Ian Dury 1942–2000. Rock Performer and song writer, polio survivor

Ian Dury (1942-2000), that ‘flaw of the jungle’, produced a remarkable and sustained body of work that explored issues of disability, in both personal and social contexts, institutionalisation, and to a lesser extent the pop cultural tradition of disability”, George McKay 2009.

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Ian contracted polio aged 7. After 6 weeks in a full plaster cast in Royal Cornwall Infirmary, Truro, he was moved to Black  Notley  Hospital,  Braintree, Essex, where he spent a year and a half before going to Chailey Heritage Craft School, East Sussex in 1951. Chailey was also a hospital for disabled children, and believed in toughening them up, contributing to the observant and determined person Dury became. Chailey taught trades such as cobbling and printing but Dury’s mother wanted him to be more academic, so his aunt Moll arranged for him to enter the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe. He recounted being punished for misdemeanours by being made to learn long tracts of poetry until a housemaster found him sobbing and put a stop to it. Despite this he got 3 GCEs and went to Walthamstow Art College and the Royal College of Art. In 1970 he formed the band Kilburn and the High Roads. On the pub circuit he developed his music hall style and killer lyrics. In 1976 he formed the Blockheads, a punk band before punk. Ian could not hide his two legs with callipers and affected left arm, so his patter and songs projected a very cool sexy and off beat image that chimed with the times. Hits such as Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, Hit me with your Rhythm Stick and Reasons to be Cheerful were backed up by LPs such as New Boots and Panties, 1977 or What a Waste, 1978 https://youtu.be/beCMefqOi3w?t=29  Dury drew on his experience at Chailey to write Hey Hey Take Me Away covering the harsh life in institutions including sexual abuse and bullying. https://youtu.be/HmK8p-6Z3_A?t=2  (Lyrics Below)

Dury’s 1981 song Spasticus Autisticus” written to show his disdain for that year’s International Year of the Disabled  which he saw as patronising and counter-productive. This was one of the outstanding protest songs about the place of disabled people in what he called ‘normal land’. The lyrics were uncompromising:

So place your hard-earned peanuts in my tin
And thank the Creator you’re not in the state I’m in
So long have I been languished on the shelf
I must give all proceedings to myself ( full lyrics at end)

The song’s refrain, “I’m spasticus, autisticus“, was inspired by the response of the rebellious Roman gladiators in the film Spartacus, who, when instructed to identify their leader, all answered, “I am Spartacus“, to protect him.  Dury described the song as “a war cry” on Desert Island Discs. Although the song was at first banned from being broadcast by the BBC before 6 p.m. it was used at the opening of the London 2012 Paralympics. https://youtu.be/6isXNVdguI8?t=167

spasticus-autictic_2323741b

HEY, HEY, TAKE ME AWAY LYRICS

“Top of Form

Bottom of Form

(spoken)
What’s all this spunk on the duckboards?
Come on Lawrence… come on Lawrence…
Let’s go out and have a prayer meeting
Take a chance with our new shotgun
Hey! Come on Lawrence!
It’s time we escaped again, my son
Oi!
Come on!

Aaargh
Hey, hey, take me away I hate waking up in this place
There’s nutters in here who whistle and cheer

When they’re watching a one-legged race
And a one-legged prefect gets me in bed

Makes me play with his dick
And One legged horn and he’s shouting the odds
Driving me bloody well sick

When I get better, when I get strong
Will I be alright in the head?
They’re making me well, if they’re caring for me
Why do they boot me and punch me?
Why do they bash me and crunch me?
Some of the counterpanes are pink and other ones are blue

Hey, hey, take me away
From the ones that go mad every night
They’re crazy and dangerous one-legged sods
Who have to sit down when they bite
One-legged Peter who knows bloody well
He’s got worse ever since he came in
This other poor cunt, he was born back-to-front
And he’s always got stuff on his chin

When I get better, when I get strong
Will I be alright in the head?
Give me a sweet and accost me
I’ll do hope God hasn’t lost me
I know it’s brown and the walls have been scraped with blood where someone hanged themself

I hope so!

Get it?

Hey, hey, take me away
I’m the first to put last in the past
Take the handcuffs away and please do what I say
‘Cos I hate the untouchable cast
I want to be normal in body and soul
And normal in thought, word and in deed
And everyone here will whistle and cheer
And be happy to see me succeed

Cheerful Charlie Ashforth
Now that I’m better, now that I’m strong
Will I be alright in the head?
Grey worry lines in all my designs
And life isn’t rosy, it’s red
As to why I wrote this song
I ain’t done nothing wrong, but I’m unhappy
Question: Do you blame your life on life
And say it all began before the nappy?

Hey, hey, take me away”
(REPEAT)

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus (1981)
I’m spasticus autisticus

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticusI wibble when I piddle
Cos my middle is a riddle

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus

I dribble when I nibble
And I quibble when I scribble

Hello to you out there in Normal Land
You may not comprehend my tale or understand

As I crawl past your window give me lucky looks
You can read my body but you’ll never read my books

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m knobbled on the cobbles
Cos I hobble when I wobble
Swim!

So place your hard-earned peanuts in my tin
And thank the Creator you’re not in the state I’m in

So long have I been languished on the shelf
I must give all proceedings to myself

I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus
I’m spasticus, I’m spasticus
I’m spasticus autisticus

54 appliances in leather and elastic
100 000 thank yous from 27 spastics

Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus
Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus
Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus

Widdling, griddling, skittling, diddling
Fiddling, diddling, widdling, diddling spasticus

I’m spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus
Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus
Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus

Spasticus, spasticus
Spasticus autisticus

I’m spasticus!
I’m spasticus!
I’m spasticus!
I’m spasticus!
I’m spasticus!
I’m spasticus!
I’m spasticus!
Spasticus!

https://youtu.be/qRSmhU_JTjE?t=14 Documentary made 1 month after Ian died introduced by Suggs 1 hour 1 minute