Meaning of “Come on Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners

“Come on Eileen” is a teenage love song, as the lyrics imply that Eileen is just now blossoming into a woman, and the singer appears to be one of her peers. The majority of the song is dedicated to his attempts to – succinctly put – get intimate with her. However, he does not perceive this as an act of lust. Rather he believes that his love for her will endure forever.

He acknowledges that his parents must have gone through similar experiences and ultimately ended up “beaten down”, as in defeated by life. However, he feels that he and Eileen are “too young and clever” to share a similar fate and that they will live happily ever after. And besides once again trying to convince her to sleep with him, given the overall history of this song what such a sentiment also represents is his disassociation with authority figures.

But more than anything, this song represents a period of the singer’s life where having “Eileen” is one the thing he apparently desires more than any other.

Based on a real story

Believe it or not, but “Come on Eileen” is inspired by a real story! And this story was that of Kevin Rowland (lead singer of Dexys). Around the young age of 13, Rowland fell in love with a girl named Eileen (who was also 13). At the ages of 13, the pair began a romantic relationship (which eventually turned intimate about two years later).

Lyrics of "Come on Eileen"

Who plays the role of “Eileen” in the music video of “Come on Eileen”?  

In the clip, “Eileen” is portrayed by Máire Fahey, the sister of Bananarama’s Siobhan Fahey.


When “Come on Eileen” topped the Billboard Hot 100 on 23 April 1983, it prevented Michael Jackson from having two consecutive number-one singles in “Billie Jean” (the song it replaced) and “Beat It” (which became number-one afterwards).

“Come on Eileen” also topped the charts in these countries:

  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • Switzerland

 It also reached number one in Dexys Midnight Runners’ homeland of the United Kingdom on 25 June 1982. This feat gave them their second number one on the UK Singles Chart.

Indeed “Come on Eileen” was the highest-selling single in the United Kingdom during 1982. Furthermore, it took home the 1983 Brit Award for Best British Single.

VH1 also immortalized its influence on the American music scene by placing the song at number 18 on its list of “100 Greatest Song of the 80’s”. 

Release Date

Mercury Records released “Come on Eileen” as the second single from Dexys Midnight Runners’ album Too-Rye-Ay on 25 June 1982.

Since then the popularity of the track led to it being featured on quite a few compilation albums as well as the soundtracks to the movies Tommy Boy (1995) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012).

Who wrote “Come on Eileen”?

It was written by Billy Adams, Jim Paterson and the Dexys Midnight Runners’ frontman, Kevin Rowland. Like was said earlier in this article, the song was inspired by the latter’s adolescent love life. The titular “Eileen” was someone Rowland began dating in real-life when he was 13 years’ of age.

Production credits for this track go to Alan Winstanley and Clive Langer.

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