An excerpt from Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Life of Ian Dury
As the International Year of the Disabled got underway, Ian was inundated with requests to apear at events and help promote the campaign. As one of the most prominent disabled figures in the country, he got letters from people living in sheltered homes telling him how lonely it was when the staff went home for weekends, and tapes of songs they had written about the Year of the Disabled. But Ian saw the entire project as a farce and instead came up with his own anthem for disabled people.
Ian explained: “I said, ‘I’m going to put a band down the road for the Year of the Disabled: I’ll be Spastic and they can be The Autistics. I have The Blockheads and that means they’re autistic anyway’. And my mate [Ed Speight] goes, ‘No – Spasticus Autisticus, the freed slave.’ Great, I’m Spartacus. So I wrote this tune, I put in the second verse, ‘So place your hard-earned peanuts in my tin/And thank the creator you’re not in the state I’m in/So long have I been languishing on the shelf/I must give all proceedings to myself.’ When they said, ‘Are you going to give it away to charity? I said, ‘No, I’m not, the second verse explains that.’ I thought it would be a war-cry type of item. But it wasn’t allowed to be played anywhere and people got offended by it – everybody except the spastics. All the spastics went, ‘Yeah man, what a tune, yeah right.’
In fact, the song had been inspired by a spastic who had come to Ian’s dressing room at the Sobell Centre in Holloway, noth London, in 1980. He spoke with a croak out of the side of his mouth, and this, coupled with his thick Glaswegian accent, mean that he couldn’t make himself understood. But, as Ian told The Face in September 1981: “He had two honours degrees from Oxford – English and History – and I think a very brainy geezer, but he said, ‘The most difficult thing for me is that nobody knows what I’m on about.’ So that’s what the song is.”
Marc Lambert-Clarke (second right) with other extras from sex&drugs&rock&roll
In his own words, Marc Lambert-Clarke tells of his experience as an extra in the biopic sex&drugs&rock&roll starring Andy Serkis.
“The first day I arrived on set, I was greeted by a man walking with a stick, dressed in some turned up jeans and a dirty looking jacket. He asked me if I was okay and if I needed anything. He explained where I needed to go and who I needed to speak to and then left, simply saying, “Well, I have to go do some work now, I will see you later”. Only as he walked away did it register who he was: Andy Serkis dressed as Ian Dury.
My name is Marc Lambert-Clarke and during my time as a trainee I was asked to be a drummer, a punk, and I filmed one of the crowd scenes with an old Bolex camera. Being an extra during the Watford shooting days was perhaps the most tiring, but extremely exhilarating few days of all. The job I was given was to dress as a punk rocker and simply rock out for a couple of days. What the director failed to mention was that I would be rocking out to the same song for the same scene for nearly 14 hours. I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong, it was amazing. Imagine going to a gig where the energy never changed and, for the whole time you were there, you were running solely on adrenalin.
The truth is, if you want to work in the film industry, you need to be prepared to work for it. Whether you’re asked to make coffee, direct traffic or rock out as an extra. It may have been my first time on a film, but it was an experience I can chalk up as one of the best. Before that, I didn’t know much about Ian Dury; I had heard ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’, but aside from that I hadn’t really heard of him. Once being part of this film, I found myself buying a few Blockheads albums and listening to their songs. Ian Dury might be dead, but he remains a strong inspiration. Never let your problems get you get down and strive for whatever you want. If you work hard enough, you can achieve anything.”
Ian with his minder Fred 'Spider' Rowe (courtesy of Fred Rowe)
An extract from Chapter 8: Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Life of Ian Dury
‘Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick’ was released on November 23, 1978 (Buy 38) coupled with the deliciously comic ‘There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards’, co-written with Russell Hardy. In this, he doffed his cap to Noel Coward, Einstein, Vincent Van Gogh and other legends, concluding that they ‘probably got help from their mum’. It was an instant radio hit. Boney M’s Christmas release ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ was at number one when ‘Hit Me’ entered the UK Top 75 on December 9 and began its glorious ascent. Ian Dury fever was spreading around Britain and at a gig at the Ilford Odeon in east London on December 23, such was the exuberance of the audience that the floor caved in. A sagging carpet was the only thing which saved the po-going fans from flaling into the basement. By the new year, the record had its sights firmly on the top spot, which was now occupied by Village People’s gay anthem ‘YMCA’. On January 27, 1979, Ian Dury & The Blockheads celebrated their first number one.
Fred Rowe recalls the moment when Ian heard the news: “We were on the beach in Cannes when ‘Hit Me’ went to number one. The hotel staff brought us a bottle of champagne on a tray and said to Ian, ‘Your record ‘Hit Me’ has gone to number one’. I remember when we first kicked off with Kilburn & The High Roads, Ian said, ‘I can’t sing,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, but great lyrics Ian, I could listen to them all day’. He said, ‘It might be a number one,’ and I said, ‘I tell you what Ian. If you ever get a number one with this sort of work, I’ll eat a piece of shit.’ So that day on the beach, Ian said to me, ”Ere, I’m going to find you a bit of shit around here to eat’.”
Programme for Ian's last performance at The London Palladium
An extract from Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Life of Ian Dury
‘It is an emotional occasion, but above all, pure entertainment. In a box beside the stage, Government minister Mo Mowlam is jiving and singing along to ‘Billericay Dickie’; in another, Ian’s five-year-old son Billy is jumping up and down excitedly and drumming his hands on the ledge. Behind him, Ian’s eldest son Baxter, his daughter Jemima and wife Sophy look on, full of smiles. Everyone here can feel the significance of the occasion – even The Blockheads have dressed smarter than usual in keeping with the venue. Ian, too, is aware of his surroundings, but is unimpressed. “I want to bring a bit of low-life into these walls. Oi Oi!” he yells. “Danny Kaye is listneing. Bing is listening,” he jokes to roars of laughter from the crowd.’
There was no love lost between Ian Dury and Lou Reed when they toured the US together in 1978. Fred ‘Spider’ Rowe, Ian’s former minder, recounts the following incident in this extract of Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Life of Ian Dury – OUT NOW.
“We were in this university doing the last gig and we had had this shit off Lou Reed for quite some time now and Ian was on stage and he announced to the crowd, ‘Well, this is our last show with Lou Reed, good old Lou, he has looked after us and we are very pleased to have been on the tour with him and I’m sure this tour would not have been so successful without him” – which was bollocks anyway - ”so, I would like to dedicate this song to Lou and all the people who have helped us and loved us throughout this tour, so here we go…’Arseholds, bastards, fucking cunts and pricks’. I was laughing and Lou Reed was standing behind me with his tour manager, so he said to me, ‘Well you’ve just done yourselves out of a crate of champagne,’ and I said, ‘Poke it up your bollocks, we don’t want your champagne, we just want rid of you.’ When Ian came off stage, he said to tbe crew, ‘Don’t take offence, it’s only a song’. He’d done him up like a kipper and it was really excellent the way he did it.”
An exclusive extract from the new updated edition of Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Life of Ian Dury – now available.
‘Baxter was five years old when he stood casually beside his dad, with his hands in the pockets of his flared trousers, outside Axford’s at 306 Vauxhall Bridge Road. Lingerie was displayed on one side of the window, with men’s shirts, jackets, hats and shoes in the other. In the reflection in the window of the outfitters that Peter Blake had told Ian about, you could see photographer Chris Gabrin’s mini van and the Woolworth store opposite. The shop and the worn mosaic paving beneath Baxter’s football boots and Ian’s Dr Martens are long gone. But the image has stood the test of time. “I only shot 24 exposures and Baxter was in just four of them,” remembered Chris. “As soon as the films were developed Ian came round and we immediately chose the same shot. We were so excited by the picture that we went straight into my darkroom and made the first print. The album title New Boots And Panties was subsequently coined by Ian.”
Just as that iconic photograph had subsequently inspired many artists to follow their own creative instincts, it was this image that led Paul [Viragh, scriptwriter] and Damian [Jones, producer] to explore the relationships that existed between Ian and Baxter and with his own father Bill. In relation to the latter, they discovered something fascinating. The spartan bed-sitter in which Bill Dury died alone from emphysema was just around the corner from Axford’s. Had Ian subconsciously been drawn to that location with his own son when he sensed success was in reach? Certainly the possibility was not lost on Paul Viragh. In the film, Ian makes a heart-wrenching visit to his father’s rented flat after his death and contemplates its modest contents: the polished black shoes lined up neatly on the bare boards beside the bed, the dentures left resting in a glass of water. As he walks out on to the pavement, he is outside Axford’s and fleetingly sees the ghostly face of his father in the window.’