19
Aug 08

IAN DURY AND THE BLOCKHEADS – “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”

FT + Popular132 comments • 10,576 views

#432, 27th January 1979

What is the relationship between the charts and everything else? The charts are a show home for pop music, filled with its shiniest mod cons, but one stuffed with hidden doors and tunnels, records that can tumble you out of pop and into other worlds which have their own codes and rules and no cosy countdown to set things in order. And in those other worlds – some of them, anyway – the charts are a sunlit palace of temptation, but to step (or be plucked) into it is to risk having your life and art and the world it came from turned higgledy-piggledy.

Every so often a door between the palace of pop and one of these other worlds opens so wide that every visitor can’t help but notice it and the walls between what’s mainstream and what’s not suddenly seem very thin. “Double Barrel” is one of them, so you could argue is “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”. So is this: it promises a sharper, smarter, more dangerous place than Number One hits generally admit you to.

This wasn’t a fluke, either, a canny act taking advantage of the January lull: it sold close to a million copies, a megahit in an era of them. “Rhythm Stick” is the sound of a band well aware that they’ve written a smash, and pushing themselves to make the delivery count. There isn’t a wasted note or fluffed decision on the track, but the whole thing comes off as wonderfully simple – a darting, jabbing groove designed to seduce even the most stand-offish of blokes onto the dancefloor, and a superb backdrop for Dury’s amazing performance.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Ian Dury – like a lot of highly quotable songwriters, he works best for me quoted. But on “Rhythm Stick” he makes every word count, caressing the line-end “-o” and “-an” sounds, wheezing and gasping through the chorus, then kicking off on the coda as the guitar shrieks him on. This is one of the first number ones where the hip-hop concept of “flow” really seems relevant: riding a rhythm, racking up bonuses with multi-syllable combos. 

Like “Y.M.C.A.”, this is an ostensibly inclusive lyric, celebrating the universality of dancing (or screwing), but there’s also something mocking, even sinister about it: check the promo clip of Dury onstage, surrounded by darkness, blinking, contorting, urging the dance on but always apart from it. That goblinoid malice doesn’t come across so fully on record – “Rhythm Stick” got to No.1 because it was infectious and jolly as well as demented and sardonic – but it’s there.

The distance, as much as the playful aggression, might make this one of the most laddish dance records. It’s never beery or off-putting, though: there’s just a thread of cheek to it, which if followed might lead you quite out of pop and into some very rum places. Though just then the top of the charts was as rum a place as any. The people who didn’t fit in anywhere were getting their chance not just to make, but to define pop music: interesting times ahead.

9

Comments

  1. 1
    Tom on 18 Aug 2008 #

    Bah! I was going to publish this tomorrow morning and had it all nice and saved and ready to go, but it turns out (Alan alert!) that if I put my “score” and “date” etc. fields in and save that it shows up on the reviews index page even though I hadn’t published it.

    So there you go – an early one.

  2. 2
    Erithian on 19 Aug 2008 #

    The 87th best-selling single in the UK up to 2002, and a cracker – takes me right back to struggling to school during the Winter of Discontent, where strikes had prevented the fuel supply to the school and one morning we actually sat there in our coats as the odd wisp of snow came in through a hole in the roof. Eee, they don’t know they’re born today.

    Dury was a real hero of mine, warts and all. The “Told To Fuck Off By Ian Dury Club” is not a small one – it includes a drinking buddy of mine as well as Chaz Jankel (in fact these were virtually the first words Ian ever uttered to Chaz, backstage at a Kilburn and the High Roads gig). But many members of said club attended Ian’s funeral. As Richard Balls’ biography said, not many funerals include a singalong, a punch-up and a four-star review in the Guardian.

    Now, you don’t get many bands where the bass player is the main attraction (non-singing bass players, that is, for anyone about to throw Phil Lynott, Sting or Suzi Quatro at me) (actually you can throw Suzi at me, I wouldn’t mind). Go to a Blockheads gig and the undoubted man of the match is Norman Watt-Roy. A lot less hair than back then, but flamboyant and a jacket soaked with sweat by the end of the night – and of course he plays THAT bassline to “Rhythm Stick” amongst many other tours de force. He’s also credited with a thumping bassline to a mega-hit single that was number one some five years later, of which more when we get there.

    The Blockheads are still touring (http://www.theblockheads.com/live.php) playing Clacton this very Saturday and a traditional pre-Christmas gig in London, with Phill Jupitus as occasional guest. The old favourites plus some strong new material – do yourself a favour.

  3. 3
    DJ Punctum on 19 Aug 2008 #

    “You know, Marcello,” my music teacher said to me in response to the Evan Parker record I had just played her, “the new Ian Dury single has passages very similar to that.” And didn’t I just know it.

    Dury has at least one thing in common with Kate Bush, for it is impossible to categorise him. New wave? He was three years older than Rod Stewart. The inevitable cross-breeding of post-prog pub rock and non-idiomatic improvised music? How does that fit in with “Sweet Gene Vincent”? A music-hall comedian with inklings towards Brecht? An avant-garde performance artist with traditional loves and passions? He was truly sui generis, and as a stage performer, as a theatrical musician, or a singing actor, his only serious competitor in the ‘70s was his great friend Alex Harvey; stricken by polio, he made no attempt to conceal it in concert – indeed he exploited it, used his stick as both weapon and seducer, hunched up confidentially around his microphone; and his aura was so effortlessly summoned that it all worked beautifully. Furthermore, he had sufficient resources of inherent cool to base an entire song (“Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”) not only on an Ornette Coleman record, but on a Charlie Haden bass solo on an Ornette Coleman record (“Ramblin’”)!

    He rose from the Walthamstow Art College of the early ‘60s, besotted by Bridget Riley and Wee Willie Harris and Christopher Nevinson and Ornette Coleman; he was a sometime participant in the mould-breaking improv music/theatre group The People Band, several of whose members ended up in his pre-Blockheads band Kilburn and the High Roads, and one of whom, saxophonist Davey Payne (who came in for George Khan in the High Roads), remained as crucial a mainstay in the Blockheads as Dury’s writing partner, guitarist/keyboardist Chaz Jankel.

    With the Blockheads there was funk and soul as well as vaudeville and white noise, the whole of which united with transgressive brilliance in 1977’s New Boots And Panties!! It isn’t an accident that for many of my contemporaries – Simon Reynolds included – their love of music was sparked by this record; its long chart residency gave it the title of “the New Wave Tubular Bells,” though it was simultaneously above punk and the truest punk rock there had ever been. The gorgeously languid jazz-funk ripples of “Wake Up And Make Love To Me” blend with great naturalness with the matter-of-fact lyric and delivery. “Billericay Dickie” is avant-garde Max Miller, chirpy but cautious and always on the point of detonation. “My Old Man” is a very touching autobiographical portrait of his dad. “Sweet Gene Vincent” moves between and blurs the two poles of grief and celebration as few tribute songs have managed. “Blockheads” is a furious, rabid rant culminating in a freeform post-Eno/Mackay duel between Payne’s sax and Geoff Castle’s Moog. “If I Was With A Woman” foresees Jankel’s “Ai No Corrida” but climaxes with a Terry Riley minimalist vocal pinch. And you should have seen the look on my mum’s face when she walked into my bedroom just as the intro to “Plaistow Patricia” – “ARSE-HOLES-BAS-TARDS-FU-CKING-CUNTS-AND-PRICKS!” – made itself known. As with Escalator, it seemed that everything I liked about music in 1977 was in there somewhere.

    So it was with “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick,” and I can think of few more deserving number ones. It sees Dury and the Blockheads at the peak of their saturnine game. Lyrically it isn’t much beyond an inventory of places and races around the world who like to get off on the confluence between sex and dance represented by its title, but there are so many lovely touches: the furiously ecstatic bilingual switching from French to German, the smiling restraint of the verse next to the franticity of the choruses (“It’s nice to be a lunatic,” “Two fat persons, click click click”) and Dury’s phenomenal vocal performance, alternating between langourous cool (the emphasis he puts on the “Bom” in “In Bombay” to meet Mickey Gallagher’s upward-rippling piano stroke) and just-past-rational orgasm (the Glaswegian “HUT MEEE!” towards the end, and his call and response with Jankel’s hysterical guitar, his “Hit me”s become progressively more feral).

    And the music – that wonderful quivering organ sustenato throughout, the abrupt high-register piano clusters, the oooohhh spine-descending tingle of Norman Watt-Roy’s bass in tandem with Charley Charles’ crisp, Meters-inspired drumming (a natural British counterpart to what Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson were achieving contemporaneously in Chic) – all leads to, climaxes in and leads away from Payne’s astonishing sax torrent, all Barbieri squeals and Ayler atonal flurries. Eventually Payne is left alone with the drums and rhythm with a sustained false register two-note tenor overblow, before a whistle blows, and he blows both alto and tenor simultaneously, in an explicit tribute to Roland Kirk before merging back into the music (on TOTP he continued to blow bubbles out of a pipe for the remainder of the performance).

    Uncompromised free improvisation on a number one record, and my improv-sceptical classmates dancing to it at the Valentine’s Day school disco – is it any wonder I rejoiced? The Blockheads would subsequently prove itself a group sufficiently broad stylistically to incorporate both Wilko Johnson and Don Cherry within its line-up, and Dury went on to become a rock Kerouac and Spencer of sorts; not in terms of any direct influence, but because of a similarly natural ability to rise out of and away from artistic categories and be completely and comprehensively true to himself, yet so open to everybody and everything else. “Rhythm Stick” hitting number one – and that summer’s follow-up, the top three hit “Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3” with its Adriano Celentano and John Coltrane namechecks – gave me the feeling that Our Side was winning, and that the so often unpromising arena of the British singles chart could still harbour unexpected magic. Ten out of bloody ten.

  4. 4
    Mark G on 19 Aug 2008 #

    And,

    Like Sparks bloke with the hitler moustache, one of those artists your great aunt remembers even today.

    It has to be a ten? Isn’t it?

  5. 5
    rosie on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Nothing new under the sun again. His brand of Jack-the-Lad rock ‘n roll goes back to the late sixties and early seventies: Kilburn and the High Roads was a staple of the weekend Union gigs at Liverpool. It probably has Max Miller as its godfather and its roots go way back to the Victorian music hall. So, new wave it is not. I can’t see it as punk either but I won’t object if others argue the toss.

    But Ian Dury was a true original. A kind of walking, singing Viz comic, pushing all the buttons of outrage with quite astonishing inventiveness and ending with a wink and a look of boyish blue-eyed (I haven’t a clue what colour Dury’s eyes were but you know what I mean) innocence that made me want to take him home and cuddle him. There are Dury songs I like a lot better than Rhythm Stick – just about the whole of New Boots and Panties for starters. But it was radio friendly. Can you imagine DLT playing Plaistow Patricia on the morning show? Traffic chaos would ensue for certain. Dammit, I like the B-side better – There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards, one of those cases of a relatively innocuous A-side covering up for a more contentious B-side? I like What A Waste more. But Rhythm Stick remains a damned good song.

    I’m a fan, in case you hadn’t guessed. My middle name is… Oh, sorry. The man is a sadly lost national treasure.

  6. 6
    Mark G on 19 Aug 2008 #

    You have, indeed, nailed Ian Dury’s broad appeal.

  7. 7
    a logged out p^nk s lord sukråt wötsit on 19 Aug 2008 #

    “a rock Kerouac and Spencer of sorts” <– stanley? (first of all i thought edmund then haha i thought frank)

  8. 8
    DJ Punctum on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Yes – Spencer with a C for Cookham.

  9. 9
    CarsmileSteve on 19 Aug 2008 #

    can’t really say more than tom and marcello have to be honest, an absolute classic, but i wanted to draw people’s attention (particularly anyone in edinburgh) to a fantastic show i saw on the fringe:

    http://www.myspace.com/abfcap

    it’s a two-hander between dury and spider telling the tales of dury’s life. yer man playing dury is excellent. thoroughly recommend it (i’m guessing it might tour later in the year too).

    and yes the title of the play is ABFCAP (as in the initials of the first line of plaistow patricia)

  10. 10
    mike on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Well, in a way that wonderful Barney Bubbles pic sleeve is the first clue: that the ground is fundamentally shifting, that certain key characteristics of chart pop are mutating, and that a whole new vista of as yet untapped possibilities are opening up. For just as we prepare to bid farewell to those cheerfully corny NUMMER EINS TIP-TOP SUPER-HIT IN GROSSBRITANNIEN! import sleeves at the top of each entry, so we prepare to welcome – for better and for worse – an altogether more visual, more design-led, more themed approach to the pop single.

    Forget the false dawn of “Rat Trap”; for me, the success of “Rhythm Stick” was, as Marcello says, a sign that Our Side were indeed taking over. As such, it marked a clear staging post, heralding the true start of not only my all-time favourite year for pop, but also the start of a whole new Golden Age, both for pop in general (unquestionably matching the glories of 1964-67 and 1972-74), and for me personally. For from this point on, and for several years to come, I felt that that much of the best pop was capable of precisely representing me – my generation, my outlook, my emotions, my concerns – and that I was a fully-fledged member of its natural constituency. (I’ll let you know when and why that Golden Age came to an end in the fullness of time, but suffice it to say that it won’t be for a long time yet.)

    Simultaneously with this glorious upswing in the charts – an upswing which had been heavily hinted at during 1978, and which was now starting to bear full fruit – a similarly major upswing started to take place in my personal life. Simply put, I began to get my shit together: gaining confidence, making friends, having adventures, “re-inventing” myself, as I dubbed it then and still view it now. 1979 was a year of fun, friendship, excitement and experimentation; of major milestones; of massive changes. I started the year as a nervous, fearful, virtually friendless, deeply immature 16-year old schoolboy; I ended it on the threshold of stepping out into the real world, beyond the cloistered confines of my Canbridge boarding school, making independent choices, earning a real wage, tearing up the past and beginning an unguesssable new chapter.

    A month or so earlier, with “Rhythm Stick” still climbing the charts, I saw Ian and the Blockheads in North London (Shepherd’s Bush Empire, was it?), supported by Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias, Humphrey Ocean & the Hardy Annuals, and a surrealist puppet show. Discounting various school bands, it was only my third gig – and coming after the disappointments of the first two (including being stuck behind a concrete pillar in the back corner of Earls Court for Bowie’s Stage tour, an experience which put me off arena gigs for the next decade), the Blockheads’ magnificent two and a half hour set came as a revelation. To this day, and even allowing for the novelty of the experience at the time, I have rarely heard any band play so wonderfully well together (drummer Charley Charles particularly standing out in my memory). And what excitement – again rarely matched since – to hear my favourite single in the charts being played while it was still actually in the charts!

    This, my friends, is where it all begins again: with a rasping misfit genius backed by the finest players in the land, right at the top of their game, performing what is quite possibly my favourite Number One single of all time. 1979, best year ever, bring it on!

  11. 11
    wichita lineman on 19 Aug 2008 #

    I wish I liked Dury more and hate to sound contrary, but a blend of pub rock and jazz funk with squawking sax to the fore is close to my idea of hell. This and What A Waste felt like jolly novelty records at the time to 13-yr old me, not much more, like (shoot me down for this heresy) a smarter BA Robertson. I did like the Theme From A Summer Place coda on Reasons To Be Cheerful, though.

    A Stiff 45 at number one certainly was a breakthrough for “us” but there’s something far more groundbreaking, for me at least, just round the corner.

    I must say that now we’re going through a period that everyone (bar Lex, any others?) can remember, the scores are going through the roof. This is tough on the non-contextual write-ups/scores on the earlier number ones, but pretty hard to avoid I suppose.

  12. 12
    Tom on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Context plays a part of course, but fear not WL, I am keeping a very close eye on the scoring, even though you’ve disagreed with the last two. :)

  13. 13
    wichita lineman on 19 Aug 2008 #

    I don’t disagree with the changing of the guard aspect of HMWYRS, though; as if to emphasise a great leap forward, in the same Top 3 was RAK’s last throw of the dice, Lay Your Love On Me by Racey. Apparently – I’m snaffling this story from another Popular contributor, so apols! – Racey were put together as a replacement for Mud, who had left RAK for Private Stock and to have a go at writing their own material (well, you can’t blame them with Rob Davies on the team). Bit of a time lag, but it does seem obvious when you know. Their hit in the spring of ’79, Some Girls, is pure Les Gray.

    Lay Your Love On Me is Tiger Feet redux. I sniggered along with Rhythm Stick as a kid and sneered at the vertically-challenged Racey singer with the permanently upturned collar (is this cool? Is it?). But I now much prefer the fairground organ, party noises (I’d like to think RAK were picking up on the early Sugarhill 12s), and expertly honed pop fizz of Lay Your Love On Me.

    Both hits appeared on K-Tel’s Action Replay along with a US no.1 that didn’t bother the charts here, even with a TOTP appearance – Nick Gilder’s Hot Child In The City. Beyond that it was almost a straight New Wave/Disco split: Supernature, YMCA, I Love America, Radio Radio, Hanging On The Telephone, Tonight’s Drummer Man. And in classic K-Tel fashion, it ends with Streetband’s bread-strike hit Toast (featuring a singer we’ll deal with some years hence) segued into Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman’s rather sweet Stumblin’ In.

  14. 14
    Conrad on 19 Aug 2008 #

    An absolute 10. A true classic and some of the most gorgeously fluid bass playing this side of What’s Going On.
    NW-R always reminded me of Jamerson with his constantly moving and bubbling runs, although it seems unfair to single out one great performer on a record bestowed with wonderful performances.

    As for the man himself, posts 3 and 5 capture his unique appeal perfectly.

  15. 15
    Billy Smart on 19 Aug 2008 #

    This scared me as a six-year old, whilst other children found it funny. I think that it was the clearly foolhardy and masochistic nature of asking to be hit above and beyond anything else. And the leeringness and roughness of Dury’s voice – always present as a threat even during the gentle and light passages – made him seem the sort of grown-up whom children should steer clear of. Even then, the music struck me as being exceptionally good, though, I think.

    Now, of course, it sounds like the best pop you could desire; the most rooted in lived experience, while transcending through imagination. Murk and gaiety!

    A word of praise for 1979’s ‘Do It Yourself’ Blockheads LP, which always tends to be neglected in the towering shadow of ‘New Boots’. Blocks of songs which crash into each other, a ceaseless funk, always becoming a greater and greater compounded experience for the listener, a sense of the world becoming more and more manic and lurching, through the nasty testosterone swagger of ‘Mischief’, the breakdown and desolation of the ‘Screamers’ Dance’ and finally reaching some sort of consolation with ‘Lullaby For Frances/is’. That’s not an album that you can possibly ignore when it’s playing.

  16. 16
    Martin Skidmore on 19 Aug 2008 #

    I saw Dury live on his first couple of headline tours – he was maybe the most entertaining front man I’ve ever seen, a stellar performer whose roots seemed to have more to do with music hall than rock ‘n’ roll. He was completely irresistible, funny and lovable. Having said that, this is a rare old favourite that I have wearied of a little. Can’t place why, exactly, but it would be down to something like an 8 for me.

    As for his placement, he felt part of what was termed ‘new wave’ – in the early punk days, Stiff were at the centre of that, and he was far from alone in having older pub-rock roots. Nowadays, it’s not so easy to distinguish what this sounded like from other rock, but genres aren’t solely about sonics. Within a few years, I was more inclined to think of him alongside someone like Kevin Coyne or even Ivor Cutler, other eccentric and inventive distinctly British national treasures like that.

  17. 17
    Jonathan Bogart on 19 Aug 2008 #

    wl@11: I don’t suppose I’ll ever count as being able to remember, as these charts are not my charts, and this is as much an exercise in exoticism for me as it is a trawl through pop history. Though I was only a year old at this point anyway.

    From the distant perspective of this side of the Atlantic, Ian Dury’s appeal is, shall we say, muted. I’ve enjoyed him on occasion, but the outpouring of affection above is making me want to revisit NB&P!! at least and see if I can tease out a bit more to like.

  18. 18
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 19 Aug 2008 #

    it’s interesting nearly everyone reaches — accurately yet somehow also vaguely — for the “music-hall” pigeonhole

    the element of menace in dury’s music — including this song — is much more (i think) the present-day jazz side of what he does: an element rare to the point of invisibility in UK number ones after c.1960 (and even before this, this present-dayness was distinctly backward-looking)

    tom calls it goblinloid and that catches some of it, i think: a song that opens up vistas down towards capering figures, bright in dark tunnels, where you suddenly realise these tunnels thread through all music, and all the plain ground and walls of ordinary pop

    multiculturalism in this group had a sinisister, thrilling, pirate-crew joy to it — not the defensive blandness of bureaucratic inclusivity, but a glimpse of spaces where the excluded somehow get along with each other fine, and YOU’RE the one left out, a timid overgrounder

  19. 19
    lonepilgrim on 19 Aug 2008 #

    loved this at the time and still do – it did feel as if the lunatics were taking over the asylum – particularly as it was on stiff.
    Was the album Do it yourself a bit more hardcore? I seem to remember loads of people buying it on the strengths of the singles and then seeing loads of copies in second hand shops pretty soon after.
    I think a 9 is about right because it is almost so self consciously clever that it resists the sense that anyone could access it in the way that, for instance, they could with the Beatles or Abba at their best. It reminds me of ‘Do the strand’ which with it’s globe trotting name dropping has a similar arch cleverness.

  20. 20
    admin on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Tom – i’m on the ‘unpublished popular’ post issue…

    SHOULD BE FIXED NOW.

    (As a test I added popular scores etc to an old unpublished post and it doesn’t show up in the list.)

  21. 21
    Erithian on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Jonathan #17 – it’s great to see people enjoying the exoticism, and there’s plenty more of that to come this year. While revisiting NB&P!!, try searching out Dury’s swansong “Mr Love Pants” – not 100% consistent but some belters, in particular the very angry “Itinerant Child” which picks up where the Levellers left off. As I remarked to a friend at the time (Dury already had terminal cancer) – you don’t know what you got till it’s gone, but sometimes you get enough notice that it’s about to go so that you can treasure it while it’s still here.

  22. 22
    Billy Smart on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Re:21. See also Simon Gray, recently. Making sure that everybody knows that you are dying is an effective and sensible way of getting a decent reappraisal.

  23. 23
    mike on 19 Aug 2008 #

    #21 – Well, quite. It was partially the knowledge of Dury’s declining health that coaxed me into seeing him and the Blockheads a second time, towards the end of the 1990s – and what a show that was, with the irrepressible Norman Watt-Roy vyeing with Ian as the true star.

    I must get around to revisiting Do It Yourself, which I didn’t buy at the time as there were plenty of other copies floating around at school. It didn’t contain any singles – which although admirable, failed to prolong its shelf life – and despite wonderful tracks such as “Sink My Boats”, there couldn’t help but be a sense of general anti-climax after the glories of New Boots.

    Undaunted, the band bounced back with “Reasons To Be Cheerful”: the first ever rap hit anywhere, and given Chaz Jankel’s musical connections, presumably made in the knowledge of the newly emergent genre….?

  24. 24
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 19 Aug 2008 #

    if memory serves — i haven’t owned nbap for an age, and only ever heard the follow up in friends’ flats, never owned it — diy is actually a lot LESS hardcore and raw*, closer more of the time (musically if not lyrically) to chaz jankel-esque jazzfunk

    *my friends who preferred it were quite taken aback by punk, which of course — being a year-zero tosser — i rather held against them: they loved dury’s gifts as a writer, and liked them better in a less confrontational setting (if i’m remembering properly)

    haha “harold hill from harold hill”

  25. 25
    LondonLee on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Another very appreciative nod to the great Barney Bubbles sleeve from me. I have no idea what that thing is – it always looked like a deconstructed Cubist Dalmation turned into a kids toy – but it’s one of those sleeves that seems to come from a brain I couldn’t hope to touch for wit and invention. I’d say exactly the same about the record too, with this and the New Boots album they really hit the magic sweet spot. Maybe “only” a 9.5 from me though.

    A great b-side to boot, one of my favourite lyrics ever

    Van Gogh did some eyeball pleasers
    He must have been a pencil squeezer
    He didn’t do the Mona Lisa,
    That was an Italian geezer

  26. 26
    Billy Smart on 19 Aug 2008 #

    TOTP Watch: The Blockheads must surely be counted as one of the greatest of TOTP acts ever. Anyway, they performed this twice.

    19 January 1979. Also in the studio that week were; The Olympic Runners, Racey, Frankie Miller, Olivia Newton-John, The Three Degrees and Chic, plus Legs & Co’s interpretation of ‘This Is It’. The host was Peter Powell.

    26 January 1979. Also in the studio that week were; Doctor Feelgood, Doll (the eighties start here!), Judas Priest, Phoebe Snow and Donny & Marie Osmond (eh? The hits had dried up for them three years before), plus Legs & Co’s interpretation of ‘Cool Meditations’. The host was Dave Lee Travis.

    These running orders do indeed make 1979 look like something of a golden age.

  27. 27
    Venga logged out on 19 Aug 2008 #

    #25 – Well deduced LondonLee. All is revealed on the reverse side of the sleeve…

    http://tinyurl.com/5wvd6v

  28. 28
    DJ Punctum on 19 Aug 2008 #

    #24: “Dance Of The Screamers,” though, might be the most extreme thing they ever did – see my recent blog post on the subject.

  29. 29
    a logged-out pˆnk s lord whatnot on 19 Aug 2008 #

    this has come up a teeny bit before — david essex! — but it was definitely a THING in the early days of punk; that at last “we” were throwing off the oppressive cultural imperialism of the american accent in all pop; that only now could we speak in our own accents, about the romance of our own back-streets and strange suburbs

    dury didn’t sing “american” at ALL: and he didn’t sing about mepmphis or tulsa or new orleans; he sang about billericay, plaistow, harold hill! which was all incredibly (if with hindsight rather weirdly) exciting at the time; we have mythology TOO, and it’s RIGHT HERE IN YOUR HANDS ppl

    *goes writes songs about wem and clun*

  30. 30
    mike on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Ooooh, I have to link to the lengthy and copiously illustrated Barney Bubbles tribute post, from whence the image at #27 came (it also credits Popular’s own LondonLee, who supplies photos of the full Armed Forces artwork on a separate linked page).

    http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/?p=1296

  31. 31
    Conrad on 19 Aug 2008 #

    #26, Three Degrees’ Woman In Love would surely have been a Number One at any other time. A great record up against some very stiff competition…(sorry!)

  32. 32
    DJ Punctum on 19 Aug 2008 #

    I’m very glad it wasn’t…I couldn’t stand the record. Cabaret time (unlike its predecessor “Givin’ Up, Givin’ In” which was Moroder-brilliant and didn’t even make the top ten bah!).

  33. 33
    LondonLee on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Re #27

    Oh of course, it’s been years since I looked at the back of the sleeve. What on earth it has to do with the record I don’t know but it works brilliantly.

  34. 34
    rosie on 19 Aug 2008 #

    LondonLee @ 25: It’s called a tangram.

    Good for keeping an unmotivated maths class quiet for, ooh, all of ten minutes!

  35. 35
    SteveM on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Tangramtastic. I did wonder about this sleeve as it seems such a striking leap from the conventional dross we’ve witnessed so far (and another rare case of ‘artists not on the cover’). I wasn’t sure if it was a European edition or not.

    As for the song, 9 one second, 10 the next. I heard it a few years later when I was old enough to remember and instantly enjoyed it. How could you not be amused by Dury’s intonation? And it’s probably the best #1 single to feature hot sax, amongst other things (hard luck Georgios).

  36. 36
    LondonLee on 19 Aug 2008 #

    I know what a Tangram is, thanks.

  37. 37
    David Belbin on 19 Aug 2008 #

    The Blockheads played a free concert in Nottingham’s Market Square a few weeks ago and I went along but, sorry, Erithian, I found it rather depressing. Unlike the late 90’s gig that Mike refers to above when, despite having to be carried onstage, Dury was really rather wonderful. ‘See you next year’ he said at the end, but he was dead within a year.

    I always wanted to like Dury more than I did. I had friends who knew him in the Kilburn and the High Roads days and thought him a genius. I bought all the singles up to the slightly dodgy ‘Spasticus Autisticus’ (still have the 12″ in the loft). This is great, a 9/10 for me, as is ‘Sex etc’, and ‘What A Waste’ gets 9.5 but my personal favourite is a B side (let’s hear it for B sides!) that seems to sum up what’s so great about his approach to life: ‘You’ll See Glimpses’. I think I’ll play it now. It’s on the back of ‘Sueperman’s Big Sister’, a single whose label is a hand-corrected version of Nick Lowe’s ‘So It Goes’ single. ‘They take me for a mug because I smile, they think I’m too out of tune to mind being patronised…. all I want for my birthday is another birthday… this has been got out by a friend.’ One of those records that makes you feel like part of the human race.

  38. 38
    wichita lineman on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Re 29: Mark, pls post those Wem and Clun songs when they’re recorded (hint, you could make a Dury-style mention of Wilf Lunn in the second one).

    Re 32: Agree heartily, couldn’t understand why the fire and vim of Givin’ Up Givin’ In didn’t do better. The 3 Degrees’ indian summer also included The Runner, again (from memory) pretty dark, moody and hard to keep still to. Woman In Love (“I’m not a child, I’m a wo-man, I love yoo-wah” etc) was the biggest hit of the three but too icky for my tastes.

  39. 39
    mike on 19 Aug 2008 #

    I’m still struggling to articulate what it is about “Hit Me” that affects me so much as a piece of music, rather than for what it represents in the wider context of chart pop. And I think it’s primarily to do with what I perceive as the almost dream-like quality of its opening, dominant piano/bass-led riff, coupled with the almost mythical travelogue of the verses. For me, the chorus is where “everybody else” is invited in for a chirpy, cheeky Cockney singalong, as if that was what the song was all about – but for me it’s almost a smokescreen, an entryist device which allows the rest of the track to exist. And it’s within the restlessly undulating contours of the rest of the track that I reside as a listener, shifting over periodically to admit the chorus’s house-guests.

    Dream-like? Un-equipped to play vinyl in my school study, I had this on one side of a home-made C90, which I used to play over and over again as I drifted off to sleep, inventing videos that eventually turned into dreams. And so there’s something here which touches that half-asleep/half-awake state of consciousness, in a way that still cuts deep – allowing me to visualise the music almost as a physical space, which part of me still inhabits. If that doesn’t sound too pretentious…

    I had experienced a similar effect with Rose Royce’s “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” a few months earlier, albeit as a one-off moment. The first time I heard the track was on FM radio one morning, as I emerged from sleep into wakefulness, and so the sparse, haunting oddness of the arrangement – the syn-drums, the rising and falling string shimmers – first took root in my sub-consciousness as I dreamt. I woke up with the strangest sense of wonder at what I literally perceived as its other-worldly quality, and it’s a sense of wonder that I’ve never quite lost over the years. No other piece of music has ever done this to me!

  40. 40
    katstevens on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Re: #11 – there’s still a couple of years before I’m born and a few more before I am pop-aware!

    My first impression of this was a mixture of “hur hur hur he said ‘rhythm stick'” and “blimey he’s a scary man”. Nowadays Ian isn’t so scary but there’s still a fair amount of FNAR going on here. Also I can’t believe that bassline player has any fewer than seventeen fingers! I love the daft piano flourishes and the relatively gentle guitar bibbling, but agree that the saxophone is a bit much. I’d give it an 8.

  41. 41
    Erithian on 19 Aug 2008 #

    #39 – Mike, for someone who’s struggling you do a mighty fine job.

  42. 42
    Billy Smart on 19 Aug 2008 #

    A rare live album that’s genuinely worth hearing is ‘Straight From The Desk’ of the Blockheads live at the Ilford Odeon on December 23rd 1978. The excited audience break the floor during ‘Billericay Dickey’ leading Dury to warn in his introduction to Rhythm Stick;

    “Yoo, You monkeys, You’ve browken the floor! (crowd cheers) Now, ‘avin’ browken it, we don’t want nobody fallin’ down the ‘ole, do we? (crowd cheers) Now we’ve made one! (dirty cackle!) So – if if you can ‘old back a bit from the abyss, ‘cos the first ones to go are going to be those lovely men in blue jerseys (crowd cheers) and they all come from Essex!”

    It genuinely DOES sound like quite a night.

  43. 43
    Lena on 19 Aug 2008 #

    My experience of this song – first hearing it – was quite different to most here, I’m guessing. It’s Sunday night, and I’m allowed (as my parents are watching 60 Minutes) to go to the bedroom and listen to the radio (saving battery power in my own, once a week). What do I listen to? Dr. Demento, of course! He plays all kinds of odd and strange music, creates his own world of the gauche, the giddy, the flat out weird (I grew up in a Mothers of Invention household, so his regular playing of Frank Zappa is merely the baseline of oddness for me). And one night, I heard this song. No explanation where they are from (I knew enough at twelve to know it was an English accent) nor any of how successful the song is back home. Just as I didn’t quite get “Y.M.C.A.” at first, I didn’t quite get this one either, but I understood they were both wide-open enjoyments of the world.

    While the Village People were inescapable, Ian Dury and the Blockheads were only heard on Dr. Demento (though they may well have been on the New Wave-friendly station I had yet to discover). “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” was thus understood by me to be a novelty song along the same lines as The Bonzos (also a Dr. Demento favorite) – funny Englishmen who were great musicians as well, obv. I was amazed to find out a few years ago that this went to #1!

  44. 44
    lonepilgrim on 19 Aug 2008 #

    @ #30 thanks Mike for that link to the Barney Bubbles tribute. I hadn’t realised how many of his sleeves I had loved – particularly the Imperial Bedroom sleeve which until now I had assumed was an original by some Picasso acolyte.

    there is a link to news of an upcoming book on BB in November from that page to this: http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/2008/05/06/reasons-to-be-cheerful-the-barney-bubbles-revival/

  45. 45
    fivelongdays on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Only a nine? Can’t think of any more worthy, cast-iron 10s than this beauty.

  46. 46
    Tom on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Re #18 – “goblinoid” was a fleeting remnant of a Lil Wayne reference I wanted to make but couldn’t quite think how to: the line in “A Milli” where Wayne goes “OK you’re a goon, but what’s a goon to a goblin?” and the word “goblin” is weirdly distorted in a wonderful trapdoor-opening-to-sukrat-town way.

  47. 47
    Tom on 19 Aug 2008 #

    Re #45 (and #19) – my rule of thumb is that if there’s even the slightest doubt in my mind that something’s a 10, then it’s not a 10. That doesn’t mean there’s any kind of flaw I could articulate in it (though this was a less close call than “I Feel Love”, which also had most of the comments box crew in disagreement).

    I think it’s self-consciously clever, sure, but not in an inaccessible or alienating way: I don’t get any sense of side from “Hit Me”, any idea that Dury is sneering at the audience (I think “mocking” in my review hit slightly the wrong note – it’s a bit softer, “teasing” maybe).

  48. 48
    The Intl on 20 Aug 2008 #

    To this day, still my absolute favorite Ian Dury track. I always thought he was kinda hit’n’miss, that people dug him more cuz he was a made-for-punk oddball, shrivelled arm & pervo tendancies intact. His great band certainly helped raise him to another level. I give it an 11.

  49. 49
    Waldo on 20 Aug 2008 #

    One of my personal favourite artists of the period and much missed. Ian Dury was an extraordinary individual with a talent to match and he was very much up my strasse. “Rhythm Stick” was utterly typical of Ian’s offbeat quirky humour, only this time we are also treated to a stupendous backing track as well, which for me sells the record. Each to their own, of course, but I would be surprised if Dury attracted any criticism here, although perhaps his perception as a cockney git may have antagonised one or two people from points further north. He certainly produced some distinctive material and this reflected itself in his albums as well as in his live performances, which began life on the pub circuit as Kilburn and the High Roads. In essence, though, he was a poet and was fabulously funny, ducking no target, particularly the slight matter of his own inconvenience of polio striking him down from early childhood.

    I consider it pretty pointless waxing lyrical (quite literally) about Dury’s contribution to popular culture when the initiated do not require it and the uninitiated are perfectly cabable of doing the research themselves. All I would like to say is that I too consider it a waste never to have been the ticket man at Fulham Broadway station (the underground closest to Chelsea FC), as Ian did in his wonderful “On the Waterfront – I could have been a contender” lament; and that there have indeed ain’t half been some clever bastards and that this wonderful man was one of them. God bless him.

  50. 50
    rosie on 20 Aug 2008 #

    Waldo @ 49: Speaking as one of those for whom Manchester is the poncey south (or more pertinently as one who was taken to Hertfordshire at the age of 11 and was given the most brutal and effective of elocution lessons), there certainly are “cockney gits” that I have always found somewhat grating. It’s one of the reasons that I never really warmed to Marc Bolan, for instance. But Ian Dury never seemed like that to me. Yes, he milked his cockneyness for all it was worth but never in a smugly superior way. Nothing about Ian Dury was smug and that was one of his endearing charms. I’m sure more than one Northerner has heard Billericay Dickie or Clevor Trever and nudged his mate with a knowing wink.

    Another of Dury’s antecedents which I might have mentioned in my earlier post would be the Beat movement of the late fifties and early sixties. Amongst previous Popular appearances, he is kin to the Temperence Seven as much as Lonnie Donegan. He would have fitted in perfectly in the Liverpool cultural landscape of that time – not Merseybeat but the older, more visceral, art-poetry-jazz-theatre scene around Adrian Henri and Arthur Dooley at the Cracke and O’Connors. Londoner Adrian Mitchell was part of that scene, and I don’t know if Mitchell and Dury were friends but it seems hard to believe that they weren’t.

  51. 51
    Malice Cooper on 20 Aug 2008 #

    The preferable version to Paddy and the Bricklayer’s “Hit me with your shovel Mick”.

    I would rate this as one of the most deserved number one records of all time. At first you think it’s a novelty song then you listen to the production and the arrangement and it’s a superb piece of music, moulded with Dury’s amazing vocals.

    It’s one of those “sounds like anyone could do it” but you actually couldn’t.

  52. 52
    Tom on 20 Aug 2008 #

    I almost forgot!

    Infantwatch: Lytton watched scary Ian attentively for a few minutes then got bored and decided to climb onto the table in search of a banana instead.

    Small Tom watch: this one was very popular in the playground and vigorously interpreted, with “rhythm stick” being taken to mean “a fist”, and elements of retaliatory hitting also encouraged.

  53. 53
    LondonLee on 20 Aug 2008 #

    Re: #49

    Ah, but when Ian wrote that line Fulham Broadway tube station was a lovely little place with a grocers and an old-timey barber shop in it (where I used to get a rather severe Number 1 crop). Now it’s some huge shopping centre monstrosity with a Borders and a Virgin.

  54. 54
    mike on 20 Aug 2008 #

    Seems like as good a time as any to link to the immortal Bus Driver’s Prayer – which I recall Ian reciting on Brian Matthew’s Radio 2 Round Midnight programme in the late 1970s, during the course a lovely interview which showed great mutual fondness from both parties.

  55. 55
    DJ Punctum on 20 Aug 2008 #

    Fulham Broadway is my local tube station and I have to say that I find the Borders and Virgin approx. 100000000 times more useful than the old grocery and barbershop. Not much call for a grocery when you’ve got Sainsbury’s, M&S and Waitrose to hand. Also we’ve got a cinema there now!

  56. 56
    Mark G on 20 Aug 2008 #

    He also did the bus drivers prayer on So It Goes, which I have on VHS taped off the telly. (Not the original series, the “they way we were” compilation that aired later)

  57. 57
    LondonLee on 20 Aug 2008 #

    Maybe, but it’s always a shock when you go back home after a couple of years away and find things have changed so drastically. I grew up there and didn’t feel deprived not having three supermarkets to choose from. I’d rather have the little grocery shop to be honest, all those bloody chain stores are destroying the character of London.

  58. 58
    DJ Punctum on 20 Aug 2008 #

    Hmmm…supermarkets which offer everything at reasonable prices and easy access versus crummy old family businesses with squashed Best Before 1971 tins, two flavours of cake and a fiver for one teabag which opened only whenever they could be arsed…from where I’m standing it is, as some say, a flipping (sic) no-brainer.

  59. 59
    rosie on 20 Aug 2008 #

    For all that we have Morrisons, Tesco, Asda, Aldi and Lidl in Barrow, and a Booths (a kind of upmarket Waitrose) just up the road in Ulverston, I’d give anything for a halfway-decent greengrocers. All the supermarkets score over the ol;d-fashioned grocer for the non-perishables, but the fruit and veg in all of them is lamentable in terms of selection, quality and price.

  60. 60
    LondonLee on 20 Aug 2008 #

    Yes, we don’t want any of those pesky local businesses, give me huge faceless corporations destroying the landscape and making all our High Streets looking exactly the same any day.

  61. 61
    DJ Punctum on 20 Aug 2008 #

    Still plenty of fine local shops and businesses for those prepared to trek the extra two or three minutes to North End Road, Lee!

  62. 62
    rosie on 20 Aug 2008 #

    Ah yes, a good street market. That’s one thing I really miss about London.

  63. 63
    LondonLee on 20 Aug 2008 #

    To be honest I always thought North End Road was a bit of a dump. Good fruit and veg stalls though.

    Sorry, but it’s the fate of the expat to bemoan the fact that things didn’t stay exactly the same after he left.

  64. 64
    SteveM on 20 Aug 2008 #

    we’re up to our bibs in indie eco-grocers here in Hackney so i only go to Waitrose or M&S about once a month. there’s lovely.

  65. 65
    Caledonianne on 20 Aug 2008 #

    I was never one of the ‘us’ in the ‘us’ and ‘them’ dichotomy, but I loved this at the time and haven’t changed my mind. Dury was to me a fusion of jazz and story songs, with a voice that was part calming, reassuring Jackanory reader, part Bill Sykes on acid. And all deliciously theatrical – in a resolutely un-luvvie way.

    HMWYRS just throbs with possibilities, wit and swagger, and somehow swirls you away into a vortex of unmediated music. I find it enveloping in a way quite distinct from any other record I know. I think this is the last Number One record I really love.

    To Mr Caledonianne’s then five year-old son, this was “Hit me with your riffing stick”, which we rather liked.

    Not too sure about the Capital One ads, but I suppose we were just about to enter into the reign of the Wicked Witch from Grantham/Finchley, and the Capital One chappie was one of Lord Levy’s public-spirited philanthropic Bliar donors who had Yates of the Yard on the Number 10 door, so it all makes perfect sense.

    A 10 from me.

  66. 66

    […] and read up there on it all. Just wanted to call it to everyone’s attention again thanks to this absolutely stellar entry from the other day on Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ “Hit Me With Your Rhythm […]

  67. 67
    thevisitor on 21 Aug 2008 #

    This is genuine speculation rather than anything that resembles actually knowing – but wasn’t Chaz Jankel much of the reason for the Blockheads’ ineluctable funkiness? Reading his name mentioned here reminded me of having seen the video to his single Questionnaire on (I think) Saturday Superstore and the chorus to that song came galloping back to me. Thanks to the power of GEMM, I managed to find myself a copy of his eponymous album. iTunes don’t have it, but here’s a youtube link for the audio:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8adu_dH74M&feature=related

    Shamefully, I didn’t know, prior to looking it up the other day, that he co-wrote and performed Ai No Corrida before Quincy Jones did it a year later.

  68. 68
    Waldo on 21 Aug 2008 #

    Re Fulham Broadway station – Not surprisingly, I’m with Lee on this. Back in the day of “Rhythm Stick”, when Chelsea were utter shite and ping-ponging between Divs One and Two, the station was just that, a typical District Line heap with a footbridge and nothing else other than the aforementioned barber and grocers. Dury’s ticket man oftentimes took the wise option and simply stood to one side and let the lads file through, particulary if we were playing West Ham, District Line travellers also from the other side of Earls Court. A hold up would have meant carnage. Nowadays, as Lee says, the station is a mini mall and occasionally-returning expats are bound to disapprove. Mind you, I have more than once utilised the neighbouring David Lloyds Centre since, so my squawk is probably not as loud as Lee’s.

    Rosie#59 – Ulverston. Stan Laurel?

  69. 69
    DJ Punctum on 21 Aug 2008 #

    I’ve never understood why North End Road gets such a bad press. Admittedly being tortured by Saddam’s henchmen would be just about preferable to having to live in Clem Attlee Court but I like its grittiness which nicely balances the ponciness of the Broadway end of Fulham. As Lee says, an excellent fruit n’ veg market, also plenty of good butcher’s shops, a fine used furniture market, a couple of good Italian caffs and some ace charity shops. There’s a Somerfields there as well but nobody’s perfect. Plus 2-3 minutes’ walk away there’s a hidden gem of a used record shop, Broadway Records on Dawes Road.

  70. 70
    rosie on 21 Aug 2008 #

    Waldo @ 68: The very same! 5 Argyle Street, complete with plaque and house opposite called ‘Laurel View’ despite no Laurus nobilis in sight.

    I recently made up a “Made in Lancashire” compilation for a friend in the US, with On The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine as a coda. I wonder if she gets it.

  71. 71
    Erithian on 21 Aug 2008 #

    David (#37) – I wonder if the Blockheads’ free gig was depressing precisely because it was a free gig and people turned up just expecting to hear the hits? I’ve seen them in the Jazz Café and they were terrific live, with new material going down well with those committed enough to pay to see them – and of course “Sex and Drugs” etc being riotous.

    There was a poignant sketch on a BBC comedy show a while back in which Ralph McTell plays “Streets of London” at a gig then starts another song and the audience goes “Nah, play Streets of London again” – ad nauseam. I do wonder what it’s like to be an act that has to play the same couple of songs over and over again.

  72. 72
    DJ Punctum on 21 Aug 2008 #

    But enough about Stereolab…

  73. 73
    rosie on 21 Aug 2008 #

    Erithian @ 71: Ask Francis Rossi!

  74. 74
    Waldo on 21 Aug 2008 #

    Or Janis Ian.

  75. 75
    CarsmileSteve on 21 Aug 2008 #

    erithian@71 that would be BIG TRAIN, with The Actor Kevin Eldon playing Ralph.

  76. 76
    LondonLee on 21 Aug 2008 #

    Re: 69

    You’re right about North End Road, as someone who comes from the Aintree Estate and spent a lot of time as a kid hanging around the Clem Atlee those are what I point to when people say Fulham is a poncey place full of chinless wonders. It’s not all estate agents and wine bars (which sounds a bit 80s, what’s the current equivalent of the wine bar? The Gastropub?)

    I used to buy all my Northern Soul records from Broadway Records when they were based just off the actual Broadway, opposite where the Golden Lion was. There used to be a Beggar’s Banquet record shop on North End Road too.

  77. 77
    David Belbin on 21 Aug 2008 #

    Erithian (71), you’re right, to some extent. I think there was an element of the ‘this is free so it must be crap’ to my not enjoying the Blockheads, but I liked Ranking Roger’s Beat (who followed them) more, despite their playing only hits (and one or two dodgy covers) that fitted Roger’s voice, thus avoiding the songs that made The Beat great (eg most of ‘Wh’appen’ + ‘I Confess’). I think what was particularly depressing was the audience in Nottingham’s Old Market Square that day. They were, with only a couple of exceptions, people I never see at gigs, who were there because of the act and because it was free. My generation, I fear – late forties to mid fifties – and looking decidedly knackered, as did the band on stage. Another afternoon, at a decent festival, and I might have liked the set more. But it all felt rather old.

  78. 78
    brandon_r on 21 Aug 2008 #

    I tried playing the bassline to “Rhythm Stick” the other night. Those rapid fire 16th notes wreaked havoc on my plucking fingers. I cannot believe how tight–yet full of soul–that rhythm section is.

    The first Ian Dury song I heard was from my father’s vinyl copy of New Boots and Panties!! He loved to sing along with the line “What happens next is private/And also very rude” from the opening track.

  79. 79
    pink champale on 21 Aug 2008 #

    my three year old is generally fairly uninterested in music that isn’t about trains or farmyard animals but since i bought a brilliant two cd ian dury best of a few of weeks ago (yours for a fiver in fopp) he’s developed something of an obsession with “that funny man” and happily spends hours looking at the picture of him on the front cover while listening. as you’d expect, hmwyrs is his favourite (i generally spare him “fucking ada”) and he finds it mind bogglingly comical that a grown up sings “hit me!” even though hitting is naughty. the first time he heard it, his reaction to the saxophone solo was an excited “…and this must be a mouse!”.

    my main memory of this from childhood is unwisely singing it while walking home from infants school and having my then best friend hit me over the head with a stick of rock – which i guess it a pretty british experience when you think about it.

    one thing i love about the song that i don’t think anyone has mentioned yet is the way it starts – it always sounds to me like the groove has already been going for ages and the listener suddenly walks in on it.

  80. 80
    Matthew K on 22 Aug 2008 #

    Is it just my imperfect recollection of their grooves, or could you crossfade this with the end of Blondie’s “Rapture” seamlessly?

  81. 81
    DJ Punctum on 22 Aug 2008 #

    YES! I tried this in my student disco days and ideally both are in the same key with the same bpm!

  82. 82
    Caledonianne on 22 Aug 2008 #

    #74 Waldo!

    No, no, no, no, no! In the ten or so times I have seen Janis Ian live, “At Seventeen” (while always present) has never been the highlight – or the focus of anticipation. I think that’s been true for the audience as a whole, not just for me.

    I think the back catalogue (400+ songs) is so strong, and the core audience so loyal she could skip it, and three-quarters of the audience wouldn’t mind.

  83. 83
    Lena on 22 Aug 2008 #

    At one point Ian says something in German and I don’t know what it means. Does anyone here know?

  84. 84
    Mark G on 22 Aug 2008 #

    Well, twice:

    Das ist Schon, = “That’s lovely/beautiful”

    Ist es nicht = ‘Isn’t it?”

  85. 85
    SteveM on 22 Aug 2008 #

    he says ‘ich liebe dich’ and ‘das ist gut’ too no?

  86. 86
    Waldo on 22 Aug 2008 #

    #82 Anne!

    And there was me thinking that she only had one song! Oh, well, that’s me telt!

  87. 87
    Erithian on 22 Aug 2008 #

    Two at least Waldo – “Fly Too High” shoulda been a monster.

  88. 88
    Mark G on 22 Aug 2008 #

    I was getting my Schon mixed up with my gut.

  89. 89
    DJ Punctum on 22 Aug 2008 #

    And “Society’s Child” for that matter.

  90. 90
    LondonLee on 23 Aug 2008 #

    I picked up Janis Ian’s first two albums dirt cheap on vinyl the other week, thinking she was a bit of coffee shop folky I wouldn’t have bought them but noticed they were produced by Shadow Morton of The Shangri-Las fame and thought “well, this might be interesting…” and they were great, especially the very first one with “Society’s Child”.

  91. 91
    Waldo on 23 Aug 2008 #

    Pssst! Anyone like to win a few quid?

    On Sunday the Olympics finish and on Monday, the US Open starts at Flushing, the final Slam of the year. Waldo, Popular’s very own tennis action news reporter, with all the news that is news, suggests a Nadal/Serena Pasa Double. As a (roughly) 10/1 bet, the value is there and is clearly worth risking a fiver or one of Rosie’s cats.

    I’ll be risking a wee bit more. Bon chance, pop pickers!

  92. 92
    Chris Brown on 24 Aug 2008 #

    Yeah, I can’t argue with this one at all, except to be a pedant and point out that the label credit is just Ian & The Blockheads (anyone know why?). In fact, having just pulled the 45 out of the varchive to double check that, I couldn’t resist playing it.
    One reason I’m glad to be the age I am is that I had the opportunity to love this song as a child, and yet adulthood hasn’t put me off it at all. It’s very much to Dury’s credit that he was able to reflect the childlike so (apparently) effortlessly.

    @79 – very well said about the start. And I love the ending too. I don’t recall the remixes being much cop though.

  93. 93
    intothefireuk on 5 Sep 2008 #

    ‘What A Waste’ was excellent – fluid jazzy bass & sinewy synths sounding something like the theme from a TV detective series before Dury’s trademark menacing Lahndan whisper/growl enters the scene. ‘Rhythm Stick’ notches up the funk and adds atonal sax and more vocal histrionics and is immense fun. It felt like sticking two fingers up to the pop establishment – ok it wasn’t punk but Dury was suitably defiant, dishevelled, angry etc. to ruffle a few feathers. It’s still probably a better ‘punk’ no1 than the Rats sorry effort. And that bassline……

  94. 94
    Mark G on 5 Sep 2008 #

    Did Waldo’s wager pay off?

  95. 95
    DJ Punctum on 5 Sep 2008 #

    Well Rafael and Serena are both through to the semis, so it’s still on.

  96. 96
    Waldo on 5 Sep 2008 #

    Yep, Rafa plays Murray, who has been magnificent all tournament. There’s not a doubt in my mind that the US Open is the Slam he will win one day. Not this year, hopefully.
    Serena’s looking unstoppable, having stuffed Venus, as I strongly supposed she would.

    I’m still hopeful I’ll collect but still a way to go yet.

  97. 97
    Waldo on 8 Sep 2008 #

    Well, what do you know about that? Waldo’s tennis bet shot down in flames by friendly fire and Waldo is on bread and cheese for the rest of September. And Rosie is down one cat. Serena duly delivered but Nadal is soundly thumped by the fabulous Murray who now meets Federer for the Championship.

    Let us make things clear. This victory was no fluke against a ring-weary Rafa. This was a merit win against a top-form number one and nothing else, Murray bettering him on ground strokes from the baseline during lengthy rallies, something which seemed unthinkable to most of us. Nadal did nothing wrong at all. Murray was magnificent and he is clearly already the best player Britain has ever produced.

    10pm tonight, then, for the final. If he does it (and for once I’m predicting nothing) he surely would be a shoe-in for Sports Personality of The Year, which would be harsh on Chris Hoy, who would have to be content with 2nd place and a Knighthood.

  98. 98
    Pete on 8 Sep 2008 #

    Murray stumbles on the Personality side of that equation. I thought we had already given it to Rebecca Adlington for liking shoes.

    Interesting that the Brits does not have a Pop Personality of the Year award, which would allow pop stars who have consistently entertained without necesarily releasing barnstorming albums their moment in the sun. One would think Ian Dury may bave been up for it on a few occasions.

  99. 99
    DJ Punctum on 8 Sep 2008 #

    New Boots And Panties was on the album chart forever so there’s a fair chance Dury might have bagged that prize in ’78 had the Brits been going then.

  100. 100
    rosie on 8 Sep 2008 #

    Waldo @ 97: Tosca says to tell you to leave her out of it.

    Didn’t the boy Murray done good!

  101. 101
    Waldo on 8 Sep 2008 #

    Sorry, Rosie but my bookie, Jimmy the Swede, will be up to collect her at 3pm today.

  102. 102
    Erithian on 8 Sep 2008 #

    Don’t forget that originally “Sports Personality of the Year” laid the emphasis on the sport rather than the personality – it’s not a question of “having personality” but “being a personality” (the Aussies would call it “an identity”). So it should go to the greatest UK sporting achiever of the year regardless of whether you think they’re a miserable git. If Murray and Hamilton both deliver it’ll be very difficult this year.

    “Best player Britain has ever produced”? That’s contentious Waldo – making the usual necessary allowances for fitness levels, training regimes and racket technology, would you still place him above Perry’s 8 grand slam wins or whatever it was?

  103. 103
    Mark G on 8 Sep 2008 #

    I remember Ian Dury getting some sort of award from Sue Lawley, back in the day.

    “Oy, Basher! Alright?” he yelled. To Nick Lowe, not one of the bouncers…

  104. 104
    Erithian on 8 Sep 2008 #

    Dury also met Sue Lawley when he did “Desert Island Discs”. I don’t recall the exact exchange but he was talking about his polio in the context of “Spasticus Autisticus” and Lawley commented, “It’s a good story and you tell it well…” – he retorted that it wasn’t a story, it was his life. Can’t quite recall whether there was real tension in the exchange or not – anybody else hear it?

  105. 105
    DJ Punctum on 8 Sep 2008 #

    That would have been the Nationwide Rock And Pop Awards, and I can’t remember at this late stage whether these morphed into the Brits or whether the Brits were something different altogether.

  106. 106
    DJ Punctum on 8 Sep 2008 #

    Lawley really was hopeless on Desert Island Discs; she never seemed to listen.

  107. 107
    mike on 8 Sep 2008 #

    #105: No, the Brits are a re-branded continuation of the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) awards.

  108. 108
    DJ Punctum on 8 Sep 2008 #

    What were the ones that were presented by DLT and pre-TV-AM Anne Diamond and Kate Bush won everything?

    According to Wikipedia the BPI awards started in ’82 and the first improbable host was David “Hello Thaar” Jacobs.

  109. 109
    Mark G on 8 Sep 2008 #

    I remember two in a row where The Police won Best Group or Alltime group or something the first year, and got it awarded from some bloke who rattled off some speech about how it was great that all that punk rubbish was gone, to the obvious embarrassment of Stingie. Oh, and the bloke had a red setter dog on stage with him.

    The following year was more professional, Rob Dicken gave the final speech, and I was “Thank god that bloke with the red setter is gone OH NO THERE HE IS!!”

  110. 110
    mike on 8 Sep 2008 #

    The man with the dog was Maurice “Obie” Oberstein, a CBS big-wig who died in 2001. I think that award ceremony marked the last public appearance from The Police until their recent reunion tour, although they didn’t actually perform on that occasion. Indeed, there was an unspoken assumption that the award was already posthumous – which no doubt added to the band’s embarrassment.

  111. 111
    DJ Punctum on 9 Sep 2008 #

    Well that Federer/Murray final wasn’t exactly an all time classic.

  112. 112
    Waldo on 9 Sep 2008 #

    Indeed it was not, Marcello. 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 and all over in less than two hours. This is infuriating for me personally, having watched him out-Nadal Nadal only to see him go all girlie in the final. Admittedly he was disadvantaged in having to endure a sleep-over with Rafa, whilst Federer had a day off but here the excuses end. Great tournament for Murray, nevertheless and almost as an afterthought, let’s applaud Roger for his 13th Grand Slam, only one behind Sampras now with a couple of good years left in him to equal it at least. One of the greatest sportsman of our lifetime and such a nice guy, with a girlfriend who looks like his wife and not his secretary.

    Erithian # 102 – I stand by what I say, whilst accepting your point re fitness and equipment. I, in fact, would go further. If Fred Perry (c.1936) turned up today, he would be soundly trounced by any modern top woman. The sisters would just out-hit him and I’d love to see the look on Fred’s boat when Ivanovich or Sharapova wiggled onto court…

  113. 113
    DJ Punctum on 9 Sep 2008 #

    I imagine such fantasies helped keep him buoyant in his declining years.

  114. 114
    Waldo on 10 Sep 2008 #

    They certainly do, buddy!

  115. 115

    […] Tom Ewing’s freaky trigger, which reviews every UK chart-topper since 1952 and ranks “Stick” as #432 — a more, um, sophisticated and musically informed take than my own. Comments galore. (hat tip […]

  116. 116
    Ashley Pomeroy on 14 Oct 2008 #

    This is one of the earliest pop songs I remember, along with “Cars” and “Walking on the Moon”. As a child I always assumed that he was singing “hit me with your ribbon stick”, and that a ribbon stick was a stick with a ribbon on the end, and that the song was somehow rude. Why would adults hit each other with sticks? Ian Dury vanished from my life until he died. YouTube has some old live performances on “Revolver”, which are splendidly funky. You can divide people into two kinds; those who say “ian jury” and those who say “ian dew-ree”.

    No, that’s it – a few years later he contributed vocals to a computer game called “Deus Ex Machina”. It was an ambitious rock opera, and there is a bitty picture of Ian Dury in the opening credits. In retrospect I think, as a child, I always mixed him up with Madness, even though he had nothing to do with Ska. I reckon he might have been a good subject for a Look-In comic strip, nestled between Adam Ant and Dangermouse, but with the swearing taken out.

    I wonder how many copies this sold in the US? Was he a complete unknown over there, or an underground novelty from the land of Monty Python and Benny Hill?

  117. 117
    Mark G on 14 Oct 2008 #

    “Deus Ex Machina”

    Jon Pertwee! Frankie Howerd! Ian Dury!

    A stoner classic, true…..

  118. 118
    Erithian on 23 Apr 2009 #

    And what links Dury to Martin Hannett, Ian Brady, Einstein and Gollum?
    http://www.filmstalker.co.uk/archives/2009/04/ian_dury_biographical_film_gai.html

  119. 119

    death and drugs and rings and time

  120. 120
    swanstep on 17 Apr 2010 #

    I’ve heard HMWYRS all my life but never really given it much thought – never really listened to it – until recently, when I noticed for the first time what the bass guitar was doing. Holy f***ing s***. I then get on line and, of course, it’s one of those widely-discussed Everests that every bass-player has to try to climb at some point! Then I find out that Norman Watt-Roy also provided the bass samples for Two Tribes and Relax. Suddenly the whole 1979-1984 pop period, which I thought I knew pretty well, sounds a little different to me.

    Anyhow, I enjoyed Tom’s essay and reading everyone’s comments. This is truly a great left-field #1 isn’t it? For me its musical ferocity and strangeness looks forward a bit to Ghost Town and also Underworld’s Dirty Epic, but also back to The Doors’ Light my Fire (not sure I can explain that one, but that’s a connection I make so I thought I’d toss it out there). 9+(note to self to listen, really listen to more Dury).

  121. 121
    Conrad on 18 Apr 2010 #

    Swanstep, the bass playing is wonderful isn’t it? If you haven’t checked out James Jamerson’s work before, have a listen to Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Was Made To Love Her’ for a fine example of the fluid, bubbling bass style that NW-R’s nimble fingers bestow on Hit Me…an Everest not reachable to most mere mortal bass players.

  122. 122
    swanstep on 19 Apr 2010 #

    @conrad. Thanks for the tip, I’ll definitely check that out.

  123. 123
    wichita lineman on 23 Apr 2012 #

    Something I wrote on sweet Gene Vincent (the man, not the song) on my blog: http://croydonmunicipal.blogspot.co.uk/

  124. 124
    Brendan on 25 Sep 2012 #

    Again, coming late to the party, everything’s been said. As a 7 year old I was more amused by the concept of being hit by a rhythm stick and all those strange namechecks, many of which I’d never heard of before. Later I was able to appreciate the music too, which, with its blend of funk and free jazz clearly set this apart from any other number 1. However, the ‘novelty’ aspect of it has always remained in my mind so for that reason I can only give it a 9.

  125. 125
    Lazarus on 25 Sep 2012 #

    Waldo called it at #96 there!

    One of Dury’s titles has outlived him by a decade: the phrase ‘reasons to be cheerful’ (and variants – tearful, fearful etc) appears in the press on a regular basis. Saw it twice in Times headlines a couple of weeks back.

  126. 126
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 25 Sep 2012 #

    Ditto “sex and drugs and rock and roll”, at least as a formula to vary.

  127. 127
    Erithian on 10 Jan 2013 #

    The most appropriate place, I think, to note the very sad news that sometime Blockhead Wilko Johnson has been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. As with Dury, however, he’ll have a swansong – a farewell tour which (let’s hope) will be a great experience for all and a fond leave-taking/thanksgiving.

  128. 128
    hectorthebat on 30 Jul 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Michaelangelo Matos (USA) – Top 100 Singles of the 1970s (2001) 101
    Gary Mulholland (UK) – This Is Uncool: The 500 Best Singles Since Punk Rock (2002)
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Theater van het Sentiment, Radio 2 (NL) – Top 40 Songs by Year 1969-2000 (2013) 32
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)
    Village Voice (USA) – Singles of the Year 1
    New Musical Express (UK) – Singles of the Year 12

  129. 129
    Larry on 21 Nov 2014 #

    I’ve enjoyed the discussion of pro tennis and London food stores (and some great music criticism)

  130. 130
    Andrew Farrell on 23 Nov 2014 #

    #127 – Also an appropriate place to note that he’s survived it, to everyone’s surprise including his own!

  131. 131
    Neil C on 2 Apr 2016 #

    Exploring the UK#1 archives via Popular made me realise that this song has never failed to lift my mood, send a thrill down my spine and grab my attention for the full 4 minutes. I can’t think of another chart topper that sounds anything like it.

    The band are playing out of their skin, aren’t they? The bass, piano and the sax “non-solo” are what always grab my attention, but listening back now I’m noticing the wonderful shimmering organ for perhaps the first time – what a difference it makes! The globetrotting lyrics are terrific fun, with Ian Dury’s none-more-committed performance lifting them from the great to the sublime (although I can’t help thinking he sounds a little tired in the final verse). What with this, Sex and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll, Wake Up And Make Love With Me, and Reasons To be Cheerful Pt 3, this is one artist I really, really need to explore further.

    A nailed-on TEN.

  132. 132
    Gareth Parker on 8 May 2021 #

    Great fun, always makes me smile this one. Ian would get an 8/10 from me.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)

Required

Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page