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Ian Dury

October 98

IAN Dury has few reasons to be cheerful. After suffering from polio since the age of seven, the Essex punk veteran is now in a new battle against cancer - the very same illness that took his late wife Betty four years ago.

"It is a cruel and horrible thing," says the 56-year-old, who plays Rock City on Wednesday.

"I had an operation on my colon two and a half years ago to remove a tumour. It was touch and go whether it would return. And then, this year, in January, it had just raised its head above the parapet as they say and it showed up on the scan on my liver.

"It is very early stages and I'm not in any pain at the moment but although I do have moments of extreme unhappiness about it, it doesn't really frighten me. I don't know why."

Dury, a former art teacher, grew out of the punk movement in the late seventies, scoring a number of hits with The Blockheads including What A Waste, Reasons To Be Cheerful (Pt. 3), I Want To Be Straight and, most notably, Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick which reached the No 1 spot in 1978.

However, despite charting alongside the likes of The Clash and The Sex Pistols, The Blockheads, he claims, never were a punk band.

"We were nothing to do with it. I actually couldn't stand punk bands. Malcolm McLaren got Johnny Rotten to copy my stage act and he did it very well. The visuals, the safety pins and all that caper, he stole from me, as well. But although I liked the Pistols, most of those bands were tripe. The energy was great and the rudeness was great but the music..."

With the release of a new album Mr Love Pants, many have seen his return as a major comeback move, although Dury himself says that he's never actually stopped recording.

"It's not that I've come back, it's just that I keep my head down if I don't like what I've done. I've made a lot of albums but I didn't really feel like talking about them. I didn't really like them very much," admits the part-time actor, playwright and Unicef Ambassador.

Over the past 25 years, Dury and the Blockheads have played Nottingham a number of times but unfortunately the distinctive group leader has bitter memories of the city. "My piano player walked off the plot in Nottingham. The roadies had just got his piano on stage and he disappeared. I think it was at the Boat Club," he says.

More recently the group appeared at last summer's What A Weekend festival at Wollaton Park, alongside the likes of notorious hedonist Shane McGowan.

Despite the ill health, Dury is far from a man wrapped up in self-pity. Rather, he is quite obviously enjoying his two young sons Bill and Albert, and his most acclaimed album since New Boots and Panties in 1977

"It's better than being brown bread I can tell ya," he laughs.

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