Tag Archives: Blockheads

A Top Of The Pops emergency

22 Dec

[Excerpt from Be Stiff: The Stiff Records Story]

Ian Dury & The Blockheads made a number of appearances on Top Of The Pops to perform their surprise hit, opting for a different look each time. For one, Dury and the drummer sported matching donkey jackets. Except it wasn’t Charley Charles behind the kit – he’d gone missing.

“I don’t know where he was to this day – he just went missing,” says Sonnie Rae [Stiff plugger]. “Robin Nash, affectionately known as Knob Rash, was running Top Of The Pops in those days, and he was calling and calling and I got summonsed and asked, ‘Where is he?’ and I said, ‘Oh, just coming’. We dragged Spider [Fred Rowe, Ian’s minder] into make-up, blacked him up, stuck a wig on him and stuck him on the drum kit. But they forgot to do his hands, which was really funny!”


How I helped bring Ian Dury to the big screen

6 Nov

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.”

A new year, a new edition

29 Jan

In June 2000, my book Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Life of Ian Dury was published. As an long-time admirer who’d been captivated by this inspirational British icon from a young age, I felt privileged to have written the first book about him. I still do.

For around 18 months, while I researched and wrote the book, Ian Dury’s world became my own. From the very first interview in Charlie Gillet’s vinyl-lined sitting room in Clapham, through to afternoon tea with Ian’s indomitable Aunt Moll in her cosy cottage in rural Buckinghamshire, I was let into people’s lives with a generosity that I found rather humbling. In squats, pubs, rehearsal rooms, studios, back gardens, a cafe on the end of a pier, the stories poured forth, some hilariously slapstick, others disclosing a previously hidden side to Ian’s story that challenged his Essex lad image.

Summoned to his home in Hampstead on a cold November day towards the end of my research, I was apprehensive.  I was ushered in to the living room and waited. A gravelly voice suddenly came from behind the door and the questioning began – his not mine.  I needn’t have worried. He was impressed with my persistent detective work that had unearthed Barry Anderson, his childhood pal who had accompanied him to Southend Swimming Pool on that fateful summer day when he had contracted polio. And he was delighted that I had given Barry his phone number, putting them back in touch for the first time in about 30 years. I won’t say that Ian gave me his blessing to speak to his aunt and his friend and near neighbour Rainbow George. He ordered me to. We spoke about getting together and me asking him some questions, but he was ill. A few months later, he died.

Mickey Gallagher told me the news and it was a shock. However frail Ian had looked on that visit to his home and in those final concerts, it just didn’t seem possible that someone with such an iron will and juggernaut personality was no more.

In the months before his death, he had bought a computer to write his own story. ‘Allo sausages’ was as far as he got. Putting a smile on people’s faces, being an entertainer, that was what Ian was all about. That he had never got any further is a shame: we’d have had tears rolling down our faces.

Which is all the more reason why I wanted my book to be a respectful and fitting tribute, despite the fact that it ‘went there’. Ian had told me he did not want me to do a  ‘hagiography’ and I didn’t. But what would those close to him think of such a brutally honest account? Mickey Gallagher from The Blockheads called me to say he had read it in one sitting and had cried and cried. I felt proud and relieved in equal measure.

That it has gone on to sell more than 33,000 copies is testament to the extraordinary life and talents of Ian Dury and, hopefully, that it is a well written book.  Now, 11 years later and following the release last year of the movie starring Andy Serkis, a fully updated version is about to be published by Omnibus Press. For more details about this, watch out for my next blog. In the meantime, why not subscribe to this blog, Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll, to read more about the background to the book, exclusive extracts and latest updates about the new edition.

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