With our top ten list of Ian Dury and The Blockheads Songs, we look at one of the greatest artists of the punk/pub rock era who continue to perform today despite the death of frontman Ian Dury in 2000 from cancer. However, the best years of the band were with Dury, who’s quirky and charismatic personality made for some of the best alternative pop records of the 1980’s. Dury, who suffered from polio, refused to let his disability become a handicap and even used it as inspiration for one of the Blockhead’ s greatest (and at the time controversial) numbers “Spasticus Autisisticus.” Dury was even the subject of a biopic released in 2010 titled Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll in which he was played by Andy Serkis.
There are several other classic hits that the band recorded throughout their time together, all of which will be included in this list.
Even after Dury’s death , the band who now perform as merely the Blockheads remain a respected and fairly popular outfit within the realms of alternative music, as opposed to being viewed as a money grabbing nostalgia act. They have had many notable musicians amongst their ranks over the years, including Doctor Feelgood’s Wilko Johnson. However, this list is about the Dury era as well as his solo career, so without further ado let’s look at ten of the best…
# 10 – Billericay Dickie
Kicking off our Ian Dury songs list is this track taken from his debut solo album New Boots and Panties!!!. A song that is very much an example of Dury’s penchant for taking inspiration from his native Essex which is located in the South of England, this music hall-style number tells the story of a somewhat pathetic character as he experiences various sexual encounters while trailing around the Essesx.
# 9 – Superman’s Big Sister
Here is a single released in 1980 which purposefully misspelt Superman to avoid any copyright trouble that the band may have had with DC Comics. It was released as a single to promote the album Laughter but was not very successful, peaking at only fifty-one on the UK charts. The song was co-written with Wilko Johnson and tells the story of being in a relationship with a domineering woman.
# 8 – Ballad of the Sulphate Strangler
This emotive and poignant song is taken from the Blockhead’s final album Ten More Turnips from the Tip that was released posthumously in 2002, two years after Dury’s death. The album’s existence came to be after Dury’s wife found a list of songs amongst the papers he had left, which was described as being almost “like a will.” Dury wrote the songs so late in life that he was too consumed by his terminal cancer to even be able to record them. His wife Sophy gave the rest of the band her blessing to record the material that they were allowed access to.
# 7 – Dance Little Rude Boy
Here we have a single that is also taken from Ten More Turnips From the Tip. It was on4 of two singles to be taken from the album, the other being “One Love/ Ballad of the Sulphate Strangler.” There were two songs included on the B side to this single which were “Books and Water” and “It Ain’t Cool.”
# 6 – Sweet Gene Vincent
This song is taken from Ian Dury’s first solo album New Boots and Panties released in 1977 which was recorded as a tribute to the Rock n Roll singer Gene Vincent. It is one of the faster paced songs in the singer’s discography and despite the fact that he dropped other similar songs from his live sets in later years due to his declining health, this remained in the set.
# 5 – Spaticus Autisiticus
Here is what is possibly the most controversial song in Dury’s back catalogue which was released as single off the album Lord Upminster. Dury wrote it as a protest against the British International Year of the Disabled Person’s which as a disabled person himself, he found patronizing. The word “spastic” which was previously the name of the British disabled charity now known as Scope, was becoming a taboo word at the time, and this song’s use of it as a play on “Im Spartacus” led it to being banned by the BBC at the time.
# 4 – Sex and Drugs and Rock N Roll
Here is a song that has always been released under the name Ian Dury as opposed to the Blockheads, despite the fact that three of the original Blockheads appear on it. It was released in 1977 before the Blockheads were officially established. Despite the song’s critical acclaim and subsequent popularity, it did not chart upon its initial release.
# 3 – Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3
At number three is a song that got to number three in the UK charts upon its release in 1979. It is the final single to be released by Blockhead’s original line-up. Despite its title, it is not actually a “part three” of anything. It was written after a near fatal accident that one of the band’s roadies suffered when he was electrocuted during a concert.
# 2 – Hit With Me With Your Rhythm Stick
Just off the top spot is this single released in 1978. It is the group’s most successful single, topping the UK charts. It was very critically acclaimed upon its release, receiving many accolades for best single of the year in several big music publications. The song’s lyrics were written by Chaz Jankel, who is the one of the Blockhead’s longest running multi-instrumentalists.
# 1 – What A Waste
At number one is a single released in 1978. To this day it remains’ in the Blockheads live sets. The song’s lyrics are about viewing what someone has done with their life. It was written before the Blockhead’s formation after the breakup of Dury’s previous band Kilburn and the Highroads. It was the group’s first hit peaking at number nine in the Uk.
Top 10 Ian Dury And The Blockheads Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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