Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick

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"Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick"
Single by Ian Dury and the Blockheads
B-side "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards"
Released 23 November 1978 (1978-11-23)
Format 7" single, 12" single
Recorded 1978 at The Workhouse Studio, London
Genre New wave, funk rock, disco
Length 3:43
Label Stiff
Writer(s) Ian Dury and Chaz Jankel
Producer(s) Laurie Latham
Certification Gold (BPI)
Ian Dury and the Blockheads singles chronology
"What a Waste"
(1978)
"Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick"
(1978)
"Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3"
(1979)
Music sample

"Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" is a song by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, first released as a single on Stiff Records in the UK on 23 November 1978. Written by Dury and the Blockheads' multi-instrumentalist Chaz Jankel, it is the group's most successful single, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart in January 1979[1] as well as reaching the top three in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, and it was also a top 20 hit in several European countries.

"Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" was named the 12th best single of 1978 by the writers of British music magazine NME,[2] and best single of 1979 in the annual 'Pazz & Jop' poll organised by music critic Robert Christgau in The Village Voice.[3] By November 2012, it had sold 1.11 million copies in the UK, making it the 81st best selling single of all time in the UK at that point.[4]

Composition[edit]

Co-writer Chaz Jankel has repeated a story both in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll: The Life of Ian Dury and Ian Dury & The Blockheads: Song by Song that the song was written in Rolvenden, Kent during a jamming session between him and Dury. Jankel relates that the music was inspired by a piano part near the end of "Wake Up and Make Love with Me" (a song on Dury's solo debut New Boots and Panties!! that Jankel had co-written) and that after listening to it, Dury presented the lyrics for "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" to him the same afternoon. This was later corroborated by Dury.[citation needed]

Dury mentioned a number of origins for his lyrics, including claiming that he had written them up to three years earlier and it had just taken him all that time to realise their quality. Blockheads guitarist John Turnbull gives a different account, claiming the lyrics were written while on tour in America six months prior to the song's recording and that he was still adjusting in-studio. He said the line "it's nice to be a lunatic" was originally "it don't take arithmetic".

Whilst researching his book Ian Dury: The Definitive Biography, Will Birch discovered that Ian wrote the lyrics for "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" as early as 1976. Ian's typed manuscript, which differs only slightly from the later recorded version and with hand written notes about arrangement and instrumentation ('drums and fuzz bass doing Roy Buchanan volume trick' after first chorus, for example), was posted to a friend in September of that year. The 'lunatic' line reads 'one two three fourithmatic'. 'O'er the hills and far away' was originally 'down to Hammersmith Broadway'.

The song is noted for a complex 16-notes-to-the-bar bassline played by Norman Watt-Roy, which producer Laurie Latham believed had been influenced by seeing Weather Report bassist Jaco Pastorius in concert, and the saxophone solo in the instrumental break in which Davey Payne plays two saxophones simultaneously.

In addition to English, the song's lyrics contain phrases in both French and German. According to Dury, the song has an anti-violence message.[citation needed]

Recording[edit]

The song was recorded in The Workhouse Studio on the Old Kent Road, London, the same place Dury's debut album New Boots and Panties!! had been recorded. It was produced by Laurie Latham, who had been producing Dury's records since his debut solo single "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" in August 1977, although Latham is uncredited on the single. The song was recorded live with all the Blockheads placed in different positions in the studio's live area, with Jankel playing a Bechstein grand piano, Mickey Gallagher playing the Hammond organ, and Dury sat on a stool in the centre singing into a hand-held microphone.[5] At least 11 takes of the song were recorded before one, reportedly an early take, was chosen for the single release. Gallagher remains jaded about this method, and much of the band as well as producer Latham remain unhappy with the chosen take's mix, claiming it to be too dominated by piano and vocals. Latham said later, "I was never happy with the mix anyway. My authority had diminished [since the recording of New Boots and Panties!!] and it was a complete free-for-all, with the whole band in there while Chaz basically took over and pushed faders around... I myself wasn't entirely happy because I didn't think we could hear enough bass, but then I'm never happy with mixes... The piano sound was another thing I was unhappy with. Because we did it live, I didn't have enough compressors – God knows why we didn't hire more equipment. On a track like that the piano needs a bit of compression and dynamically some sorting out. Well, to me it sounds like it's getting lost in certain places where it shouldn't, such as [the end of the saxophone solo]. The piano sort of disappears at that point. It gets very roomy and ambient. Still, in the end I suppose all these blemishes give the track a certain character, and if people do talk about the bass then that suggests they can hear it."[5] Despite this, Chaz Jankel often re-tells the story that after recording it he phoned his mother and told her, "I've just recorded my first number one".

Release and promotion[edit]

On radio "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" was a popular song from its release, but in the UK the single was initially kept from the number one position in the charts for two weeks by The Village People's smash hit "Y.M.C.A.", which was number one for three consecutive weeks. On the 27 January 1979, however, Turnbull, Watt-Roy and drummer Charley Charles were waiting outside the Gaumont State Cinema, Kilburn, London, listening to a car radio when it was announced that "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" was the new number one. Dury was on holiday in Cannes, and was at the beach when the hotel staff brought him a bottle of champagne and told him the news. For their appearance on the British television programme Top of the Pops the whole band bought Moss Bros suits. The promotional video for the single was made by Laurie Lewis, a friend of Dury's from Walthamstow Art School who had been studying film-making. While the video simply showed the band performing on stage, it was significant for Dury, who for the first time had appeared in public without his pink jacket or long sleeved shirt hiding his withered left arm.

As sales of the single approached the one million mark, in February 1979 Stiff announced that the record would be deleted when it reached the milestone, and the dealer ordering the millionth copy of the single would receive a "mystery prize".[6] In the event, however, sales stalled at 979,000 during the single's original chart run, and it was not until downloads were made eligible for inclusion in the UK singles chart, from 2004 onwards, that "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" finally became a million-seller.[7]

The song has been used for numerous purposes since its release including various adverts (including one in 2006 for financial company Capital One) and in numerous television programmes (including the Doctor Who episode "Tooth and Claw"). It has had its lyrics changed often, including in one instance to 'hit me with your oven chip'. This, combined with its continued popularity and original chart success has ensured that today the song is incredibly easily to find on CD, not only on all of Ian Dury's compilations but in numerous various artists compilations.

However, like many of Ian Dury's stand alone singles, this was not originally the case, and in keeping with his then-policy of not including singles on his albums the song was omitted from Do it Yourself, the next Ian Dury & The Blockheads album. It was not available again until the release of Jukebox Dury years later.

Though none of the 11+ takes of the original song have been released, two live versions exist on Ian Dury's two live albums Warts 'n' Audience and Straight From The Desk both including ad libs in the song's third verse, the 'Warts 'n' Audience' version name checking the Brixton Academy and the 'Straight from the Desk' version name checking Dagenham Heathway. The 'Straight From the Desk' version also includes an extended instrumental break.

Paul Hardcastle remixed the track in 1985, stripping all the instrumental tracks and using only Dury's vocal, and re-recording the instrumental parts with keyboards. The remix reached number 55 in the UK Singles Chart. Another remix of the track was done in 1991 which reached number 73 in the chart.[1]

B-side[edit]

The B-side was "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards", written by Dury and Russell Hardy, his co-writer from his time in the pub-rock band Kilburn and the Highroads. The track is a song affectionately describing the achievements of Noël Coward, Vincent van Gogh and Albert Einstein in a working class (specifically Cockney) manner and amusingly dismissing Leonardo da Vinci as an 'Italian geezer'.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written and composed by Ian Dury and Chaz Jankel, except where indicated.

1978 original release[edit]

  • 7" single
  1. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" – 3:43
  2. "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards" (Dury, Russell Hardy) – 2:59
  • 12" single
  1. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" – 3:58
  2. "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards" (Dury, Hardy) – 2:59

The 12" version of the single features a different mix of "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" to the 7" version. The two sides of the single are labelled "A Wing" and "B Wing", in reference to prison blocks. The A-side has the caption "6_ Tricks, Points %✓" while the B-side has the captions "Late start high on fence" and "Segovia rules" printed on the label. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" is credited to "Ian & the Blockheads – Under the musical direction of Chaz Jankel", while "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards" is credited to the musicians individually as "Michael Gallagher, John Turnbull, Davey Payne, Norman Watt-Roy, Charlie Charles, Chaz Blockhead and Ian Blockhead".

The cover of the single credits "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards" to "ID and the Blocks". The cover was designed by Stiff's Barney Bubbles, anonymously as usual.

1979 US & Canada "Disco Single" release[edit]

  • 12" single
  1. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (Disco Version) – 5:20
  2. "Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3" (Dury, Davey Payne, Jankel) – 4:53

1985 remix[edit]

All tracks remixed by Paul Hardcastle.

  • 7" single
  1. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" – 4:11
  2. "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" – 3:20
  • 12" single
  1. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" – 4:11
  2. "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" – 3:20
  3. "Reasons to be Cheerful" (Dury, Payne, Jankel) – 4:48
  4. "Wake Up (And Make Love to Me)" – 2:53

1991 remix[edit]

Remixed by Dean Thatcher and Jagz for Flying Vinyl.

  • 7" single
  1. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick '91" (The Flying Remix) – 3:54
  2. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (Original Version) – 3:42
  • 12" single
  1. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick '91" (The Flying Remix) – 6:50
  2. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (Original Version) – 3:42
  3. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (Live Version) – 5:18
  • CD single
  1. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick '91" (The Flying Remix 7" Version) – 3:54
  2. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick '91" (The Flying Remix 12" Version) – 6:50
  3. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (Original Version) – 3:42
  4. "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (Live Version) – 5:18

Charts[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

A dance version of the track was released in Europe by Jezebel Brown & the Ya Yas in 1991. The song was also recorded as a duet by German alternative acts Freaky Fukin Weirdoz and Nina Hagen and released as a single in Germany in 1994. It appears on Hagen's compilation album Sternenmädchen, released in 2001.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Roberts, David, ed. (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London, England: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 173. ISBN 978-1-9049-9410-7. 
  2. ^ "Singles of the Year". NME (London, England: IPC Media). 23 December 1978. 
  3. ^ Christgau, Robert. "The 1979 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Sedghi, Ami (4 November 2012). "UK's million-selling singles: the full list". The Guardian (London, England: Guardian Media Group). Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Buskin, Richard (October 2007). "Classic Tracks: Ian Dury & The Blockheads – 'Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick'". Sound on Sound (Cambridge, England: SOS Publications Ltd). Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  6. ^ "Dury Deletion". Music Week (London, England: Spotlight Publishing): 3. 24 February 1979. 
  7. ^ "Pendulum and Black Eyed Peas make historic week for sales charts". Music Week (London, England: United Business Media). 1 June 2010. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, New South Wales, Australia: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 978-0-6461-1917-5. 
  9. ^ "Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  10. ^ "Ultratop.be – Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (in Dutch). Ultratip.
  11. ^ "Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick". Officialcharts.de. GfK Entertainment.
  12. ^ "Chart Track". Irish Singles Chart.
  13. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  14. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick". Top 40 Singles.
  15. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick". VG-lista.
  16. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick". Singles Top 60.
  17. ^ "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart.
  18. ^ "1979 Top Selling Singles". Music Week. January 1980. 

Bibliography[edit]

Preceded by
"Y.M.C.A." by Village People
UK number-one single
27 January 1979
Succeeded by
"Heart of Glass" by Blondie