Ian Dury & The Blockheads
The Stiff Recordings 1977-1980 deMon
Four-LP vinyl box set covers Lord Upminster’s Stiff Records era.
Stumbling obliviously into a dual role which seemed as tailor-made as it was unlikely, Ian Dury – a unifying, unavoidable presence between the summers of ’77 and ‘79 – was UK punk’s elder statesman-cum-poet laureate. Yet this silvertongued bus driver’s son suffered a fall that was just as spectacular, sudden and unexplained as his phenomenal rise. Incredibly, it all occurred on the back of three singles and a single album, on a singular label, Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera’s Stiff.
Dury had been kicking around as the frontman of pub-rock oddities Kilburn And The High Roads since ’71, but upon going solo he engaged the original Pink Floyd management team, formed a songwriting partnership with guitarist Chas Jankel (with whom he formed The Blockheads), and by blending music-hall with rock, reggae and a colourful vocabulary he clumsily, but effectively, seduced a nation via a never more lively gig scene.
Dury’s ascent was dizzying, from pot-boiling 1976’s debut single Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, through 1977’s faultless, genre-blending Top-Five
New Boots & Panties!!! album, a veritable feast of delights featuring the barroom couplets of Billericay Dickie (who had a love affair with Nina who’d ‘never been more obscener’) alongside Wake Up And Make Love With Me (a sensitive examination of having a ‘proper wriggle in the naughty naked nude’), to Hit Me
With Your Rhythm Stick topping the chart
in January ’79 and Reasons To Be Cheerful,
Part 3 hitting No.3 the following July. Then? The decline. Do It Yourself had the previous two singles going for it, but not a whole lot else. Laughter followed, but not all the way to the bank. After the critically mauled album stiffed at No.48, Stiff – and The Blockheads – limped away.
All the Stiff stuff’s here (plus a fourth disc of priceless single As and Bs, not least, S&D&R&R’s magnificent Razzle In My Pocket flip), all sounding perfectly pukka, all nicely translucently vinyl-ed. While Ian Dury’s bankable days were brief, his status as a national treasure remains enduring and richly deserved