The trappings of fame

15 May

Photo courtesy of Denise Roudette

Excerpt from Chapter 8: It’s Nice To Be A Lunatic

‘In interviews Ian gave over the years, he consistently denied seeking out such status and downplayed the importance of celebrity. But some of those who knew him best reject these claims. In his teenage years he was part of the Upminster gang, but never the leader. From this he went on to become an attention seeker at Walthamstow who strove to be the star in every situation – from wild house parties to a tea-break in the canteen. When he finally got to head up his own ‘gang’ Kilburn & The High Roads, he lapped up the publicity it brought, especially the attention lavished on him by women. And when punk exploded in 1976 and brought instant fame to young groups and singers, Ian watched enviously from the wings, resenting the injustice that he wasn’t one of them.

He was nasty and derogatory about other artists and bands and was possessive of those who were close to him, including his band and management. Steve Nugent recalls that “when Blackhill had The Blockheads and they tried to do anything else, Ian regarded that as a serious subversion of their focal interest. There was some poor fella, a singer songwriter, who would come into Blackhill’s office, and Ian would just lay into him. The guy was just coming in to talk to his management, but Ian was very unpleasant to all the other people who were managed by Blackhill Enterprises”.

Fame, when it did come, simply didn’t agree with Ian Dury. According to members of his group, his personality changed for the worse and he became more and more arrogant. Andrew King described the transformation as “a very bad attack of number one-itis”.

“Ian is one of those people who was a full square,” said Andrew. “He will dominate any situation you put him in, which is why you never wanted to invite Ian to someone else’s party. It would become his party and if it didn’t become his party, he would ruin it for everyone else. We all had some tremendous run-ins with Ian. He is fine when it is his gig and it is his territory, but it if is someone else’s gig and someone else’s territory, he is not quite sure if he likes that. He likes to establish his territory. If he had been a dog, he would have been lifting his leg absolutely everywhere.”

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