Ian Dury & The Block­heads

The Stiff Record­ings 1977-1980 de­Mon

Classic Rock - - Reviews - Ian Fort­nam

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

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