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Reasons To Be Cheerful

durySince Thanksgiving weekend gives us all the chance to dwell on the huge chasm between the Norman Rockwell expectations and Jackson Pollock realities of our everyday lives, it’s all too easy to make it an occasion to break out the Schopenhauer and wallow in self-pity. That’s what makes it the perfect time to pay homage to one of the unsung heroes of Western philosophy, Ian Dury. A new biography and forthcoming film may signal a Dury renaissance as we near the tenth anniversary of his passing.

Dury is best known as the post-Freudian theorist who identified the three things a brain and body needs. He contracted polio as a child and passed away in 2000 at age 57. He was human and needed to be loved, just like Morrissey and everybody else does.

But Dury never played the victim, since he was too busy finding little sources of delight in the surreal and debauched spectacle that is real life. As the missing link between Benny Hill and Bertrand Russell, Dury had ingenious ways to find the sublime in the ridiculous. His backing band, the Blockheads, stayed tight and funky in an era better known for its sloppy chaos. His manifesto, “Reasons to Be Cheerful, Part 3” finds all sorts of wonderful reasons to keep on keeping on. No Thanksgiving toast I could devise could compete with that song’s “Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty/ Going on 40 – no electric shocks.” And the reasons keep getting better from there:

Bantu Stephen Biko, listening to Rico
Harpo, Groucho, Chico

Cheddar cheese and pickle, the Vincent motorsickle
Slap and tickle
Woody Allen, Dali, Dimitri and Pasquale
balabalabala and Volare

Something nice to study, phoning up a buddy
Being in my nuddy
Saying hokey-dokey, singalonga Smokey
Coming out of chokey

John Coltrane’s soprano, Adi Celentano
Bonar Colleano

The BBC, which once upon a time was known to ban the occasional Dury ditty, now features a glossary of all Dury’s reasons to be cheerful. The song also inspired Dave Gorman’s one-act play, which supposedly presents research testing the validity of Dury’s reasons.

Need more reasons to love Ian Dury? He had the opportunity to adapt the lyrics for the musical Cats and turned down Andrew Lloyd Webber. As Dury explained while terminally ill: “But I said no straight off. I hate Andrew Lloyd Webber. He’s a wanker, isn’t he?… Every time I hear `Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ I feel sick, it’s so bad. He got Richard Stillgoe to do the lyrics in the end, who’s not as good as me. He made millions out of it. He’s crap, but he did ask the top man first!”

Ian Dury, “Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3”

From → Rants and Raves

  1. shacker permalink

    Speaking of Benny Hill and the missing link, just discovered that the part of the toymaker in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was played but no other than the pre-naughty Benny Hill.

  2. my high school years would have been significantly different absent exposure to “spasticus autisticus” and other instant classics.

    see my tailor. he’s called simon. i know it’s going to fit!

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