Irish vocalist and guitarist Kevin Roland debuted in Lucy and The Lovers, then Birmingham Punk band The Killjoys. When the latter's 'Johnny Won't Go To Heaven' flopped, he and guitarist Al Archer formed Dexy's Midnight Runners- Northern Soul slang for the drug Dexedrine, ironic for a clean-living group of cross-country runners.
In the mainly Punk climate, Dexy's were distinguished by their wooly-hatted, workmen-jacketed, sports-bag carrying image, inspired by Martin Scorsese's movie Mean Streets (1973). In terms of music, they were even more out of step: 1980's debut 'Dance Stance' was a homage to 60s Soul with lyrics protesting anti-Irish prejudice. 'Geno' was a tribute to British Soulster Geno Washington and saw future Style Councilor Mick Talbot replace keyboardist Pete Saunders, but the group puzzled observers when Rowland seized master tapes of Searching For The Young Soul Rebels (1980) as leverage in negotiations with EMI. The uncommercial 'Keep It (Part 2)" aggravated internal rifts and prompted trombonist 'Big' Jimmy Patterson and Rowland to move to Phonogram while the others continued as The Bureau.
With new sidemen, Rowland and Patterson's late 1981 shows unveiled fiddle trio The Emerald Express and a 'Celtic' Folk element, which characterized Too-Rye-Ay (1982) and UK No. 1 'Come On Eileen'. After Patterson's acrimonious exit, only guitarist Billy Adams, Express member Helen O'Hara and new recruit Nick Gatfield appeared on 1985's baffling but excellent Don't Stand Me Down (1985) which saw Too-Rye-Ay's dungarees and grime replaced with business suits. After their final hit 'Because Of You' (theme for British TV's Brush Strokes), the band broke up in 1987, when Rowland disappeared, emerging only for solo album The Wanderer (1988) and occasional live appearances. Nick Gatfield became an A and R man at EMI, signing Radiohead before becoming MD at Polydor.