Ian Dury & The Blockheads – Part 1

I worked from home today (Monday) and as I did so I listened to records. Usually I’ll play various albums, not really thinking about what I’m choosing, just whatever is nearest the record player, but today the first record I played was ‘Lord Upminster’ by Ian Dury that I picked up for a few pounds at a recent record fair. This resulted in pulling all the Ian Dury albums I had and playing them all. This subsequently resulted in this post.

Where to begin? With ‘New Boots and Panties’ of course, where else. Well maybe Kilburn and the High Roads but I don’t have any of their albums, so that didn’t seem like a good idea.

New Boots and Panties!! (9.8)

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Credited to Dury rather than with the blockheads as they hadn’t officially formed as a band at the point the album was released in September 1977, that happened afterwards during the ‘Live Stiffs’ tour, and two of the Blockheads don’t actually play on the album. ad2The album is often included in Punk lists but it isn’t Punk at all, it was just released around the same time as that scene was on the rise, it’s actually full of stories about working class people and closer to music hall and pub rock than Punk, but it did have a feeling of anti-establishment about it and seemed to align itself quite naturally with the punk scene.

‘Sweet Gene Vincent’ was released as a single from the album but failed to chart, the next 2 singles were top 10 hits but neither were on the album, ‘What a Waste’ and ‘Hit me with your rhythm stick’ kept the interest in the album high though I have a suspicion that a few people bought it expecting the hits.

In case you wondered, the title of the album came about because Dury bought most of his clothes second hand, except for boots and underwear, so now you know. Also, the lad on the cover is his son, who has a musical career all of his own which you can check out here – Baxter Dury

TRACK LISTING

A1 Wake Up and Make Love with Me
A2 Sweet Gene Vincent
A3 I’m Partial to Your Abracadabra
A4 My Old Man
A5 Billericay Dickie
B1 Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
B2 Clevor Trever
B3 If I Was With a Woman
B4 Blockheads
B5 Plaistow Patricia
B6 Blackmail Man

Here is the entire album played live at different times and at different venues (Blockheads is out of order as it’s part of the same video as My Old Man)

Following Dury’s death the album was re-released with outtakes and different versions, which, I read somewhere, is something Dury didn’t want to happen, but you can’t stop record companies its ion they see the chance of making a few quid. There was also a tribute album, which is good in places, called ‘Brand New Boots And Panties: A Tribute To Ian Dury’, listen to it below if you like.

Tracklist
1 –Sinéad O’Connor  – Wake Up And Make Love With Me
2 –Robbie Williams  – Sweet Gene Vincent
3 –Paul McCartney – I’m Partial To Your Abracadabra
4 –Madness – My Old Man
5 –Billy Bragg And The Blokes – Billericay Dickie
6 –Wreckless Eric – Clevor Trever
7 –Cerys Matthews – If I Was With A Woman
8 –Grant Nicholas From Feeder – Blockheads
9 –Shane MacGowan – Plaistow Patricia
10 –Keith Allen – Blackmail Man

On it’s release the album was exceptionally well received by the music press. Allan Jones of Melody Maker described the album as “a tense, harrowing account of urban degradation, that conveys with more vocal, musical and lyrical vehemence than any so-51rblujecgl-_sx356_bo1204203200_called ‘new wave/punk’ combo has yet been able to muster, the desperation and squalor of the social conditions (and the effects of those conditions upon individual personalities) it so provocatively illustrates.

In Sounds Vivien Goldman gave the record a five-star rating, saying, “Lawless brats from council flats have finally found a voice that speaks from, of and about the people. A voice that combines passion with the vernacular ‘she got into a mess with the NHS’ – sage street advice, plus cinematic observation, plus humour.

Roy Carr in the NME said, ‘… it’s impossible to bag Ian Dury, except to say that he has taken the essence of the Cockney music hall and utilised rock as a contemporary means of expression. On occasions, Ray Davies has dallied with a similar approach, but Dury has none of the self-conscious pretentions that Davies exposed in his flawed Flash Harry caricature. Ian Dury feels no need to adopt a transatlantic voice to comply with his subject matter, preferring to deliver ribald and bittersweet monologues in the tone of voice he was born with … Whether or not you buy New Boots and Panties at least make hearing the album a priority. It’s your loss if you pass.

In The Guardian Robin Denselow praised the honesty of Dury’s songwriting, saying that the singer “has refined (if one can use such a word of Dury) his early style into a remarkable, distinctively London-orientated blend of cockney music hall, rock, and Bowie-style electronics. This is mixed, with no nonsense and no frills, with a set of powerful, forthright and honest lyrics that will send self-consciously daring punks scurrying back to the safety of their dole queue clichés. I admire him for the way he throws himself full tilt into his emotions, using a backdrop as squalid as the worst of the East End for songs of unashamed sexuality, admiration, or hate. The tribute songs – straight and never mawkish – are to Gene Vincent and to Dury’s father, and equally honest are the demented, stream of consciousness tirades.ad

On a side note, I really rather miss the old music papers. I’d often buy Sounds or Melody Maker and occasionally NME as well. In pre-internet times it was one of the only ways to get any information on new or old music and about gigs, also, the writing was often more considered and better written than we find nowadays, even though I didn’t always agree with it all.

This brings me not at all neatly to the two top ten singles and what is going on with ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’, well, it wasn’t on the original album but appeared as the first track on side two of early repressings of the album, including a gold vinyl pressing in 1978, but was not credited on the sleeve or label, presumably so the sleeve and label didn’t have to be re-done. Interestingly, it was originally released in August 1997 but deleted after only two months having sold only 19,000 copies, that would get you in the charts nowadays.

‘What A Waste’ was released in April 1978 and peaked at number 9 in the UK charts with ‘Hit me with your rhythm stick’ being released in September 1978 and hit the number 1 spot. Dury had a policy of not including singles on albums at the time but I don’t know if these were held back from the album, weren’t finished in time or didn’t seem to fit. Regardless, they aren’t on there.

I remember back in 1978 being at my Dad’s girlfriends house (now my step-mum) and I did a full miming rendition of ‘Rhythm Stick’ including much jumping about and pretending to have a walking stick. It must have been cringengly embarrassing for anybody watching, but I was 11 and was enjoying myself thoroughly.  ‘Rhythm Stick’ is, in my opinion, one of the greatest pop singles ever released, in any era.

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Of course, one of the key things about Ian Dury & The Blockheads were the lyrics, Dury used to have reams of paper covered in lyrics that he whittled down into individual songs, but also how tight The Blockheads were, the guitar solo from ‘Rhythm Stick’ is still one of my favourites. Lyrics wise though, I prefer ‘What A Waste’, it’s poetry:

What a Waste

Ian Dury & The Blockheads

I could be the driver an articulated lorry
I could be a poet I wouldn’t need to worry
I could be a teacher in a classroom full of scholars
I could be the sergeant in a squadron full of wallahs
What a waste
Because I chose to play the fool in a six-piece band,
First-night nerves every one-night stand.
I should be glad to be so inclined.
What a waste! What a waste!
But I don’t mind.
I could be a lawyer with strategems and ruses
I could be a doctor with poultices and bruises
I could be a writer with a growing reputation
I could be the ticket man at Fulham Broadway Station
What a waste
Because I chose to play the fool in a six-piece band,
First-night nerves every one-night stand.
I should be glad to be so inclined.
What a waste! What a waste!
But I don’t mind.
I could be the catalyst that sparks the revolution
I could be an inmate in a long-term institution
I could dream to wide extremes, I could do or die
I could yawn and be withdrawn and watch the world go by
What a waste
Because I chose to play the fool in a six-piece band,
First-night nerves every one-night stand.
I should be glad to be so inclined.
What a waste! What a waste!
But I don’t mind.

Do It Yourself (9.5)

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There are a ridiculously large number of different covers for ‘Do it Yourself’, somewhere around 34, although nobody seems to be absolutely sure. Do It Yourself was released on 18 May 1979 and the sleeve variations were part of a huge publicity stunt: Stiff Records initially released the album with at least 31 sleeves, each one a different Crown Wallpaper design. Crown also wallpapered all of the sets for the Blockheads’ subsequent promotional tour. The sleeves greatly helped sales and there were reports of fans travelling to different towns and even importing more sleeves that were released abroad; in addition. various badges, combs, watches, paint brushes and wallpaper ties were distributed, mostly the creations of designer Barney Bubbles, who also created the Blockheads’ ‘clockface’ logo.

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There are folk who have collected all the covers, which is a hell of a task and, to be honest, a little bit mad as it is only the covers that are different. I am not one of these people but whoever took the photograph below is:

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The cover at the front, quite by coincidence, is the version I have, which is handy. So ‘Do It Yourself’, well, again we have a single that isn’t on the album, this one being ‘Reasons to be cheerful pt.3’, which is a brilliant track and was a top ten hit. The album sold 200,000 copies and reached number 2, kept off the top spot by ABBA’s Voules-Vous, a fine pop album of its time but I think history would have prefered ‘Do It Yourself’ to have taken the top spot. Sometimes history isn’t cool.

Tracklist

A1 Inbetweenies 5:16
A2 Quiet 3:33
A3 Don’t Ask Me 3:16
A4 Sink My Boats 4:13
A5 Waiting For Your Taxi 2:51
B1 This Is What We Find 4:10
B2 Uneasy Sunny Day Hotsy Totsy 2:09
B3 Mischief 3:35
B4 Dance For The Screamers 6:35
B5 Lullaby For Francies 4:58

There were some calls for ‘Rhythm Stick’ to be included on this album and for ‘Inbetweenies’ to be released as a single, but the lack of singles didn’t seem to do it any harm from a sales perspective. Listening to it again today, immediately after ‘New Boots & Panties’, I think you can feel the connection between them, with several of the tracks started during the sessions for the first album and the album being recorded in the same studio, though the production is a little ‘softer’, the tracks themselves are a logical progression.

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Because there were no singles from. the album there are no videos, but there is the one below of ‘Inbetweenies’ that somebody made showing several of the covers, photos and memorabeelia.

and here is a live version of ‘This is what we find’:

As an album it is another corker, perhaps it is actually better to not have the singles on the albums, particularly now as I know them exactly as they are and when you listen to an album a lot the sequence of the tracks becomes really important, putting another track in there where before there was something else would make it seem, almost, unauthentic.

Favourite lyrics? Well it’s these for me, they remind me of school days when we were immortal and didn’t give a shit;

MISCHIEF

Popeye Pearce is pimple, Laurence Smith is hard
Ricky loves a kicking and he wants to join the guards
Barry breaks the windows of his broken home
Have a guess. His tiny mind’s been scarred

Lionel touches women when they’re walking through the park
He goes in people’s gardens nicking laundry in the dark
Roger left a sleeper across the District Line
His dad’s a shipping clerk

Boys let’s have a laugh
Let’s have some mischief

Fill a Durex full of water
And throw it on a bus – that would be mischief
Take a pigeon to the pictures
Let’s cause a bit of fuss – a bit of mischief
Let’s go bloody raving mad
Let’s do something really bad
They won’t forget the day you had
Some mischief

Jack and Stan are tossing pals like monkeys in the zoo
When they got caught by Gonad Gibbs they had to wank him too
Incentive didn’t want two of Dave – Get it?
He failed his interview (failed his interview) – Oh yeah?

She’s got crinkly hair
Underneath her underwear
I know because I’ve been there

(Anticipation, anticipate)

Wow!
Wow!

Don’t let’s hang about
Let’s have some mischief

Here, pour locking fluid on a Bentley, then let down his tyres
Hahahahaha
Let’s go and kill some kiosks, start a few more fires
Could this be mischief?

Let’s go completely over the top
Let’s do the bop that just won’t stop
Let’s go and have another drop
Of mischief

I’m sorry I done it, I’m sorry I done it, I’m sorry I done it, I’m sorry I done it, I’m sorry I done it,

I’m sorry I done it, I’m sorry I done it, I’m sorry I done it, I’m sorry I done it, I’m sorry I done it,

I’m sorry I done it!, I’m sorry I done it!, I’m sorry I done it!, I’m sorry I done it!, I’m sorry I done it!

Laughter (8.0)

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The first album to actually have a single taken from it, although one had been released prior to the album which was left off, this was ‘I want to be straight’ which reached number 22 on the charts. The Blockheads had undergone a significant personnel change since the previous album, with Chaz Jankel, leaving in the wake of a stressful tour. Jankel’s place on guitar was taken by Wilko Johnson of Dr. Feelgood. Johnson had considered retiring from the music business until he was asked by Davey Payne and Dury, old friends from their pub rock days, to join The Blockheads. His first appearance was on the single:

Tracklist

Sueperman’s Big Sister
Pardon
Delusions Of Grandeur
Yes & No (Paula)
Dance Of The Crackpots
Over The Points
(Take Your Elbow Out Of The Soup You’re Sitting On The Chicken)
Uncoolohol
Hey, Hey, Take Me Away
Manic Depression (Jimi)
Oh Mr Peanut
Fucking Ada

The album was released on the 28th November 1980 but wasn’t well received and didn’t seem well, although the accompanying ‘Soft as a baby’s bottom’ tour was a sellout. This was the last album for record label Stiff and, in my view it is underrated. With the first two albums being pretty much classics, it was always going to be difficult to keep up the quality, particularly as Dury was an alcoholic at this point and had issues with depression, both conditions being reflected in some of the albums tracks. ‘Uncoolohol’ being about the former and ‘Manic Depression’ and ‘Fucking Ada’ about the latter.

‘Suepermans Big Sister’ was deliberately mis-spelled to avoid copyright issues with DC comics, although I would have thought that they could probably have pursued it if they really wanted to. I seem to recall that I was a little disappointed with it as a single when it was released but listening to it todays I really don’t know why as I really like it.

‘Oh Mr Peanut’, well, I have no bloody idea to be honest, Dury just seems to be having a bit of a laugh at somebody expense;

Oh, Mr. Horribleness
That’s enough of that
You’ll call me a ninny
And you’re a stupid twat

Oh, Mr. Horsebreath
Why don’t you piss right off?
Stick your finger up your nose you toff

In a later interview, Dury did admit that ‘Hey Hey, take me away’ was about the time he spent at Chailey’s Special School while stricken with polio, which clearly wasn’t a happy time.

Dury also revealed that he called the album ‘Laughter’ because he thought that doing so might cheer him up.

Let’s have a bit of ‘Dance of the crackpots as well

I like this album but it needed ‘I want to be straight’ on it to take it up above an 8.0 I think. They were difficult times for Dury and he was making things difficult for those around him, and it shows in the finished product, but as a wordsmith he’s still producing, just not quite to the highs of the previous two albums.

Ian Dury – On My Life

Part 2 coming soon (ish)

7 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Another anazing post about a fave artist. Dury was an artist as well as a musician—he studied with Peter Blake and they became good friends. Blake painted several portraits of Ian, including the cover for Brand New Boots and Panties. I was always surprised—given Dury’s design career—that he didn’t design his covers himself. But giving the job to Barney Bubbles was no bad thing!

    Like

  2. Dave

    Great work. As you know New boots is just my all time favourite (Its a 10 for me). He never like doing Abracadabra live (and it shows in the clip). He always forgot the lyrics. Great clips by the way not seen some of them before.
    He didn’t like putting singles on the albums as he felt it was ripping the fans off. (Couldn’t get away with that today).
    Hit me was the first record I ever bought…. As for the singles the B sides were always very funny…
    Can’t wait for part 2.
    Cheers
    Dave

    Like

  3. cincinnatibabyhead

    So much good music was coming out at that time. I like how you pointed out Ian being lumped in with punk. Don’t you love that mainstream, don’t do your own research media? Good piece. Enjoyed the cuts you played. Will be giving him some spin time.

    Liked by 1 person

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