THE LIFE OF IAN DURY - The Early Years
Ian Robins Dury was born on Tuesday 12th May 1942 at his home, 43 Weald Rise, Harrow,
Middlesex, although he would later say he was born in Upminster. His mother was Margaret
Cuthbertson Dury (nee Walker), known as Peggy and his father was William George Dury.
His mother worked as a health visitor and his father drove buses for London Transport.
Although he liked to portray a working class image and sang about his father's life
In the song "My Old Man", he would rarely mention that his mother was upper middle
class and the daughter of a Doctor. Her family hailed from County Donegal in Ireland
where they had a 189 acre dairy farm. During the war Ian and his mother moved to his
grandmother's house in Mevagissey in Cornwall. Ian's father trained as a chauffeur with
Rolls-Royce and at the end of the war the family moved to Les Avons, near Montreux
in Switzerland. In 1946, the family returned to England but his parents split up and he
lived with his mother at 90 Front Lane, Cranham. Ian initially went to Upminster Infants
School, starting in September 1947 and was due to go to Upminster Junior School but he
never actually went. On one day in August 1949 he went swimming with a friend in an
open air pool in Southend and caught polio. It was thought that he might die but he survived.
His arms were rendered immobile, as well as his legs, but he maintained movement in his
right hand. He spent six weeks in an entire body cast to stop his body becoming
twisted. The vaccination for polio that was developed in the mid 1950's came to
late for Ian. In 1949 Ian's mother moved to 12 Waldegrave Gardens, Upminster.
Ian was almost nine when, in 1951, he was sent to Chailey Heritage Craft School, a
school and hospital for disabled children. Here Ian discovered the law of the jungle
reigned and he spent a torrid time, suffering physical and sexual abuse. He would
later write a memorable song about the place, "Hey, Hey, Take Me Away" from his
album "Laugher". Here he learnt survival skills and how to manipulate people to get
his own way. After Chailey, in 1954, Ian went to the Royal Grammar School in High
Wycombe. He was 12 and a half when he arrived but he was put into the first year
where being older and disabled he stood out and he hated every minute of it. Holidays
were back home in Upminster, where he was a bit of a tearaway and he learned the
Cockney rhyming slang of which he was so fond. Various relatives also lived at Ian's
mother's address and the house was so full that his mother bought Ian a Bluebird caravan
so Ian could live in the garden. Ian loved this and lived a rather spoilt existence.
Here, Ian could play his records loud. He particularly loved Gene Vincent. Ian left the
Royal Grammer School in 1959 with 'O' Levels in English Literature, English Language and Art.
He was offered a place at Walthamstow Art College and became a talented artist. Here
Ian often behaved outrageously and picked up the habit of greeting people with "Oi! Oi!"
It was at Walthamstow that Ian was taught by well known artist Peter Blake who
became a life long friend. In October 1963, Ian was accepted on the painting course at
the Royal College of Art and was awarded a grant for a post-graduate course. Ian
lived at 144 Elgin Avenue, Maida Vale and here he met Russell Hardy who would
later co-write some early songs with him including such classics as "There Ain't Half Been
Some Clever Bastards". At the Royal College of Art, Ian met Betty Rathmell (born 12th
August 1942) and they both graduated on 8th July 1966 with a 2:1 ARCA Diploma and
moved in together. The following year they married at the registry office in Barnstaple,
Devon. They lived at Cara Lodge, Bedford Park, Chiswick and Ian found part-time work
as an Art teacher at Luton College of Further Technology. In March 1968, Ian's father
died at the age of 62. His father left him £2000 and with that Ian and Betty started a family,
their daughter Jemima was born on 4th January 1969. From September 1970, Ian got a job
as a teacher at Canterbury College of Art. It was around this time that Ian and his friend
Russell were driving through Kilburn and Ian came up with a great name for a band -
Kilburn and the High Roads. Ian and Russell began to play music with friends around 1970.
The death of Gene Vincent on 12th October 1971 at the age of 36, motivated Ian to kick
start his band and on 5th December 1971, Kilburn and the High Roads played their first
gig at Croydon School of Art. With Ian were Chris Lucas, Keith Lucas (no relation),
Humphrey Butler-Bowden (later Humphrey Ocean), Ian Smith and Russell Hardy.
By this time Ian and Betty had moved to an old vicarage in Wingrave, Buckinghamshire.
Here, Betty gave birth to their second child, Baxter on 18th December 1971, whilst Ian
and his group rehearsed in the front room. Baxter is the young boy who appears on the
cover of "New Boots and Panties" with Ian. The line up of Kilburn and the High Roads
often changed and included the likes of Charlie Hart, Terry Day, Charlie Sinclair and
David Newton-Rohoman (from Guyana) who was also disabled, having to walk on
crutches. Davey Payne joined as saxophone player and he would work with Ian for the
next 25 years as one of the Blockheads. Kilburn and the High Roads joined the London
pub circuit and soon made a name for itself and astonishingly, even got to support 'The
Who' on their UK tour in October 1973. It was around this time that Ian left his wife and kids
and moved to London. He meet a pretty girl called Denise Roudette and they lived together
for some six years in a top floor flat at 40 Oval Mansions, Kennington (which Ian called
"Catshit Mansions"). In January 1974, Kilburn and the High Roads recorded their first album
for Raft Records but they closed down and it was not released until after Ian became famous.
Russell Hardy left the Kilburns and was replaced by Roderick Melvin. Rod would go
on to co-write such Ian Dury classics as "What a Waste". Striking a deal with Pye,
the original Raft Records album was re-recorded and released in June 1975 under the title of
"Handsome" on the Dawn label. A couple of singles were released - "Rough Kids"
and "Crippled with Nerves" but weren't hits. The album sold less than 3000 copies and
the band broke up. In November 1975, Ian set about relaunching his band, this time
as Ian Dury and the Kilburns. Rod Melvin left the band and was replaced by Chaz Jankel
who was to become Ian's major songwriting collaborator. The first time Chaz meet Ian
at a gig in London, Ian said to him "ere mate do I know you? ..... well fuck off then" He
hadn't realised that Chaz was responding to an invitation to come down. Ian Dury and the
Kilburns played their last gig on 17th June 1976 supported by two up and coming unknown
bands called "The Strangers" and "The Sex Pistols". Around this time, Ian signed a deal
with Blackhill Enterprises to publish his songs. Their office was on the top floor of 32
The bottom of the building was rented out to a new record company called "Stiff Records".
Meanwhile, Ian and Chaz got together at Catshit Mansions and started writing. They wrote
"Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll" and six other songs that would form the bulk of the album
"New Boots and Panties". Ian was also presenting sheets of lyrics to an American
journalist and guitar player called Steve Nugent and they co-wrote some songs together,
four of which, My Old Man, Billericay Dickie, Plasitow Patricia and Blackmail Man
were also destined for "New Boots and Panties". In the spring of 1977, Ian and
Chaz recorded some demos at Alvic studios in Wimbledon. They used two session
musicians, Charley Charles on drums and Norman Watt-Roy on bass, both destined to
be future Blockheads. The 10 track Album recorded was rejected by everybody,
what with Ian's unnerving physical appearance and explicit lyrics.
However, Blackhill did a deal licensing the album to Stiff Records and "New Boots
and Panties" was eventually released on 30th September 1977. It would go on to sell
a million copies. In order to promote the album and the other artists signed to the
Stiff label, Stiff Records organised a tour consisting of Ian Dury, Elvis Costello,
Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric and Larry Wallis. The tour kicked off on 3rd October
1977 and finished on 5th November 1977. Ian needed a backing band. He already
had Chaz Jankel who played guitar as well as keyboards and they got Charley Charles
and Norman Watt-Roy, (who had played drums and bass on the album) to join. Norman and
Charley suggested two musicians called Mickey Gallagher (on keyboards) and John Turnball
(on guitar) with whom they had previously worked. Davey Payne was at that time playing
sax for Wreckless Eric but in due course he also joined Ian's as yet unnamed band.
A Stiff promoter called Kozmo Vinyl used to introduce the band every night under all
sorts of names, such as Ian Dury and the Readers' Wives'. One night after a concert
in the Midlands, he introduced the band as Ian Dury and The Blockheads.
The name stuck and the rest is history.
IF YOU WANT TO READ THE FULL DETAILS OF IAN'S LIFE
YOU'VE GOT TO READ "SEX & DRUGS & ROCK & ROLL:
THE LIFE OF IAN DURY BY RICHARD BALLS
(ISBN 0-7119-7721-6) PUBLISHED BY OMNIBUS PRESS