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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 January 2007, 08:33 GMT
The old Blockheads' shows go on
By Stephen Robb
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

The Blockheads
The Blockheads perform new material alongside their classic hits
The hair may be greying on the Blockheads, and the famed British band lost iconic frontman Ian Dury to cancer in 2000, but a 30th anniversary tour should prove they can still rock 'n' roll.

But the group, whose hit single Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll arguably introduced the phrase, tend to be rather less wild than in their heyday, admits keyboardist Mick Gallagher.

"We pace ourselves these days - we're still rock 'n' roll, but we know when to say no and go to bed, because we've got work to do the next day."

Gallagher, now 61, says he loves performing every bit as much as he did when the band started out in 1977.

"Once a musician, always a musician - I never get tired of it," he says.

"Some of the travelling can be a bit daunting, but the actual performing and meeting the fans is just great. It's a buzz that can't be replaced with anything."

The band, featuring other original members Chaz Jankel and John Turnbull, embark on a UK tour from 25 January.

Saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and drummer Dylan Howe, both members since 1998, singer Derek "The Draw" Hussey and bassist Mark Snowling complete the line-up.

Masterful lyrics

Ian Dury and the Blockheads enjoyed great critical and commercial success in the late 70s and 80s, with hits including Clever Trevor, Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3 and chart-topper Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.

Their debut album New Boots and Panties!! stayed in the UK chart for more than a year.

Our fans now range from five-year-olds to 55-year-olds
Mick Gallagher
The band split to pursue solo projects in the early 80s, reforming in 1998 following Dury's diagnosis with colon cancer, to perform live dates and record the acclaimed Mr Love Pants album.

They were a distinctively British band in the tradition of The Kinks, Madness and Blur, Dury's masterful lyrics offering witty wordplay, astute social commentary and populated with colourful characters like Clever Trevor and Billericay Dickie.

Gallagher admits that the Blockheads initially decided to disband following the death of star attraction Dury.

"We lasted about nine months, and then we all missed each other - sad, isn't it?"

New singer

But the decision to continue performing and divide singing duties on different songs between different band members threw up a surprising problem, he says.

"Ian was a very wordy person - for us, even having played 20-odd years with him, none of us really knew all the words. We knew the choruses, that was all.

Ian Dury
Dury delivered his smart lyrics with astonishing verbal dexterity
"So when we went out on the road, we used to have these 'cheat sheets' all over the stage, prompting us."

In a development that seems fitting for a totally unpretentious band with its origins in the London pub rock circuit, most of the singing is now done by Dury's former driver.

Derek "The Draw" Hussey found himself "sort of 'minister without portfolio'" after Dury's death, says Gallagher.

"We went, 'Derek, come along and shake something. Put your hat on and get on the side of the stage and shake stuff.' Over the years, he has slowly made his progress to the centre stage.

"With Derek we have that same London slant on stuff, and the delivery is similar to Ian's. He spent such a lot of time around Ian that a lot of stuff rubbed off."

Album plan

Hussey is also now writing new songs for the band with Dury's former writing partner, guitarist Chaz Jankel.

The Blockheads expect to release a new album later in the year, their second without Dury after 2004's Where's the Party?

Gallagher says the new songs "fit seamlessly" in concert with the hits, and that The Blockheads' live shows are winning over new generations of fans.

"When we were with Ian we were very much a 'geezer band' - we'd be playing to a sea of bald heads," he says.

"But our audience has obviously got older with us, and they're married, settled down, and they want to come and bring their kids, and their grandkids sometimes, to gigs.

"Our fans now range from five-year-olds to 55-year-olds, and up. It doesn't matter what the generation, whether they have heard the songs before or it's the first time they're hearing them, they all go away big fans."

Ian Dury overcame disability caused by childhood polio to become a star.

In a similar spirit, his former band have evolved and endured despite the loss of one of the most admired and influential figures in the history of British pop music.

"Ian would just love the fact that we're still on the road," says Gallagher, before adding: "There's a presence of Ian on stage when we go on really - it feels as if he is there."


SEE ALSO
Rock star Ian Dury dies
27 Mar 00 |  Entertainment
Mourners remember Ian Dury
05 Apr 00 |  Entertainment
Williams leads Dury tribute
17 Jun 00 |  Entertainment
Remembering Ian Dury
27 Mar 01 |  Entertainment

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