I’ve been reminiscing about my school days on a couple of podcasts and radio shows recently, and whilst doing that the old memory bank has served up a few things I have long since buried/forgotten about. One of the best ‘recalls’ was not actually being in school but escaping at lunchtime on a Tuesday, and eating a bag of chips round the home of schoolmate Paul whilst listening to the new chart run down. We’d always be late getting back to school for the afternoon lessons however, because we HAD to stay and listen to what was declared number one.
Any road, on one particular late January day in 1979 as we got back to school and into Psychics or whatever the lesson was, the rest of our class was waiting for us and immediately asking…
‘Facking Ian Dury innit. Rhythm Stick mate. Number one!’
And so that is how Paragon School class 5A of that vintage heard the news of how possibly the most unlikely pop star for many a year was atop of the charts in the UK.
Timely then that a new compilation landed at Baxter Towers this week entitled ‘Hit Me!’
Its a three CD set compiled by the good people at BMG, with the backing of Ian’s kids, Jemima and Baxter complete with sleeve notes from long-time Blockhead aficionado and some time band member Phil Jupitus.
There are 49 tracks in all and looking through the titles, a lyric popped into my head for virtually every one of them. In fact, just reading the song titles, made me smile and reminded me of people from my past and present, all served up within so many great sing a long lines among so many great musical phrases.
Alas, limited space on these blogs does not permit me to go into every song in detail, so rather than that, I’ll touch on some of them and relate what they meant to me at the time of first hearing them all those years ago and/or what they mean to me now as a man of an advanced age, who sometimes still thinks he’s that 15 year old kid eating a bag of greasy chips in a flat on the Tower Bridge Road.
The first dog out of the traps is….
‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’
Man they could play. The Blockheads. If I’m honest, I’m not sure their level of musicianship would have struck a chord with me at the time, as I instead focused on the clever wordsmithery and delivery of Ian himself. I still use the line ‘See my tailor, he’s called Georgie’ at least twice a week when selling the service of the one and only Mr Dyer of the Walworth Road, who himself is a fan of this fine line up.
And the next one please…
‘Sweet Gene Vincent’
White face, black shirt white socks, black shoes black hair, white Strat, bled white, died black.
No matter how many times I tried to remember those lines, I always got more than one in the wrong order. A rollicking tribute to the rock n roll singer of the title and of whom there’s one in every town. If your foot aint tapping within a few seconds of this starting, then, please see a doctor.
Room for one on top…
‘My Old Man’
The bass of Norman Watt-Roy beckons you into this song about a sons love for his dad. My old man died in the year 2000, so a while ago now, but upon hearing a few bars of this, I’m going…going… gone.
It is simply a beautiful thing, this song. The words ‘all the best mate, from your son’ are so simple yet say everything that needs saying. I also never tire of the sax work from Davey Payne and here he nails that groove down very, very nicely.
Hold tight now if you please…
‘What a Waste’
For those silly enough to have said that their number one ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ would be a ‘one hit wonder’ for these boys, then all that was quickly forgotten when people heard this. Its opening bars are timeless and beautifully performed. The lyrics are genius to my old ears and arrive with no fat on them. Trimmed, lean and to the point. I could be an inmate in a LONG-TERM institution.
You buying love?
‘This is What We Find’
I can’t tell you how many times, I have said to someone called Brian the following from this song. ‘Hello Brian, wash and iron, try it on, it’s only nylon.’
I usually get a blank face looking back at me. In fact, only once has the recipient of that well meant greeting smiled back and acknowledged where it comes from, namely this belter of a song. I’m still in touch with that Brian today.
I’ve got one more last one….
‘Superman’s Big Sister’
I’ve always loved the strings on this. In fact, I’ve always been a sucker for classy string work in most pop settings and they work especially well here. Great lyrics are a given I know, but they are particularly strong and memorable for me on this one for some reason. Take your pick from ‘all the handsome chaps are’ ‘superior skin and blister’ and ‘her X ray eyes see through my silly ways’ to name but three couplets.
Oh Oh Oo Oh!
Find the lady sir?
‘Spasticus Autisticus’ – I distinctly remember the furore surrounding the release of this song written by Dury in response to the UN calling 1981 the year of the disabled.
‘Oh I see’ said Ian back then ‘so in 1982, we’ll all be alright then?’
Inspired by the 1960 film ‘Spartacus – a favourite film of Dury’s – we get instead ‘I’m Spasticus!’
Of course, the BBC banned this song, just as Ian expected, not having a clue, it is said, that he himself was disabled from the Polio caught in his childhood. The lovely legacy from all of this, can be found in theatre companies like ‘Graeae’ who in 2017 performed their musical based on Dury’s sings called ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ at Theatre Royal Stratford East, with me and Mrs Mumper in attendance.
Oi you, ladies present…
A deep, reflective and I guess personal, lyric on the struggles many of us have known as we shuffle along this mortal coil, succinctly and brilliantly summed up in the raucous chorus.
High time that phrase made a comeback I reckon.
So, there you have it. I could go on and on and on still. Instead, I urge you to check this compilation out and treat your ears and other vital organs to a bit of the ‘treatment.’
Who art in Hendon
Harrow Road be Thy name
Thy Kingston come
In Erith as it is in Hendon.
Give us this day our Berkhampstead
And forgive us our Westminster’s
As we forgive those who Westminster against us.
Lead us not into Temple Station
And deliver us from Ealing,
For thine is the Kingston
The Purley and the Crawley,
For Iver and Iver
Crouch End ..
Amen Ian, amen.
The Mumper of SE5
‘Hit Me! The Best of Ian Dury’ available here and all good record shops.
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