loo-rye-ay" that really begs for your participation. Sing a melody that is simple, catchy and wordless and you will have a legion of followers. Guaranteed.

For the record, I fall on the side of loving the song. So much fun.

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