|Ian Dury & The Blockheads|
Years: 1977 - 2000
Styles: Funk Rock, New Wave, Pub Rock
Ian Dury - Vocals (in band: 1977 - Feb 6, 2000)
Chaz Jankel - Electric piano, Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals (in band: 1977 - 1980)
Charlie Charles - Drums (in band: 1977 - 1982)
Davey Payne - Flute, Harmonica, Saxophone (in band: 1977 - 1998)
Norman Watt-Roy - Bass Guitar (in band: 1977 - 2000)
John Turnbull - Backing vocals, Banjo, Guitar (in band: 1977 - 2000)
Mick Gallagher - Keyboards, Organ, Synthesizer (in band: 1977 - 2000)
Wilko Johnson - Backing vocals, Guitar (in band: 1980 - 2000)
Steve Monti - Drums (in band: 1990 - 1998)
Gilad Atzmon - Saxophone (in band: 1998 - 2000)
Dylan Howe - Drums (in band: 1998 - 2000)
Rock & roll has always been populated by fringe figures, cult artists who managed to develop a fanatical following because of their outsized quirks, but few cult rockers have ever been quite as weird, or beloved, as Ian Dury. As the leader of the underappreciated and ill-fated pub rockers Kilburn & the High Roads, Dury cut a striking figure -- he remained handicapped from a childhood bout with polio, yet stalked the stage with dynamic charisma, spitting out music hall numbers and rockers in his thick Cockney accent.
Dury was 28 at the time he formed Kilburn, and once they disbanded, conventional wisdom would have suggested that he was far too old to become a pop star, but conventional wisdom never played much of a role in Dury's career. Signing with the fledgling indie label Stiff in 1978, Dury developed a strange fusion of music hall, punk rock, and disco that brought him to stardom in his native England. Driven by a warped sense of humor and a pulsating beat, singles like "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick," "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll," and "Reasons to Be Cheerful, Pt. 3" became Top Ten hits in the U.K., yet Dury's most distinctive qualities -- his dry wit and wordplay, thick Cockney accent, and fascination with music hall -- kept him from gaining popularity outside of England. After his second album, Dury's style became formulaic, and he faded away in the early '80s, turning to an acting career instead.
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.
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), 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. Although it was banned by the BBC it was named Single of the Week by NME on its release. The single issue was soon followed at the end of September, by the album New Boots and Panties!! which, although it did not include the single, achieved platinum status.
New Boots and Panties!! is the debut album by Ian Dury, released in the UK on Stiff Records on 30 September 1977. Usually thought of as the first album by Ian Dury and the Blockheads (his backing band from 1977 to 1982), the album is credited solely to Dury as the Blockheads were not officially formed until Stiff's 'Live Stiffs' package tour the month after its release, and two members of the Blockheads do not play on the album.
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 not 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 first 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 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.
The Blockheads briefly reformed in June 1987 to play a short tour of Japan, and then disbanded again. In September 1990, following the death from cancer of drummer Charley Charles, they reunited for two benefit concerts in aid of Charles' family, held at The Forum, Camden Town, with Steven Monti on drums. In December 1990, augmented by Merlin Rhys-Jones on guitar and Will Parnell on percussion, they recorded the live album Warts & Audience at the Brixton Academy.
The Blockheads (minus Jankel, who returned to California) toured Spain in January 1991, then disbanded again until August 1994 when, following Jankel's return to England, they were invited to reform for the Madstock! Festival in Finsbury Park; this was followed by sporadic gigs in Europe, Ireland, the UK and Japan through late 1994 and 1995. In the early 1990s, Dury appeared with English band Curve on the benefit compilation album Peace Together. Dury and Curve singer Toni Halliday shared vocals on a cover of the Blockheads' track "What a Waste".
In March 1996 Dury was diagnosed with cancer and, after recovering from an operation, he set about writing another album. In early 1998 he reunited with the Blockheads to record the album Mr Love-Pants. In May, Ian Dury & the Blockheads hit the road again, with Dylan Howe replacing Steven Monti on drums. Davey Payne left the group permanently in August and was replaced by Gilad Atzmon; this line-up gigged throughout 1999, culminating in their last performance with Ian Dury on 6 February 2000 at the London Palladium. Dury died six weeks later on 27 March 2000.
The Blockheads have continued after Dury's death, contributing to the tribute album Brand New Boots And Panties, then Where's The Party. The Blockheads still tour, and are currently recording a new album. They currently comprise Jankel, Watt-Roy, Gallagher, Turnbull, John Roberts on drums, Gilad Atzmon and Dave Lewis on saxes. Derek The Draw (who was Dury's friend and minder) is now writing songs with Jankel as well as singing. They are aided and abetted by Lee Harris, who is their 'aide de camp'.
1. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 339-340 Thomas Erlewine
2. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Dury3. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Boots_and_Panties!!
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