Friday, 12 August 2022

Cockney geezers still beating rhythm stick

HEADLINING at Henley’s very own “mini Glastonbury” this summer will be The Blockheads, cockney geezers extraordinaires and the original line-up

HEADLINING at Henley’s very own “mini Glastonbury” this summer will be The Blockheads, cockney geezers extraordinaires and the original line-up that played alongside the cult musician of the Eighties, the late Ian Dury.

The Blockheads, who will play at the Hideaway Festival at Fawley Hill on August 3, are still flying the flag for Dury, the outrageous Spasticus Autisticus of the rock world, who died of cancer in 2000.

Chaz Jankel, Dury’s songwriting partner who wrote the music to his lyrics, will play alongside Norman Watt-Roy on bass, Mick Gallagher on keyboards, John Turnbull on guitar and Davey Payne on saxophone. They will also be joined on guitar by their manager, Lee Harris, who scooped up the band back in 2001 when they were floundering after Dury’s death.

He said: “The band had decided to carry on and I was friendly with Norman, the bass player. I started going to gigs and selling tickets for their gigs. I used to take pictures and helped them with their website. Then I started getting them gigs, and telling them to start creating instead of recreating.”

Up until then the band hadn’t really had a proper manager — Micky Gallagher did the organising — and they didn’t even have a record contract, as the contract belonged to Dury. The way Harris speaks you get the feeling that the boys in this band certainly live up to the infamous sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll image of one of their biggest-selling songs. Managing them, he says, is “a bit like herding cats.”

“Norman plays with other bands, Johnny plays with Bob Geldof and Chaz is always busy writing. Getting them together can be quite miserable,” he says. However, he adds that they are all “lovely guys” and “very laid back”.

“I think that Ian could be quite temperamental sometimes,” he says, perhaps with a hint of understatement. “They don’t want any of that in their lives any more. They want everything to be more laid back. They are mostly in their mid-sixties so they have certainly mellowed out.”

Despite being a huge fan and a friend of the bass player, Harris only met the creative genius once in the flesh, backstage at a gig in Luton, and said he was “too shy” to make much conversation.

A film on Dury’s life released two years ago, called Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll and with Andy Serkis in the starring role, painted Dury as an alcoholic prone to unpredictable and at times violent mood swings, but Harris said this was not altogether a true picture.

He said: “We weren’t very happy with the film. The guys thought it was a true picture of him for ten minutes of a day. The rest of the day he was absolutely fine.

“Andy Serkis did a great job but it was a film really about his son, it didn’t really touch on the music or explain his knowledge of words.”

Although The Blockheads have written and recorded new albums since Dury’s death — including Where’s The Party in 2004 and Staring Down The Barrel in 2009 — they still pump out the old favourites such as Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, Billericay Dickie, What A Waste and Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3, with Derek The Draw on vocals.

“They were my favourite band when I was a kid,” says Harris. “I just loved their funky music. There aren’t any ballads, everything is up and high and has got a beat. Even What A Waste has still got a funky thing going on and has got a groove to it.”

He added the band were looking forward to coming back to Henley — they previously played at Music On The Hill which ran at Watlington for several years.

The Hideaway Festival is the brainchild of businessmen Nigel Adams and Brett Fuller, who wanted to recreate the intimate and eclectic musical vibe of Music On The Hill. Mr Fuller said it was “fantastic” that they had secured The Blockheads as the closing act of the one-day festival.

He said: “They are a genre of music that appeals to everybody — a bit rocky, a little bit jazzy in places. I was a huge Dury fan and the Blockheads in my opinion were probably the best collection of musicians that supported a guy in their day. They were exceptional.”

The line-up also includes John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett, Nubiyan Twist, Megan Henwood, The Drop and Vienna Ditto.

l Tickets for the Hideaway Festival on August 3 are £35 (free for under 12s) from In The Groove record shop, the Bread Bin in Watlington, the Fox and Hounds in Christmas Common and the Chequers in Fingest. Alternatively, you can buy them online at the festival website

lA pop-up booth selling tickets for the festival will be open on Market Place tomorrow (Saturday) from noon until 6pm. Musicians will also provide a flavour of the festival.

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