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Saturday, May 8, 1999 Published at 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK


Return of Mr Love Pants

Dury's cockney verse has influenced generations of musicians

One of the most admired and influential characters in the UK music industry, Ian Dury, is the subject of an evening of programmes on BBC Radio 2.

Dury returned to the music scene earlier this year with the release of Mr Love Pants, his first album with his band The Blockheads for 17 years.

His crafty cockney lyrics, which depict the lives and loves of every day east Londoners, have influenced a whole host of English bands including Madness, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine and Blur.

Suggs from Madness credits Dury with being "more of a poet than a rock and roll artist". He admits that Dury inspired him and encouraged him to see "all the possibilities for people that didn't look like rock stars."

[ image: Dury revolutionised the image of rock stardom]
Dury revolutionised the image of rock stardom
With his withered hand and severe limp caused by contracting polio as a child, Dury revolutionised the image of rock stardom.

Broadcaster and writer Charlie Gillett recalls he was surprised by the whole band's appearance.

"When you first saw them live it was as if they'd met each other at a bus stop immediately before hand and just decided in some kind of spontaneous action to come up on stage.

"There was nothing you could see that connected any of them to each other - the singer was manifestly disabled, the piano player was in a world of his own, the drummer had crutches and the saxophone player just looked demented."

But Gillet was so impressed by their music that he later became the band's manager.

[ image: Dury: Famous for his anarchic lyrics]
Dury: Famous for his anarchic lyrics
With such a loyal following Dury abandoned his first career as an art teacher to pursue a musical future.

Dury's first band Kilburn and The High Roads split in 1975 but along with Charles Jankal and a group of seasoned musicians, he soon formed The Blockheads. Signed to the newly formed Stiff Records label, the band seemed unstoppable.

Ian Dury on the downside of fame
Their single Sex Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll became a pop anthem and their 1977 debut album New Boots and Panties, was a huge hit, remaining in the UK charts for over a year.

With its punk disco sound, abrasive lyrics and cast of characters like Clever Trevor and Billericay Dickie, the album marked the zenith of Dury's musical career.

In 1978 the band followed up with two major chart hits, What a Waste and Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. The latter went straight to number one and made the band a commercial success.

"Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick was the record that made Ian a national institution in one go," says Charlie Gillett, who sees the record as the start of a new era for British punk.

[ image: Blockhead's second album did not match their early success]
Blockhead's second album did not match their early success
"The famous British jazz punk think is supposed to have started in 1982 it didn't it started with Hit Me" says Gillett, "that was the first British jazz funk record, it was a brilliant, brilliant record."

But Dury always saw this kind of success as something of a lottery.

Ian Dury: Songwriting is "like doing the pools"
"I've always said that it I write a lyric that's ok, it'll get off the table go out on the street hail a cab and go down Denmark Street and make me a few quid. It's like doing the pools, there's always that element of excitement."

In the 1980s the band disintegrated and Dury left to pursue an acting career, appearing in Roman Polanski's Pirates and Peter Greenaway's The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.

Returning once more to the music scene, Dury and The Blockheads started performing again in the mid 1980s and last year released their eighth studio album, Mr Love Pants, which has been hailed their best work since New Boots and Panties.

Dury promoted the new album with a UK tour and even found time to make a trip to Sri Lanka with Robbie Williams on behalf of Unicef, encouraging polio vaccination.

Ian Dury: "I'm not very introspective about what's wrong"
Just after release of Mr Love Pants, news broke that Ian Dury had cancer, but in keeping with his character, the wordsmith shows a complete lack self pity.

"I don't spend a lot of time shaking my fist at the moon. It doesn't make you feel any better I'm sure, plus 50% of any battle you're in is your spirit, be that battle against cancer polio, hunger, whatever."

"I'm not very introspective about what's wrong and I don't feel hope or hopeless," said Dury, "I'm not of that frame of mind."

New Boots and Love Pants - The Ian Dury Story is on BBC Radio 2 on Saturday 8 May 1900 - 2000 BST.

Followed by Ian Dury in Concert 2000 - 2100 BST.

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