Yes, it was an intentional reference to semen. Let’s get that out of the way from the start. I mean, I don’t know that for a fact…But it had to be. It’s not Come on, Eileen. It’s Come On Eileen.
1983 was actually a solid year for quality singles. Down Under by Men At Work, Hall and Oates’ Maneater, and Let’s Dance by David Bowie. But you also had Toto’s Africa, Baby, Come to Me by Patti Austin and James Ingram, and another catastrophic duet: Roger and Parton on Island in the Stream. The movie Flashdance yielded some smash pop hits like Maniac and the theme song. Oh, and Michael Jackson continued to dominate the charts with Billie Jean, Say Say Say, and Beat It. But the song that spent the most time at #1? No, it wasn’t Come On Eileen. It was Every Breath You Take by The Police.
But you get the idea. A song had to really be special to make it to the charts, even if it could only hold the #1 slot for two weeks.
So why was this song special? Certainly Dexys didn’t have the pedigree of Sting, Michael Jackson, Bowie, Hall and Oates, etc. And it didn’t have guitar work by Eddie Van Halen or Stevie Ray Vaughn. Nor did it have the support of a movie driving it. But what it did have was a tight, tough Australian band bringing a Celtic fiddle and a real feel for “home” in the hsong. And then there was the complex vocal arrangement that built in speed, and included the Irish folk chant of “Too Rye Ay.” And the band was named after speed (dextroamphetamine), so it had that going for it as well.
I remember seeing the rather large band on Saturday Night Live and being blown away. Kinetic and crazy, the camera had no idea where to focus. They certainly knew how to put on a show.
Further listening: Geno (also a #1 hit in the UK) and Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)”