A reason to be cheerful
IT IS almost seven years since Ian Dury died but his legacy lives on through his backing band The Blockheads, who are still touring.
And next month The Blockheads will be at the Albert Halls in Bolton as part of a month long tour of regional theatres.
The band had their heyday in the 1980s when Dury, who was disabled after contracting polio as a child, became a media darling. His particular blend of cheeky but clever lyrics coupled with his Cockney persona, seemed to hit a chord with the public.
They went on to have hits with classic songs such as What a Waste, Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll and their No 1 Hit Me With Your Rhythym Stick which put the band firmly in the limelight.
Ian wrote the often controversial lyrics while The Blockheads, who were all accomplished musicians in their own right, supplied the tight driving blend of rock and reggae-influenced jazz funk backing.
Ian and The Blockheads split several times as he went into acting in film and on stage - most notably in The Royal Court's production of Bolton playwright Jim Cartwright's acclaimed play Road - and the band pursued their own musical projects.
But they reformed in the mid-1990s and played a series of gigs even though Ian by that time was ill with colorectal cancer.
Ian refused to give in to his illness and soldiered on playing his last gig in February 2000 - just a month before his death.
Keyboards player Mick Gallagher said the band was enjoying touring more than ever as it celebrated 30 years as The Blockheads.
"After Ian died we thought that was it. We all thought Ian was irreplaceable and we went away.
"But then after nine months we missed playing together and we got back together again.
"We've recorded an album and we have another one coming out later this year.
"But we've kept everything in the family so now the singing is done by Ian's driver Derek Hussey, known as Derek the Draw," he said.
Slowly over the years Derek graduated from playing the tambourine at the side of the stage to singing centre stage and is now writing some great quirky songs with Chaz Jankel.
"We decided to play these theatres because we have noticed over the last few years that we still have our original fans, but they were bringing their kids along and in some cases their grandchildren as well.
"The usual kind of rock venue we play isn't suited to taking children along so we thought the theatres would be good for our fans. We are playing two sets with an interval, so our fans of a certain age will be able to nip to the toilet and the bar!
"We always used to be a geezer band - but now our appeal has widened and we get lots of women and young children along. We have had to start making children's T-shirts as well as Blockette T-shirts for the ladies."
Mick is now aged 61 and enjoying playing more than ever.
He says: "We spent all those years trying to kill ourselves and now we spend all our time trying to stay alive!"
- The Blockheads play The Albert Halls on February 8. Tickets are £13.50 on 01204 334400.