Tag Archives: The Blockheads

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.”

Last night at The Palladium

16 Jul

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.’

Ian Dury v Lou Reed

4 Jun

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.”

Derek The Draw

20 May

Taken from an interview with Derek ‘The Draw’ Hussey, Ian’s former chaperone and now lead singer of The Blockeads,  for the updated edition of Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Life of Ian Dury.

“I knew about Ian’s previous personal aides, ‘The Strangler’, Fred ‘The Spider’ and Big Raymond, and I told Ian, ‘I’m not going to go out and get involved in punch-ups ‘cause I’m an old hippy. If it comes to it, you’re going to have to change your tactics’. He said, ‘What’s all that about?’ I said, ‘Well in future, we’re going to have to cuddle them to death‘. He said, ‘That’s all right, that won’t be a problem’. He did change his tactics, but it didn’t really make any difference because when we got there we got assigned the biggest bouncer at the gig and they were normally called ‘Tiny’. My brief then was if anything looked like it might go off, I would look at ‘Tiny’ and he’d look at the prospective problem and I’d turn around and ‘Tiny’ would have normally extracted whoever it was that I thought might be a bit iffy. So I didn’t have to do any minding, I was an arm rest. But he said that it could be a right laugh’. And guess what? It was.

“Gigs had to be convenient for getting on and off. When we started again in 2000 it wasn’t exactly like it was when he’d finished in 1980 and we were doing gigs that weren’t quite so user-friendly. Once in a pub in Belfast, there was a little bunk bed ladder and he couldn’t get on. The landlord sawed the stairs out of the cellar and screwed them on to the stage so we could walk up and get on and off. Ian hated looking like he was struggling. The American president Roosevelt had polio, but no one ever knew and he never used to get out of the taxi near a gig, and Ian liked that. He didn’t think he had anything and he didn’t want anyone to think he had anything. So we had to be very discreet if we possibly could.

“His attitude was, ‘It’s all right, I can get about, but don’t think I’m crippled because my disability doesn’t affect me. I can still do pretty much anything -with a little bit of assistance, I can do anything’.”

Ten years on and the story continues

6 Feb

I ended my biography with the words: “Ian Dury – ‘young and old and gone’ – but his legacy will endure.” That his life and music would go on to influence future generations was a given. Not so, The Blockheads. It seemed doubtful then that they could carry on.

Fast forward almost 11 years and The Blockheads are still gigging furiously. Next year marks the group’s 35th anniversary. And while they continue to release their own albums, they are also keeping Ian’s songs alive, helped some by a startling biopic released last year that has ignited fresh public interest in Ian Dury the man.

In 2010, Omnibus Press asked me to write an updated edition of the book and it is this fresh look at how the story has continued without the man, that is coming out shortly.

Inside, to quote the man himself, “This is what we find”:

  • Foreword by BAFTA-nominated actor Andy Serkis.
  • Beyond the Call of Dury: a new chapter charting events immediately following Ian’s death, including the release of the ‘Brand New Boots And Panties’ tribute album and ‘Ten More Turnips From The Tip’ . It also re-examines The Blockheads as musicians in their own right… an unstoppable force on the live scene with two studio albums to their name since 2003.
  • Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – the complete inside story of the film: how it came together; where the scenes were shot, and the extraordinary lengths that Andy Serkis went to in order to portray his hero. Based on original interviews with Serkis, director Mat Whitecross, producer Damian Jones and scriptwriter Paul Viragh.
  • An afterword by actor Martin Freeman, himself a huge Dury fan.
  • New pictures, including stills from the movie.

This involved a lot of work, but even more pleasure. Pub sessions with members of The Blockheads, seeing them play at the legendary 100 Club, meeting and interviewing Andy Serkis? It was a horrible job, but someone had to do it.