There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards

In March 2000 the group Madness acted as pallbearers at Ian Dury’s funeral at Golders Green crematorium. Ian Dury and his band the Blockheads had their first hit single in 1978. It was called What A Waste

When he was seven years old, Ian Dury contracted polio in the 1949 epidemic. Dury was so ill that the doctors did not expect him to survive. He spent two months in an isolation hospital and lived to tell the tale. There then followed two years of painful physiotherapy. The polio left Dury paralysed down the left hand side. This next song is called Inbetweenies, from Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ second album, ‘Do It Yourself’, released in June 1979…

After an unhappy grammar school education, and now a teddy boy who worshipped Gene Vincent (Vincent had been left severely lame following a car accident), in 1964 Ian Dury went to Walthamstow College of Art, where he was taught by Peter Blake. This next track is called Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3. Released in 1979, Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3 got to, yes, number 3 in the UK singles chart. The song apparently captures Dury’s earlier, carefree days at Walthamstow College of Art…

In 1970, at the grand old age of 29, Ian Dury formed his first band, called ‘Kilburn & the High Roads’. However, they didn’t have much commercial success and disbanded in 1975. Dury’s next band, the Blockheads, got caught-up in the new wave phenomenon of the late 1970s. By this time, Dury was well into his thirties and with a paralysed leg and arm seemed an unlikely punk rocker. However, Ian Dury and the Blockheads became very popular and had a run of hit singles during 1978 and 1979, most of which I’m featuring here. This next track is by far their most successful single. It’s called Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, released in 1978, it got to number 1 in the UK singles chart….

When the 1970s ended so did the Blockheads run of success. Ian Dury’s brief time at the top was over. During the 1980s, Dury’s song output dropped to almost nothing. One notable exception being Spasticus Autisticus in 1981. Later in the 80s, Dury began to get parts in tv and film dramas. In 1996 he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Dury died in March 2000 at the age of 57. In an obituary the Guardian newspaper called him “one of few true originals of the English music scene”. A Times obit praised Dury’s “Swiftian satirical streak” and acknowledged his “lasting place in the corpus of the English popular song”. This final song is called There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards. Released in 1978, it was the B-side to Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards is one of my favourite Ian Dury songs…

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