Ian Dury

Ian Robins Dury (12 May 1942 – 27 March 2000) was an English rock and roll singer-songwriter and actor who rose to fame during the late 1970s, during the punk and new wave era of rock music. He was the lead singer of Ian Dury and the Blockheads and before that of Kilburn and the High Roads.

Dury formed Kilburn and the High Roads (a reference to the road in North West London) in 1971, and they played their first gig at Croydon School of Art on 5 December 1971. Dury was vocalist and lyricist, co-writing with pianist Russell Hardy and later enrolling into the group a number of the students he was teaching at Canterbury College of Art (now the University for the Creative Arts), including guitarist Keith Lucas (who later became the guitarist for 999 under the name Nick Cash) and bassist Humphrey Ocean.

Managed first by Charlie Gillett and Gordon Nelki and latterly by fashion entrepreneur Tommy Roberts, the Kilburns found favour on London's pub rock circuit and signed to Dawn Records in 1974, but despite favourable press coverage and a tour opening for English rock band The Who, the group failed to rise above cult status and disbanded in 1975.

The group produced two albums: Handsome and Wotabunch (plus a 5-track "Best Of" EP).

Under the management of Andrew King and Peter Jenner, the original managers of Pink Floyd, Ian Dury and the Blockheads quickly gained a reputation as one of the top live acts of new wave music.

Dury's lyrics are a combination of lyrical poetry, word play, observation of British everyday life, character sketches, and sexual humour: "This is what we find … Home improvement expert Harold Hill of Harold Hill, Of do-it-yourself dexterity and double-glazing skill, Came home to find another gentleman's kippers in the grill, So he sanded off his winkle with his Black & Decker drill." The song "Billericay Dickie" rhymes "I had a love affair with Nina, In the back of my Cortina" with "A seasoned-up hyena Could not have been more obscener".

The Blockheads' sound drew from its members' diverse musical influences, which included jazz, rock and roll, funk, and reggae, and Dury's love of music hall. The band was formed after Dury began writing songs with pianist and guitarist Chaz Jankel. Jankel took Dury's lyrics, fashioned a number of songs, and they began recording with members of Radio Caroline's Loving Awareness Band—drummer Charley Charles (born Hugh Glenn Mortimer Charles, Guyana 1949), bassist Norman Watt-Roy, keyboard player Mick Gallagher, guitarist John Turnbull and former Kilburns saxophonist Davey Payne. An album was completed, but major record labels passed on the band. Next door to Dury's manager's office was the newly formed Stiff Records, a perfect home for Dury's maverick style.

The single "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll", released 26 August 1977, marked Dury's Stiff debut. the album New Boots and Panties!! which, although it did include the single, achieved platinum status.

In October 1977 Dury and his band started performing as Ian Dury & the Blockheads, when the band signed on for the Stiff "Live Stiffs Tour" alongside Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric, and Larry Wallis. The tour was a success, and Stiff launched a concerted Ian Dury marketing campaign, resulting in the Top Ten hit "What a Waste", and the hit single "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick", which reached No. 1 in the UK at the beginning of 1979, selling just short of a million copies. Again "Hit Me" was included on the original release of the subsequent album Do It Yourself. Both the single and its accompanying music video featured Davey Payne playing two saxophones simultaneously during his solo, in evident homage to jazz saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk, whose 'trademark' technique this was. With their hit singles, the band built up a dedicated following in the UK and other countries and their next single "Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3" made number three in the UK.

The band's second album Do It Yourself was released in June 1979 in a Barney Bubbles-designed sleeve of which there were over a dozen variations, all based on samples from the Crown wallpaper catalogue. Bubbles also designed the Blockhead logo.

Jankel left the band temporarily and relocated to the US after the release of "What a Waste" (his organ part on that single was overdubbed later) but he subsequently returned to the UK and began touring sporadically with the Blockheads, eventually returning to the group full-time for the recording of "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick"; according to Mickey Gallagher, the band recorded 28 takes of the song but eventually settled on the second take for the single release. Partly due to personality clashes with Dury, Jankel left the group again in 1980, after the recording of the Do It Yourself LP, and he returned to the USA to concentrate on his solo career.

The group worked solidly over the eighteen months between the release of "Rhythm Stick" and their next single, "Reasons to Be Cheerful", which returned them to the charts, making the UK Top 10. Jankel was replaced by former Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson, who also contributed to the next album Laughter (1980) and its two hit singles, although Gallagher recalls that the recording of the Laughter album was difficult and that Dury was drinking heavily in this period.

In 1980–81 Dury and Jankel teamed up again with Sly and Robbie and the Compass Point All Stars to record Lord Upminster (1981). The Blockheads toured the UK and Europe throughout 1981, sometimes augmented by jazz trumpeter Don Cherry, ending the year with their only tour of Australia. The Blockheads disbanded in early 1982 after Dury secured a new recording deal with Polydor Records through A&R man Frank Neilson. Choosing to work with a group of young musicians which he named the Music Students, he recorded the album Four Thousand Weeks' Holiday. This album marked a departure from his usual style and was not as well received by fans for its American jazz influence.

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