Saturday, July 5, 2008

ian dury

blockhead design by barney bubbles.

Ian Dury arrived on Stiff Records with the anthemic 45 "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll", but it was the album "New Boots and Panties!!" recorded with guitarist Chaz Jankel and former members of Radio Caroline's Loving Awareness Band - Charley Charles; Norman Watt-Roy; Mickey Gallagher; John Turnbull; and Davey Payne - which cemented his status as blockhead extraordinaire.

Harrow born college art teacher, Dury had previous experience with Payne in their former shared musical venture onto the pub circuit, Kilburn and the High Roads, formed in 1971 following the death of Dury's idol, Gene Vincent.

Like Vincent, Dury also suffered from physical disability; not as the result of injuries sustained in a car crash, but from polio contracted at age seven at the height of Britain's post-war (1949) Polio Epidemic.

He never made any bones about contending with disability, and it's testimony to his acute self-belief that he wasn't simply content to take a back seat as a lyricist but determined to prove himself as frontman of an eight-piece band, putting his infirmity solidly in the spotlight.

"New Boots and Panties!!" is a masterstroke of convoluted word play and in your face comedic aggression. Hostility lurks around every twisting corner, but there is also gentle softly-spoken humanity in abundance. Much of the humour is peculiarly British - more than just London centric or English, specifically - and it's partly down to this that he and his fellow Blockheads found early favour in university halls of residence and student nurses quarters alike.

You don't have to be a mechanic to work it out, but it helps.

I love this LP. There is nowhere near as much funk finery on display here as on later singles and albums, but it always keeps me coming back. A lot of it reminds me of travelling on nearly deserted motorway sections late at night in drizzling rain. And that's a recommendation.

IAN DURY: MY OLD MAN from "New Boots And Panties!!" LP (Stiff) 1977 (UK)

IAN DURY: CLEVOR TREVER from "New Boots And Panties!!" LP (Stiff) 1977 (UK)



Unknown said...

I've just been reading about Dury in a MOJO Classic: New Wave Special 1978. It doesn't seem that he was really a new new cat, but it was a pretty good, informative article...

Years ago, my brother lent me a cassette, Live Stiffs, that had a few Dury songs on it. S&D&R&R, Bilaricky Dickie (sp?), and somthing else... don't recall.

Also had songs by Elvic C., Wreckless Erik, and some others... don't recall.

I wish he still had it, because I quite liked it... I do recall.

Up 'til now, those 3 (or 4) Dury songs are all I've heard by him, so thanks for 'em.

ib said...

Yeah, Ian was already approaching his mid thirties when pub turned to punk - like a good many on the Stiff roster, he had been around the BLOCK! - and some people I knew at the time derided him as a has-been...

It seems a whole lot of people have berated me over the years for playing Dury stuff, but tough shit.

"Stiff's Live Stiffs" was a great account of the label's DIY UK tour, but you'd be better to check out the studio releases. Wreckless Eric was also quite unique; I might do a post on him at some point... Or Larry Wallis.

"Billericay Dickie", in hindsight, is probably my least favourite song on "New Boots..." - it's too Benny Hill even for my taste.

I'll get around some day to reading that MOJO edition you mention. I loved that magazine when it first hit the shelves, but it kind of fell out of my affection in the mid-90s when it seemed to be falling over itself to promote Brit Pop and started reading like an adjunct to Tony Blair's New Labour. They did do some fantastic articles early on on Syd and Krautrock, I seem to remember. I've got some of these old issues stashed away someplace alongside ZigZags and other archaic faded periodicals...

Great comment, Matt. Thanks!

Your driver said...

Thanks for pointing out the "Englishness" of Ian Dury. I've always kind of liked him, but something didn't translate well. It reminds me of something I was thinking about my big faves, The Dictators. They make it a point to sing with their Yonkers accents intact. To a New Yorker, that's a statement of authenticity that includes a big 'fuck you' to respectability. It marks them as sincere. To the rest of the world, including most of the US, it just means they sound like they're from New York.

ib said...

I can understand that he might not translate well to a U.S. audience. There is a wholly British music hall tradition inherent in his stuff, and a good deal of nodding to Ealing cinema eccentricities and traits.

He almost overdid it too, at the height of his fame, almost began parodying himself in spite of his good intentions, but in the end he had too much substance to fall into that trap completely. Once he had 'arrived' as part of the British mainstream in the very early 80s there was a great deal of pressure on him to conform to stereotype - a lot of ego massaging too - but I feel he was ultimately realistic and true to his beliefs to allow himself to be muzzled.

The Dictators courted that caricature thing also, as did the Ramones to a greater commercial extent, but Dick Manitoba was maybe "unlucky" in not receiving the same exposure.

Your driver said...

I don't think Handsome Dick ever noticed that the whole world wasn't watching. He's been the star of his own movie all of his life.