Spasticus Autisticus

31 Aug

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.”

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One Response to “Spasticus Autisticus”

  1. barcode1966 September 1, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    brilliant blog, love that track too

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