Ian Dury was one of my heroes.
He had an attitude, but more than that he was good.
Some people have got attitude but not much else.
Some people are good at what they do, but dull.
I like it when people have got an attitude but can back it up.
People like Mohammed Ali, Brian Clough, Paul Arden, Charlie Saatchi.
When they break, or even ignore, the rules and get away with it.
One of the things that made Ian great was his lyrics.
These rhymes shouldn’t work, but they do.
Some of them are ungrammatical, bad English.
Some of the words aren’t even real words.
But they work.
He ignores the rules and gets away with it.
That’s what I love.
Try this verse from ‘Billericay Dickie’.
“Had a love affair with Nina
in the back of my Cortina.
A seasoned-up hyena
could not have been more obscener.
She took me to the cleaners,
and other misdemeanours.
But I got right up between her
Rum and her Ribena.”
Or this from ‘Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards’.
“Einstein can’t be classed as witless.
He claimed atoms were the littlest.
When he did a bit of splittingness:
frightened everybody shitless.”
Or, from his play ‘Apples’, a prison warden singing to a convict.
“Locked up in your flowery-dell,
got everything you need?
You’re on our list,
We’ll tuck you up.
We’ll fuck you up.
We’ll make your kidneys bleed.”
One day he showed me some lyrics he hadn’t even worked into songs yet.
One line I’ll always remember.
“Cruise with me down carnality canal in my canoe, while we canoodle.”
Just one line, how great is that?
Ian loved Harry Champion, one of the all-time great lyricists.
Working in the music halls in the 1920s.
In those days there wasn’t any radio, or TV, or the internet to spread your songs.
Your songs either caught on with people straight away, or the songs just died.
And everyone learned Harry Champion’s songs so they could sing them.
Look at lyrics like this, and you can see where Ian Dury was influenced.
This is ‘Cover It Over Quick Jemima’
“While working on a building site I tore me corduroys.
Soon I was surrounded by a crowd of girls and boys.
Me wife she brought me dinner round and had a fright because
I shouted as I showed her what a nasty tear it was…..”
“Cover it over quick Jemima,
Cover it over quick.
Put me dinner upon the ground,
while you’re making me trousers sound.
I’ll catch cold if you’re more than half a tick.
The dog’ll be off with me little mince pies,
so cover it over quick.”
In fact, Ian even called his daughter Jemima, after that song.
She was a lovely girl and very well brought up.
She went to a surprisingly posh school.
I once asked her what it was like at school having a rock star for a dad.
In cut-glass tones she said, “Well it can be a bit awkward when one’s friend’s fathers are Air Vice Marshals and Rear Admirals, and one’s own father’s just released a record beginning, “Arseholes, bastards, fucking cunts, and pricks.”
You have to grow old, but you don’t have to grow up.