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Great covers: Dexys – Searching For The Young Soul Rebels

February 18th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Although Dexys Midnight Runners drew their influences widely, the debut album Searching For The Young Soul Rebels sounded like nothing before it. Certainly Kevin Rowland’s voice was unique, and his lyrics never far from idiosyncratic. Although Rowland took time with his songs, eschewing radio-friendly abbreviations in favour of giving songs the treatment he thought they deserved, the sound was nervous and insistently impatient. The cover articulated the record’s atmosphere of agitation. The green-tinted cover photo communicated a sense of chaos, confusion and commotion.

Chaos, confusion and commotion were exactly at work in the scene the image captured. It was taken in a Catholic neighbourhood of Belfast in 1971. The British government had just announced that “suspects” could be indiscriminately detained without trial at Her Majesty’s pleasure, leading to people fleeing their homes in panic (other versions of the event speak of evictions). Among them was Anthony O’Shaughnessy and his brothers, seen in the photo which was first published to illustrate a news report in London’s Evening Standard. While the guy in the denim jacket urgently leads a boy away, Anthony defiantly stares into the camera. In the midst of a tense buzz, he looks detached, almost cool.

Emerging from the trauma of such upheaval, and the longer agony of The Troubles, one might expect O’Shaughnessy to be a bitter man. Apparently not: now in his early 50s, he is evidently a man of peace ready to forgive those who were on the other side.

The Dexys cover appeared without O’Shaughnessy’s knowledge. Legend has it that some time later he turned up at a Dexys gig with a big cardboard cut-out picture of himself.

[Edit: Anthony has responded to this post in the comments section. Thanks, Anthony.]


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  1. February 18th, 2009 at 18:02 | #1

    Wow, that was fascinating! Amazingly well written, Dude.

  2. Walter
    February 18th, 2009 at 19:37 | #2

    Great post to illustrate a FABULOUS album

  3. February 18th, 2009 at 20:26 | #3

    An excellent and informative read, thank you. I’ll be looking at a few more of your blogs.


  4. gongstar
    February 18th, 2009 at 20:55 | #4

    Great post for a criminally neglected band here in the U.S.
    Let’s Make This Precious is my ring tone!

  5. February 18th, 2009 at 22:57 | #5

    ‘The British government had just announced that “suspects” could be indiscriminately detained without trial at Her Majesty’s pleasure, leading to people fleeing their homes in panic’ – well, no – these Catholic families people were ‘burnt out’ of their homes by angry Protestant ‘neighbours’ : which is quite different, isn’t it?

  6. February 19th, 2009 at 07:43 | #6

    Quite. I had two different accounts — the detention laws and the evictions (which I do note). I led with the former because that was mentioned in a piece on O’Shaughnessy, but I’ll admit that I don’t rightly know which circumstances precisely applied to the scene of the photo.

  7. February 19th, 2009 at 17:17 | #7

    great story…and a great album

  8. February 21st, 2009 at 20:51 | #8

    Thank you for the Dexy’s and the information. I know enough about them to be bitter that they were never as big here in the US as they should have been.

  9. el
    February 24th, 2009 at 13:34 | #9

    Very interesting story. Thanks.
    Good to know who the young man is. In the beginning, I thought it was a photograph of young George Harrison…
    Regards, El, The Netherlands

  10. anthony o’shaughnessy
    April 11th, 2009 at 12:56 | #10

    Hello Dude,
    This Anthony O’Shaughnessy thank you for you blog message. Also to the people who replied.
    To give you and the readers of this blog a update.
    In may 2007 a original poster of myself on the Dexy’s Midnight Runners album was sold at a London Gallery
    for £650.00. To El thanks i think i do look like George Harrison.

  11. April 11th, 2009 at 13:29 | #11

    Hello Dude,
    This Anthony O’Shaughnessy thank you for your blog and all the people who read the story.
    In may 2006 a original poster of myself on the Dexy’s Midnight Runners was sold at a London Art Gallery for £650.
    The B.B.C. Northern Ireland flew me to London to do a interview for our local tv news.
    Also met Kevin Rowland the leader singer in Brighton.
    It was a wonderful day.
    Anthony O’Shaughnessy

  12. W
    April 23rd, 2009 at 04:28 | #12

    Great cover, great album, and a great story. I remeber picking up the lp back when I was about 12 – Geno was one of the first records to just floor me – and thinking how much the fellow on the cover looked like George Harrison! Good on Mr. O’S. W.

  13. Any World That I’m Welcome to
    May 7th, 2009 at 00:15 | #13

    Dear Dude,
    I came across your Blog quite some time ago and I enjoyed it
    very much altough I’m not a regular reader.
    Today I was browsing through my mp3’s when I realized
    the Cover for SFTYSR was missing and fetching it I got to look at it again and I realized how fascinated I was by this picture ever since I got that record as a Present on my 14th Birthday in 1980.
    This time I wanted to find out about the story behind it and where do I get all the information I was looking for?
    Right, your Blog!
    So I’d like to use the opportunity to thank you for the good thing you are doing here and I hope you keep it up for a long long time!
    Greetings from Hamburg.

  14. May 7th, 2009 at 07:47 | #14

    Herzlichen Dank.

    I hope you’ll drop by more often now…

    There’ll be some pretty awful German Schlagerstuff I’ll write about later this year, guaranteed to make you nostalgic for Dieter-Thomas Heck and Illya Richter, seeing as we are the same Jahrgang.

  15. TOS
    June 27th, 2009 at 05:21 | #15

    I just discovered your blog.

    Well done, sir.

    It’s so great to get Mr. O’Shaughnessy’s story and his response.

    This has always been my favorite album cover, and the music on it is equal to the art. It’s sad that in the US, Dexy’s is only known for “Eileen.”

  16. Martin
    November 23rd, 2009 at 07:00 | #16

    Great to hear the story of that great picture, and that mr. O’Shaughnessy commented. Who was the photographer?


  17. anthony o’shaughnessy
    May 10th, 2011 at 14:23 | #17

    H hello Martin,reply to your post 23th november 2009,
    The only thing that i can tell you about the photographer he might have been a free lance photographer.
    The photograph was published in the London Evening Standard.
    In Birmingham july 17th 2010 i Anthony O’Shaughnessy the young person on the album.
    “Searching for the young soul rebels”. I had the honour to attend Dexxy’s Midnight Runners 30th Anniversary which was great to meet several members of the group.

  18. anthony o’shaughnessy
    May 10th, 2011 at 14:31 | #18

    Hello this Anthony O’Shaughnessy a little more news about “Dexy’s Midnight Runners”.
    In Birmingham England July 17th 2010 i was invited to a 30th anniversary of the first release of “Searching for the young soul rebel”.
    It was great to meet some of the members of the band and to exchange story.
    There is a interview with Kevin Rowland and myself on you tube.
    Just tpye in Kevin Rowland & Anthony O’Shaughnessy

  19. Martin Jütte
    December 9th, 2023 at 17:57 | #19

    Does anyone know who the mate on the backside of the cover is?

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