Reasons to be cheerful: Right now

I miss Ian Dury like something I don’t have a clever similie for. Never mind a rhyme, which he would have done.ian dury2

I often stand in front of a problem or a situation and think ‘What would Ian think?’ Not that I’m like him. But I am. Not that I ever met him. But I did. Sort of, twice. Meaning I saw him sing. Which was a much more powerful thing than your average ‘going to a concert’. I mean, this is not the kind of average thing you get to hear is it?

“Summer, Buddy Holly, the working folly
Good golly, Miss Molly and boats
Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet
Jump back in the alley and nanny goats
18 wheeler Scammels, dominica camels
All other mammals plus equal votes

Reasons to be cheerful, 1, 2, 3!”

First time I saw him I didn’t come with any great expectations. His band, Kilburn and the High-Roads had been mentioned appreciatively in the New Musical Express a few times and in those days that was enough to tempt me and my mates along to the Mountford Hall at Liverpool University. This must be around about 1974 as I’m lackadaisically dreaming my way through a sociology degree there.

svod-l-sex-and-drugs-and-rock-n-rollWe’re in the bar underneath the concert hall as, soundcheck presumably over, the band start to drift in. ‘Menace’ is the best word to describe the feeling they all exuded. No way were we going to go over and make small talk or ask for the autograph of the only one we could recognise from the NME, Ian Dury. He was clearly the most menacing of them all, but with strong competition.

There’s a nicely written short history of the band on this history of punk site which, after describing them as looking ‘like a bus queue’ goes on to say:

“They presented a bizarre spectacle for gig goers expecting a line up of long haired glam boys or road hardened rockers, being presented with the dapper Dury with a razor blade earring (in 1974) and the contrasting band, sometimes resembling something between gangsters and dossers.”

So they were punk before punk, but they were also music hall. And that night most of us didn’t really know what to make of them. Most of us certainly didn’t rush off to Probe Records the next day to see if we could find any LPs they’d made. But Paul did, our friend Paul. The only one of us who went on to a life where people paid him to write about popular music. And I know he treasures the Kilburn and the High-Roads records to this day.


Anyway, the worried one on the left of their final record there ‘Handsome’ went on to be not just famous, but by the time he was dying such a national treasure he’d even made this advert about the pleasures of being alive.

The second time we’d all seen him was just at the moment Ian and his partly new band The Blockheads (containing two ‘Kilburns’) were becoming properly famous. It’s 1977 and we’re all at the Liverpool Empire for the ‘Five Live Stiffs’ tour: Ian, Elvis Costello, Wreckless Eric, Nick Lowe and someone time, or at least I, have forgotten – Larry Wallis.

Ian is still menacing, but also mesmerising. He is singing the songs that are on all of our record players, from the LP with ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’ on it. And his band, considering it’s evolved from the Kilburns, are a funky astonishment. In Chas Jankel, the keyboard player, Ian has found the musical partner to his verbal eloquence and the two will write-up and light-up the rest of his upsy-daisy life (Summed up here by The Guardian, reviewing both a film and a book about him).Ian Dury

But I don’t want to go into all the ups and down of a clearly complicated character. No, on this greyish November day I merely want to bring a bit of sunshine into all of our lives by remembering the joy he brought us. Joy like this:

Noel Coward was a charmer
As a writer he was Brahma
Velvet, jackets and pajamas
The gay divorcee and other dramas

(There ain’t half been some clever bastards)

Van Gogh did some eyeball pleasers
He must have been a pencil squeezer
He didn’t do the Mona Lisa
That was an Italian geezer

Einstein can’t be classed as witless
He claimed atoms were the littlest
When you did a bit of splitting-em-ness
Frighten everybody shitless

There ain’t half been some clever bastards
Probably got help from their mum
(Who had help from her mum)
Now that we’ve had some
Let’s hope that there’s lots more to come

Go on, sing along. Hit me, as he’d say, with your rhythm stick!

Now how about ‘Reasons to be cheerful, Part 4?

“All my lovin’ The Homebaked Oven
Going to the Wirral on the bus
Talking in Granby, being all we can be,
Taking nothing very serious”

Well it’s a start. Thank you Ian Dury for lighting up my life, you clever bastard.


Published by Ronnie

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place:

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    1. Thanks Helen, for the link. I’ve got some Amy Rigby music and I’m glad ‘Wreckless’ has found himself a good partner.

      As for you and Ian Dury, what have you gone off and listened to first?

      1. I went for hit me with your rhythm stick…but the Alsatian was sick mid way through so I had to break off…Dury might have liked that…

        I am on my own tomorrow afternoon so I can wallow without interruption…Alsatian permitting.

      2. Yes, it’s got the more or less rhyme he would’ve appreciated:

        “I went for ‘Hit Me with your Rhythm stick’
        But the Alsatian was sick in the middle of it.
        If it hadn’t’ve been mine I would’ve scarpered,
        Rather than stay and clean up the carpet”

        Or words to more or less that effect!

  1. Never totally got the punk thing but the there was something about the Blockheads music that clicked with me. Your post means I will pull out the New boots & panties VINYL tomorrow morning when I have the house to myself. Had completely forgotten about Kilburn & the High Roads who I must have seen at the Mountford too? Can’t believe that this creative genius has been gone for nearly 15 years.

  2. Ronnie, you keep popping up with just the right words on the right days. Your Ian Dury blog turned up on the day that I attended my ex-husband’s funeral. Unusual day of piecing together versions of memories with old friends (or were we merely rewriting, rather than reliving, our shared history?)

    Anyway, as I was sitting with our son and the people we had taken that journey from teenagerdom to late twenties, (our son’s age now) but had not seen for up 30 years (and yet instantly recognised as if we had only been in the Nethie or the Salt Box together last week) we eventually (and inevitably) turned to those of us not present and spoke of our friend Roy, who had been in a couple of bands and “should have made it”.

    Now, to get to why this blog was so apt: Roy’s band supported Ian Dury and the Blockheads… We remembered, we laughed, we raised a glass and shouted “reasons to be cheerful”.

      1. Well, that was when we started to disagree! It was either: snapshots, 3D (a fish in sea), or box of toys. Roy is still around by the way, he just wasn’t at the reasons to be cheerful bash… It was serendipitous (better than my choice of word, which was a rather uninspired but slightly Bacardi limited: spooky), because I forgot to say that I didn’t see your post until I was on the train home…

  3. Happy days – I saw the Five Live Stiffs show in London, one of the best musical memories I have. That colour pic you have of ID & the Bs looks like it’s from the biopic with Andy Serkis playing ID. Serkis was terrific.

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