Its title is a reference to the length of an average human lifespan (4000 weeks). In 1984 Ian Dury was an official face for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain and went so far as to shave a peace symbol into his hair, this can be seen on the cover to the album (and the "Ban the Bomb" Single). The symbol itself was created by the CND. The album's song credits and lyrics are hand written. Accompanying each song's information are strange catchphrases such as "when flies fly, flies fly behind flies", "a gaudy morning bodes a wet afternoon" and most bizarre of all "my, how we apples swim quoth the dogshit"
4,000 Weeks Holiday was not reissued on CD in the UK until 2013, but was released in that format in Japan in 2007.
If accounts by Dury himself and Music Student member Merlin Rhys-Jones (who would continue to work with Dury and co-write songs with him until his death) from Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll: The Life of Ian Dury are correct, it would appear that it was Polydor records who suggested and insisted on Dury working with young musicians. Contradictorily, Ian Dury & The Blockheads: Song By Song purports that Polydor had wanted The Blockheads to play on the album, with the group rejecting the idea after learning they wouldn't be paid due to Dury spending most of his advance on his previous solo effort Lord Upminster.Song By Song's account is corroborated by Norman-Watt Roy (bassist for the Blockheads). Both versions are questionable. (source?)
Chaz Jankel, Dury's primary songwriting partner, was busy with his solo career in America and with no Blockheads present, Dury turned to his old songwriting partner from his pub rock days Russell Hardy (and another Rod Melvin it would seem), and worked with a young American songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Michael McEvoy, who had been introduced to him by Blockheads and Kilburn and the High Roads member Davey Payne after McEvoy had played on the saxophonist's solo album for Stiff Records. Adam Kidron, who had produced Payne's album, had hired McEvoy as on a number of projects (including Orange Juice's debut album and Scritti Politti's Songs to Remember) which he produced before 4000 Weeks Holiday.
Rehearsals for the album began in 1982 in Hammersmith, London, not very far from Dury's current flat in luxurious Thames-side apartments, and was recorded the following year in Basing Street Studios, Notting Hill and later The Townhouse. Though Jankel did not write any of the songs, he did play lead guitar as a guest. Ed Speight and Geoff Castle, who had played on Dury's seminal New Boots and Panties!! LP in 1977, guested on guitar and Moog synthesizer. The sessions also featured an extra special guest, celebrated reggae/ska trombone player Rico RodriguezMBE (known to UK youth from The Specials), but most of the recordings were performed by the 'Music Students', i.e. McEvoy, Rhys-Jones, drummer Tag Lamche and saxophonist Jamie Talbot. Critically the album is often considered the weakest of Dury's output.
Dury was forced by Polydor to remove one of the album's stronger (and controversial) songs "Fuck off Noddy" (and another about Billy Butlin) because of high profile paedophile and child pornography cases at the time (there was also rumours of a proposed lawsuit by the estate of Enid Blyton). The song puts down children's television and contained such lines as:
Dury was determined not to cut the song (an illegal MP3 can be found on some download services) and arguments about it delayed the record's release for over half a year. The single "Really Glad You Came / (You're My) Inspiration" was released during that time, the songs were two different lyrics put to an almost identical tune (by McEvoy) and the single was a total failure (though these are the two tracks most often used on Greatest Hits compilations) and its follow up single "Ban The Bomb / Very Personal" was actually mocked by critics, the first time this had happened to Ian Dury in his career thus far. Despite heavy promotion and touring by Ian Dury & The Music Students, including a week's residency in Tel Aviv, Israel and an appearance on influential music show The Tube the album's sales were poor, though the album reached number 54 in the UK Album Charts.
The album also contains a noteworthy track: "Peter the Painter" was written (with McEvoy) on request from British Pop artistPeter Blake, Blake had been Dury's teacher at London's Royal College of Art and the two remained good friends until Dury's death in 2000. Blake was having his own exhibition at The Tate Gallery, London and asked Dury to compose a theme tune for it. "Peter the Painter" was that theme tune.