Pop: Reasons to be cheerful

"Oh Christ, yes. We'd be slaughtered if we didn't," shrieks Ian Dury when asked if he and the Blockheads will be playing the old favourites at their three big gigs this weekend. After all, songs like "Reasons To Be Cheerful", "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll", "Sweet Gene Vincent" and many others are ingrained in the minds of all survivors of the punk era, and many others besides. "Luckily we have some new ones that can fit in with as much panache, and you can't say that about every band that has recovered after 17 years," continues Dury with that cheeky trademark Essex tongue.

Talking about his new album, Mr Love Pants, Dury is confident that he's got something relevant to say in 1998. "I know when I make a good album. Like when I make a dodgy one I keep my head down and my mouth shut, which is what I've been doing for 17 years basically. I spent a lot of time on this one, and I knew it had to be a good one for the Blockheads to be involved. I'm very happy with it."

Indeed, this is the first time the original Blockheads (bar Charley Charles, who died in 1990) have recorded and played together to such an extent since 1982. "The Blockheads and me have always kept in touch, doing five or six gigs a year, but something as high profile as this is obviously more exciting; and with new music and new songs, it's going to be much more positive."

Playing before thousands of much younger people doesn't daunt Dury at all. "I believe we'll be OK. Like we did the first British rapping record, which was "Reasons to be Cheerful". We get sampled a lot. We've had three this year, like Chaz Jankel's guitar part from "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll", so I think we're still fairly connected to what's going on. I like to think we were 20 years ahead of their time."

Now closer to 60 than 50, Dury, a polio survivor as a child, and recently diagnosed with liver cancer, talks openly about adapting to the big stage again. "As you get older, you learn how to pace yourself. My performances have still got the same sort of energy, but they're not manic anymore. I used to give it 110 per cent. I remember Kirk Douglas said he's got this little guy who stands on his shoulder and tells him when he goes over 93 per cent. So now I've got a little guv'nor who says `over the top, love' when I go too far. But we'll go for it."

And, in characteristic style, he signs off with: "Of course, we're all still great looking!"

Ian Dury and the Blockheads support Paul Weller at Victoria Park (0171- 420 0066) today.

They play the main stage at the Guildford 98 festival tomorrow (01483 454159), and at Dingwalls, NW1 (0171-267 1577) on Monday night

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