Interview: Ian Dury: The Dury's out

`There ain't 'alf been been some clever bastards,' sang Ian Dury. And he's one of them, says Janie Lawrence

It's all come flooding back. By the time Ian Dury opens the door I have successfully warbled my way through "Billericay Dickie" and am reaching a fortissimo with the final chorus of "Hit me with your rhythm stick, two fat ..."

"I can remember all the words," I announce brightly to the man who was a seminal influence on my adolescence. "I wish I could," he counters wryly.

Bill and Vicky. Those antics in a Cortina. In 1978 outraged radio stations banned Dury's records, and provincial shops tutted over the use of four- letter words on the album.

"I wrote that song 'cause I thought sex and drugs and rock'n'roll ain't that important. To say, `Think about other things in life'," he recalls. Of course, the exact opposite happened, and it became a celebratory anthem of its times.

"If you're sitting at a desk and you write a decent song it gets off the table, walks across the floor, goes out, gets a taxi and makes you a few quid."

The voice that epitomised Seventies Essex is now 55. Hearing him talk is like listening to an old-style cabbie.

He and the Blockheads sometimes pop over to Europe for a short tour, and play the odd Christmas revival gig, but since those heady days when he was recognised everywhere, Dury has acquired two children and has pursued a solo career in theatre and movies. This week he opens in the film, Middleton's Changeling. For the most part he has followed the path of anonymity. This is his first newspaper interview in 10 years. "Nah, I don't think of myself as an actor," he snorts. "I don't think I've been in a good film.

"Have you seen Polanski's Pirates? he asks. No. "Well, if you see it on television, you only see my shoulder cause it's Cinemascope. Eleven weeks' work to see my shoulderblade," he chortles.

He's a little more optimistic about his forthcoming role. In Changeling we see - and hear - a lot of Dury. The play is based on the 17th-century Jacobean drama, and he plays the lead character of De Flores, a facially scarred opportunist who schemes his way into the heroine's bed. "I was spiritually blackmailed into doing this film. If you like the director you do it for nish, so Marcus Thompson got us all to do it for nothing. I kept saying, `Get Bob Hoskins, then you'll get some funding.'" By all accounts Dury stayed on board when he discovered that Thompson had not only remortgaged his house, but had persuaded friends and members of his family to do likewise. "The geezer's obsessed," he says.

Dury, who stands just over 5ft tall, contracted polio when he was seven, probably from Southend swimming-baths. He's always worn a calliper on his left leg and still walks with a dragging, Long-John-Silver-style limp. The theory that this gives him a special insight into De Flores is put paid to immediately. "I've never felt left out because I've been disabled. I suppose I've been spoilt and well loved, but I've always felt extremely glamorous and very beautiful."

And while we're at it, he is heartily sick of people referring to his left hand as "withered". "Withered means post-nuclear, and it's not," he says, holding it up for me to get a good look. In fact it reminds me of a limb after six weeks in a plaster cast. "I look at it and think it's a beautiful, pink little hand," he adds. I'm not sure whether he's taking the mickey, but we agree I'll bypass the "withered".

Certainly I believe him when he says that he rarely thinks about his polio. "Sometimes I've been a bit angry with the calliper and flung it across the room, but not often. I'm slightly fragile in crowds, and I fall over quite easily. I don't like floundering, because I get embarrassed. My mother heard me swearing across six lanes of traffic once." Another thing. He can't be doing with anything approaching psychobabble. Has he never experienced any lingering feelings of inadequacy? "I was adequate so why should I feel inadequate?" he fires back. "You hear people say, `I'd sooner be dead than lose a leg.' They wouldn't really. If they lost one they'd get up and get on with it."

Sent as a youngster to a school for disabled children, he remembers being surrounded by children worse off than himself. After passing his 11-plus he went on to a mainstream boarding school. "I was a bit of an outlaw. I didn't correspond to their mores." Anyone who attempted to give him a hard time got short shrift. "They tried, but I wouldn't accept it."

He studied fine art at the RCA - "I got good enough to know that I wasn't going to be that good" - then spent five years in a van toiling up and down the motorway with Kilburn and the High Roads before the Blockheads were signed up by Stiff Records. "Before that every major record company had all said, `No thank you'."

It's been a bit slow in coming, but after 18 years, he and "the boys" have recorded a follow-up album which they plan to release later this year. What's it called? "Mr Love Pants." Is that one word or two? "Two - one for each leg". A right smart geezer is Ian Dury, make no mistake.

`Middleton's Changeling' (18) opens on Friday 6 March at the Prince Charles

Cinema, London (0171-494 4687)

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    Commercial Litigation Associate

    Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

    Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

    Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little