I went to London just before Xmas and, with a couple of hours to kill following the planned meeting, I wandered into Soho to have a browse in some of the record shops on Berwick Street. I came across a copy of Ian Dury’s first album. After weighing up whether I could afford to part with the monumental sum of £4 the shop required, I decided ‘to hell with it’ and bought a record I had never consciously sought or even considered owning before. Upon returning to Devon, I promptly left it on the train.
And then, almost immediately, New Boots and Panties became the holy grail – the album I had to have. My greatest desire (after the wife…if you ever happen to read this, Karen)! I went straight onto Amazon when I got home that night to seek out a vinyl copy to replace my lost one and almost purchased it there and then but having spent an inordinate amount of money on records recently (well, not all THAT much…just in case you’re reading this, Karen) I resisted for the time being.
Then, a few days later we were having lunch with some friends and John was regaling us with tales of his time living in London…apparently he spent a disproportionate amount of time going to see Ian Dury in concert. On hearing this I told him my tale of woe at which point he scooted off to his living room and after 10 minutes or so returned clutching his cherished copy of NBAP…for me to have! What a man! So, if you’re reading this, John this one goes out to you!
Oh yes, the record…Well, if all you know are the hits – and they are fairly ubiquitous after all, there won’t be too many surprises here. But what you do get is a superb distillation of working class Laaandon – right from the album’s first line, ‘I come awake with a gift for womankind’, you know exactly where you stand – this is an album that couldn’t have come from anywhere else and I am not sure it could have come from any other point in time either. It seems to me, that Dury featured very prominently in Damon Albarn’s listening preferences around the time of Parklife but whereas Blur’s efforts are at best homage and at worst parody (and I am a fan), Dury is the real deal. Take Billericay Dickie for example, a song about a sex crazed bricklayer from…Billericay…It is hilarious but also rings so true, people like Dickie really do exist but not many, to my knowledge, have featured in songs. So as I guffaw along to lyrics such as ‘I had a love affair with Nina, In the back of my Cortina. A seasoned up hyena could not have been more obscener’ and ‘you should never hold a candle if you don’t know where it’s been, the jackpot is in the handle on a normal fruit machine’ I also revel in the great British art of innuendo and double entendre and the fact that I can play this song to my ever more knowing children and they still don’t have a clue what he’s singing about! So lyrically it’s where it’s at as far as I am concerned.
Musically…well NBAP is certainly varied and it travels on quite a journey from the almost disco opener of ‘Wake Up and Make Love To Me’ through the wistful ‘My Old Man’ and the vaudevillian ‘Billericay Dickie’ until, three songs from the end Dury goes all punk on us and we get the one, two, three blast that is ‘Blockheads’, ‘Plaistow Patricia’ (the spoken interlude just before this track is not for children’s ears and unfortunately if they heard this they would know what he was going on about!) and Blackmail Man. A thrilling end to a great piece of (very) British musical history.
Rob listened:Great to hear this. Like Tom, I’ve never sought out any of Ian Dury’s stuff, although I reviewed a couple of later blockheads collections once upon a time. It’s a great listen, not just for Dury’s peerless vaudeville geezer schtick but also for the abandon with which the blockheads blend and switch between punk, pub rock, funk, disco and knees up.
It’s sad to reflect that whilst we now have immediate access to all the music from everywhere in the world, and the opportunities for musicians and artists are arguably also more open, someone like Ian Dury wouldn’t get within a million miles of public recognition on anything like the scale he did in the late 70s. Not only did he bring us some wonderful music, his character said a lot about what it was to be British, to be different, to be creative and to be just a little wild. Please correct me if I’m just being an old fuddy daddy, but I don’t think that could happen in 2013.
Nick listened: I’ll just echo exactly what Rob said – this was a great listen, and I feel like we’re past the point in our cultural history where a record like this by a character like this could become popular.
Graham listened: Growing up in the East End/ Essex borders I’ll admit to being pretty confused about Ian Dury during the late 70’s/early 80’s. While posters for his gigs were plastered all over my “manor”, as it were, I couldn’t get a grip on the reasons for his popularity. He seemed too old to be a pop star and played a brand of “rockney”, not too dissimilar to Chas ‘n’ Dave. With time I began to appreciate just how naive and ignorant I was as a spotty teenager! Great to hear this and it wasn’t too long ago I watched the recent biopic of his life. A complex character in the extreme.