In the summer of 1982, Dexys Midnight Runners were searching for their next big hit. Buoyed by the success of their debut album Searching For the Young Soul Rebels and the UK crowd favorite "Geno," the English band went into the writing process, armed with hope, a rhythm and back-porch instruments.
"We wanted a good rhythm and we found one," reminisced frontman Kevin Rowland to Songfacts. "Lots of records we liked had that rhythm: 'Concrete and Clay,' 'It's Not Unusual' by Tom Jones. Lots of records we liked had that 'Bomp ba bomp, bomp ba bomp.' We felt it was a good rhythm. We came up with the chord sequence ourselves and just started singing melodies over it. I remember thinking, 'We're really onto something here.'"
Aspiring towards pop greatness, Rowland and his collaborators took a different approach than most 80's hitmakers, spurning sleek synthesizers in favor of fiddles, a banjo and an accordion. With the production wizardry of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, the resulting tune combined Rowland's earnest vocals with instrumental spunk.
"And you’ll hum this tune forever,” Rowland promised to American Songwriter. "You can call that line foresight or just plain youthful arrogance, but you can’t deny its accuracy."
Released as a single on June 25, 1982, "Come On Eileen" would slowly climb the charts as the music video aired on repeat on MTV, until the track hit No.1 on the Hot 100 for the week of April 23, 1983. The tune, replacing Michael Jackson's reign on the charts with "Billie Jean," would hold for a single week stay on the charts, before the King of Pop returned the following week with the un-beatable "Beat It."