Lord Upminster (6.5)
Here we go with part 2 then and ‘Lord Upminster’ from 1981. This is the Sly and Robbie album, as The Blockheads and Dury had parted company, although Chas Jankel did fly out to Nassau to write and record for this album. Dury and Jankel had no material and did their writing on the flight out and during the recording, which is an issue as Dury could take a very long time to create lyrics that he considered ready, after many many re-writes, and the short gestation period of the tracks on Lord Upminster was not wholly successful.
Side 1 of a fairly short 8 track album is quite forgettable to be truthful, it really is quite disappointing and no matter how much I want to like it greatly, I can’t, I don’t dislike it either, it’s just OK. Side 2 is much better, as though they saved all the good tracks for it. The closing song is one of my favourites of all Dury songs.
“Spasticus (Autisticus)” was written in 1981 as a protest against the International Year of Disabled Persons, which Dury quite rightly considered to be patronising. The repeated refrain of “I’m Spasticus, I’m Spasticus, I’m Spasticus Autisticus” referenced the line “I’m Spartacus” from the 1960 film Spartacus. Dury was considering touring under the name “Spastic and the Autistics” for the record, playing on his own disability and the term “blockhead”, but his friend Ed Speight suggested that the song should be about the freed slave of the disabled.
The term Spastic had been used in the UK as a derogatory term, calling people spastic or spaz was an insult. It was rather unkind to sufferers of cerebral palsy as well of course. The BBC decided that the lyrics were offensive as did the majority of other radio stations and it received no air time. The record company weren’t that interested either. This indicates fairly clearly that they didn’t actually listen to the song or understand the lyrics, it wasn’t a piss take, it wasn’t offensive, it was a rallying cry.
The song was performed live on television and broadcast worldwide during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Paralympics, by Orbital and members of the Graeae Theatre Company, which I really had no idea about. I went to the Paparalympics in 2012 and it was brilliant, but today is the first time I’d seen the video below (stick with it, it’s worth it)
How bloody brilliant is that, 30 years on and there it is again.
A1 – Funky Disco Pops
A2 – Red Letter
A3 – Girls Watching
A4 – Wait For Me
B1 – The Body Song
B2 – Lonely Town
B3 – Trust (Is A Must)
B4 – Spasticus Autisticus
I saw Spasticus performed live at the Oxford Apollo or New Theatre, whatever its name was then, in 1984, at least I think it was, Dave probably still has the ticket stub, Dave? It was a stunning performance with Dury walking on stage wrapped in, what appeared to be, real barbed wire. The tour was in support of the next album.
4000 Weeks Holiday (8.4)
Released in 1984, this was the first Dury album that I bought. Everything prior to this I had only as singles, the rest I heard in Dave’s bedroom. For whatever reason, the Blockheads were out of the picture and Dury now had backing from ‘The Music Students’, either by choice or at the insistence of Polydor, the record company, accounts vary. There had been a delay in releasing the album as Dury was insistent that the track ‘Fuck Off Noddy’ be included and the record company weren’t happy about it. There were rumours about the Enid Blyton estate threatening to litigate, there was also a track about Billy Butlin that didn’t make it, amid allegations of Butlin kiddy fiddling, it was all a bit delicate.
I don’t think the album would have been any better from having either track included, I’d even say it is better without them. It’s a really good album that has actually become better over time.The single “Really Glad You Came / (You’re My) Inspiration” was released during that time, the songs were two different lyrics put to an almost identical tune and the single
was a total failure, even though these are the two tracks most often used on Greatest Hits compilations. It’s a shame this single bombed as these are really good tracks, though not necessarily what the record buying public would be expecting from Dury. Its follow up single “Ban The Bomb / Very Personal” was mocked by critics, and to be honest, it is probably the weakest track on the album.
The album also contains “Peter the Painter” which was written following a request from British Pop artist Peter Blake, who had been Dury’s teacher at London’s Royal College of Art. Blake was having his own exhibition at The Tate Gallery, London and asked Dury to compose a theme tune for it. “Peter the Painter” was the result.
PETER THE PAINTER
Who’s got the toughest brush with the sweetest strokes?
At the Royal Academy for Jack-the-Lademy
Mr. Blake is the actual bloke at the Royal College of Useful Knowledge
He plays his part without complaint at the Royal Society for Insobriety
Gets his pencils and his paint from the Royal Commission for Intuition
It’s not a fake, it’s a Peter Blake
It’s navy blue, it’s crimson lake
It takes the cake and no mistake,
For goodness’ sake take a look at those Blakes
As mentioned previously, Dave and I went to Oxford to see Ian Dury & the Music Students and, to this day, it is still one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to some bloody good ones. A lot of it was about the stage presence of Dury, he really owned it when he was up there, and his Spasticus performance, wrapped in what appeared to be real barbed wire, was outstanding. I am convinced we also saw a very you Supergrass as one of the many support acts, but I have no proof of this. Three lads of the right age, from Oxford, there’s a good chance it was them.
Below is a playlist of some of the tracks from the album. I couldn’t find a decent ‘Ban The Bomb’, which says a lot about how well it was promoted. Looking on Discogs, only 1 person on there owns a copy, which is most unusual, and makes it rather a rare thing and probably expensive to buy, even though it’s not all that good.
Below is 40 minutes audio of a concert as Ian Dury & the Music Students from 1984, so the same tour I went to:
Also, because I recently picked up a 12″ singles of it and because Big Dave (who is not big but is Dave) has it in his top 10 bass lines, here is a quick snippet of you’re my inspiration playing at home, sort of sideways.
||(You’re My) Inspiration
||Tell Your Daddy
||Peter The Painter
||Ban The Bomb
||Percy The Poet
||Take Me To The Cleaners
||The Man With No Face
||Really Glad You Came
Not as bad as portrayed pretty much sums up this album, which is a collection of songs from the short lived stage musical of the same name. Critics pointed out that the songs were not as good as Dury’s ‘old stuff’. though two of the tracks, “Apples” and “England’s Glory”, were written over 13 years earlier while Dury was still in Kilburn & The Highroads.
The show, which had several more songs than were included on the album, only lasted 10 weeks before closing, reviews were not favourable and, presumably the ticket sales weren’t either.
I’ve only heard the album a couple of times and it’s the only one I don’t actually own, but there is a particular track that I really like and which is included in Radio show 8, called ‘Love Is All’ which is down below along with the title track ‘Apples’.
Love is all:
I did find a short clip of ‘Englands Glory’ being performed on the stage set:
||Dury, Rod Melvin
||“Love Is All”
||“Bit O’ Kit”
||“Looking For Harry”
||“Bus Driver’s Prayer”
||Traditional, arranged and adapted by Ian Dury
||“The Right People”
||“All Those Who Say Okay”
||“Riding The Outskirts Of Fantasy”
To be honest I’m not really sure if this should be classed as an official release, it is more of a collection of songs from a musical than a deliberate attempt to release an album, if you see what I mean.
The Bus Driver’s Prayer & Other Stories (7.6)
This album was released in 1992 and, even though it followed a successful Blockheads reunion tour following the death of their drummer Charley Charles, it was not a Blockheads album, but it does feature them all at certain points, except bassist Norman Watt-Roy.
The album began life as a result of the 1991 film After Midnight. Dury was asked to produce music for the film and he recruited Blockhead Mick Gallagher and Music Students member Merlin Rhys-Jones to help out. Two of the songs, “O’Donegal” and “Quick Quick Slow” appear on the album, and another, “Bye Bye Dublin” doesn’t.
Lyrically, the album was very much regarded as a return to form for Dury, examples of this being:
From Poo Poo In The Prawn
I was a very hungry fella
I defrosted my paella
Came down with Salmonella
Three weeks intensive care
They failed to send technicians in
To check the air-conditioning
Which was unfortunately transmissioning
A case of Legionnaires
There’s a malaise
In the mayonnaise
There’s a poo-poo in the prawn
Where we missed them
In the system
Little germs are being born
There’s no respite
From the cess-pit
There’s no shelter from the pong
Where the hell did we go wrong?
From Poor Joey
This is my routine: first I ponder and peck
I look in the mirror and I shit on the deck
I try to fly, I bang my head
I think of something creative instead
I ruffle my feathers and have a good scratch
Spend at least half an hour trying to undo my catch
Not as though I want to be deleted by an owl
I’ve got to fight this awful situation somehow
Though the story of poor Joey is seemingly about a Budgie, it is, I would suggest, an allegory for how life can become entirely routine and one can become trapped in this routine, a prisoner of ones own repeated actions.
As far as I am aware no singles were released from the album but there are a couple of contenders on there.
Demon Records were unhappy with the final album and hardly promoted it, despite favorable reviews including in the March 1993 issue of Vox where it was awarded six out of ten stars (which is an ok rating, although not great). Mick Gallagher continues to praise the album as one of his favorites, and noted in the book Song by Song that it was the album by which he personally mourned Dury following his passing in 2000.
Apparently the album received criticism for its use of a drum machine, even though the drummer had recently died, which seems a little unfair.
- “That’s Enough of That” (Dury, Gallagher, Rhys-Jones) – 4:49
- “Bill Haley’s Last Words” (Dury, Gallagher, Rhys-Jones) – 3:12
- “Poor Joey” – 3:50
- “Quick Quick Slow” – 3:14
- “Fly in the Ointment” – 2:55
- “O’Donegal” – 3:53
- “Poo-Poo in the Prawn” – 3:17
- “London Talking” – 1:15
- “Have A Word” (Dury, Gallagher, Rhys-Jones) – 3:57
- “D’Orine The Cow” – 3:18
- “Your Horoscope” – 4:00
- “No Such Thing As Love” – 3:38
- “Two Old Dogs Without A Name” – 4:43
- “Bus Driver’s Prayer” (traditional, arranged and adapted by Ian Dury) – 0:59
Mr Love Pants (9.0)
This was the last album to be released while Dury was still with us, and the last I will be talking about here. There was a live album, ‘Live! Warts ‘n’ Audience’ from 1990, and, posthumously released, another called ‘Straight From The Desk’ in 2001 as well as studio album ‘Ten More Turnips From The Tip’. Added to that there was a series of re-issues that had lots of out takes and alternate versions that Dury never wanted to be released, but they were released anyway.
But back to this album, this is a real, actual return to form and as far as I’m concerned it is up there with the first two albums. Released 6 years afrer Busmans Prayer it is an entirely different proposition, with the the Blockheads back on board and playing brilliantly, the quality shines through. I’ve listened to this album many times and can put it on shuffle with New Boots and Do It Yourself and nothing seems out of place to me (although production values are different of course, I mean the songs). In a BBC documentary Dury dismissed all of the albums between Do It Yourself and Mr. Love Pants as inferior, and as a whole I’d tend to agree.
- “Jack Shit George” (Dury, Merlin Rhys-Jones) – 4:23
- “The Passing Show” – 4.24
- “You’re My Baby” – 3:30
- “Honeysuckle Highway” – 4:49
- “Itinerant Child” – 4:46
- “Geraldine” (Dury, Mickey Gallagher) – 3:37
- “Cacka Boom” (Dury, Merlin Rhys-Jones) – 4:49
- “Bed O. Roses No. 9” – 5:19
- “Heavy Living” – 5:08
- “Mash It Up Harry” – 5:55
“Itinerant Child” was to be released as Ian Dury & The Blockhead’s first single in 18 years (since 1980’s “Sueperman’s Big Sister”) and a video was recorded but the record label, East Central One, rejected the idea. “Mash it Up Harry” was released instead on both CD and 12″ record. As far as I know the video for ‘Itinerant Child’ has never surfaced, although it could be out there somewhere. Bad call by the record company I think, as a single, ‘Itinerant Child’ is the better option. Perhaps the record company were swayed by the football chant at the end. Though it almost certainly isn’t true, the Harry of the song is Harry Redknapp in my head and the team is Tottenham Hotspur, hence the Spuds references. I read somewhere that it is a song about a gay man, but that sounds like crap to me gleaned from alluding to sticking things up ones bottom in the lyrics, which would be a perfectly normal thing for Dury to write.
Here, from ‘Jack Shit George’, which is fairly heavy on the profanity, is a sample of what are curiously beautiful lyrics:
You can’t bear another’s beauty, you can’t emulate a grace
You can’t filch another’s mystery, occupy another’s space
You can’t do another’s duty, or take a special place
In another person’s history when they’ve sunk without a trace
The man could write, and I don’t think it was particularly about being clever with words but more about taking time to find the right ones and not being afraid to use them, not going for the banal or obvious but the words that really allowed him to say what he wanted to say in the best possible way.
Here, for no particular reason, is a ‘Rare’ footage of Dury that I found.
As a special treat, a complete concert to listen to from the Hammersmith Odeon recorded in September 1979, it is over there on the right, you may have to scroll up or down to find it but it is there.
I do think that Ian Dury was a one off, we’d never seen his like before and never will again, he took all his influences and turned them into something new, making the best of what he had and giving us something memorable and wonderful to keep. To finish with a quote from ‘The Passing Show’ would be apt I think:
But when we’re torn from mortal coil
We leave behind a counterfoil
It’s what we did and who we knew
And that’s what makes this story true
Ian Robins Dury (12 May 1942 – 27 March 2000)