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This is one of Ian Dury's "shopping-list" songs, a simple list of a number of reasons to be cheerful. His keyboard player Mickey Gallagher recalled in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh: "Ian did enjoy writing list songs but he didn't do them in five minutes. It could take months to get the lyric exactly how he wanted it. If a journalist said to him, 'Your lyric is nothing but a list,' he would say, 'Okay, well you write one then.'"
According to Will Birch's Ian Dury: the Definitive Biography, the song was written and recorded during a long break on a long European tour when an electrical fault at a venue resulted in canceled shows and unexpected time off in Rome. Keyboardist and co-songwriter Chaz Jankel was in his hotel room bashing out a rhythm on the back of a sofa, when he called Dury and told him he had a great idea for a song. The next day the frontman showed him the lyric he'd written for Cheerful. "I'd never seen it before" said Jankel. "I started playing a little guitar motif and the song came together."
Saxophonist Davey Payne had been critical of the financial disparities within Dury's band for a long time. In order to placate Payne, Dury gave him a 25 per cent share of the royalties for this song by manipulating the songwriting credits. He told Jankel to incorporate a sax solo part in the middle, which Payne could improvise and thus earn a share in the song. Much to Jankel's annoyance Dury retained his 50 per cent and Payne's came out of Jankel's share leaving him with just 25 per cent despite coming up with the idea for the song.