One Year On, Ian Dury and ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’

I shared my first pandemic-related post (called Blindsided) this same weekend last year and since then there have been many, many more. I’m glad I have documented all the ups and downs (mainly downs to be fair) of the past 12 months as I no longer keep a paper diary, so in the future it will be interesting to look back at this time and remind myself of how it all played out. Doesn’t really fit the remit of this blog however, which was always supposed to be a nostalgic journey through the tracks of my years.

Does this happen to other music bloggers I wonder – Do you run out of songs to write about and find that your blog has inadvertently veered into new territories? Of course we could never run out of songs per se as we are exposed to tens of thousands of them (more?) in the course of our lifetimes, but only so many really resonate with us and have an entertaining, personal story attached. That’s when the idea of creating ‘a series’ becomes appealing, as you have a theme to anchor you, and I’ve loved the ones I have shared so far. None of my recent ideas have worked out though, for various reasons. The Solar System in Song was supposed to take over from the Full Moon in Song, but once you get past Mars and Venus there is little left to work with (songs about Uranus anyone?).

So, I have done a bit of tidying up around here this week and got rid of all the draft (daft?) ideas that didn’t turn into anything. I have a clean slate to work on, which is quite appealing. I am aware my regular Saturday blog post has turned into a bit of a web-diary affair with an appropriate song thrown in, which I’m still fine with, but I think I really need to get back to revisiting the tracks of my years in some shape or form. Watch this space as they say.

Talking of web-diaries, nothing much to report this week other than that my poorly ankle continues to improve, after the tumble caused by a pesky pothole. I even went to the supermarket yesterday with Mr WIAA which was the first time I’ve ventured out since it happened. I’m never quite sure how fastidious most shoppers are about social distancing, but with my foot in a boot, I certainly got lots of distance as I navigated the aisles. It seems a physical manifestation of benign ill-health is easier to deal with, when it comes to social distancing, than a potentially lethal invisible virus, and there lies the problem I suppose.

But this is a music blog and I have actually been experiencing a bit of an earworm this week, caused by something heard on the radio. I had just finished reading the David Hepworth book Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars and particularly enjoyed the chapter on Ian Dury. He first formed a band in 1971 and although he didn’t actually sing, but rather spoke his lyrics, by 1978 he was one of the most successful acts in the country. Omnipresent around the Christmas of that year was Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. When it came on the radio this week I was reminded just how great it still sounds, with no less than two saxophone solos (one of them on two different saxophones!). Ian wrote the lyrics in his usual rhyming style, and Chaz Jankel was responsible for the music, which features an impressive bassline.

Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick by Ian Dury and the Blockheads:


Watching this footage of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, I am also reminded of just what a great performer he was. Despite contracting polio at the age of seven, which resulted in the paralysis and withering of his left leg, shoulder and arm, he didn’t let it get in the way and adopted a distinctive pose at the mike stand. It is no surprise he also became an actor, appearing in many films throughout the ’80s and ’90s. He sadly died at the age of 57 in 2000, but his legacy lives on through his son Baxter Dury.

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I realise I have just tagged on a song by someone who had a disability after describing my temporary disability. This is pure coincidence I can assure you. There is no doubt however that Ian’s journey through life was informed by his experiences, his lyrics often exploring the place of disabled people in what he called ‘normal land’ (Spasticus Autisticus).

As for me, if I am to carry on with this blogging malarkey for a while yet, I will have to up my game I think and try to get back to what it was all supposed to be about. I may have got rid of all the daft drafts, but I still have my ‘spreadsheet of ideas’ tucked away in the recesses of my computer. Time to look it out again perhaps.

Until next time…

Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick Lyrics
(Song by Ian Dury/Chaz Jankel)

In the deserts of Sudan
And the gardens of Japan
From Milan to Yucatán
Every woman, every man

Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me! Hit me!
Je t’adore, ich liebe dich
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me slowly, hit me quick
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

In the wilds of Borneo
And the vineyards of Bordeaux
Eskimo, Arapaho
Move their body to and fro

Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me! Hit me!
Das ist gut, c’est fantastique
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
Hit me with your rhythm stick
It’s nice to be a lunatic
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

Hit me! Hit me! Hit!

In the dock of Tiger Bay
On the road to Mandalay
From Bombay to Santa Fé
Over the hills far away

Hit me with your rhythm stick
Hit me! Hit me!
C’est si bon, ist es nicht
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
Hit me with your rhythm stick
Two fat persons, click, click, click
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me
!

Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!

Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me! Hit me!

Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me!
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and “Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3”

I have returned to this post to do a bit of drastic editing – It had ended up being the vehicle for a bit of a rant but it did get a tad too personal, so time to right that wrong. My rant was basically about how, for reasons outwith my control, my life has changed so much since this time last year when my blog was celebrating its first birthday – It has now just celebrated its second birthday, and has become a labour of love, but it does seem to have become one of the few constants in my life at the moment which is a bit worrying.

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A Birthday Badge from the WordPress people

Any regulars to this place know that last year, after a drastic reorganisation at my workplace, I decided to leave for pastures new. That has turned out to be a bit more challenging than anticipated as I now also have an elderly parent to look after and certain age-related illnesses are fraught with logistical and financial challenges. It prompted me to search for songs about such situations and it turns out there are several – Here is a beautiful one with really touching lyrics written by Elvis Costello about his grandmother, Veronica.

After pontificating about all sorts of other issues which covered the muddled state of Social Care for older people, the soulless environment of the modern day office, student debt, the housing crisis and a dearth of youngsters taking up trades, it occurred to me that I should instead think of things to be cheerful and upbeat about. Life could be so much worse, it’s just that I’m feeling a bit aggrieved at how things have changed so much since this time last year – All part of life’s rich tapestry I suppose. One 1979 song that is chock-full of reasons to be cheerful is, obviously, Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3 by Ian Dury and The Blockheads.

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3 by Ian Dury and The Blockheads:

Some great lines in this song and listening to it again just now, they have all come flooding back. Here are a few that I think scan the best.

Health service glasses, gigolos and brasses.

Elvis and Scotty, the days when I ain’t spotty.

Take your mum to Paris, lighting up a chalice,
Wee Willie Harris….

I have always had a soft spot for the cartoonish character that was Ian Dury. He had a tough start in life having contracted polio at the age of seven but his wonderful lyrics combining lyrical poetry, word play, observation of everyday life and character sketches have produced some quintessentially British songs. The Blockheads‘ sound came from its members’ diverse musical influences, which included jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, reggae, and Ian Dury’s love of music hall. I remember well being blown away by Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick when it came along just before Christmas 1978, during my first year at University. Back in school, it was only the boys who knew about Ian Dury, now there was no escaping him. Sadly Ian died when he was only 57, but he has left us with a colourful back catalogue of songs and his many film roles mean that you just never know when he might pop up on telly next.

So, “What’s It All About?” – Life can be a bit sh*t sometimes but we just have to weather the storm and make plans for when things get better. My favourite pastime at the moment is to go to the cinema as for a couple of hours you are offered up a slice of escapism, with no phone to disturb you. My second favourite thing is my blog, another place to escape, and a labour of love. I read a lot of the comments left yesterday on Rol’s site by JC, The Vinyl Villain – In one of them he mentioned that blogging is a vocation and I get that now. There is no money in it but I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to. I had thought I should go on hiatus for a while but I see now that blogging is indeed therapy and I need that right now. Time to conjure up a few more of those reasons to be cheerful perhaps – Any suggestions for Part 4?

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3 Lyrics
(Song by Ian Dury/Charles Jankel/David Payne)

Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed?

Reasons to be cheerful, part three
1, 2, 3

Summer, Buddy Holly, the working folly
Good golly, Miss Molly and boats
Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet
Jump back in the alley and nanny goats
Eighteen wheeler Scammells, Dominica camels
All other mammals plus equal votes
Seeing Piccadilly, Fanny Smith and Willie
Being rather silly and porridge oats
A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it
You’re welcome we can spare it, yellow socks
Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty
Going on forty no electric shocks
The juice of a carrot, the smile of a parrot
A little drop of claret, anything that rocks
Elvis and Scotty, the days when I ain’t spotty
Sitting on a potty, curing smallpox

Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three

Reasons to be cheerful, part three, verse two

Health service glasses, gigolos and brasses
Round or skinny bottoms
Take your mum to Paris, lighting up a chalice
Wee Willie Harris
Bantu Steven Biko, listening to Rico
Harpo Groucho Chico
Cheddar cheese and pickle, a Vincent motorsickle
Slap and tickle
Woody Allen, Dali, Domitrie and Pascale
Balla, balla, balla and Volare
Something nice to study, phoning up a buddy
Being in my nuddy
Saying okey-dokey, sing-a-long a Smokie
Coming out of chokie
John Coltrane’s soprano, Adie Celentano
Beuno Colino

Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three

What about a, what about a, what about a, what about a,
What about a, what about a, what about a, what about a,
What about a, what about a, what about a, what about a,
What about a, what about a what?

Yes, yes, dear, dear perhaps next year
Or maybe even never
In which case…

Woody Allan, Dali, Domitrie and Pascale
Balla, balla, balla and Volare
Something nice to study, phoning up a buddy
Being in my nuddy
Saying okey-dokey, sing-a-long a Smokie
Coming out a chokie
John Coltrane’s soprano, Adie Celentano
Beuno Colino

Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, part three
Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three