Sunday, January 15, 2006

The greatest record of all time

Many (too many?) albums embrace the mantle of ‘lost classic’ and none more so than Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’ from 1985 which I have often read about as being a work of staggering genius that was purchased by the merest handful of payin’ punters. The two previous Dexy’s albums, ‘Searching for the Young Soul Rebels’ and ‘Too-Rye-Ay’ were massive hits but a lack of record company interest and a belligerent refusal by Kevin Rowland to release singles conspired to sound the death knell for ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’. I purchased the blighter yesterday, more through curiosity than anything, from my online music file store of choice and 24 hours later I’m sat here grinning like a loon because I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a long playing recording as much as this scamp for ages. I’m playing it now and I had it banging through my ears as I did the weekly shop at Sainsbury’s this morning. As one would expect from Rowland the melodies are exquisite and life-affirming but the whole production delights – it is so unusual and quite unlike anything I’ve ever heard. For example, the track I’m playing right now, This is What She’s Like, is twelve minutes long (a length that would normally put me right off…), kicks off with a gloriously paranoid conversation between Rowland and bandmate Billy Adams, before embarking on a mesmeric montage of soaring melody, Beach Boys harmonies and engaging earnestness with the occasional snatch of conversation mixed in to provide the icing on the already pukka cake. This is stunning stuff. Rowland and Adams’ murmured chit-chats permeate the whole collection. They are enchanting. At one point somebody coughs loudly and apologetically. I think it might be post-modern. All the songs are compelling and make the heart burst and I’m mildly nervous to consider that, as I’ve only played it three and a half times, it might grow on me. I don’t think I could cope with liking this album even more than I already do. It might be the greatest record of all time and it has taken me over 20 years to discover it. Heck. In the mean time I’ll keep on grinning.

The great Chris Roberts, ex-Melody Maker, has a website all about ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’ and it can be found here. You need to click on the arrows at the bottom of each page to access the next ‘chapter’. I would urge anyone to read this. And I would urge anyone to listen to ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’.