Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ian Dury Encounters the Blazing All-American Sun, And As He Experiences Nearly All the Delights of Arizona, It Tans His Wee Li'l Gimpy-Ass Hide

I believe, if I remember correctly, that I arranged to interview Ian Dury just ever so slightly before I'd bailed on the music magazine I'd been running for what was—

(Dang! Damn! At that age, at 22 or 23 or so, it was like a quarter or a fifth of my life, or something similar. Because I'd been doing it since I was like nineteen or something. Jesus! I mean, I dropped out of high school, so probably you better do the math.)

But all the same, I was inclined to go ahead on, to go ahead and interview Ian Dury because . . . well, because he was Ian Dury. And because I actually kinda got what he was up to, sort of, somewhat. And because it was possible or likely or probably way beyond probable that I might well be the only currently subscribing human species member within like two or three hundred miles of Phoenix F. Arizona who had the faintest fuckin' clue.

Me, I had the faintest fuckin' clue. Maybe only just faintly, maybe. But still it was a clue, Sherlock.

Because what he was doin' was in English, much of it. A whole lot of it, actually. And having been raised in Arizona, English was not my natural ouevre, mon metier, my language, my thang. But his work was, however, in a spectacularly gloriously fucked-up English, in Cockney rhyming slang and vernacular vulgate vulgarisms, and some sheerly poetic rudeness, and this, this cant I could and can do, in many a language, chingadero. I can call you inappropriate names in Dutch, dude, and I can certainly speak to you in Arizona-isms, in an argot d'Arizona that will make you feel like a Dutch, uh, Balzac.

(And plus, hey, I'd attended the occasional English class and everything before I dropped out. Some of which where they read Shakespeare at you, or at least had your fellow classmates stutter through it, and others where you were played records of some English-accented English ac-tor reciting "Paradise Lost," as written by some English guy. So it wasn't like I couldn't talk the stuff if necessary. Although I lived in fuckin' Arizona, dude, so English, let's face it, wasn't ever necessary.)

So I did what you did in those days, and still do today. I went to the desk and called the tour manager. (Though in those days, the tour manager was called the road manager, and it wasn’t until long years later that I truly understood the distinctions.) The road manager was named Kosmo. Kosmo Vinyl. It was early days still for punk rock names, but I’d been immersed from the earliest, so I was less off-balanced than I might have been, but still . . . it’s a tad bit of a challenge to go to the sparkly turquoise formica desk of the tasteful tan TraveLodge of Tempe, Arizona in 1978 and then get them to follow through on ringing Mr. Vinyl’s room, Mr. Kosmo Vinyl. Could you please spell that last name for me again?

Mr. Vinyl appeared after not too many minutes, the ceremonial three-beat delay, hand-operating the tour protocol that involved showing up, saying hello, then disappearing to go appropriately gather the Rock Star. It was, and is, The Way. You wouldn't, for example, have the front desk-tender of the Tempe TraveLodge pick up his tan-toned telephone and ring directly to the room of, say, Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth, now would you? No. First, you'd ring Mr. Vinyl's room. De rigeur, dude.

Mr. Vinyl had an almost nearly perfect – no, it wasn’t almost, nor nearly; it was entirely, utterly, precisely perfectly Perfect – punk rock brush-cut hedgehog hairdo, short on the sides, spikey-bushy on the top, but his bush spikes were trimmed as symmetrically as the finest Midlands suburban hedge. It was red, his hair, flame red, fiery red, hot coal red, but Red, RED, a Red not found in nature but mostly in crayon boxes. (Marked "Red.") And this was years and years before this kind of hair-coloration could be located in all the finer hepster hair salons. Certainly in Arizona, that's for certain.

Anyway, Mr. Vinyl was a sight to cause sore eyes, quite likely black ones. In addition to his Woody Woodpecker plumage, he sported one of those sleeveless limey t-shirts, the kind that were known, upon their rare and infrequent sightings in Arizona, as "ladies' blouses," and suggested — no, demanded— a severe and serious ass-whipping when worn on a street by a man. I'd been interviewing the touring musical English for years by then, and invarably somewhere in their entourage, since at least about '75 or so, was a guy, a bloke, a geezer, wearing a t-shirt with no damn sleeves, and he invariably wanted to come with us to the bar where we were going to sit and talk, and when he did, a big ol' Arizona-style whup-ass fight was gonna break out, on account of him shamelessly wearing a ladies' blouse while talking in an English accent like a damn faggot, and thus absolutely enraging the dudes with the elaborately-detailed feathered-plumed cockades arranged precisely just above and across and around the brim of their cowboy hats. Some things is manly, some ain't.

Oh, and Mr. Vinyl's t-shirt-blouse thing was pink.

Meantime, as I did the ritualized heel-cooling in what the Tempe TraveLodge had in place of a lobby, which was a couch and a coffee table and a two chairs and a Coke machine, with candy and cigarettes vending available just down the hall for discretion, two sleepy tousled Blockheads wandered by, confused, as musicians usually are, and as great ones ever are, by their surroundings. The Blockheads, by the way, were Ian Dury's band, his assemblage of astonishingly ass-kicking musos. My memory tells me it was Mickey Gallagher and Norman Watt-Roy, but I've learned, in all the years since, that if you associate with the muddled musician mind of a morning (which for them, fairly enough, is post-noon-ish or better, much later) then your own razor-sharp organ of ratiocination begins to tilt gyroscopically. Soon, should you not be on your guardiest of guards, you'll be helping them find McDonald's in Pisa, or Boomer bass strings (but only the flat-wound ones, not the round-wound ones, the ones that are widely available) in Dunedin, New Zealand, on Sunday, around 6:15 in the evening, when the shops have been closed for 32 hours already.

In this case, I was handily able to help the poor sun-blinded dears learn the arcane ways and names and means and brands and shapes and filters of the cigarette machine, and all its knobby bits, and then as lagniappe, to help them sort through the candy machine nuances as well. All in a day's work, anything for a chum, though perhaps more than my job'sworth, mate. (This is me practicing up, don't you know, for the British-ism and witticism to come, once Herr Dury finally makes his appearance in this thang. And soon come!

(TO BE CONTINUED!!! Hold on to the edge of your seats, kids!)