Punk rock threw up some odd coves, but none more compellingly odd than Ian Dury. An undersized chap with a limp and stick (the result of a childhood run-in with polio) who fashioned himself as a Cockney Cole Porter, he was one of the most unlikely rock stars of all time. And New Boots…, his 1977 debut, stood out from the three-chord, safety-pinned punk pack like a diamond (geezer) ring on a wart-encrusted fist.
Dury once declared that his true musical inspiration lay “in a place where your spirit and your arse land at the same time”. It makes as much sense as any other attempt to nail down how he managed to strip-mine musical gold by mashing up vaudevillian knees-ups, sophisto-funk, pub-rock riffola and garage-land jazz, topping and tailing with a gor-blimey accent and clever-dicky lyrics that sifted through the English psyche and came up with nuggets of rib-tickling truth.
This must-have deluxe two-disc edition generously boosts the original album with four extra songs, including the immortal “Sex & Drugs” and “Razzle In My Pocket”. There’s also an entire CD of demo versions that are worth the price of admission alone for a more expansive “My Old Man” and an early take on “Wake Up And Make Love With Me”, for which Dury adopts a Barry White-style accent with hilarious consequences.
But it’s the original 10 tracks that prove most seductive and enduring. From the punkish clatter of “Sweet Gene Vincent” through the Max Miller-ish “Billericay Dickie” to the uproariously rude “Plaistow Patricia”, with its still startling “arseholes, bastards, fucking c***s and pricks” opening. Every one a bleedin’ coconut, as Dury himself might have said. All of it as warmly exhilarating as anything thrown up by Tamla Motown?hard though it is to imagine Smokey or Marvin delivering a line like: “I had a love affair with Nina in the back of my Cortina/A seasoned-up hyena could not have been more obscener.”