This song was written by Dexys lead singer Kevin Rowland along with their trombone player Jim Paterson and keyboard man Micky Billingham. The song is about the band, who had Celtic roots (Ireland and Scotland), and a love for Soul music, which they made clear in songs like "Jackie Wilson Said" and "Geno" (about the American singer Geno Washington).
The music phrase that dominates this song was inspired by the song "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me," which was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. That song became a hit for the British singer Sandie Shaw, but it was originally recorded by an American Soul singer named Lou Johnson, putting it squarely in Dexys' range of influences.
In our interview with Kevin Rowland, he said: "We wanted a good rhythm, so we got that. That's a great song. We often do that. We put a song on and we say, 'We want to write something as good as this.' We might use one phrase, but it's not really nicked because the chords are different, so the harmony's different. The harmony of the melody over the chord."
Too-Rye-Ay was the band's second album, but their first one released in America. In the UK, Dexys had seven Top 40 hits by the time this charted, but in the US, it was just their second single, following their massive hit "Come On Eileen," which rose up the ranks thanks to a video that made hot rotation on MTV.
"The Celtic Soul Brothers" had a video, but it lacked the storyline of "Eileen" and was ignored by MTV. It got little radio support and topped out at #86 on the Hot 100, leaving the band on one-hit-wonder turf in America.
In the UK, this was released ahead of "Come On Eileen," but made it to just #45 on the charts. This prompted a change in marketing strategy for the band, who had declined all interviews when Too-Rye-Ay was released, choosing instead to promote the album with full-page ads explaining their reticence to do press and making their case for the album.
When it came time to release "Eileen," the band once again accommodated journalists, resulting in some very contentious interviews with lead singer Kevin Rowland, who turned standoffish and insulting when questioned about his stage antics or raggedy attire. The interviews served their purpose, and "Eileen" became the biggest-selling single of 1982 in the UK. In its wake, "The Celtic Soul Brothers" was re-released, this time making #20.