Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick

Up here, in the gods, we have a terrific view of one of the best live bands around.

Fresh from the flu jab clinic, I’m resting my left arm on my husband as it hurts like anything.

Up here on the balcony, the average age must be at least sixty. Grey heads abound. Thinking myself young as I just about limbo under the six-decade mark and have dyed my hair a rather fetching shade of peroxide, I watch the Electric Palace fill up.

We’ve got here early because the seats aren’t allocated and, to be honest, I don’t want to be standing up on tiptoes in the mosh pit to get a glimpse of the band. What a sad indictment on the young punk of my youth.

Downstairs before the gig begins, the dance floor begins to get more crowded. The young man on support, who from this distance looks like a cross between Martin Freeman and Kevin Spacey with a workers revolutionary party hat on, does a sound check and obliges us with a few lines of one of his songs.

There are very few of us up here on the balcony. I recognise several people I know down in the throng below and chide myself for being such a wuss.

As the minutes tick by, others take their seats, ready for the show to begin.

On cue, the band enter the stage and all hell breaks loose. There are whoops and cheers as the cheerful, opening notes of Wake Up And Make Love With Me hit the crowd with a bang.

We’re off, and The Blockheads – average age possibly slightly lower than sixty because of the young drummer – put on a show like no other.

I’d last seen this band with the late lamented Ian Dury at Taunton Odeon in about 1979. They were superb then but it was those wonderful lyrics that have stuck with me ever since. Phrases such as ‘shoes like dead pig’s noses,’ ‘with lazy skin and ashtray eyes’ and ‘Einstein can’t be classed as witless’.

The man was a social commentator par excellence. A poetic genius. The soundtrack of my sixth-form.

I will never forget someone putting on the New Boots and Panties album on the record player in the common room. Just as the obscene opening words to Plaistow Patricia filled the air, in walked the head of sixth form, a steely spinster. I’m not sure who the record belonged to or whether they ever saw it again, but the needle was pulled up from the vinyl with an almighty scratch and the moment imprinted on our minds forever.

Tonight, Dury’s old friend and minder, Derek ‘The Draw’ Hussey, is on vocals. The crowd shouts along to Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick and What A Waste so even if you could hear Derek above the band he’d be drowned out by the rest of us. I had no idea I knew all the words to even half of these songs. But they’re in there, just bursting to get out.

What I never appreciated way back then was the sheer musicianship of The Blockheads. From Norman Watt-Roy’s bass plucking to Chaz Jankel’s adventures on the keyboards, each band member is an expert in their own right, making a tight sound together that encompasses musical hall, jazz, funk, rock and roll and new wave.

Their energy, passion, power, joy and expertise is incredible. I wish I was down there in the mosh pit. Even the flu jab arm is waving, such is the power of this trip down memory lane.

The band puts on a brilliant show for a good hour-and-a-half and it’s the most fun I’ve had for £16 in years.

Two encores later, The Blockheads take a final bow.

Derek, Chaz, Norman, Mick Gallagher, John Turnbull, John Roberts, Gilad Atzmon and Mitt Gamon, we salute you.

What a night.

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