Ian makes an exhibition of himself

August 2, 2013

The summer of 2013 sees the first major exhibition of the paintings and artworks of Ian Dury.

JD - At Kara Lodge 2
Ian at Kara Lodge (photo courtesy of Jemima Dury)

The exhibition ‘Ian Dury: More Than Fair – paintings, drawingsand artworks 1961-1972’ is being staged at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU from 22 July to 1 September (Closed Mondays). Free Admission.

The show has been put together by Ian’s daughter Jemima Dury, ‘former confederate’ Kosmo Vinyl, and one time Stiff Records art director Julian Balme. More than 30 pieces will be on display, most of them coming from the Dury family archive, with some pieces loaned by Ian’s friends, and collectors.
The Royal College is an apposite venue for such a celebration; Ian gradated there on 8 July 1966 with a diploma as an Associate of the Royal College of Art. He went on to teach art at various schools and colleges before forming his band Kilburn and the High Roads in 1971.
Lee-Marvin-webLee Marvin
Ian: “When I was a painter I got good enough to know my limitations. To exactly place myself, and ambition is one of the driving forces of anyone’s creative output and the thought that you’re gonna be the best. You want to rank with your heroes like Renoir. There’s a room at Kenwood with a Rembrandt and a Vermeer and a Frans Hals. Once you’ve done twelve years, which I had, you get to point where you know that however hard you try, fifteen hours a day, you reach a point where you realise you ain’t necessarily gonna be good enough to please yourself. Good enough to spend that time agonising over it. Lucien Freud is always grafting, it’s pure frustration. If you’re prepared to put up with that life, you’ve got to believe in yourself to a very huge extent and I’d sooner fall asleep with a book.”
Princess Rockeberty
Ian: “A lot of us got into The Royal College Of Art.  They called us the Walthamstow Cockneys. A load of us got in – 14 into the painting school, let alone the dress design department.  There was a mass exodus every year into The Royal College for a further three years of jollification. Peter Blake was teaching there, we’re good mates.  The kind of work a few of us were into related to being able to enjoy things that were popular rather than going down the bleeding library all the time.”
Hey, Hey Mobile
Ian: “I met Betty, my late first wife, at the Royal College of Art. She was at Newport College of Art. Her dad went to the Royal College of Art in the thirties. Getting into the RCA was the only thing I’ve aspired to in my life. I spent two years trying to get in. It’s the only achievement I’ve ever felt, a bit like going to the university of your choice. I’m really pleased I went there, I’m proud of it. I wouldn’t have been able to learn about how to live as a person doing what they want to do if I hadn’t gone there, allowing your determination and output to control the way things go – my nine and my five.”
See you there!

The Great Tortoise Hunt (1962) – previously unseen footage of Ian Dury

May 11, 2012

Ian Dury with syrup

During his time as a student at Walthamstow College of Art (1959-63), Ian also taught in local schools. It was at Culverhouse Secondary Modern School in South Ockendon that he met fellow teacher Gordon Law. Fuelled by a diet of jazz and poetry, Ian and Gordon would fantasise about making improvised radio shows and films. The Goons were an influence, as was Richard Lester’s The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film (1959), featuring Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers.


In 1962 Gordon Law acquired a second-hand Bolex 8mm cine camera and suggested that Ian and his friends make a movie. Filming took place on Sundays in the garden of Ian’s home in Upminster, and in fields close to Barry White’s house in Wood End, Brentwood. The troupe consisted of Ian and his girlfriend Pat Few, Barry and Barbara White, Gordon and Ann Law, and Mike Price. At various points in the film Ian’s mimicry of silent movies legends such as Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Hardy is effortless.


Gordon Law: ‘The films we tried to make were incredibly chaotic because each person who took part had an entirely different view of what the films were about. Ian was dressed either as a gun-slinging sheriff or a New York taxi driver with a special leather flat cap. Ian was a crack shot, one-handed with an air rifle in those days. He could hit an Old Holborn tin in the garden from the attic window of Waldegrave Gardens at maybe 100 feet plus.’

Barry White: ‘We went to Waldegrave Gardens and I remember Ian’s caravan in the garden. It was his studio cum living quarters. Reading between the lines, I think his mum realised she had produced someone who was rather special and she was extremely supportive. It didn’t surprise me when Ian became a star – the signs were there when we made the home movies.’

Ian Dury with titfer and salmon

With special thanks to Barry White, who provided me with the 1962 film on video, from which I was able to transfer it to a digital format for editing and upload. The six minute clip shown here has been edited down from the eleven minute original. Some jolly piano music has been added to enhance the viewing experience.

Postscript: Ian’s mother Peggy actually had two tortoises – Homer and Chloe. I’m not sure which of them has the cameo role in The Great Tortoise Hunt, but it is safe to assume that no animals were harmed during filming.

Visit Barry White’s website: http://www.barry-white.net/

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Ian’s Old Muckers #1: Fred ‘Spider’ Rowe

August 31, 2011

“When we went to America, I told him, ‘These Americans Ian, they adore you, they love the stories you tell.’ Everywhere we went, the place was jammed. I told him, ‘In Europe and England, you’ve always been able to pull a bird and get knobbing, but in America you ain’t. What’s the reason for that?’ The American birds never went for him. He only pulled two the whole time we were there, and one of them was a bit of a Magnus [Pyke]. I said, ‘That’s a geezer ain’t it?’ He liked them like that. ‘Fuck off,’ he said.”

“Me and Davey had a few arguments. Davey used to tell me he was going to give Ian a whack. I told him, ‘You’ll have to give me a whack first and you won’t find that easy.’ In Germany, we were in the hotel and the bloke behind the desk had an Irish [jig] on. Ian pointed it out to me because I’m bald and I won’t wear one. Ian asked him, ‘How much hair you got under there?’ The bloke took umbrage and got the right hump. I said, ‘Allow me to apologise for my friend, he’s drunk.’ But Ian knocked all the stuff off the counter. The geezer leapt forward and grabbed Ian by his scarf. I wasn’t quite quick enough, so I grabbed hold of his hand and wrenched it away from Ian. I thought he was a mug and I didn’t want to hurt him. I was saying, ‘Please don’t make me do it,’ but Ian’s going, ‘Fred, knock him out!’ As I turned to talk to Ian, the geezer’s punched me on the side of the head, so I had to deal with him. He called the police. They spoke to me in English, but when we got to the police station they could only speak German! Peter Jenner had to pay money to get me out of the nick.”

“Ian told me that when he was young he should have been kicking a ball about and scrumping apples, but he was put in this institution. It must have been quite bewildering for this affliction to hit him at such an early age. I never noticed it. All I saw was the man, but he used to think that everybody noticed his disability. He had a down on himself. He invented it. I told him, ‘They see you as an artist and a rocker, not a raspberry [ripple]. It’s your talent, not your fucking bodily structure.’ He asked me, ‘Do you believe that?’ I wasn’t in the habit of giving him bollocks. He used to thank me. You could up him for a few days, then he’d be on his own. If he never had some old tabby with him to cheer him up he’d go into depression again.”

“But he changed my life. I’d never met anyone like Ian before. I had a huge mistrust of people due to my mixing with the criminal fraternity, but Ian made an impact on me. He would say things that were complimentary, then stand back and let you digest what he’d said. When I met him, I thought he was an ordinary bloke writing songs, but he was far more than ordinary. I know for certain that if we hadn’t have met, I would have pursued a life of crime and been back in jail. But I became engrossed in Ian’s world and people like Dave Robinson were suddenly treating me with respect. Ian was the catalyst. He treated me as an equal. I’d never had that before.”

As told to Will Birch, May 2008. Photographs: Fred by Terry Lott, Fred and Ian by Chris Gabrin.

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My Old Man – The Tale of Bill Dury, Part 2

June 8, 2011
Bill Dury as a young man. Photo courtesy of Margaret Webb
Following their marriage in December 1938, Bill and Peggy moved into 1b Belsize Road, the flat that Peggy had been sharing with her sister Molly and occasional visitor Elisabeth. Bill was employed as a bus driver and would often arrive home from work to find his wife and her two sisters involved in some deep intellectual discussion from which he felt excluded. In 1939, with the threat of war with Germany on everyone’s mind, Bill persuaded Peggy that they should consider moving from the middle of London. Bill found some rentable housing in Harrow Weald, to where he and Peggy moved in the summer of that year. Molly came along too.
43 Weald Rise, Harrow Weald, the birthplace of Ian Dury

Ian was born at Weald Rise on 12 May 1942, but within 18 months Peggy had decided to take him to live with her mother in Cornwall, to avoid the bombing in and around London. Bill stayed at Weald Rise and continued to work for London Transport. In 1945, however, he saw an advertisement for a job as trainee chauffeur with Rolls Royce. Before long he was chauffeuring businessmen around England and even across Europe. When Ian contracted polio in 1949 and became a boarder at Chailey Heritage Craft School for disabled children in East Sussex, Bill would often visit his son and turn up in the Rolls Royce.

Bill visiting Ian in Chailey, 1951. Photo courtesy of Margaret Webb
In 1954, Ian passed his eleven plus exams and entered the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe. Bill, who was now estranged from Peggy and driving for the Western European Union, would often visit Ian at school.
Bill Dury, at the time he was driving for the Western European Union, circa 1963. The BOAC coach terminal at Victoria is in the background. Photo courtesy of Jemima Dury

For the remainder of his life Bill lived alone in small flat in Ebury Street, Victoria, but he and Peggy never divorced. Bill died from acute bronchitis and emphysema on 25 February 1968, aged 62.
A copy of Bill’s death certificate

In 1998, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Ian described going to Caxton Hall to identify his father’s body. ‘So there’s my old man lying on this purple velvet slate with this strange smile. I knew he didn’t look quite right. I didn’t realise until I cleared his room out that he hadn’t got his teeth in.’ Ian asked Bill’s neighbour if he would mind disposing of his father’s teeth. ‘Everything else was all right,’ said Ian. ‘But I couldn’t touch his fucking teeth.’
Oi Oi!

My Old Man – The Tale of Bill Dury, Part 1

May 1, 2011

Bill Dury, posing for the camera. Photo courtesy of Jemima Dury
One of the joys of researching Ian’s biography was to uncover little known facts about his family background and, in particular, his father’s genealogy, aspects of which had been a bit of a mystery up until this point. I am of course grateful to Jemima Dury for pointing me in the direction of Ian’s cousin, Margaret Webb. It was Margaret who told me all about the family’s Kentish roots and gave me a few names and places to explore. I soon set off for the (now sadly closed) Family Record Centre in London for hours of fascinating research. Two or three visits yielded Bill Dury’s birth, marriage and death certificates.
Bill was born on 23 September 1905 in Southborough, Kent

Although the certificates provide only scant, yet crucial, detail, with the help of family and friends’ reminiscences and Ian’s own recollections, it was possible to piece together a portrait of Bill Dury, the suave and upwardly aspirational ladies’ man, who yearned to rub shoulders with toffs. Although it is part conjecture on my part, I feel sure that Bill was knocked off his feet when he met his wife-to-be, Margaret (Peggy) Walker. Peggy was descended from a family of wealthy Irish Protestant land-owners. It was quite a contrast to Bill’s working class roots and his occupation of bus driver.

Bill Dury, third from left at back, with work mates at Western National, c.1937. Photo courtesy of Margaret Webb

Bill and Peggy married in London on 23 December 1938, at:
All Souls Church, Loudoun Road, London NW8
The tale of Bill Dury, to be continued…
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Ian writes a rock’n’roll love letter

February 23, 2011

As readers of ‘The Definitive Biography’ will know, Ian dated American girl-about-scene and future legendary punk roots photographer Roberta Bayley when she was hanging out in London in the early 1970s. Roberta had yet to establish her credentials as New York’s leading pictorial chronicler of the early Ramones, Blondie and Television, and Ian was some years away from pop stardom, but in the autumn on 1973 their stars were in the ascendent. Roberta listened to Charlie Gillett’s BBC Radio London show ‘Honky Tonk’ and also worked part-time at Let It Rock, the Malcolm McLaren / Vivienne Westwood boutique in the Kings Road. It was on Gillett’s radio show that Roberta first heard about Kilburn and the High Roads and, with McLaren, went to see the band.

‘I would read through the small ads in the back of the music rags every week,’ Malcolm told me. ‘Primarily for the purpose of looking for pop cultural events that might in some way intrigue me… Kilburn and the High Roads… the idea of calling yourself after the name of a street obviously intrigued me.’

Roberta eventually came face to face with Ian at a Kilburns gig at the City of London Polytechnic in September 1973. They became close friends for a brief period until Roberta had to return to her native America. She had no idea that Ian would bombard her with letters over the next five years. Those letters reveal the inner workings of Ian’s often tortured brain as he patiently awaited success, knowing all the time that he had the musical goods, if not the best method of delivery. However stylish and amusing Kilburn and the High Roads might have been, the band’s musical fragility and ever-changing line-up impaired their chances of commercial success. When Ian wrote the above letter in May 1977, in which he complained about being ‘skint’ and on the ‘rock dole’, he had just found the musicians who would become the basis of the Blockheads and was about to record his breakthrough LP New Boots and Panties!! For Ian, stardom and financial reward were just a few months away.

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‘Ian Speaks’ – from the gob of Ian Dury #5

January 2, 2011

Unpublished gems from the gob of Ian Dury #5. Photo: courtesy of Chris Gabrin

“You’ve got three distinct factions with the Blockheads. You’ve got the Loving Awareness boys, Charley, Norman, Mickey and Johnny, who were a group already. You’ve got Chaz. And you’ve got me and Davey, who were in the Kilburns. There’s a cross-fertilisation of friendships and working relationships. I first invited Davey on stage at Rochester School of Art, the second gig the Kilburns ever did, he was there hanging about. The freedom in his playing has got nothing to do with where Chaz is coming from, so you’ve got different sources. Norman has been on the road since he was 13. Mickey was standby organ player with the Animals when he was 17. They’re steeped in doing it, been in thousands of groups.  What I always found to be miraculous was their attitude. They’d been burnt I don’t know how many times and they still came up for more. When I look at Norman on stage… he plays with Wilko and plays Charlie Parker solos all night! Johnny Turnbull never holds back, his commitment is there, he’s there because he wants to be there. I find that inspiring. Whatever tributaries I may have wandered down, if I write good songs I want them to be with the Blockheads.”

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‘Ian Speaks’ – from the gob of Ian Dury #4

November 30, 2010

Unpublished gems from the gob of Ian Dury #4. Photo: courtesy of Ed Baxter

“Being older didn’t seem any kind of drawback. At 31 I was quite fond of myself, with what I looked like, I was quite confident about the glamour quotient. I was quite a cocky dick on stage, fearless. In a way, that came across. It’s not until you’re about 36 or 37 that age does begin to creep across your boat race. I’d been teaching and Keith said, ‘How old are you Ian?’ I must have been 27. He said, ‘Ooh, your skin goes like pastry over 25!’ He’d have been about 21 or 22. Plus we were well aware we had a couple of good looking boys in the band. Keith… as long as you cover the spectrum, a couple of loopies and a couple of crackers, you’re alright. I knew I was old, but I didn’t feel it. Charlie Watts is older than me, I’ve known him since 1964. I’m younger than Ringo and I’m younger than Bill, so I’m the youngest on the bill!”

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‘Ian Speaks’ – from the gob of Ian Dury #3

November 29, 2010

Unpublished gems from the gob of Ian Dury #3. Photo: courtesy of Chris Gabrin

“Fred Rowe at the Torrington… I was singing and I saw a brandy glass come flying through the air. Smash! It bounced off me and hit the drummer. Fred’s talking to a girl with large bosoms and didn’t notice it. I said, ‘Fred, a geezer’s just thrown a glass, get up the back, when he moves he’s yours.’ When the number finished I said, ‘I get paid to stand here like a cunt, who threw the glass? Whoever it was better go home now. You all know who he was, send him packing.’ The geezer moved and Fred said ‘Gotcha…’ ”

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‘Ian Speaks’ – from the gob of Ian Dury #2

September 17, 2010

Unpublished gems from the gob of Ian Dury #2

“When I was at the Royal College of Art there was a bloke in the graphics department who had this book about the Nazis. The back third was sealed with a warning. I wanted to burn the book. I didn’t want it to exist, to be in the world. If you show that image to somebody it will be burnt into their mind for the rest of their life. What good does that do? I’ve got a friend who has to stay out the way a little bit because of his paintings and he had a book called ‘The Encyclopaedia of Sexual Perversions’. It was German, printed in the thirties. There was some innocuous stuff in it, but one photograph of a geezer hanging from a washing line by his bollocks, which were stretched by about two foot. When you turned the book upside down, he had a big smile on his face. Masochism. The book was full of it. I’m glad I’m clean. I don’t want to be tainted by that stuff. Another book, ‘The Encyclopaedia of Murder’ by a bloke called Colin Wilson. There was a bloke in it called Albert Fish who ate kids with sugar. I can’t handle it, I’m a naïve little prat from Upminster.”

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