search for something...

search for something you might like...

Knowledge of Beauty Kevin Rowland's My Beauty is back and more beautiful than ever

Knowledge of Beauty

Kevin Rowland's My Beauty is back and more beautiful than ever

by Jay Lewis, Reviews Editor
first published: September, 2020

approximate reading time: minutes

"These are songs as reliable friends"

Kevin Rowland
My Beauty
(Cherry Red)

“If these words sound corny, switch it off, I don’t care….”
I’ll Show You - Dexys Midnight Runners (1982).

...It’s a line that I keep returning to whenever listening to ‘My Beauty’.  Being so damn headstrong and dismissive about how you're perceived may have worked splendidly for Dexys Midnight Runners in the early 1980s,  but set against the bombast and cynicism of 1999, our Kevin was not going to be so easily revered.   Emerging from a lengthy hiatus with a collection of earnest and string laden cover versions (including ‘This Guy’s in Love With You’ , ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘The Greatest Love of All’), all seemed way too sentimental. Some may have even deemed it ‘corny.’

Before having the chance to ‘switch it off’ though, there was concern from anyone who stared critically and quizzically into Kevin’s doleful eyes, glanced at the troubled memoir-like title of the record, and figured that this was a public mid-life crisis from a recovering addict. 'Sing When You’re Winning’ this was not.

Furthermore, there may just have been some mention of Kevin’s choice of attire on the sleeve as well.

Kevin My Beauty

A record that opens with the brave reassertion of self-worth of ‘The Greatest Love of All’ and closes with the sincere salvation of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is less a cry for help and more of a survivor’s manual.  These are songs as reliable friends.  The conversational asides in Rag Doll (‘it’s over…bad stuff’s over’) offers comfort, it’s only the harrowing rewrite of Squeeze’s ‘Labelled with Love’ (‘…she opens the top of her new cocaine packet’) that harks back to the previous torment.  Best to move on towards the breezy take of ‘Concrete and Clay’ or the smiling defiance of ‘It’s Getting Better.’

A wrong has also been corrected with this edition as the previously excluded interpretation of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ has been reinstated. It's inclusion completing the flow of the narrative.  Furthermore, those questionable original Boss lyrics (‘…you ain’t a beauty, but hey you’re alright’), have been revised and thankfully (and this is solely from a local person’s perspective, he’s no longer pulling out of ‘… a town full of losers.’

As with that other once misunderstood Dexys offering ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’ there is a relief that ‘My Beauty’ exists again in someplace other than the memories of the few. As with the (admittedly slender), remainder of Rowland's output, it may be the work of a stubborn man but its genius is in its honesty. And if his words still sound corny, switch it off, he won't care.

Jay Lewis
Reviews Editor

Jay Lewis is a Birmingham based poet. He's also a music, movie and arts obsessive. Jay's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.

about Jay Lewis »»



All About and Contributors


Outsideleft exists on a precarious no budget budget. We are interested in hearing from deep and deeper pocket types willing to underwrite our cultural vulture activity. We're not so interested in plastering your product all over our stories, but something more subtle and dignified for all parties concerned. Contact us and let's talk. [HELP OUTSIDELEFT]


If Outsideleft had arms they would always be wide open and welcoming to new writers and new ideas. If you've got something to say, something a small dank corner of the world needs to know about, a poem to publish, a book review, a short story, if you love music or the arts or anything else, write something about it and send it along. Of course we don't have anything as conformist as a budget here. But we'd love to see what you can do. Write for Outsideleft, do. [SUBMISSIONS FORM HERE]


Ooh Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha May 29th

outsideleft content is not for everyone