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The story behind Come On Eileen – and there was no Eileen

The story behind Come On Eileen – and there was no Eileen

The track was released 40 years ago, but you can still hear it blaring out at your local boozer

The chances are that at some point you've found yourself drunkenly arm in arm, at the pub or maybe a wedding, belting out 'Come on Eileen'.

But have you ever wondered what exactly it's all about?

The track is now 40 years old, and it still gets regular airtime across the country, with that chorus still managing to spark singalongs all these decades later.

It turns out Eileen wasn't an actual person.
Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

It was Dexys Midnight Runners' biggest hit, and frontman Kevin Rowland originally said the song was about a childhood sweetheart.

However, he later revealed Eileen wasn't an actual person – she was instead used to represent Rowland's feelings of lust and repression during his Catholic upbringing.

Speaking to The Guardian in 2014, he said: "For years I told everyone that Eileen was my childhood girlfriend.

"In fact she was a composite, to make a point about Catholic repression.

"On the Projected Passion Revue tour in '81 there was this girl interviewing us and she was going on about the spiritual nature of this music, and I'm thinking to myself: 'Right, but that's not what I’m feeling at this moment...'

"She was really good-looking, and I was reminded of being a teenager, surrounded by Irish Catholic girls you couldn't touch, but at the same time with these overpowering feelings of lust which you're not supposed to have."

That meaning is clear in the lyrics: "You in that dress / My thoughts (I confess) / Verge on dirty / Oh, come on, Eileen."

Originally, Eileen didn't feature in the song at all; instead, the lyrics of the chorus were 'James, Stan and me' – for quite an obscure reason.

Rowland explained: "When I played the demo to the record company, they didn't like it and I was so upset I told them to f**k off.

"This was before I had any proper lyrics and the chorus went 'James, Stan and me', about James Brown and Stan Morrison, which was our nickname for Van.

"We'd been outside the Birmingham Odeon in '78 and it said 'Van Morrison' in lights, and some girl said: 'Oo is he? Never 'eard of him.'

"We went: 'Oh it's Stan Morrison. He's a comedian, they spelt it wrong.'"

Given the subsequent success of the song, and the fact 'James, Stan and me' would have made no sense whatsoever to anyone who wasn't in on the joke, I think it's safe to say they made a good decision to swap it out for Eileen – the composite embodiment of youthful yearnings and repression.

So pop that bit of trivia in your back pocket for the next time it comes on at the pub.

Featured Image Credit: Dexys and Dexys Midnight Runners Official/YouTube

Topics: Music