Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners is a classic, but a rare favourite amongst people of my age. If you’d asked me a few years ago about this song, I would have told you I hated it. I would have said, what the hell does too-ra-loo-ra even mean, anyway? It’s not got the usual beat of the house music beloved in most clubs but I dance like a nutter when I hear it. I haven’t matured into the song, the song hasn’t changed, my taste in music hasn’t altered. The reason I now love this song is because when I hear it, I think of my nan.I think of that night three years ago when we hoisted her onto the dance floor and watched an eighty-nine year old woman kick higher than us drunken stumbling youths. When I hear it now, I want to kick, higher than she did. Some songs are like very specific smells; that lavender waft that takes you back to your aunt’s back garden, or the scent of Ambrosia custard that lands you back in your canteen at primary school. Come On Eileen throws me straight back into the crowded hall of my cousin’s twenty-first birthday do, linked in a line with my family, holding my nan up on one side, and all of us kicking the air and trying not to fall over.
My point is, (yes, I am finally getting to it), that music is not just a bundle of notes, nor even simply evocative. Music is a moment in time. A single note on the radio from the wrinkly cave of Rod Stewart’s throat and I’m three, sitting in the back of my mum’s car while we drive from Sheffield down to London to start a new life. A nod of screechy lyrics from Rusted Root and I’m watching Matilda with my sister, learning how to spell ‘difficult’ and yearning to possess the genius to make my own pancakes (still a yearning, actually). If we were computers, listening to a song is the equivalent of pressing save. There’s a charity, called Music and Memory, which uses music to bring identity back to victims of dementia. So it seems that music can log moments into our internal filing cabinets, our ‘mind palaces’, as Sherlock would say. We can time travel. A song can return us to the frailty of a moment, the depths of an emotion, felt years ago about something vanished, resolved, forgotten, grown out of. It’s not always pleasant and I find myself avoiding certain songs, good songs that I once loved, because they strand me in a place I would rather forget. But it can be quite therapeutic, don’t you think, to relive your past, or at least to remember it? I realised, by chance, when Come On Eileen played on the radio in my Uni kitchen, that songs are tributes, to people, to places, to events.
So I mark this blog post as an appreciation of Come On Eileen. To remembering the past, and to kicking much higher than the last time.