Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners released his first solo album, The Wanderer, in 1988 – three years after the band’s third studio album (and final one for 27 years). But after The Wanderer, Rowland walked away from the music biz altogether. He returned in 1999 with My Beauty, but the record itself was overshadowed by its striking cover depicting a semi-disrobed Rowland in a dress, stockings, and makeup, with a feather boa slung over the dressing screen. Now, over two decades later, the world might finally have caught up with Rowland’s raw, personal album and its gender-non-conforming cover. On September 25, Cherry Red will reissue My Beauty on both CD and LP to mark the album’s 21st anniversary.
My Beauty consists of twelve dramatic reinterpretations of familiar songs, many with new lyrics by the artist to make them more reflective of his own journey. Between The Wanderer and My Beauty, Rowland battled with – and recovered from – addiction, and also conquered his own debilitating self-esteem. He wrote in 1999, “After being so lost and seeing only ugliness in the world, these songs started to penetrate my frightened world. They re-awakened something I’d only fleetingly sensed before and even then it was only a feeling of something I’d lost long ago, but it was enough to make me grab it. It was beauty. I’d forgotten all about it. Welcome back Kevin. These songs showed me my definition of beauty, my beauty. I realized I needed to record them before I could do anything else.”
While the songs on My Beauty are all familiar pop tunes, his reinterpretations rendered them in a style often far-removed from that of the original recordings. Most were from Rowland’s coming of age in the 1960s – The Four Seasons’ “Rag Doll,” The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer,” Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s in Love with You,” The Marmalade’s “Reflections of My Life,” Mama Cass’ “It’s Getting Better” – but he also found new meaning in the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and more recent material such as the Michael Masser/Linda Creed-penned hit for George Benson and Whitney Houston, “The Greatest Love of All.” The result was an autobiographical concept album that initially confused many listeners and critics.
My Beauty, produced by Jimmy Paterson, Kevin Rowland, and Pete Schwier, turned out to be the final album released on Alan McGee’s famed Creation label; McGee was one of the few at the time to champion Rowland’s attire and recognize it as a “punk rock” statement. Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” was slated to appear on the LP (and was included on initial promo pressings) but it turned out that Creation had failed to secure permission from Springsteen to alter its words. Cherry Red’s upcoming edition is the first CD and LP reissue to include “Thunder Road.” The CD also features two additional bonus tracks from the original “Concrete and Clay” single: the instrumental versions of “Concrete and Clay” and “I Can’t Tell the Bottom from the Top.” My Beauty has been remastered by original co-producer Pete Schwier and Marco Migliari. New liner notes have been written by Q Magazine editor Ted Kessler. A limited edition pink vinyl LP will also be released with the original album plus “Thunder Road,” but not the two instrumental bonuses.
Rowland has shot two new music videos in conjunction with the reissue. The first, “Rag Doll,” features a young man attired in a gender-fluid manner, portrayed by the artist’s grandson Roo. Cherry Red’s announcement of this September 25 release comes during Pride Month, a time to celebrate differences. Kevin Rowland survived in a less tolerant and enlightened period, and has indeed thrived. My Beauty is his musical story, and one that’s appropriate for any era. It’s available now directly from Cherry Red, and we’ll update with Amazon links as soon as they go live.
Kevin Rowland, My Beauty (Creation CRECD 216, 1999 – reissued Cherry Red, 2020)
- Greatest Love of All (George Benson)
- Rag Doll (The Four Seasons)
- Concrete and Clay (Unit 4+2)
- Daydream Believer (The Monkees)
- This Guy’s in Love with You (Herb Alpert)
- The Long and Winding Road (The Beatles)
- It’s Getting Better (Mama Cass)
- I Can’t Tell the Bottom from the Top (The Hollies)
- Labelled with Love (I’ll Stay with My Dreams) (Squeeze)
- Reflections of My Life (Marmalade)
- Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen) (previously unissued commercially)
- You’ll Never Walk Alone (Carousel)
- Concrete and Clay (Instrumental) (*) (from Creation CRESCD322, 1999)
- I Can’t Tell the Bottom from the Top (Instrumental) (*) (from Creation CRESCD322, 1999)
(*) CD-only bonus track