28th June 2003
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Diagnosed with polio at the age of seven, Dury progressed through art college and took up a teaching post at the Canterbury School of Art. He began playing pubs and clubs with Kilburn and The High Roads, writing ditties such as Billy Bentley and Upminster Kid. An album, Handsome followed in 1975 but the Kilburns split leaving the remainder to form The Blockheads.
Dury and the Blockheads signed up with the Stiff label and released the acclaimed debut album New Boots and Panties (1977). This featured Dury’s witty and incisive lyrics on numbers such as Wake Up And Make Love To Me. Dury also scored a big hit with the innuendo-laden Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.
The eagerly anticipated second album Do It Yourself (1979), was written during a hectic touring schedule which included appearances with Elvis Costello and in the US, Lou Reed.
Do It Yourself featured the stream of consciousness single Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)’.
In 1980, Wilko Johnson stepped in to become a Blockhead after the departure of Chas Jankel, and Dury released the LP Laughter.
A change of label to Polydor, a reunion with Jankel and a new album Lord Upminster, recorded with Sly and Robbie, prompted fresh enthusiasm. This was marred slightly by the lack of airplay afforded Spasticus Autisticus, intended to mark the Year of the Disabled in 1981.
Following the release of the 1984 album 4000 Weeks Holiday, Dury turned his attention to acting, taking on roles in Roman Polanski’s ‘Pirates’ and Peter Greenaway’s ‘The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover’. Dury went on to pen a musical called ‘Apples’ in which he starred as a tabloid hack.
In 1990, the death of long serving Blockhead Charley Charles prompted a reunion tour. Encouraged by the positive response, Dury returned to writing lyrics for The Bus Drivers Prayer and Other Short Stories (1992). The title track was famed for being a secular version of the Lord’s Prayer based around London bus routes.
Dury retreated from the music scene but in 1998 announced his battle with cancer. Undaunted by his illness, Dury teamed up with the Blockheads to record the album Mr Love Pants.
The album met with a favourable response from critics and fans alike and Dury embarked on an autumn tour.
A renewed high profile continued with a UNICEF trip to Sri Lanka to promote polio vaccination. More live dates were planned in 1999 but Dury’s illness prompted some to be cancelled. Dury’s health deteriorated and he died in March 2000. He will be sadly missed.
Ian Dury performed:
To find out more about the other bands on the show, click below.