#495- Ian Dury- New Boots and Panties!!- 1977

The Artist:

Ian Dury was born in 1942 in Northwest London, England.  He contracted polio at the age of seven.  This led to him being sent to a school / hospital for disabled children for a while. During his time recovering, he began drawing and painting and fell in love with early rock n’ roll, most notably Gene Vincent and his hit “Be-Bop-A-Lula.”

Gene Vincent

After he had sufficiently recovered, Ian was sent to The Royal Grammar School where he often got in trouble. As punishment he was forced to memorize lines of poetry by people like Keats, and if he missed one word, he was forced to start over. Ian felt terrorized by this at the time, but later in life, his lyrics as a songwriter would be highly influenced by this poetry.  As a teen, Ian fell in love with American Jazz music and became popular with his peers with his humor.

He went on to study at The Royal College of Art. After college, Ian taught art at several colleges and did commercial illustrations for The Sunday Times.

It was the 1971 death of his music hero, Gene Vincent, that influenced him to put together his first band, which he named Kilburn & The High Roads.

Kilburn & The High Roads

Ian sang lead vocals and wrote the lyrics and a friend of his, Russell Hardy was the pianist and wrote the music.  Ian then recruited several of his art students to fill out the rest of the band.  They became popular in the local pubs and got a record deal in 1974.  They released 2 studio albums and briefly toured with The Who, but a lack of commercial success lead to the band disbanding in 1975.

Ian spent his time throughout 1976 writing lyrics. After a chance meeting in a music shop, Dury handed his lyrics over to multi-instrumentalist Chaz Jankel.

Chaz Jankel

Chaz’s music sounded exactly like what Ian had imagined for his songs. They went to Manfred Mann’s recording studio, “The Workhouse” to record the songs.  They brought in session musicians in drummer Charley Charles, bassist Norman Watt-Roy, and former Kilburn band member saxophonist Davey Payne to join them in recording the songs.  They also hired Geoff Castle to come in and play the Moog sythesizer on some of the tracks.  Despite not having a record deal, Dury and the band members recorded an album’s worth of songs over the next few weeks.

Every major UK label passed on the album due to their belief it was nothing more than “pub rock” and didn’t think it was commercial. It happened that Dury had hired ex-Pink Floyd managers Andrew King and Peter Jenner to manage his career, and their office happened to be located next door to a brand new, small, music label, Stiff Records.

Stiff was looking for non-mainstream acts and had signed a couple of artists already, Elvis Costello and Nick Cave.  Stiff signed Ian Dury and took the tracks recorded at The Workhouse and in September 1977 they released the songs as the album New Boots and Panties!!

The Album Cover:

First off, let’s talk about the title.  Ian came up with it during some idle conversation about his clothes. He always bought all of his clothing from thrift shops, except his shoes and underwear which he bought new.  He wanted people to buy his new album, so he named it after the two things that he (and presumably most people) always bought new.

The front cover shows Ian standing in front of a lingerie shop and standing next to him is his 6-year old son, Baxter (who would later go on to a music career of his own.) I like the fact that you can see the reflection of the Woolworth sign from across the street. Personally, I love seeing old storefronts and old pictures inside stores, it captures a moment in time that will never be repeated.  But my favorite thing of all is seeing old  shopping malls, that is 80% of the reason I love Dawn of the Dead.

The back cover has a large picture of Ian wearing a gymnastics club t-shirt, which reaffirms that he bought his clothes from the second-hand stores.

I also think Ian has a passing resemblance to Steve-O from Jackass here.

The track listing and band credits look handwritten in marker and a couple of odd things.

“This record was not produced and recorded at the Workhouse in the old Kent road.”

…except that it was

and

There’s nothing wrong with it!!! – Ian Dury

Not sure what that’s about.

I haven’t gotten to any albums with inserts, yet.   While it isn’t necessarily an insert, the album’s inner sleeve had a collage of pictures of Ian Dury since his time with Kilburn & the High Roads. This doesn’t count towards my count of albums with “candid photos of the artists in the studio” collages.

The Album:

I am reviewing the US vinyl release of New Boots and Panties!! from 1978 on Stiff Records.  The track listing on my copy is slightly different from the original UK pressing, which I will discuss later.

(Note: Most song titles are linked to Youtube clips of the album tracks, with the exception of “I’m Partial to Your Abracadabra” for which I could only find a live version.)

Wake Up and Make Love With Me” is an awesome opening track.  Once again, the string of great opening tracks on these albums I’m reviewing continues.  After what I guess would be termed a stereotypical “Asian” sounding piano opening, the Funk-styled bass kicks in, then the Moog synthesizer joins in to give a haunting sound to the track.  Ian has some pretty good vocals here.

The song is pretty funny ode to morning sex.  Though, when you listen closely to the lyrics, they are kind of creepy.  I mean he is asking his girl to wake up before he jumps her bones, but it also sounds like he bangs her sometimes when she is asleep, too.

Sweet Gene Vincent” is a sweet ode to his musical hero, really almost too sweet.  Just when you start wondering where the attitude from Ian has gone, the song changes tempo mid way through and becomes a rocking early rock n’ roll styled song.  I like how it opens in the old-time rock n’ roll ballad style and turns into a real rocker.  Great song.

I’m Partial to Your Abracadabra” is a great song title.  The track shows off Ian’s classically untrained voice. The music is almost country rock, but Ian’s vocals are very English, an interesting mix.  The abracadabra in question appears to be a replacement word for pussy.  Paul McCartney did a cover of this song on an Ian Dury tribute album, Paul makes it sound a lot less dirty.

…despite how he may look here.

My Old Man” is a pretty simple sounding sound.  Almost children’s rhyming styled.  Interesting in that it seems to be a legit biography of his father, who was a bus and limo driver.  I’ve listened to this song about 10 times and I am honestly not sure if I like this track or not.

A spoken word intro begins “Billericay Dickie” with “good evening, I’m from Essex” which I think is supposed to tell me something. Since I’m not from England. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get out of that information. I’m guessing he is using an Essex accent in the song or something. This song just about as Britishy as a song can get.  The funny thing is it was co-written by an American, Steve Nugent.  It is rhyming words set to music that sounds like a Casio keyboard demo button.

I think they pushed the aqua colored button right there.

Again, I can’t tell if I like it or not.  I mean it’s kinda fun, but it is also kind of repetitive as it goes on.

On to side two.

Here I come to a conundrum, as I have the second vinyl pressing of New Boots and Panties!! which has a slightly different track list than the original pressing.  On my copy, side 2 opens with “Sex & Drugs & Rock n’ Roll” and “What a Waste” which were Dury’s singles.  Ian did not want any singles on his albums, and these tracks were not originally included on the album, in fact they aren’t even included on the track listing on the back cover.  Part of me wants to leave them off my review since they weren’t originally there on the album. But since they are on my copy, I will include them in my review.

Despite what some people claim, the song “Sex & Drugs & Rock n’ Roll” was not where the phrase was coined. It was already part of the lexicon before the song.  It has a really cool guitar and bass part.  I’m really glad it was added to this pressing of the album, because it is a good track.

What a Waste” is an unusual song but quite cool. It eventually made the top 10 on the pop charts in the UK. The Moog synthesizer is the best part of the song, coming in and out with many different sounds, but I like Ian’s vocals here, too, He gets a lot of words out very quickly.  The best way to describe this track is that it has an almost theatrical sound to it.

Well, it’s not that theatrical.

Clevor Trever” is a cool syth-based track, and also it has smooth backing music.  Ian again sings in the rhyming music hall style, but I really like his vocals on this song, and I dig the guitar solo towards the end.  Good track.

If I Was With a Woman” has an almost disco beat.  It has a similar sound to “Sex & Drugs & Rock n’ Roll.” I’m not sure what to think about this track, it becomes annoying with the word “laughing” repeated about 50 times at the end.

Blockheads” the song that would eventually give his band its name. Now this is a rocking song.  In a way I like Ian doing these screaming styled vocals more than the slower tempo songs.  Could you call this Synth-Punk? Also the Moog comes in farting at one point.  More of this, please.

Plaistow Patricia” opens with Ian yelling a bunch of obscenities, including…aerosol.

Perhaps I should have censored this picture.

The way the song starts I thought it would be Ian talking over dissonant sounds, but a Ramones-esque two chord guitar drives the rest of the song.

It is a really dirty song lyrically, and actually also kind of racist, but it is the story of a heroin addict so I think this supposed to be an unreliable narrator. Again, Ian is using more “down and dirty” vocals, which I like tons better than the British sing-songy style of the earlier songs.

Blackmail Man” definitely the most Punk song on the album, but with a great guitar mini-solo.  The second to last guitar last chord always makes me think Yes’ “Roundabout” is about to start.

Yeah, this album is definitely not for every one, but I can’t deny I enjoyed it.

Aftermath:

Dury invited the session musicians that played on the album to join him and Chaz Jankel as a permanent band.  They agreed, and added another guitarist named John Turnbull and pianist Mickey Gallagher, to form The Blockheads, named after the track on New Boots and Panties!!. 

Ian Dury and The Blockheads

In 1978, Ian Dury and The Blockheads released another single “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.” It sold nearly a million copies, and went all the way to #1 on the UK pop charts, unseating “YMCA” by The Village People at the top spot.

Ian’s first album with The Blockheads, Do It Yourself, rose to #2 on the UK album charts and eventually went platinum.  While they maintained their popularity as a live band over the next two years, they never attained that much commercial success again.

Chaz Jankel left the band in 1980 for a solo career, and by 1981 Ian disbanded the band to go on his own solo career and left Stiff to join Polydor Records.  Dury remained a popular touring artist throughout the 80’s and 90’s and started drifting into acting roles.  He appeared in some movies such as Roman Polanski’s Pirates and with Sly Stallone in Judge Dredd.

I won’t hold it against Ian for appearing in this.

Dury was diagnosed with liver cancer in 1996.  Despite being told it was terminal, Dury continued to perform sporadically over the next few years. He finally succumbed to the cancer and passed away at the age of 57 in 2000.

My take on Rolling Stone’s take:

RS: “Dury cut his teeth on the British pub rock circuit before his debut made him a cult star,  He never managed to duplicate the brilliance of this punk-funk classic, but the album’s impact is felt to this day – even introducing the phrase “sex, drugs and rock & roll” to the lexicon.”

Oh Rolling Stone, you guys just can’t get your facts straight.  First off, the book credits the album to Ian Dury and The Blockheads, which is not accurate, it’s a solo album that predates the formation of The Blockheads.  Second, as I said earlier, the album did not invent the phrase “sex, drugs and rock & roll” as it was already a common phrase at the time, not to mention that that song wasn’t even originally part of this album. My original idea for this section was just to make mention of whether I agreed with Rolling Stone’s opinion of the album, I didn’t realize I was going to be a fact-checker for them.

Also, I should mention that this album is no longer included on the updated 2012 Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums list.

Conclusion:

Well, this album is a difficult one to come to a conclusion about.  It definitely is not for everyone.  Personally, I like the album a lot. I think the best tracks are really great.  There are a few quirks to the album that I didn’t much care for, but nothing that completely ruins any of the tracks.  I definitely recommend everyone should give it a try, but with the caveat that it requires an open mind. It’s one of those albums where a lot of people won’t care for it at all, but those that do will like it a whole lot.

3.5 Stars out of 5, recommended with some reservations.

My ranking of the Rolling Stone 500 that I’ve reviewed thus far:

1. The Stone Roses- The Stone Roses

2. Herbie Hancock- Head Hunters

3. Bonnie Raitt- Give It Up

4. Outkast- Aquemini

5. Ian Dury- New Boots and Panties!!

6. B.B. King- Live in Cook County Jail

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