Rare Boots And Panties

With Ian Dury's 1977 New Boots And Panties album rightfully regarded among the true classics of the past 30-some years, it is easy to forget that the version we got was very nearly nothing like the version we love. Dury first recorded the album in 1976, early on in his relationship with the musicians who became the Blockheads and, though it was unquestionably Dury, it was also unfeasibly fussy, slick and - not lifeless, but certainly less dramatic than it would become. (Except for the almighty "Blockheads," which it would be impossible to restrain.)

Presumably taken from a tape source that comes at least close to the original master, two tracks appear on this recreation that missed the finished album, the ballad-of-old- London singalong "Close To Home" and a surprisingly funky "Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll." (Omitted are "My Old Man" and the self-defining "Billericay Dickie.") The real surprise, however, lies in the lyric rewrites which certain songs underwent before release - most notably "Wake Up And Make Love To Me," a touchingly tender little number on the finished thing, but here presented as a somewhat smuttier proposition.

It's also shocking just how close to the faux-funk of the band's second album, Do It Yourself, the whole thing emerges. "Clever Trevor" joins "Sex And Drugs" in the defiant disco stakes and, elsewhere, both the guitar and bass frolic around pastures which - the world now hangs its head in ignorant shame - were once condemned as an ill-considered deviation from the vaudeville villainy of the boots and panties we expected. Suddenly it turns out that that's what they wanted to do all along.

Of the live cuts, "Gene Vincent's Trousers" is a rocking, rolling autobiographical successor to the album track of similar name, and leads in a five song block which might not be the hi- est of fi-est, but does recapture some of the magic of a primal Blockheads live show. Indeed, the closing "Sex And Drugs," from the same tour (but not the same show) as produced the seminal Live Stiffs album is utter madness, as the Blockheads are joined by Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds and more, for almost seven minutes of pounding chaos. Excellent stuff. - Dave Thompson

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September 29, 2006