“Two fat persons, click, click, click.”
The late British musician Ian Dury‘s track “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” became an anthem for many of my fellow DJs on college radio in 1977. It would not be until the early ’80s that a friend turned me on to another Dury track, “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”, that I like much more. In fact, it’s one of my favorites.
Game for a live performance? YouTube has one of those too.
“Stick”, on which Dury teams with his band, The Blockheads, was released in late 1978 and topped the UK pop charts in early 1979. It’s turn at the top came between two other noteworthy tracks, “YMCA” by The Village People and another one of my faves, “Heart of Glass” by Blondie. Here in the states, unlike “YMCA” and “Heart of Glass,” which were smashes, “Stick” was not a hit. That might explain why I didn’t even become aware of it until years after its UK chart run.
The lyrical subtext of “Stick”is S & M — a major reason for its appeal to this chronically repressed (well, not really) blogger. According to Dury, however, the message was one of anti-violence. (Wikipedia lacks a cite for this.) In rereading the lyrics, which include the title of this post, I’m not deducing much of a message at all. They seem nonsensical. Maybe I’m too fixated on the stick angle to get it.
Musically, “Stick” clicks on all levels. I’ve never gotten the opportunity to dance to it outside the house, but I’m looking forward to that day. The percolating bass is astounding and the jaunty piano and swirling organ blend perfectly with the bass to create what in liquid form would be an exceedingly frothy concoction. The saxophones are maniacal. The percussion cooks up a driving beat and punctuates the end of each verse with a huge exclamation point. Wikipedia notes:
Its music is noteworthy for bassist Norman Watt-Roy playing 16 notes to the bar and saxophonist Davey Payne playing two saxophones at once.
The latter is self-explanatory and visible on the video. Very cool. As for the 16 notes to the bar, I’m not musically educated enough to know what that means, but it sounds pretty impressive. Maybe someone can explain in the comments.
Then there are Dury’s vocals. I wouldn’t call them rapping but they sure aren’t singing. Whatever they are they’re a helluva lotta fun. The payoff lines, in which Dury tells how he really feels about being hit, are in French and German.
Je t’adore, ich liebe dich,
Das ist gut! C’est fantastique!
C’est si bon, mm? Ist es nicht?
Nice touch. I also love how Dury hesitates between syllables of “Bombay”.
Near the end of “Stick” Dury loses what little remains of his inhibitions and treads the line between begging to be struck and demanding it. For a couple seconds there the overall sound is rather abrasive. It’s fitting, though, because S & M, I would suspect, is not for the faint of heart. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader/listener to verify that as I have no relevant experience and don’t want any.
Anybody else out there a fan of “Stick” (besides Mrs. QC, bless her)?
UPDATE, September 29, 2008, at 8:49 am:
I found some great related links of surprisingly recent vintage by doing a WordPress.com tag search on the song title:
- At the blog The Definitive 1000 Songs of all Time, Number 619 – Ian Dury — deeper historical background on Dury. For example, he was a polio survivor.
- At Tom Ewing’s freaky trigger, which reviews every UK chart-topper since 1952, “Stick” is #432 in the chronology — a more, um, sophisticated and musically informed take than my own. Comments galore. (hat tip Ned Raggett)