On the eve of a new tribute act fronted by Swindon’s Mark Colton, he tells me “Dury seems to be a forgotten genius and the blockheads are an amazing band still. We just want to remind people of what a great showman he was, and what great songs there are……”
I find myself pondering on Dury’s virtuosity, influence and why it’s popularly considered underrated. True, the meandering and wishy-washy narrative of Matt Whitecross’ 2010 biopic, Sex & Drugs & Rock n Roll, didn’t do much justice, but his funeral, a decade prior to the film, saw a handful of celebrities, keen on honouring the mysterious persona of Ian Dury. From Mo Mowlam and Robbie Williams to Madness, the latter of whom occupied a similar place in the nation’s heart as Ian Dury and the Blockheads did a few short years prior.
A posthumous national treasure, in death he achieved what his dark and edgy character prevented him from accomplishing, a Times obituary praised the singer’s “Swiftian satirical streak” and acknowledged his “lasting place in the corpus of the English popular song.” If The Blockheads’ pseudo-fusion of jazz into punk didn’t wash with the atypical punk movement, it certainly scored them some hits, and anyway, when did punk itself ever adhere to “fit in?”
To take onboard recent trends in British unpremeditated, often jokey street rap, the kind The Streets, Lily Allen and Kate Nash rinsed, Dury popularised that poetic verse, to consider post-punk’s more jazzy moments, The Blockheads reigned supreme, but perhaps the synthesis doesn’t pigeonhole them for a majority to realise the strength of their influence on pop.
Swindon’s newly formed six-piece Dury Duty is dedicated to the songs and performance of legendary band leader and raconteur Ian Dury, rather than recent Blockheads reformation. This combo of experienced musicians strives to recreate the sound and feel of a genuine Ian Dury concert, drawing from material found within his solo output, his work with The Kilburns, The Blockheads as well as other side projects.
“I have decided to follow my heart and do the projects I have always wanted to do,” Mark explained, “including this one. The initial set features the sort of set around the time Do it Yourself would have been released, lots of songs from New Boots.”
Colton leads in Thin Lizzy tribute, The Lizzy Legacy, temporarily fronted ska covers band The Skandals, continues in the punk cover band Rotten Aces, and has been gigging solo for a while with a repertoire of two-tone and punk covers. He basically has his fingers in so many pies, it’s tricky to keep up! I asked him if the concentration was solely on Dury Duty now, or if the other original and tribute acts are still in motion.
“The solo stuff will continue,” he informed, “I have a few projects still on the go. My original material band CREDO is recording our 5th album, Rotten Aces are gigging again from April, after getting a new guitarist. I have a Marillion Tribute too, called Marquee Square Heroes, and the Lizzy Legacy are still active, but less so due to others commitments and of course, Dury Duty. Each band is a different challenge, but they all keep me on my toes!”
Along with the expected big hitters, such as ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll’, ‘Reasons To be Cheerful (Pt.3)’, ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’, and ‘What A Waste’ forming the backbone of any set, Dury Duty promise “lesser known but equally entertaining nuggets to whet the appetite of any long-time Ian Dury aficionado.”
Mark is joined by Jono Judge – Saxophones, Percussion and Vocals, Michael York – Piano, Keyboards, Guitar and Vocals, Brian Barnes – Guitars and Vocals, Rob McGregor – Drums and Vocals and Ken Wynne – Bass Guitar and Vocals. A self-confessed “talented band of brothers” keen on not only entertaining those familiar with the extensive cannon of this great performer and wordsmith, but to bring new fans to the man. “Ian Dury is sorely missed and his sharp, witty and often cutting observations on the mundane and absurd through his lyrics and poetic verse are carried forward by this.”
Opening gig is at Swindon’s premier venue, Old Town’s Victoria on Friday June 3rd, but are the band ready to roll, should a nearer booking come their way, I asked Mark. “I suspect we would do something if it came up for Dury Duty, but that’s what we are working towards at the moment. We will be looking to get out and get this working, the songs are a pleasure to play.” Got to wish them all the best with the project, being it innovative and crucial for a tribute act find a sustainably eminent niche which doesn’t fall into cliché, and for the reasons of Ian Dury’s elapsed stimulus makes this project exciting local music news.
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