Ian Dury and the Blockheads were a band that knew adversity. Drummer Charley Charles died of cancer in 1990 and front man Dury succumbed to the same fate 10 years later. In the absence of Dury, ‘The Blockheads’ continue to perform both the classic songs from the 70s and 80s as well as material from their own three albums, but the conventional wisdom seemed to be that devoid of the seminal man at the front, The Blockheads would be a lightweight, low-viscosity version of their former selves. Mick Gallagher, ace keyboard player and a Blockhead from the very beginning said this of carrying on after Dury’s death: “We have been told over the years by the industry to give up, as no one is interested in a backing band.”
Well actually, that’s not the case at all. The important thing to note about Ian Dury and the Blockheads is that it really wasn’t: IAN DURY and the Blockheads. The ‘backing band’ was the band; a collection of great musicians that have played sessions on an awful lot of records with an awful lot of significant artists and who were (and remain) just about the tightest live collective you’ll ever see. It wasn’t for nothing that Elton John described the Blockheads as ‘the best live band in England’.
Of course there have been personnel changes: Derek Hussey now stands where Dury once did, although his vocal and lyrical styles are remarkably similar (or maybe not so remarkable – they were close friends and Hussey once worked as Dury’s minder), a revolving door of saxophonists is headed by the highly acclaimed Gilad Atzmon and John Roberts hides behind the cymbals. But the core players: Chaz Jankel (guitar/keyboards), Mick Gallagher (keyboards), Norman Watt-Roy (bass) and John Turnbull (guitar) remain firmly intact and bang out a groove just as they did in 1979.
Derek told us; “Singing with the Blockheads is like being on top of a Blue Streak rocket! It’s maximum revs! No place for the faint hearted! Singing full time is sort of like getting the keys to the door and being given the crown jewels. It’s been so organic that it’s just developed and the start of a big journey! The most endearing part has been being accepted as an integral part of the band and being allowed to steer the car!”
The band has a rich and varied history and to document it, their latest project is a self-termed ‘BlockDoc’ artistic collaboration with Soho film production company Free Seed Films. Beyond The Call Of Dury promises to be the definitive documentary chronicling the history of the band and it’s core players from inception through the Dury years and beyond.
To realise this ambition, The Blockheads and Free Seed have turned to the crowd funding website Kickstarter. They have a campaign running right now, the goal of which is to raise £50,000. The money will be used primarily to license use of archive footage, which costs a staggering £7000/minute.
For a band that no longer has major record company support, Kickstarter represents an excellent platform to spread the message and raise the funds. A pledge of £5 or more can be made and the rewards on offer are more tangible than just a feeling of having assisted in the making of a rock ‘n’ roll documentary. Various merchandising packages are available and in monetary terms what you get back can come close to what you put in – but the sting in the tail with all Kickstarter campaigns is that the project gets nothing unless it gets the full £50,000.
Devoid of extravagant marketing budgets, the Blockheads no longer receive the publicity or recognition as a band that helped shape the musical climate of Britain through successive decades, which they deserve. This is a great shame. Just what would Frankie Goes To Hollywood have done without Norman Watt-Roy, and what was John Turnbull up to when everybody else was watching Live Aid?
If you want the answers to these questions to be documented in Beyond The Call Of Dury, click here* and help make the BlockDoc a reality. The Beyond The Call Of Dury Kickstarter campaign closes on June 5th.
the Kickstarter link is:https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/freeseedfilms/the-blockheads-beyond-the-call-of-dury
Simon Reed is a photographer & writer and his his own great site here: www.musicalpictures.co.uk