Born in 1942, Ian Dury rose to fame in Britain in the 1970s. As front man, lead singer and lyricist of the Blockheads, one of the tightest backing bands of the time, he was a prominent performer in the Punk Rock
and early New Wave
eras of popular music.
An unlikely star, Dury contracted polio at the age of seven, which left him with a crippled arm and leg. He studied art and subsequently became an occasional painter and art teacher. The death of the rockabilly star Gene Vincent, of whom Dury was a big fan, prompted him to Dury start his own band in 1971 called Kilburn and the High Roads. The group became a popular act on the pub circuit and released a critically acclaimed album but never rose above cult status and soon broke up. His second group, Ian Dury and the Kilburns, was short lived but introduced him to a young Funk-influenced
guitarist and pianist named Chaz Jankel
, who subsequently became his main songwriting partner.
In 1977, Dury released his first solo album with Stiff Records consisting of songs written with Jankel, New Boots and Panties!!
, which featured the single (and future Trope Namer
) "Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll
". However, the album was a success and Dury was invited to perform on the Live Stiffs Live tour alongside Nick Lowe
and Elvis Costello
. A backing band was quickly formed consisting of guitarist Johnny Turnbull, bassist Norman Watt-Roy, drummer Charlie Charles, keyboard player Mick Gallagher and Kilburns saxophonist Davey Payne. The Blockheads were born, taking their name from one of the songs on the album.
In 1978, the band reached its peak with the top ten singles "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" and "Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3" as well as the hit album Do It Yourself
. However, Dury's increasingly difficult
behaviour during the recording sessions, fueled by alcohol and drugs, prompted Chaz Jankel to leave the Blockheads for a solo career in America. Teaming up with ex-Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson, the Blockheads couldn't match their earlier success with their next album, Laughter
, and officially disbanded.
Having performed together sporadically in the eighties, the band reformed to play a series of benefit concerts in support of Charlie Charles after his diagnosis with cancer. In the mid-nineties, Dury himself was diagnosed with the same illness, galvanising him to release one last album; the critically acclaimed Mr. Love Pants
in 1998, now joined by drummer Dylan Howe (son of Steve Howe of Yes
) and the controversial Israeli saxophonist Gilad Atzmon. Unfortunately, Ian Dury died in 2000 before his next half-finished record was released.
The Blockheads still perform and record, now fronted by Dury's former minder and driver Derek 'the Draw' Hussey. A Biopic based on Dury's life entitled Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
was released in 2010, featuring Andy Serkis
as the singer.
- Canon Discontinuity: Dury himself discounted most of the albums he recorded between Do It Yourself and Mr. Love Pants.
- Careful With That Axe: "Dance of the Screamers" features some pretty horrifying screams.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Ian Dury's contribution to 1981's International Year Of Disabled Persons, "Spasticus Autisticus"', was banned from BBC airplay for being offensive - they weren't aware of Dury's polio-afflicted disabilities.
- Dual Wielding: "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" famously features Davey Payne playing two saxophones simultaneously.
- Funk: Chaz Jankel, who wrote most of the music, was a big fan of funk music. About half the songs on New Boots And Panties!! had significant funk influences.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" contains lines in German and (maybe) French.
- Intercourse with You: ''Wake Up and Make Love With Me" though the act itself isn't described as "what happens next is private, it's also very rude".
- Jukebox Musical. Apples, to its misfortune. The songs are really good. The play was really poor.
- List Song: "Reasons to be Cheerful, Pt. 3", which Dury later claimed was the first proper rap song.
- Protest Song: "Jack Shit George", which protested against "whiners".
- Metal Scream: "Dance Of The Screamers" features some pretty aggressive screaming for its day (and genre).
- Misogyny Song: Courtesy of the Jerkass narrator of "If I Was With a Woman".
- Punk Rock: The Blockheads' popularity peaked during punk and New Wave eras. Songs like "Plaistow Patricia" and "Blockheads" reflect the punk influence. After the original group broke up, Mick Gallagher and Norman Watt-Roy played with The Clash on the Sandinista!! album (apparently, they were promised co-writing credit on "The Magnificent Seven" but never actually got it).
- Repurposed Pop Song: The 2012 Paralympic Games opening ceremony used "Spasticus Autisticus" and "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards".
- Rock Star Song: "What a Waste" and "Sex & Drugs and & Rock & Roll".
- Self-Deprecation: In his own opinion, Dury couldn't sing to save his life.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Possibly the Trope Namer, or at least the song writer. However, Dury later explained in interviews that he didn't write it to glorify the lifestyle, but to ask if this was all there is to it. He himself had problems with drugs and alcohol during the middle point of his career.
- Shout-Out: From "Spasticus Autisticus", "I'M SPASTICUS!"
- Spoken Word in Music: Dury's usual style, for the reason given under Self-Deprecation above.