This vinyl (or CD if you’d prefer) box set treats New Boots And Panties as year zero in the Ian Dury story, meaning that completists will need to seek out his studio beginnings with Kilburn And The High Roads for a complete set of his album recording career.
Listening to New Boots now, it’s difficult to imagine that Dury had much in common with punk. The music is a sophisticated mix of old fashioned rock’n’roll, funk and jazz, the verbal dexterity and autobiographical tales a far cry from the voracious anger of The Sex Pistols.
Dury was older, he’d studied art with Peter Blake, and already lived a peopled life as an artist and performer, but beyond the fashion of safety pins and bondage trousers, Dury represented the side of punk that has had a much longer legacy – the strength and nerve to be yourself and sod what anybody else thinks. New Boots is still a riot, a character-laden feast populated by London herberts and vagabonds including Ian’s father in My Old Man. A classic.
Prior to follow-up Do It Yourself, Dury had became a Top Of The Pops regular but neither Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick nor Reasons To be Cheerful Part 3 were included across the pub rock disco of his second long player – an unthinkable lapse for more commercially minded artists.
Laughter from 1981, his final album for Stiff, mirrored Dury’s confrontational mood of the time as he battled with depression and various addictions. Part of Dury’s charm was his gruff honesty; there was no pop star charm charade, and by the time of Lord Upminster he went against the grain of how society expected disabled people to behave (he was left crippled by the polio epidemic of the late 40s) and on Spasticus (Autisticus) stuck two fingers up to what he considered to be the patronising lip service of programmes such as The International Year Of The Disabled.
Occasional flickers aside, the fire doesn’t quite catch again until 1998’s Mr Love Pants, which saw him reunited with his legendary backing crew The Blockheads, and where Dury’s narration skills and naughty choruses returned to form, albeit to a slicker groove and cleaner production, on charming odes to such as nefarious characters as Jack Shit George and Mash It Up Harry (‘He’s got his little Wembley up his you know where’). In the words of the great man himself: “There ain’t half been some clever bastards.” And he was one of them.