Lord knows I can’t change

You might know me as the mild mannered janitor of this esteemed property, but I have a secret. A secret dark enough that it only speaks its name to a select few. A secret that I only shared with The Special One a few months before our wedding, for fear that she would call the whole thing to a grinding halt. It was touch-and-go for a while, it has to be said, and the secret still regularly brings her to the point of tears whenever it pops involuntarily into her head.

But now I don’t care who knows – I love “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners with a passion. Say it once, say it loud, I too-rye-aye and I’m proud.

I don’t know what it is about the song that I adore so much. Maybe it’s the feelgood intro, the “poor old Johnny Raaaaaaaay” lyrics, or the impossibly catchy piano line – but whatever it is, I can’t get it out of my head for about three weeks after I’ve heard it again. No wedding is complete in my mind without a bit of “Come On Eileen”, and the mere sight of dungarees (or overalls as I laughingly believe they’re called over here) can send me into a Dexy’s whirl.

Now clearly, not everyone is as comfortable as I am in their own musicality but I promise you that – deep down – half of Britain feels exactly the same as me. Admittely the other half would rather have rusty nails hammered into their skull, but that’s a side issue. The thing is that certain pop songs are irrevocably specific to one country and its people. Name a Brit who doesn’t know all the words to Robbie Williams’ “Angels” and I will show you a liar. As I mentioned here, the Special One is still recovering from the stampede to the dancefloor which occurred when “Dizzy” by Vic Reeves & The Wonder Stuff was played at a wedding we attended a couple of years ago. And it’s probably best not to talk about her reaction to the playing of the theme from “Minder”.

Obviously, America has its own selection of songs that do exactly the same thing – most of which mean absolutely nothing to me. I’ve lost count of the number of times The Special One and I have been in the car, and she’s suddenly turned the sound up on the radio to listen to a top tune, only for me to find out that it’s something along the lines of “Born To Break The Levee” by Harry Walton & The Tennessee Turncoats. I count myself as a man who knows a bit about music, but here it’s almost as if I’ve had all my cultural reference points removed in a botched surgical operation that was merely meant to take out my tonsils.

However, the one epochal American pop song that I’m all too familiar with is “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Mention “Free Bird” to any American, and their eyes drift off mistily to college days and their time with long-haired Megan with the impossibly flexible limbs/the night with butch quarterback Howie (and his roommate Mitch). Mention the song to a Brit, and they’ll ask “is that the one that Will To Power combined with Peter Frampton’s ‘Baby I Love Your Way’?”

The fact is that “Free Bird” is effectively the American national anthem – a statement of the country’s unwillingness to play nicely with anyone else, and its insistence on independence at all costs. And despite its dubious intentions, it’s universally loved and remains one of the most played songs on American radio.

But why for the love of all that is good and virtuous does it have to be so sodding long? The song came on the radio when The Special One and I were leaving Rhode Island on Sunday afternoon, and I would swear it was still playing when we entered New York state three hours later. I’ve had shorter relationships than that song. If US forces ever need to employ noise warfare techniques again to force Central American drug barons into the open, they could do worse than to consider the “Free Bird” guitar solo.

9 thoughts on “Lord knows I can’t change

  1. Karen

    I have said it before, but I too love Come On Eileen, having two Eileen’s in my mothers family means it is a MUST at every family gathering.

    Meanwhile regarding Free Bird, try playing the bloody thing on guitar hero, your arm will fall off before you complete the tune!!

  2. Dylan

    Karen – you have my absolute sympathy. We’ve recently acquired Guitar Hero (Aerosmith edition), and watching The Eldest murder All The Young Dudes (not even an Aerosmith song!) is a painful thing!

  3. Carole Lanno

    Hi!
    I’m Canadian and I like “Come on Eileen” although I think the band is goofy looking.
    I’m that way with lots of bands, love the songs, can’t stand to see them.
    Found your blog through London Calling
    Bye
    Carole

  4. Simon

    Come On Eileen can rot in hades but Searching For The Young Soul Rebels is one of the best albums I know.

    And the live version of Freebird is a thing to behold.

    As we may have said a few years ago: “Choooooon!”

  5. fishwithoutbicycle

    I love a bit of Dexy’s. However I cannot stand Robbie Williams’ Angels. Ugh!! I think I could probably take a good stab at the words though. Who from England couldn’t, they played it so chuffing often!! Torture!!

  6. Derrian

    Too true. No wedding is complete without Dexy’s, particularly the foot stomping that goes along with it as the violins reach their crescendo – it was on the ‘must play list’ sent to the DJ for my wedding, as was Angels, which is always a classic end of night song (and about as close as i would come to having Robbie at my wedding, despite my efforts at getting my brother to pull a few work strings!!). Although interestingly, what you failed to mention is that probably the most popular ‘end of night song’ at a British wedding, is ironically, ‘New York New York’ !

    Do Americans have a tendancy to play ‘Three Lions’ or ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ at the end of their weddings ?!?!

  7. Jan

    I’m with you Dylan, I love “Come on Eileen.” It makes you want to dance. I mean you’ve just got to get out there, and zip up your cocktail slacks and get frugging.

  8. Cocktails

    ‘Come on Eileen’ is an absolutely classic pop song. Like ‘Dancing Queen’, you’ve got to be just a bit suspicious of anyone who claims not to like it.

  9. G

    I was trying to come up with a clever way to explain “Free Bird” to you, but like I’ve found it’s kind of like peanut butter or euchre… there just are no words.

    Really enjoyed my recent exploits in London, by the way.

    Expatriate Games

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