My family were East End Londoners right up until I was 5 years old. Then we got out of the high rise in Walthamstow that seemed to be filled with incontinent junkies and ram raiders and moved out to the Essex coast.
The family embraced the character of the new found safe haven with a zeal. There was sky outside the windows not more highrises, there was central heating, piped TV, a garden and a community you could take part in.
So while I’m the son of two Cockneys, I grew up all Essex.
Essex has a particular strong vein of local rock star, from Dr. Feelgood to Blur, from Alison Moyet to Depeche Mode, from St Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell to The Prodigy. None looms larger over my first flush of rock and roll infatuation than Ian Dury.
Billericay Dickie isn’t even a rock and roll song. It’s a bawdy limerick with a music hall oompah backing.
The titular Billericay Dickie is that proto Loadsamoney Essex cliche. A tradesman and serial shagger who boasts of his conquests and is full of sage like advice.
I liked the song first as a kid because of it’s opening line. The pride Dury displays in his performance isn’t all character acting. ‘I’m from Essex, Incase you couldn’t tell, I come from Billericay, My given name is Dickie and I’m doing very well.’ I felt like I knew him right away. He drank with my Dad, I’m sure of it.
On the playgrounds we’d sing the rude bits knowing we could get away with ‘I’d rendezvous with Janet, quite near the isle of Thanet, she looked more like a gannet, she wasn’t half a prannet’. The challenge was getting to the bit about the bruised pomegranate without the Dinner Ladies clipping your ears.
Ian Dury seemed like a normal Essex bloke who just had the job of singing songs instead of laying bricks or delivering milk. The same way Billy Bragg did a couple of years later.
Friday nights when the grown ups all get a few double diamonds in them and we’ve had the fish and chips. This song fitted right in alongside the other numbers round the old joanna. Be it theme songs from old TV shows, some Beatles number, Chas and Dave, Roll Out The Barrel or a song by a crippled punk rocker that celebrates ‘never shaping up tricky’
‘You ask Joyce and Vicky’