Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hidden 'Gems' On My MP3 Player: #5 - Ian Dury



"And I'm Ian. And guess what? Oi! I wanna be straight!"

What's left to say about Ian Dury? Not much, especially if you've read the excellent biography by Richard Balls. The man wasn't a song writer, he was a poet of the highest order, creating unique rhymes within the framework of music. He should have been made the Poet Laureate or given a knighthood for his services to poetry while the chance was there, such was his talent.

I have several Dury songs on the MP3 player and all are classics. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll. The totally un-singable Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part III (and if you think I'm joking then just try to sing it, it's probably one of the best songs ever of it's type and flows with with rhyming slang that borders on tongue twisting of the highest order). There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards. Sweet Gene Vincent. The list is long and distinguished (now what movie uses that line and has someone answer back, "And so is my johnson."? I can't quite recall) and all of them are pure heaven on a memory stick.

Ian was yet another artist in the Stiff label and you could argue that he was the best they ever had. Madness came close, yet without Ian Dury I doubt you'd have Madness, and if you doubt me just listen to songs by both acts and you tell me what you think. When it comes to that kind of music and the Stiff label in particular Ian Dury was indeed the chicken and those that followed were the various eggs that he left. Other became bigger (Madness) had longer careers (Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Elvis Costello) but I doubt that any have influenced as many people as what Ian Dury did. In fact the only thing that used to frustrate me as a child was his albums. I'd buy or borrow them only to find that he didn't include his singles - his albums were all new creations and if you found a hit on one it was usually a re-issue or a mistake. Looking back I can see that this was a stroke of genius - you bought the single, now buy the album and keep them both. Brilliant!

Why did I pick this song? Trust me, it was hard to settle on just one song but I'm thinking that I'll go for one per artist (if possible) or seriously, this series will feature someone like Dury for a good month or more and that'd get a tad boring and appeal to few (as opposed to being appalling to all) and I'll eventually cover some stuff that came out this century, so fret not. Back to where I was, why this song over the rest? Because I love it? Because when I was a kid the entire household used to walk around singing (screaming?) the chorus out at the top of our lungs? Because everyone knows Rhythm Stick and they've forgotten this one? Get out some darts and take your pick. At the end of the day it all comes down to something very simple - I just love this song, from the opening lines through to the end. It's a classic example of Ian at his most commercial and still he remains witty and inventive. It's the kind of song that he could produce with his eyes shut, plus that is one damn bizarre video, showing that the song wasn't so much about drugs but more about mental illness (you work it out). It's an anthem that people still sing today, well those in the know do anyway.

It was a sad day when we woke up to find that Ian had died. I got the same empty feeling from that as I did when I woke up and discovered that Joe Strummer had decided to put those Clash reunion rumours to rest for good. People might go, but through their music they remain immortal.

Now, sing loudly and drunkenly after me: "Straight, straight, oh wouldn't it be great!"

*No cheese here, just pure sonic and visual enjoyment. And to 'Cheese Factor' is a commentary on the actual videos and not the music. I love these songs with a passion, it's just that some of the videos for them are cringe worthy. For a good example of a cheesy, kitsch video, just watch Jona Lewie's Louise. The Cheese Factor has nothing to do with the quality of the artist, nor of the sonic enjoyment I gain from listening to this stuff, however some videos just crack me up each and every time.

If only someone can tell me how to download these videos from that site then I'll be a happy boy indeed!