Roll up, roll up ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.
It’s a little punky, it’s a little funky.
It’s a bit jazz, it’s a bit pizzazz.
It’s naughty its haughty
You wont Adam & Eve it
It’s only me old mates
Ian Dury & The Blockheads !
It’s late 1978 and the circus is back in town. There was always a bit of music hall or vaudeville about Ian and the lads, whether extolling the virtues of Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n Roll or lamenting lost opportunities in What A Waste.
Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick came out of a jam session around an earlier recording Wake Up (And Make Love To Me) and was written by singer Ian Dury and guitarist/keyboard player Chaz Jankel. It was released as a single on 23rd of November 1978.
Behindthe hit is a grinding and pulsating groove primarily led by bassist Norman Watt-Roy with his 16 notes to the bar acrobatics. I think he must have been heavily influenced by Weather Report’s Jaco Pastorios and Tower of Power’s Francis ‘Rocco’ Prestia, two leviathans of the 70s’ bass guitar world. He’s ably assisted by some tasteful jazz piano, growling organ, jangily funk guitar and solid drumming by the rest of the ‘heads. The chorus is like Chas & Dave meets disco in a sex dungeon !
We are then assaulted by Dury’s former fellow Kilburn & The High Road’s associate Davey Payne’s screeching ‘double’ sax solo – A nod to jazz colossus Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Believe me, it’s not easy playing two saxes at a time. I nearly put an eye out trying !
Leading this merry band of new wave troubadours of course is Mr. Dury. He doesn’t as much as sing but narrates this word play doggerel. Delivered in his best nursery rhyme bingo lingo Cockney, he not only gives you a useful geography lesson, he throws in a smattering of French and German too !
The whole things crescendos to a masochistic melee of screams and a demonic distorted guitar solo before crashing down into a foetal ball of shame and self loathing…………….. Am I reading too much into this ? A cold shower and I’ll be alright.
We of course didn’t know at the time that the ‘prop’ Dury carried was in fact a walking cane and that he had a withered left shoulder, arm and leg due to contracting polio as a seven year old. He certainly let it be known his views on peoples perception of disability with his anthem Spasticus Autisticus some years later.
In January 1979 Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick knocked The Village People’s Y.M.C.A. off the number one spot and remained in the charts for 8 weeks.
The B-side was There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards. Says it all really!
Je t’adore, ich liebe dich
(Post by John Allan of Bridgetown, Western Australia – November 2022)