Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Top 102 Albums⁺ No 41 New Boots and Panties

Top 102 Albums⁺ No 41
New Boots and Panties - Ian Dury and the Blockheads

It shouldn't work but it does. Music Hall funk with barrow loads of winks and more nudges than a pinball hall. George Formby rewritten by a cockney Shakespeare - performed by a boot boy Kenneth Williams?

Dury made the quotidian quotable. His vocabulary seems quite simply his own, streetwise, earthy and funny. The album opens with Wake Up and Make Love to Me, starring an early morning hard on - "a gift to womankind." After "a proper wriggle" it gets "private and also very rude." Yes, this is an album that goes all the way.

The second song is a paean to Sweet Gene Vincent, the rocker who had been left with a pronounced limp by a motorbike accident. This must have felt like a connection to Dury as polio left him with a limp. The songs starts slow and tender (Shall I mourn your decline with some Thunderbird wine and a black handkerchief? I miss your sad Virginia whisper, I miss the voice that called my heart) before shifting gears into a musical hommage to Vincent, but one that never comes close to verbal hagiography. Dury doesn't mind his heroes having feet of clay. He wouldn't be interested in any who didn't, you feel. He kicks out with his own.

I'm Partial to Your Abracadabra is another adult love song, with Ian continuing to refer to his penis the third person. This is the song from which the boots and panties are extracted and casts Dury as a more lyrical James Brown.
"I'm partial to your abracadabra
The unforeseen erogenous zones
Stop, it insists
Slap it with your wrists
It likes it when you leave it alone"
 Get on up!

Then we get My Old Man, a heartfelt song to his father, who had died in the late sixties but had spent much time apart from Ian working abroad. The song gives a (very) potted bio of his dad and how they were starting to talk and get to know each other when death intervened.
"Seven years went out the window
We met as one to one
Died before we'd done much talking
Relations had begun
All the while we thought about each other
All the best mate, from your son"

We then move on to Billericay Dickie, who along with Clevor Trevor, the Blockheads and Plaistow Patricia form a quartet of vivd grotesques painted in vivid cockerknees up style. At times he almost breaks into Sid James guttural laugh.
"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"

The opening of Plaistow Patricia revels in its uncompromising use of the vernacular, listing word graffitied on council flats where our heroine on heroin lives.  "ARSEHOLES, BASTARDS, FUCKING CUNTS AND PRICKS." Music hall euphemisms and virulently real tragedy are made sit side by side in Dury's songs.

The album ends with Blackmail Man, where the music ups its punk quotient as a nod to the time when this was released. They didn't need to pay any notice of the times, this album is in a time of it's own and if you haven't fallen to it's charms before let Dury and the Blockheads seduce you and bruise you. (Although the Blockheads were only formed to take the album on the road, most of them play here.)
"Why bother at all about Blockheads?

Why should you care what they do?
'Cos after all is said and done
You're all Blockheads too!"


  1. Bollocks, another cracker overlooked.
    Not so clever Trevor... I'm sure that you can imagine the pleasure that song gave my mates at school when I duffer another maths exam...
    I remember buying this and whacking it up, unaware of that intro to 'Plaistow Patricia'. I caused a riot in the nearby staff room, matron (yes 'maaaatron') nearly swallowed her teeth. Dury was one of the great, under rated lyricists, funny yet tender and emotionally insightful; only now do I recognise the cover with his son Baxter as a moving statement of love.
    And what a band of players the Blockheads were; they vied with The Rumour as Britain's best music makers back then...
    Thanks for the reminder Seamus

    1. The Blockheads are one of the great arguments for 'earning your chops'. It all seems so easy to them.
      It also helps that Dury has had a 'life' before pop. You can smell the sweat off the sheets, the bittersweet taste of shared disappointments. So many pop lyricists never grow out of an arrested adolescence but he was already past that when he started.

  2. "Past it before he started"
    I might knick that...

  3. Did you see the recent film with Andy Serkis? the film was so so but his performance was amazing