Larger than life is a bit of an understatement when talking about the late, great Ian Dury. He was a hero, a mad performer, a pantomime villain, a sharp lyricist, a cripple, a lover and a rocker all rolled into one person. Ian has faded a little bit from the limelight since he passed away in 2000, but his influence is still immense. He is still one of my favourite artists, and I will try to explain why with this playlist.
Let’s start with the start, “Wake Up and Make Love with Me”, which was the opener for every gig by Ian Dury & The Blockheads, his main band. It’s blue-eyed funk, saucy lyrics and perfect delivery, a classic Dury. And that sandpaper voice...
... Drum roll in your face to introduce “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”.
Ian & The Blockheads have been associated with the punk movement, probably because of the era, their irreverence and their connections with the music scene, but their music has never been punk. His multiple collaborators (Chaz Jankel, Charlie Charles, Wilko Johnson, his early band Kilburn & The High Roads), his ‘colourful’ entourage (Spider Rowe, The Sulphate Strangler, Kosmo Vinyl), his influences (from Gene Vincent to Ornette Coleman, to the painter Peter Blake), the other musicians on the Stiff Records label with him (Elvis Costello, Madness, Nick Lowe) and the musicians he has inspired (even A Tribe Called Quest) are somewhere in this playlist. And there is of course his son Baxter Dury, the little boy on the sleeve of his most famous album “New Boots and Panties", who still has a pretty good career in the sandpaper voice department!
Ian was born in 1942 in Middlesex near London. His dad was a bus driver who then went on to drive limousines for wealthy clients. His mother was a health visitor and gave him a classic education based on her upbringing as the daughter of a doctor. They got separated when Ian was a young child.
Tragedy struck when he caught polio at the age of 7. This left him with one half of his body severely damaged. He would wear calipers and use crutches all his life. This didn’t stop him from becoming one of the greatest British rock star and seducing a large number of women during his rich life.
One of the songs I couldn’t include here, as it’s not available on streaming platforms is "Spasticus Autisticus". One of my favourites. It was written in 1981 for the International Year of Disability as a commission, and got immediately banned by the BBC! Too rude! Apparently, it’s a crime if a disabled person talks about life with a disability with humour.
He is one of the most complex characters in the rock 'n' roll circus. His lyrics read like literature. His raspy voice has got an incredible presence. To cut a long story short, he perfectly embodies British eccentricity and boldness.