“ Genre: Indie Rock & Punk - Classic Punk / Artist: Ian & The Blockheads Dury / Audio CD released 1995-07-28 at Unknown Label „
Ian Dury & The Blockheads' timeless album, New Boots And Panties, was released at the end of September 1977 and reached no.5 in the UK album charts. The classic sleeve shows Ian standing outside a shop with a young boy, both of them staring at the camera with a slight expression of 'attitude' on their faces.
When I first heard this masterpiece album at the tender age of 23, I wasn't overly impressed. For reasons unknown, I was viewing Ian Dury as a kind of neo-thug, who was climbing up on the back of the rather aggressive (by those days' standards) punk movement which was in full swing at the time. The only track which instantly had any kind of positive impact on me was Sweet Gene Vincent, simply because I was, always have been, and still am a die-hard 1950s rock & roll music freak. My ex-husband had bought New Boots & Panties, and I always tried to make sure I was out of the room whenever he played it in its entirety.
One evening some time during the following year, my ex and I held a small party, he offering to play any piece of music, album, single or whatever, that our guests requested. It seemed that everybody wanted to hear New Boots And Panties over and over again - despite the album by then being almost a year old - and as it would have been rude of me to leave the room whilst what I hated was being played, I was in a situation where I was forced to listen to it several times during a single evening.
Imagine my surprise when after about the fourth hearing, I began to warm to it in a way I simply didn't expect I ever would.....and, as the decades have passed by, New Boots And Panties has crept into my all-time top ten album list. Instead of as I once did, condemning the late and sadly missed Ian Dury as a mindless thug, I now revere his ability to communicate through his music in a way which is complex in its very simplicity. Over the years, I have also seen quite a few recordings of interviews with Ian, and I quickly came to realise what a warm, gentle-natured, intelligent, deep, yet fun-loving man he was.
As far as I can remember and I am aware (and I stand corrected if I'm wrong about this), The Blockheads were formed as a backing band to Ian Dury in order to help promote his collection of songs which became known as the album New Boots And Panties. I also seem to recall that initially, the album received mixed reviews in the music press, yet that didn't prevent it from climbing up the charts and becoming an all-time classic.
For me, there is a special, unique kind of magic about the way Ian wrote the songs on this album, delivering them with his gruff voice that was backed by the mostly gentle instrumentals (depending on the track!) of The Blockheads.
Wake Up And Make Love With Me opens the album with a sexy little song about a co-habiting couple's early morning 'doing the deed' session. The track is very descriptive of any typical situation of comfortable domesticity. The words and images contained within are basic, but simultaneously gentle - what I'd personally call gruffly poetic - and the overall effect of the track conveys something mildly humorous which I feel is communicated by the instrumental backing more than the words.
Of course, not all of the album is gentle.....nor is it particularly sexual in content, apart from the first track....but there is this theme of gruff lyrical subtlety running throughout.
Clever Trevor for instance, is an observation of an individual who may appear to be of limited intelligence, but the question the song really asks.....is Trevor really clever? I love the line contained within, presumably something the Trevor character might utter, "It takes longer to get up north...the slow way". Stating the obvious, yes, but some people found they had to think about that line in order to 'get' it.
Billericay Dickie is a rather amusing little ditty about a typecast Essex boy, obviously hailing from Billericay. Whereas Trevor's intelligence levels are questionable, Dickie's definitely aren't as he is as thick as two short planks, yet he manages to live his life in the way he likes...mostly cohorting with various females from Essex (plus Janet from the Isle of Thanet) in the back seat of his car.
Back in the late 1970s, not long after the release of this album, there was a girl amongst my circle of friends who was called Pat, and though not specifically from Plaistow, she was an East Londoner. Pat was a lovely natured girl, but led an almost tragic life - the words of this song could almost be her biography. This is another song which takes a character, and tells it as it is....no holds are barred, and plenty of are punches pulled, as it describes a female who's basically a junkie and rather free with her sexual favours. Each time I hear Plaistow Patricia, I am always affectionately reminded of the girl Pat I used to know, and wonder what she's up to these days.
When Paul McCartney wrote and The Beatles performed Helter Skelter on what we all call "The White Album", he apparently said he wanted to create the most noisy, irritating piece of music imaginable. Maybe his mission at the time and for some years to follow was accomplished, but Ian managed to push the boat out further with Blackmail Man. I'm not sure if it was Ian's intention to outdo Paul on the noise stakes, but he sure created a couple of minutes of auditory nihilism with Blackmail Man that would have quite a lot of people reaching for the earplugs. It's all good stuff though, and I'd guess that this track is the most punk-inspired on the whole album.
The album closes with an anthem to youth....Sex And Drugs And Rock'n'Roll - a blatant statement on what Ian quite likely was seeing around him, bearing in mind he was previously a schoolteacher - youth getting its kicks from sex, drugs and music. The words are simple, but the message hits hard.
My second favourite track on the album is Sweet Gene Vincent, simply because I feel it's a masterfully produced and performed piece of rock & roll, of course dedicated to the man himself, Gene Vincent. This track just flows so purely and so simply and although it's pure rock & roll, there is something about it which is very reminiscent of a later era - a mood of 1977 definitely shines out through the song.
I have omitted to say anything about a couple of tracks on this album as though they are brilliant, I feel I can't comment on them constructively, and I have saved my favourite track for last....My Old Man. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I listened to the words of My Old Man properly, and they did hit rather hard. I'm not sure if Ian just made the song up about nobody in particular, or whether he dedicated it to his own late father, but it's a very gentle, affectionate and heart-warming message to a deceased dad. For those reasons, it isn't easy for me to listen to the song when I'm feeling vulnerable, but the last line of the song says it all..... "All the best mate, from your son!" (Yes, I'm a daughter, but the message is exactly the same).
As a whole, New Boots And Panties is a sometimes gentle, sometimes gritty, honest, down to earth and delightful collection of songs which are largely about ordinary characters and ordinary life, yet are put across in a slightly tongue-in-cheek, witty and interesting way.
Although New Boots And Panties was first released in 1977, there have been several re-releases and re-masterings....the most recent being in 2008, as far as I can establish.
I can't think that there's anyone out there over a certain age who's unfamiliar with this album, but if there is, why not give it a listen? OK it may take a couple of hearings to appreciate the subtlety of the album as a whole, but I believe it is truly worth persisting with. This is a gem which is a golden collection of simple yet complex songs that in my view has truly stood the test of time and means just as much today as it did more than 30 years ago. I also believe that New Boots And Panties could have a wide appeal amongst younger music fans, again because of the messages contained within the songs being just as relevant to nowadays as they always have been.
Currently, New Boots & Panties can be bought new on Amazon for as little as £4.98 (CD/DVD) and delivery is free within the UK. The Amazon free gift-wrap service is also available for this product.
1. Wake Up And Make Love With Me
2. Sweet Gene Vincent
3. I'm Partial To Your Abracadabra
4. My Old Man
5. Billericay Dickie
6. Clever Trevor
7. If I Was With A Woman
9. Plaistow Patricia
10. Blackmail Man
11. Sex And Drugs And Rock'n'Roll
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Ah yes, the impenetrable title has always been a favourite trick of mine and tonight is no exception. Those lucky souls for whom the delights of Ian Dury (before the Blockheads) and his wonderful New Boots And Panties!! album from 1977 are just second nature in instant recall will no doubt be able to identify where the title comes from, but for those of you who do not know the chap, it?s the expletive deleted declaiming first line from the rasping Plaistow Patricia towards the end of this album. On such a mainstream site as this I really can't give you any further clues as to what the words behind the asterisks are, but hopefully the more streetwise of you would be able to hazard a guess at the answer. Now that may give you a hint of what to expect from this earthy album, and if you?re of a nervous disposition or tend to quail at the use of ferocious Anglo Saxonisms, you may wish to look away now, for the venerable (and sadly late) Mr Dury is a true working class hero who loves language, and hesitates not to employ the harsh words of the East End. Who is to say he is wrong to savour a well chosen four letter word, the currency of today's youth? He certainly carves a richly fruity language here on this splendid album and does so with an honest endeavour which makes you love the chap. NBAP!! was first issued in 1977 on the eccentric and patchy Stiff Records as SEEZ4, with his label mates at that time including the Damned, Elvis Costello, Wreckless Eric, Nick Lowe and a little later (for a short while) the spiffing Nutty Sound of Madness. It was an exciting time to be involved in rock music as the electric charge of punk blew away the dusty cobwebs and self indulgent self regard of the previous decade and gave birth to a veritable revolution which embraced all sorts of freaks and no hopers. For years, Dury had been seen as both, with his seedy pub rock songs and poems being performed in the shambolic Kilburn and the High Roads combo, whi
le his polio affected frame left him looking like some sort of young Fagin, a totally individual performer. The album has since been reissued and repackaged and you can get it either with or without Dury's splendidly anthemic Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll single included. I prefer tradition, so I'll go without, but truly that was a wonderfully addictive song, and quite one of the best things which Ian ever produced, so I won't hold it against you, don't worry. The reissued album, though includes the following clipped autobiography which I reproduce here, as penned by John Tobler in 1995: "NBAP!! was the first Stiff LP by Ian Dury, and the album which launched him to fame, amassing nearly two years in the UK chart and becoming his first major success. Dury had been around for some years before joining Stiff in 1977 - he was (and remains) a larger than life character. Born during the Second World War, he was unfortunate enough to contract poliomyelitis, and was a victim of the epidemic of the early 1950s, although it happily didn't kill him as it did many British people at the time, it left him disabled and with one side of his body withered. After boarding school in High Wycombe, he continued his education at Walthamstow Art College in East London, after which he attended the Royal College of Art where he undertook a post graduate course. He then began working as a lecturer at Luton and Canterbury Art Colleges, and in 1970, while he was still working at Canterbury, he conceived a group with others at the college which he called Kilburn & the High Roads, for which he was lead vocalist and main songwriter, although the strangely named combo only began to treat the band as a serious enterprise a couple of years later. They became very popular during the pub rock era of the mid-1970s, recording two LPs, only one of which, Handsome, was released at the time, and in 1976, the group finally folded. Dur
y and latterday High Road Chas Jankel had developed a songwriting partnership, and Dury signed with the then fledgling Stiff label, and in August 1977 released his debut single for the label, Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll, an all time rock anthem, which was widely acclaimed but unaccountably failed to become a hit. Stiff swiftly deleted the single, and according to Bert Muirhead's book answered those who complained of its unavailability by saying 'We're a record company, not a museum' - this excellent track and its B-side Razzle In My Pocket can be found on the Juke Box Dury album." Sorry for the indulgent history lesson, but loving Dury is in many ways contingent on understanding if not loving the man and his background. The album was Dury and Jankel (guitars and keyboards) playing their songs, accompanied by Charley Charles (drums), Norman Watt-Roy (bass) and Davey Payne (saxes), before that bunch became the core of his live band the Blockheads, and also included Edward Speight on ballad guitar(!) and Geoff Castle on Moog. The sound alternates between splendidly shambolic roughness and smooth and assured playing, but the whole thing is dependent on the words and unique vocals of Dury. I'll tell you now, I love it, but can see why some people find the man a hard to acquire taste. Oh well. Wake Up And Make Love With Me This errs on the side of beauty with some wonderful piano from Jankel counterpointed by Castle's meandering Moog, all supported by the rolling rhythms of Watt-Roy and Charles as Dury comes over all unnecessary with his homage to the lights of early morning love-lust, choosing to rhyme "naughty nekked nood" with "what happens next is private, it's also very rude". The lyrics are bizarrely, unmistakably Dury, gorgeously addictive and very true to life. It's one of the best songs that Dury and Jankel ever wrote and just pure seduction and practical
romance. Listen and learn. Sweet Gene Vincent If Wake Up was good, Vincent is sublime, with its dead slow opening, punctuated by doodling keyboards and Dury's best tribute to the ancient rocker swiftly giving way to a belting rocker which will rip your head off. The jagged transition from moody poetry, loving homage, aching piano and bluesy guitar of "Sad Virginia whisper ... young and old and gone" to the belting rock and roll of "White face, black shirt, white socks, black shoes, black hair, white Strat" gets me every time. Yeah!!! I'm Partial To Your Abracadabra Another slower paced love song, this piano led piece shows the romantic side of Dury once more, though his use of words and clever phrasing never lets him wander too far from the harder sensibilities of the late 70s. It's quite a slight little number, but eminently listenable, tugging at your hips, despite the overtly orthodox lead guitar pieces. My Old Man It's East End poet time again as Dury launches into another affectionate tribute, this time to his father, and another leaden paced number is just a showcase for some wonderfully un-American words and scenes "Said gor blimey now and then ... did the crossword in the Standard". The lilting, crooning sax of Payne is the key musical feature on the loping, yearning song, though all round there's some neat instrumental interplay between the band members. Sad and yet tremendously uplifting. Billericay Dickey More East End nonsense about one of Dury's mythical and mythogical and peculiarly unfortunate characters. It's all pumping music hall backing as the coarser side of the man's poetry comes to the fore. "Another thing with Sandy which often came in handy was passing her a mandy, she didn't half go bandy." Bizarre stuff which could only be this man and this band ... quite splendid, splendid good time stuff, even the wh
istling on the fade sounds perfect. Clevor Trever (sic) A nice, twirling, almost funky setting and another tour de force performance from Dury cannot leave you unmoved, despite the unlovable nature of his subject matter. Another surprisingly slight piece, yet delicious nonetheless. If I Was With A Woman This is a more spiteful Dury, one who has been hurt in love, and intent on having his revenge on the entire women species. One can only hope he's strictly tongue in cheek, but you're never quite sure, and that?s part of the magic of the man. He appeals so easily on the surface to the lowest common denominator, yet one knows he's better than that. Whatever, his vindictive, urgent, chilling lyrics are bitterest bile. The musical backing is just as mean and sinister as the voices in your head, "I'd make believe I loved her, even though I didn't like her much." Dury finds it so easy to show his nastier side that he must be recalling all the torments and hatred he received as a young polio victim. "If I was with a woman, she'd have to learn to cherish the purity and depth of my disdain." Shocking stuff. Blockheads This is where the band's name came from and it's an urgent, horrible song, a denunciation of the nastier side of the hunting pack mentality, "Screw their poor old Eileens, get sloshed and go berserk ... why shouldn't they do as they please ... how would you like one puffing and blowing in your ear hole, pissing in your swimming pool ... premature ejaculation drivers, their soft tops got roll bars." There ain't no letting up at all here and you fear for your life at times. Contrast Dury's lyrical approach here with the previous song to see the depth of the man. Plaistow Patricia When you have that filthy opening stanza as delineated at the start, you know this is going to be more bile on legs as Dury again demonstrates how n
asty he can be when he turns his mind to it. It's pretty standard pub rock fare, but the man's easy dropping in and out of vernacular and understanding of the seamy underbelly of council flat life shows once again what a major talent the man was when he was on form. It's a crude, ugly piece, matched by the breakneck backing, but nothing can prepare you for the naked fury and contempt of his muse. Blackmail Man This is the fastest and most insubstantial piece on the entire album and finishes matters on a real low standard. It's a shame, but Dury was clearly intent on raising the pace to a climax. Unfortunately, his taste meter was a bit off the mark here and the whole thing is just a mad, out of control, racist rant, but as the entire human race gets a namecheck and none of them come out unscathed then we shouldn't take it too seriously, Dury can take the rise out of literally everyone, but chiefly himself. So there you have it - the Cripple Comes of age, and surely we can excuse him one real mistake for the peaks contained elsewhere. This is a rampant, raging, rancid example of that tight little area where the best of pub rock met the worst of punk's moods and survived to tell the tale. Dury was the Laughing Gnome to Elvis Costello's twisted troubadour in Stiff's retelling of the late 70s and they cornered the market in revenge, hatred, bitterness and lust. It was a fearsome pairing which only the strong survived, but fiercely independent and gripping. A real joy to behold.