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Story behind Dexys Midnight Runners' Young Soul Rebel album cover

Birmingham | News | Published:

When his picture was taken as he fled his Belfast home in the 1970s Anthony O'Shaughnessy had no idea it would become a classic album cover.

When his picture was taken as he fled his Belfast home in the 1970s Anthony O'Shaughnessy had no idea it would become a classic album cover.

But 30 years on from the photo being chosen as the main image for Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, released by Dexys Midnight Runners in July 1980, the album is often included in lists of top records of all time. But little has ever been known about the youngster whose face stares out from its cover.

Mr O'Shaughnessy, now 52 and a retired postman, spoke to the Express & Star at an anniversary event celebrating the release of the album, in Birmingham.

The photo was taken in Cranbrooks Gardens in the Ardoyne area of Belfast after Catholics began fleeing their homes following the introduction of internment by the British government in 1971. This meant IRA suspects could be detained without trial.

The picture appeared in the Evening Standard in London the day afterwards and was picked up by Dexys nine years later.

Mr O'Shaughnessy, who was 13 at the time, said: "There were tensions simmering for about three days. People did not know what was going to happen. I thought it was a dream and in the morning everything would be okay, I don't even remember the photographer doing the picture."

He was one of five children who went on the run with his parents seeking refuge in a Catholic church before moving in to a house left by a fleeing Protestant family.

He said: "My late mother Kathleen is in the background wearing glasses. On the left- hand side is a young boy in a dark coat which is my brother Kevin and on the right hand side is my other younger brother Gerard carrying a plastic bag.

"I knew it had been in the paper but didn't think much about it. Years later a friend told me the picture was on the Dexys album, I didn't believe them and went to a record store where I saw it. I just thought 'wow'."

Geoff Blythe, Dexys' saxophonist, 54, said: "It was wonderful to see Anthony. A lot of people don't know his story or where the picture came from. It is fascinating."

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