Hit Me! The Best of Ian Dury
published: 14 /
In our Re:View section John Clarkson examines an impressive three CD Ian Dury retrospective.
Most other Ian Dury compilations have focused on the classic stand-alone singles, ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll’, ‘What a Waste’ and ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’, and his much acclaimed 1977 album, ‘New Boots and Panties’.
New retrospective ‘Hit Me! The Best of Ian Dury’ offers up all of this again, but also more. The ten tracks of ‘New Boots and Panties’ are featured in a slightly different running order than the original album, but are dispensed with fairly quickly on the first disc.
‘Hit Me!’ then stretches backwards to include songs from Dury’s early 1970’s pub rock band Kilburn and the High Roads’ 1975 only album ‘Handsome’, and then forwards to feature, as well as a smattering of solo material, tracks from all four of the subsequent studio albums - ‘Do It Yourself’ (1979), ‘Laughter’ (1980), ‘Mr Love Pants’ (1998) and the posthumous ‘Ten More Turnips from the Tip’ (2002) - he made with the Blockheads, the band he formed while he was making ‘New Boots and Panties’.
Dury was often associated with the punk movement of the 1970s because of his frequent use of swear words in his songs, although he was already at that time in his mid-thirties and over a decade older than most of its other protagonists. The Blockheads were a slick funk rock outfit, and Dury took much of his influence, clever wordplay and a bawdy sense of humour from music hall theatre.
His greatest achievement and trick – and that of the influential ‘New Boots and Panties’ – was to seamlessly merge together all three of these components, punk, funk and vaudeville.
Songs from ‘New Boots and Panties’ such as ‘Sweet Gene Vincent’, a tribute to Dury’s late idol (“Young and old and gone”); ‘My Old Man’, which is about his London bus driver father (“He knew where he belonged/Number 18 down to Euston”) and the hilariously abrasive ‘Blockheads (“Blockheads with food particles in their teeth/What a horrible state they're in!”) sound timeless all these years on.
Equally, however, are some of the other lesser-known tracks on ‘Hit Me’, Dury could undoubtedly be crude but it was rarely without purpose and often very funny. “I wibble when I piddle/Cos my middle is a riddle,” he sings on ‘Spasticus Autiscus', which rendered here in a live version, was banned by the BBC and was the furious, satirical response of Dury, who had suffered from polio since he was a child, to being invited to write an anthem for the Year of the Disabled in 1980. On the dark, orchestral ‘Fucking Ada’ from ‘Laughter', which is about his long-term battle with depression he belts out the title as a chorus line as if a form of primal therapy over thirty times.
He could, however, be both tender and poignant. ‘O’Donegal’ and ‘Geraldine’ are both love songs, the former to Ireland, and the stuttering, awestruck latter to a woman.
Best of all are the songs that combine the two sides of his personality. ‘Mash It Up Harry’ from ‘Mr Love Pants’ is about conformity in the face of repressed homosexuality (“He's got his little memos and he's got his little job/And he wants a bit of Wembley up his you-know-what”) and ‘Bed O’Roses No.9’ from the same album captures all the bitter fall-out in a relationship that has fragmented (“ You robbed me of my natural sense of humour/And then you nailed my bollocks to the door”).
‘Hit Me’ proves that there was a lot more to Ian Dury than just ‘New Boots and Panties
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