Helen O'Hara

Last updated

Helen O'Hara (born Helen Bevington, 5 November 1956) is a British musician, [1] formerly a member and violinist of the band Dexys Midnight Runners between 1982 and 1987, including performing on songs such as "Come on Eileen" from the Too-Rye-Ay album.


Early years

O'Hara began her music career in her home town of Bristol joining Gunner Kade, a band led by Ken Pustelnik, drummer from The Groundhogs. She then joined a band called Wisper, which combined their solo career with backing various artists. Wisper evolved into Uncle Po (1976–78), which won the BBC's Quiz Kid band competition in 1977 and subsequently released a single on the BEEB label entitled "Use My Friends" (so rare that a copy sold in 2006 on eBay for over £80). Uncle Po consisted of Rob Williams on guitar, Gavin King on vocals, Lyndon Parry on bass and vocals, Andy Wills on sax. flute, and vocals, O'Hara (as Helen "Spike" Bevington) on violin and keyboards, and Steve "Basher" Bennett and Jimmer Hill on drums. [2]

Dexys Midnight Runners

O'Hara left Uncle Po in late 1977 to study music at Birmingham School of Music (now UCE Birmingham Conservatoire), graduating in 1982 with an offer to join the Bilbao Symphony. [3] However, after she recorded some demos with The Blue Ox Babes, a band founded by ex-Dexys founder Kevin 'Al' Archer, Archer recommended her to his former partner Kevin Rowland, who was also experimenting with adding strings. [3] She was offered a place with Rowland's new line-up of Dexys—the result of a session she and two other violinists from the university had carried out as part of Rowland's decision to revamp the band's sound and image. [3] Rowland has said that he saw O'Hara standing at a bus stop with her violin case and stopped to meet her. The more prosaic truth is that of the three violinists at the session she was the only one with any rock and roll experience, and therefore the only one to be able to play a solo by feel. This she did well enough to be immediately drafted into Dexys.

To fit in with Dexys' Celtic image, she took the stage last name of "O'Hara". [3] Within months she was touring the UK, followed by the US, as "Come On Eileen" reached #1 in the charts in both countries. She also began a personal relationship with Rowland. [3] With the singles "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)" (a Van Morrison cover) and "Let's Get This Straight (From The Start)" maintaining their popularity, the group continued to tour through 1983 with a nucleus of Rowland, O'Hara and Billy Adams, augmented by other musicians. [3]

Beginning in 1984, and with the assistance of both studio musicians and former members, Dexys wrote and recorded Don't Stand Me Down , which was released in late 1985. Earlier in 1985, Rowland appointed O'Hara as Dexys' musical director. [4] O'Hara later commented that the American musicians that they worked with "couldn't quite make out my position in the band, and the whole thing." [5] Some of the lyrics and songs from that album, especially "This Is What She's Like", were written by Rowland about her, which she said made them "pretty uncomfortable" to record. [5] The lengthy, contentious sessions for that album strained both her relationship with Rowland and the core of that version of Dexys. Although Dexys returned to the charts with "Because Of You" (co-written by Rowland, O'Hara, and Adams) in 1986, and O'Hara's "fan club" letter in November 1986 discussed imminent recording sessions for a new Dexys album, [4] she later said that at that point "Dexys were finished really" [5] and the band broke up in 1987.

After Dexys was reformed by Rowland in 2003, O'Hara appeared as a guest artist on Dexys' fifth album Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul in 2016, and she temporarily rejoined the band for its two live performances and one television performance that year in place of Dexys' current violinist, Lucy Morgan, who was unavailable. [6]


After leaving the band she worked with rock performers such as Graham Parker, Tanita Tikaram (with whom she recorded "Good Tradition" and toured from 1988 to 1990) and Mary Coughlan. In 1990, she released a solo album entitled Romanza, with a backing band including keyboardist Nicky Hopkins, which was later reissued as Southern Hearts, and in 1998, she released her second solo album, A Night in Ireland. After a 25-year gap, O'Hara and Tikaram resumed performing live together in 2015.

Solo discography

Related Research Articles

Dexys Midnight Runners

Dexys Midnight Runners are an English pop band with soul influences from Birmingham, who achieved major commercial success in the early to mid-1980s. They are best known in the UK for their songs "Come On Eileen" and "Geno", both of which peaked at No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, as well as six other top-20 singles. "Come On Eileen" also topped the US Billboard Hot 100, and with extensive airplay on MTV they are associated with the Second British Invasion.

Siobhan Fahey Singer and songwriter in Bananarama and Shakespears Sister

Siobhan Máire Deirdre Fahey is an Irish singer and musician, whose vocal range is a light contralto. She was a founding member of the 1980s British/Irish girl group Bananarama, who had several top 10 hits including the US number one hit single "Venus". She later formed the Brit Award and Ivor Novello Award-winning musical act Shakespears Sister, who had a UK number one hit with the 1992 single "Stay". Fahey joined the other original members of Bananarama for a 2017 UK Tour, and later in 2018, a North America and European Tour.

The Blue Ox Babes were an English pop group, formed in early 1981 by the former Dexys Midnight Runners guitarist Kevin 'Al' Archer, together with his girlfriend Yasmin Saleh, guitarist Nick Bache and former Dexys keyboard player Andy Leek. Archer was keen to mix the soul sounds of his previous group with folk styles. To this end he recruited fiddle player Helen O'Hara to play on demo tapes of the new songs he had written. When former colleague Kevin Rowland heard these demo tapes, he invited O'Hara to join Dexys, and adopted a similarly folk-influenced sound for his own group.

Kevin Rowland

Kevin Rowland is a British singer-songwriter of Irish descent and frontman for the pop band Dexys Midnight Runners, which had several hits in the early 1980s, the most notable being "Geno" and "Come On Eileen", both of which reached number one on the UK Singles Chart.

Come On Eileen 1982 song by Dexys Midnight Runners

"Come On Eileen" is a song by English group Dexys Midnight Runners, released in the United Kingdom on 25 June 1982 as a single from their album Too-Rye-Ay. It reached number one in the United States, and it was their second number one hit in the UK, following 1980's "Geno". The song was initially claimed to be written by Kevin Rowland, Jim Paterson and Billy Adams, and it was produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, although Rowland later stated that the essence of the tune should be attributed to Kevin Archer.

<i>Searching for the Young Soul Rebels</i> 1980 studio album by Dexys Midnight Runners

Searching for the Young Soul Rebels is the debut studio album by English pop group Dexys Midnight Runners, released on 11 July 1980, through Parlophone and EMI Records. Led by Kevin Rowland, the group formed in 1978 in Birmingham, England, and formed a strong live reputation before recording their first material. Recorded during April 1980, the album combines the aggressiveness of punk rock with soul music, particularly influenced by the Northern soul movement.

<i>Too-Rye-Ay</i> 1982 studio album by Dexys Midnight Runners

Too-Rye-Ay is the second studio album by English pop band Dexys Midnight Runners, released in July 1982 by Mercury Records. The album is best known for the hit single "Come On Eileen", which included the lyrics "too-rye-ay" that inspired the album's title. It was the band's most successful album, debuting at number two on the UK Albums Chart.

<i>Dont Stand Me Down</i> 1985 studio album by Dexys Midnight Runners

Don't Stand Me Down is the third studio album by English pop band Dexys Midnight Runners, released in September 1985 by Mercury Records. The title of the album was inspired by a line in the album's song "The Waltz".

<i>BBC Radio One Live in Concert</i> (Dexys Midnight Runners album) 1995 live album by Dexys Midnight Runners

BBC Radio One Live in Concert was a live album by Dexys Midnight Runners, recorded for the BBC in 1982 and released in 1995. It was the group's first official live album and remained their only official live album until the release of The Projected Passion Revue in 2007. The album is unique as it is Dexys' only live recording where the members of The Projected Passion Revue horn section are present alongside the Too-Rye-Ay strings. Immediately after this concert, the horn section left the group and formed The TKO Horns.

Geno (song) 1980 single by Dexys Midnight Runners

"Geno" is a 1980 single by Dexys Midnight Runners. Written by Kevin Archer and Kevin Rowland, it was the band's second single and their first UK number one, staying at the top of the Singles Chart for two weeks. The song charted at number two in Ireland.

<i>Everybodys Angel</i> 1991 studio album by Tanita Tikaram

Everybody's Angel is the third studio album by Tanita Tikaram, released in 1991.

Jackie Wilson Said (Im in Heaven When You Smile) 1972 single by Van Morrison

"Jackie Wilson Said " is a song written and performed by Van Morrison and featured as the opening track on his sixth studio album, Saint Dominic's Preview. It was released by Warner Bros. in July 1972 as the first of three singles from the album and charted at number sixty-one on the US Billboard Hot 100. Both the music and lyrics are inspired by rhythm and blues singer Jackie Wilson and his song "Reet Petite", which is directly quoted in the song.

Dance Stance 1979 single by Dexys Midnight Runners

"Dance Stance" is the first single by Dexys Midnight Runners. It reached #40 on the UK Singles Chart in early 1980.

The Killjoys were a punk band from Birmingham, England, formed in 1976, with members including Kevin Rowland and Kevin "Al" Archer, who would later form Dexys Midnight Runners, and Ghislaine "Gil" Weston, who would later join Girlschool. Although their releases while still together were limited to one single, subsequent interest has seen an album of their recordings released.

The Celtic Soul Brothers

"The Celtic Soul Brothers" is a song written by Mickey Billingham, Jimmy Paterson and Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners.

<i>The Very Best of Dexys Midnight Runners</i> 1991 compilation album by Dexys Midnight Runners

The Very Best of Dexys Midnight Runners is a best of compilation album by Dexys Midnight Runners. The album contained seven Dexys singles that had also been album tracks but was more notable as the first album to contain ten of Dexys' non-album singles, including "Let's Get This Straight ", "Because Of You", "Show Me", "One Way Love", "Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache", "Dance Stance", "Keep It Part Two ", "I'm Just Looking", "Soon", and "Soul Finger"), plus the original recordings of two more. "One Way Love" was the only Dexys song with Kevin Archer as the lead vocalist. The tracks covered Dexys' entire career, shown by the fact that, although the album was released on Mercury Records, 9 of the album's 19 songs were recorded for EMI Records, Dexys' first label.

<i>One Day Im Going to Soar</i> 2012 studio album by Dexys

One Day I'm Going to Soar is a 2012 album by Dexys, the band formerly known as Dexys Midnight Runners. It was the band's fourth studio album, but its first in 27 years. The album features, alongside Dexys' lead singer Kevin Rowland, 1980s Dexys members Big "Jim" Paterson, Pete Williams and Mick Talbot, new recruits Neil Hubbard, Tim Cansfield and Lucy Morgan, and guest vocalist Madeleine Hyland, who duets with Rowland on several songs.

The Wanderer is a solo album by Kevin Rowland, lead singer of Dexys Midnight Runners. It was released in 1988 as his solo debut, three years after the third Dexys album, Don't Stand Me Down.

Let's Make This Precious: The Best of Dexys Midnight Runners is a best-of compilation album by Dexys Midnight Runners, which also contained two newly recorded songs by the group, "Manhood" and "My Life in England ". Dexys had broken up in early 1987, and these two songs, recorded in 2003, were the first new Dexys material since the single "Because of You" in 1986. Nevertheless, the album was similar to the 1991 compilation The Very Best of Dexys Midnight Runners, as eleven of the sixteen older Dexys songs on it had also been included on that album. However, to record the two new songs, Rowland put together a new version of Dexys that featured prior members Pete Williams and Mick Talbot (keyboards) plus new members such as Lucy Morgan (viola) and Neil Hubbard (guitar), and the reformed band played a series of live concerts later in 2003.

Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul is a 2016 album by Dexys, the band formerly known as Dexys Midnight Runners. The album includes interpretations of Irish songs and other select compositions. It reached number 10 in the UK Albums Chart on 10 June 2016.


  1. Strong, Martin Charles (2006). The essential rock discography. Canongate U.S. pp. 302–. ISBN   978-1-84195-860-6 . Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  2. "Uncle Po: What Ever Happened to Brian?". Bristol Archives Records. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Helen O'Hara biography on Dexys website Archived 5 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  4. 1 2 Helen O'Hara letter to Dexys Midnight Runners Circle, November 1986, reprinted at Dexys website Archived 5 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  5. 1 2 3 Helen O'Hara 2002 interview, reprinted at Dexys website Archived 5 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  6. "Dexys announce special London performances". Irish World. 25 May 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2016.