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Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick

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"Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick"
Single by Ian and the Blockheads
B-side"There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards"
Released23 November 1978 (1978-11-23)
StudioThe Workhouse Studio, London
Producer(s)Laurie Latham
Ian and the Blockheads singles chronology
"What a Waste"
"Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick"
"Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3"
Official video
"Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" on YouTube

"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 and credited to "Ian & the Blockheads". 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 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,[5] and best single of 1979 in the annual 'Pazz & Jop' poll organised by music critic Robert Christgau in The Village Voice.[6] It was also named the 3rd best post-punk 7" ever made by Fact magazine.[4] By September 2017, it had sold over 1.29 million copies in the UK, making it the 114th biggest selling single of all time in the UK.[7]


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 funky piano part near the end of "Wake Up and Make Love with Me", the opening track on Dury's 1977 debut album New Boots and Panties!![8]

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.

Whilst researching his book Ian Dury: The Definitive Biography, Will Birch discovered that Dury 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 manuscript, complete with handwritten annotations, was reproduced in Hallo Sausages, the book of Dury's lyrics compiled by his daughter Jemima.[9] According to Jemima it appeared that the origins of the song could be traced as far back as 1974.[10]

The song is noted for a complex 16-notes-to-the-bar bassline played by Norman Watt-Roy,[11] and the saxophone solo in the instrumental break in which Davey Payne plays two saxophones.


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.[12]

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."[12]

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. The video simply showed the band performing on stage.

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".[13] 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.[14]

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 films and television programmes (including the Doctor Who episode "Tooth and Claw" and the 1979 film adaption of Porridge) 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 easy to find on ‘best of’ compilation albums.

Like many of Ian Dury's stand alone singles & 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.[15]

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.

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.[16]


The B-side was "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards", written by Dury and Russell Hardy, his co-writer from their time in the pub-rock band Kilburn and the High Roads. The song affectionately describes the achievements of Noël Coward, Vincent van Gogh and Albert Einstein in a working class (specifically Cockney) manner and amusingly describes Leonardo da Vinci as an 'Italian geezer'. According to Jemima Dury, her father had deliberately chosen to put one of the Kilburns' old songs on the B-side, knowing that the single was likely to be a big hit and that Hardy and their previous managers (who part-owned the publishing company to which Dury and Hardy had been signed) would benefit financially.[10]

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 and certifications[edit]


  1. ^ "New Wave - Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick". BBC. 11 December 2021.
  2. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80's, Vol. 2 - Various Artists | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  3. ^ a b Simpson, Dave (13 May 2020). "The 100 greatest UK No 1s: No 18, Ian Dury and the Blockheads – Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  4. ^ a b Ingram, Matt (31 October 2010). "20 best: Post-Punk 7"s ever made". Fact. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  5. ^ "Singles of the Year". NME. London, England: IPC Media. 23 December 1978.
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert. "The 1979 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  7. ^ a b Copsey, Rob (19 September 2017). "The UK's Official Chart 'millionaires' revealed". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Blockheads". Templemill Music Ltd/Warner Chappell Music. Retrieved 13 February 2020 – via iandury.com.
  9. ^ Dury, Jemima, ed. (2012). Hallo Sausages: The Lyrics of Ian Dury. London, England: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 129. ISBN 978-1-4088-1214-3.
  10. ^ a b Dury, 2012. p. 118.
  11. ^ "Norman Watt-Roy". Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  12. ^ 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: 156–64. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  13. ^ "Dury Deletion". Music Week. London, England: Spotlight Publications: 3. 24 February 1979.
  14. ^ "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.
  15. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Do It Yourself - Ian Dury & the Blockheads | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  16. ^ Roberts, David, ed. (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London, England: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 173. ISBN 978-1-904994-10-7.
  17. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, New South Wales, Australia: Australian Chart Book. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-646-11917-5.
  18. ^ "Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  19. ^ "Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (in Dutch). Ultratip.
  20. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick". Irish Singles Chart.
  21. ^ "Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  22. ^ "Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick". Top 40 Singles.
  23. ^ "Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick". VG-lista.
  24. ^ "Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick". Singles Top 100.
  25. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  26. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  27. ^ "Kent Music Report No 288 – 31 December 1979 > National Top 100 Singles for 1979". Kent Music Report. Retrieved 10 January 2023 – via Imgur.com.
  28. ^ "Top Singles 1979". Music Week. London, England: Spotlight Publications: 27. 22 December 1979.
  29. ^ "British single certifications – Ian Dury & the Blockheads – Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick". British Phonographic Industry.