Blockhead fans get into the rhythm
THE late, great Ian Dury's much loved backing band The Blockheads are about to hit Ipswich with their rhythm sticks. For Evening Star columnist and BBC Radio Suffolk presenter STEPHEN FOSTER, it promises to be an emotional night.
THE late, great Ian Dury's much loved backing band The Blockheads are about to hit Ipswich with their rhythm sticks. For Evening Star columnist and BBC Radio Suffolk presenter STEPHEN FOSTER, it promises to be an emotional night. Stephen was there when the band last played Ipswich and interviewed Ian Dury backstage.
TALK about throwing yourself in at the deep end.
I'd just started in radio and decided I'd like to interview Ian Dury backstage at what was then the Gaumont Theatre in Ipswich.
It was the summer of 1979 and Ian and his Blockheads were one of the most in demand acts of that era.
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Accompanied by my Hospital Radio Ipswich colleague David Willis (now a highly respected BBC foreign correspondent) and with a very heavy portable reel-to-reel tape recorder over my shoulder I knocked on Ian's dressing room door to be greeted by his pink-haired tour manager Kosmo Vinyl.
Even in those days Ian did not suffer fools so what would he make of a young, inexperienced radio presenter clutching a long list of questions?
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As it happened and much to my relief he couldn't have been friendlier and made myself and David very welcome.
Ian was flanked by his bassist Norman Watt-Roy and after the interview I got them to sign my New Boots And Panties and Do It Yourself LPs.
Half an hour later Ian Dury and the Blockheads took Ipswich by storm. It was the first of two sell-out nights at the Gaumont and will always go down as one of my favourite gigs there.
The concert included hits like What A Waste, Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3 and, of course, the anthem Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll.
Ian Dury had become a household name and although he never repeated the success he enjoyed in the late seventies he remained a much-loved figure.
His death from cancer in 2000 looked to have signalled the end of the Blockheads too but it soon became clear to his excellent band that they couldn't stop and in recent times have made albums of their own and backed legendary figures like Paul McCartney and Robbie Williams on a New Boots And Panties tribute CD released by the Suffolk-based label East Central One Records.
On Thursday The Blockheads return to Ipswich for the first time since those heady days of chart records, sold out tours and appearances on top TV shows like Top Of The Pops.
They still have a big following and sound every bit as good as they did in their hey-day. But how could anyone fill the shoes left by the larger-than-life character that was Ian Dury?
Step forward broadcaster Phill Jupitus - who went to school at Woolverstone Hall, a boarding school near Ipswich. He was also a huge Ian Dury fan and knew all the lyrics to all of his best known songs.
He said: "This all started when they asked me if I'd mind helping out with a few gigs, and I couldn't refuse the men who had provided much of the soundtrack to my teenage years.
“As things have turned out, I have done only a handful of gigs each year with the boys, where we talk and laugh and remember.
“One night after a very grim festival show in Swansea we sat in a hotel bar and they told tales of life on the road with Ian, and for a change I got to sit and listen and keep my mouth shut.
“It's good fun, keeping an old mate's seat warm . . . but I still, and always will, miss him to bits. I am especially looking forward to the 30th anniversary tour. I am sure we will be playing a lot of tunes that haven't been aired in a long time. I will also get to share a stage for an actual tour with the best band on the planet."
The Blockheads are nearing the end of their 30th anniversary tour and will be in peak condition when they play at the Regent. New Boots And Panties is being re-released with bonus tracks and a DVD featuring a live recording made for the BBC in December 1977.
That Sight and Sound In Concert performance would have been one of the early Ian Dury and The Blockheads performances.
It'll be a great privilege for me to be up on stage introducing a band who, along with their governor, gave Suffolk music fans many reasons to be cheerful. The Blockheads will soon be releasing a new album but the Ian Dury years will dominate next week's show with New Boots And Panties album being played in it's entirety. I wouldn't miss it for the world.
Tickets to see for The Blockheads are £20 and are available from the Regent on 01473 433100.
Do you remember the Blockheads? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org