Sunday, 16 March 2014

7 inch singles collection: Ian Dury - Apples

What would a Musical by Ian Dury sound like?:


A-side: Apples
B-Side: Byline Brown
(WEA 1989)

Ian Dury was a man whose dexterity with a lyric and a way with words could make songs into stories, or jokes, or heartbreaking vignettes. Therefore it would seem natural that these talents should be brought to bear upon a musical, and so at the turn of the 80's he gave to us the stage show "Apples". Now I don't know what the musical was all about, and I don't have the inclination to Google it (you can do that yourselves, if you fancy a spot of homework). I do remember that it was poorly received and shut down quite quickly. Judging by the noticeable lack of revival in the West End, it's probably safe to say the critics were probably right.

Apples is the title track of the show, and it's a love song between a barrow boy and a dancer (I've got it into my head that she's an exotic dancer - but can't recall any evidence for this in the song. Maybe that's just wishful thinking!) The style is a light tropical calypso, which actually is a refreshing change of pace. The lyrics themselves are a typical Dury piece about the interactions of ordinary people, the pathos and bathos of their lives, and about there's nothing wrong with being who you are whatever your situation. Hardly a classic, but a pleasing distraction.

The b-side is another song from the show - Byline Brown. This is the story of a reporter digging dirt for his sordid paper. It doesn't tell much of a story other than some reporters are the lowest of the low and will stoop at nothing for a bit of sleaze. Not exactly a revelation in 1989, even less so now. Maybe the song is lacking the context of the rest of show, if we were to hear it as part of that bigger story it would make more sense. It no great shakes in the music department either basing itself on the poppiest of 80's pop sounds, and Dury's own performance is flat and even bored sounding. Given that the strength of Ian Dury often lies in the way he tales his tales rather than his singing ability this just diappoints.

Ultimately this record disappoints more than pleases - just as the stage show seemingly did way back when. In the end a musical about Ian Dury would probably be a lot more satisfying than this one by him.

Next time post-punk tries to get funky...

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