Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick

Album: Sex & Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll: The Best of Ian Dury and the Blockh (1978)
Charted: 1

Songfacts®:

  • It is well known that the Ian Dury song "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" was inspired by his disability; Dury was born in Harrow in May 1942 (not Essex as he would claim early on in his music career), and contracted polio when he was seven years old. Although unlike Michael Flanders of the Flanders & Swann duo who suffered the same fate six years earlier, Dury was not confined to a wheelchair, his body was still deformed by the disease, and he used a walking stick for the rest of his life.
  • According to biographer Richard Balls, the line "It's nice to be a lunatic" was probably inspired by a caustic remark from a lecturer in his days at Walthamstow Art College.
  • Dury gave the completed lyrics to his songwriting partner Chas (Chaz) Jankel in the autumn of 1978; apart from the apparent suggestiveness of the title and the lyrical content, the song has an excellent bass line, and an innovative saxophone solo by Davey Payne - who actually played two saxophones at once!

    Released on the Stiff label November 23, 1978 and backed by "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards", it went on to sell a million copies, entering the top 75 on December 9 and reaching number one on January 27, 1979. In March it reached number 29 in the German singles chart.

    Although Dury had already enjoyed some chart success, "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" was his biggest hit to date and deservedly the biggest of his career. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 3
  • Dury and Jankel wrote this at Dury's luxurious Toad Hall home in Rolvenden, Kent. According to Will Birch's Ian Dury: the Definitive Biography Jankel toiled for hours over his keyboard in Toad Hall's garage to come up with the disco-ish melody while Dury supposedly worked on the words. However the singer already had the pastiche lyrics up his sleeve, in which he mixed various locations across the world and a number of phrases in various non-English languages. Dury said: "I had Rhythm Stick for about three years on a bit of paper. I did a little demo with a drum machine and I gave it to Chaz." When the song was finished, Jankel phoned his mother and excitedly announced that he'd just written his "first #1." He was right, it reached the pole position on the UK charts on January 27, 1979 and sold close to a million copies.
  • Chaz Jankel continued to perform with the Blockheads but has also carved out a successful solo career. Internationally he is best known for Quincy Jones' "Ai No Corrida (I-No-No-Ko-ree-da)," which he co-wrote with Kenny Young.
  • Ian Dury had been nursing a song called "Rhythm Stick" for two years. "Hit Me" was a catchphrase he and the band had been chanting on the street throughout their recent US tour. By amalgamating the two phrases he generated the lyric for the follow-up to the band's "What a Waste" single.
  • Chas Jankel told Mojo magazine that he stumbled on the song's funky keyboard riff to accompany Dury's words in Toad Hall's garage. "He showed me a lyric, very succinct," recalled Jankel. "In half an hour the song was written."

Comments: 1

  • David from Nottingham, United KingdomThis song is famous for one thing- it has the best bass line in the history of the world, played by Norman Watt-Roy. I play bass amongst other things but it's way too fast for me- I can't match it!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Al Kooper

Al KooperSongwriter Interviews

Kooper produced Lynyrd Skynyrd, played with Dylan and the Stones, and formed BS&T.

Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues

Justin Hayward of The Moody BluesSongwriter Interviews

Justin wrote the classic "Nights In White Satin," but his fondest musical memories are from a different decade.

Kip Winger

Kip WingerSongwriter Interviews

The Winger frontman reveals the Led Zeppelin song he cribbed for "Seventeen," and explains how his passion for orchestra music informs his songwriting.

Art Alexakis of Everclear

Art Alexakis of EverclearSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer of Everclear, Art is also their primary songwriter.

Dave Edmunds

Dave EdmundsSongwriter Interviews

A renowned guitarist and rock revivalist, Dave took "I Hear You Knocking" to the top of the UK charts and was the first to record Elvis Costello's "Girls Talk."

Real or Spinal Tap

Real or Spinal TapMusic Quiz

They sang about pink torpedoes and rocking you tonight tonight, but some real lyrics are just as ridiculous. See if you can tell which lyrics are real and which are Spinal Tap in this lyrics quiz.