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Ian Dury and Jemima

Ian and Jemima Dury

‘Hallo Sausages’, The Lyrics of Ian Dury

In the year he would have celebrated his 70th Birthday, Jemima Dury, daughter of musician Ian Dury, has published a book of 160 of her father’s song lyrics.  Titled ‘Hallo Sausages’, the first and only words written for his autobiography, the book also includes a personal history of his life, a spectrum of personal photos and illustrations, some of the original manuscripts, memorabilia and a CD.  HOT’s Zelly Restorick met with Hastings resident, Jemima Dury, to talk about the book and memories of her father.

Ian Dury was much more than the musician who contributed the phrases “Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll” and “Reasons To Be Cheerful“ to the English language.  Born towards the end of the Second World War, the only child of Peggy, a health worker and Bill, a bus driver and chauffeur, Ian Dury was a multi-talented artist; a student of the Royal College of Art, a painter and illustrator, a born performer, a wordsmith, a film and stage actor and playwright.

A sensitive, highly intelligent man, Dury originally went into music to support his desire to be a painter, developing a tough, raw-edged, swearing, irreverent, charming, East End cockney stage persona with his bands, Kilburn And The High Roads and later, The Blockheads.  Jemima remembers her father as ‘always bashing on things with drum sticks’ and as someone who delighted in the rhythm and sound of words, rhymes and cockney rhyming slang.

Talking to Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs, Dury said, ‘I like my lyrics best when they make me laugh – and especially when they make other people laugh….  I’ve been accused of philosophy, I’ve been accused of poetry, I’m not guilty of either of these….  The reason we’re all there is to enjoy ourselves… we’re not there to be grumpy – or too profound.’

Jemima spoke about going along to her father’s performances.

‘His entertainer-performer side emerged.  Loving style and loving writing, there was an unexpected joy that came out of his music.  The biggest buzz.  He came to life on stage.  I don’t really go and see bands so much now… every gig is set up against the ones I saw with Dad and the other musicians… They were incredible.

‘The music changed as Dad got older… you can see these changes reflected in his lyrics.  The different styles, the influences of different co-writers.  The quality of his writing just got better and better.  He had an amazing take on life at all times, insightful and humorous. Looked at chronologically, you can understand his life history through the lyrics.’

Jemima Dury

Jemima Dury Photo by Daniela Exley

When her father died in March 2000, Jemima felt a strong urge to publish his lyrics, partly so they were all in one place, partly to protect them and also, as a personal journey, searching for messages and signs as to who her father really was and to have a better understanding of him.


‘Initially, I found it too hard emotionally, I hit a block’, she told me.  ‘Even looking at album covers was upsetting.’

The book was put on hold until the development of the biopic, ‘Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll’, written by Paul Viragh and starring Andy Serkis as Dury.

‘The film researchers needed more information and I knew that if I didn’t do it now, I never would… I needed to grab the momentum and take a look at what Dad had left behind.’

Prior to his death, Dury had put all of his paperwork into storage, stuffed into carrier bags, box files, folders, bin liners and boxes.

‘I kept finding more and more and more papers, manuscripts, lyrics, paintings, memorabilia…’

Prior to this discovery, Jemima had imagined she’d be writing down all the lyrics by listening to recordings.  I asked her if it was difficult choosing what to include and what to leave out from this treasure house of material?

‘I didn’t include anything unfinished or works in progress.  I worked with Dad’s brother-in-law, Jake Tilson, who designed the book…  I had a strong instinct on how I wanted it to look – with breaks and visual differences throughout.  In the biographical sections of the book, I wanted to retain my own strong voice, but I also felt a huge responsibility towards everyone involved… The Blockheads, friends and family, Kilburn and The High Roads, musicians, all the people involved along the way.  It was the biggest sense of relief when my editor rang and left a message with my partner saying, “tell her she’s done it!”.

Blockhead Bag‘This book brings everything back to where it should be… everyone is recognised.  Chaz [Jankel, one of Dury’s co-writers, a major musical influence and friend] said that The Blockheads love the book – they feel appreciated.  That’s the best thing that could have been said to me.  I really wanted it to be a unifying experience… a celebration.  It was never Dad up on stage on his own… the other members of the band were all characters performing too.’

The Blockheads are still on tour, with one of Dury’s ex-minders, Derek Hussey stepping into the role of lead singer.

‘He has the perfect persona’, said Jemima, ‘great looking, great voice, London tones.  The band still has such a loyal fan base – and now there’re younger fans in the audience too, alongside the older blokes in their pork pie hats, Doc Martens and Blockhead T shirts.’

What do you think your Dad would have felt about the book?

‘Dad had an offer to produce a book of lyrics with artist, Humphrey Ocean, providing the illustrations.  Some of the drawings included in the book are from this original idea.  Humphrey said that at the time, Dad didn’t feel he wanted to go there – too final, too much like an epitaph.  If he could look down now and see what’s happened, he’s have been gob-smacked and flattered… He’d have loved it, although he might have moaned a bit too’, she added with a smile,  ‘Probably much easier to have done it without him here really.  He could be very controlling.’

Controlling over his work – or the people around him?

‘Over everything… It was important for him to know where he was and for him to know where you were too.  He was a highly intelligent person… he could be a guru or a tyrant, depending on his mood.  If things were a bit quiet, he might turn his attention on to you, which could be a good thing or a bad thing.’

What was it like for her to have a famous father?

‘Well, Mum and Dad were both brilliant.’  Jemima’s mother was painter, Elizabeth Rathmell, who Dury met at the Royal College of Art and married.  ‘When you have talented, successful parents, you can end up feeling either competitive towards them or a bit cowed.  You might think you have to strive to be as good as them.

‘It was mixed with Dad.  Sometimes it was great fun, but I didn’t always enjoy it… he wasn’t there much of the time.  And he was a performer, so there was always an element of performance whenever you were with him.  My brother, Baxter, and I got to know him by being out on jaunts with him… on the boat, on tour, caught up in all the craziness.  We had to go along with what he was doing… it didn’t really work the other way.  I still feel a bit angry and resentful about this.  Reading through his lyrics though, I realise he did love us, he just often had to express it in a jokey way.

‘I can understand he felt he had a mission and had to leave the family behind…  His career became all-consuming… it was difficult for him to switch back to domestic life.  Now I can understand his decisions more, although they still hurt a bit.

‘Julia Cameron writes in The Artists’ Way, “just turn up and do it… don’t get caught up in concepts of extremely good or extremely bad… just be yourself”.  I think the negative and positive extremes will drag you down… they did with Dad.  He needed constant attention… it was a struggle for him to have the quiet moments.’

Jemima writes in the book that contracting polio when he was seven instilled in Dury a deep sense of survival.  He spent 18 months in a hospital and 3 years at Chailey Heritage Craft School in East Sussex, where the sign ‘Men Made Here’ hung above the heads of all the pupils.  Not the most gentle of environments, the school’s mission was to toughen disabled youngsters up, developing their independence and determination, preparing them for the ‘outside world’.

The disability, she writes, ‘made him feel vulnerable, so he went through his life using his tougher side to combat his sensibilities.’

Earlier this year, Dury’s controversial song, Spasticus Autisticus, which had been banned by the BBC at the time of its release, was played at the Paralympics.  Written in 1981, it conveyed the disdain Dury felt about the International Year of Disabled Persons, making him unpopular with the disabled industry and charities.

‘I am severely disabled in some ways’, he told Sue Lawley, ‘but I’m not restricted by it…  I don’t really think about it.’

‘Dad didn’t see the point of making a massive charitable point about disability’, Jemima told me. ‘He’d say “Why do we have charities?  Why isn’t this normal? Just give me what I need to get around and live my life.”

‘Post Chailey and boarding Grammar School, I think Dad’s years at Walthamstow Art School and The Royal College of Art were probably the most joyous time for him.  I can imagine he didn’t feel so freakish anymore, amongst all the artists and musicians, going to jazz clubs, hanging out in Soho, going to bars…  Then later, fame kicked in and it all had to stop.’

Being famous and an easily recognisable figure was an experience that often made Dury unhappy.  He was frequently mobbed in the street and, unable to make a quick get-away and feeling vulnerable, he employed various minder-bodyguards over the years.

‘Dad needed someone to be tough and protective in his life.  I wanted to play that role with him… I wanted to feel useful.  Even writing this book is part of that… wanting to be useful.

‘I most enjoyed Dad’s writer side, where he sat still, at his desk…. It grounded him – and he was there and we were together.  I think he came back to writing as an anchor…  it made him a humbler, more reflective person.’

* * *

Jemima will be signing copies of ‘Hallo Sausages’ at Waterstones in Priory Meadow Shopping Centre in Hastings on Saturday 1 Dec 2012, from 11 am.

Her book can also be purchased at Bloomsbury, Amazon or the Ian Dury website.

Paintings by Ian Dury can currently be seen at the exhibition, ‘The Perfect Place To Grow, 175 years of the Royal College of Arts’.  Til 3 January 2013. More info here.

More of Dury’s artwork will be exhibited at a retrospective at the RCA next summer.




Posted 14:03 Friday, Nov 30, 2012 In: Hastings People


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Fiona Wright

    Thank you for this interesting interview & article. I loved hearing & seeing Ian Dury on stage when I went to my first Glastonbury camp in 1983. I’ve only just read this since reading about Wendy May’s radio show, and the link via Facebook. It’s great how themes reappear over the years in a timeless sort of way.

    Comment by Fiona Wright — Friday, Apr 12, 2019 @ 19:24

  2. Ted

    I hope someone gives this to for me for Christmas. I’d be fascinated to see the ‘workings’ behind the songs like “What a waste” and “This is what we find” This also prompted me to dig out some albums and re-appreciate the man’s work.

    Comment by Ted — Saturday, Dec 8, 2012 @ 10:02

  3. Zelly Restorick

    Thanks for taking the time to write to us… appreciated! Z

    Comment by Zelly Restorick — Thursday, Dec 6, 2012 @ 15:52

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