Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Baxter Dury

In Does Rock 'N' Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Baxter Dury

Who do you play in Fat White Family’s ‘Tastes Good With The Money’ video?

“I have no idea. I got the script last-minute. Was it a Michael Palin character from a Monty Python-style sketch? I’ve got such a strange memory; I can’t remember my own lyrics, let alone a collaboration with somebody else. Róisín Murphy, who directed that video, can be quite fierce and she kept on saying: ‘You better remember!’. And I remembered absolutely fuck-all!”

WRONG. You play ‘An art critic’.

“That’s right! I produced Saul [Adamczewski] from Fat White Family‘s first band, The Metros. In fact, NME gave the album [‘More Money Less Grief’] 1/10 – that’s when I stopped producing! (Laughs) It wasn’t going well. At one point, I beat The Metros up in their pants – because they pissed me off so much, we were marooned in a Welsh studio and they were so grotesquely misbehaved and fucked that I tried to beat them up at 4am – my mental stamina had been tested! But Saul and I preserved a friendship so it was natural we’d do something at some point.”

You’re obviously from an artistic background…

“All of my family were working-class painters – from different generations. My mum was a painter and met my dad [Ian Dury] at Royal College of Art. So I’ve inherited loads of great – sometimes peculiar – art. Dad made strange eroticised pop-art – which said ‘FUCK CUNT FUCK‘ or something full-on, so you have to put those in a special place! My granddad was an old-school philanderer and he had relations with his students in a weird way, so there’s lots of pictures of him and art students. He’d go missing for a month or two in Wales. Then my granny would make these odd morphed 3D faces.”

Who played you in the Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll?

“Bill Milner.”


“I accidentally made him cry on set by explaining what I was really like. (Laughs) His mum came up and told me off! I suggested he looked a bit fey and I was more strange and scary when I was a kid – and that freaked him out. (Laughs) He was only nine. They’d actually rebuilt the house I’d lived in at Pinewood Studios, so there were enough moments that jogged my memory. But watching someone try to act your universe is impossible because your own life is full of nuanced experiences they have to abbreviate to make a coherent story. But it’s a good film.”

Can you name all of the women’s names in the titles of songs you’ve released? There are six.

“(Laughs) God, that sounds really creepy, doesn’t it? Let me think – ‘Claire’, ‘Lisa’, ‘Isabel’… There was one that was meant to be called ‘Margo’ but I changed it to ‘Mungo‘.”

WRONG. Aside from ‘Claire‘, ‘Lisa’ (from the song title ‘Lisa Said‘) and ‘Isabel’, the others were: Carla ( ‘Carla’s Got A Boyfriend‘ ), Jane (‘Auntie Jane‘) and Francesca (Francesca’s Party).

“What’s weird is that the ones I remembered are the ones that are real – the made-up ones I didn’t. That’s psychological!”


Which model’s menswear collection did you walk the catwalk to during Paris Fashion Week 2015?

“agnès b”


“I loved it. I thought I’d shit myself, but it was glorious. They couldn’t get me off the stage! She [agnès b] smoked a massive spliff behind the scenes – she was incredible. In France, if you’ve got a deep voice and disorganised face, they lap that up.”

Do you get a chance to hang out with Jarvis Cocker much in France?

“Loads – we’re good pals. We DJ his nightclub together sometimes. He invited me over to watch the World Cup once, his TV flickered and then didn’t work – it was a rubbish TV. And he just went (Imitates Jarv’s accent) ‘Well…‘ and started playing amazing vinyl instead. Predicable Jarvis!”

Which duo once recorded a foul-mouthed demo whose the opening lyrics reference you?

Sleaford Mods.”


“Jason Williamson wrote a brilliant press biography for me – he called me a fusion between a teddy bear and Peter O’Toole! Someone played me that song he’d written and, because everyone else is heavily criticised in that song and I’m quoted in the beginning of it, I was worried that he didn’t like me very much and thought I was just a West London idiot. It’s quite plausible someone would think that! And then we were introduced, we got on well, and have worked together.”

Talking of loud-mouths, what was it like supporting Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds in 2018?

“He’s a lovely bloke. He’s quite godfather-y. I don’t know if his fans could quite digest some of the mockney romantic weird music I make. But Noel Gallagher reminds me of Paul Weller, who’s just messaged me, saying (Imitates Paul), ”Ere I’ve downloaded your album – buy that extra bowl of rice’. (Laughs) They both don’t care, are strong-willed and are doers who get on with it.”

Name all of the animals mentioned in the lyrics of ‘Miami’.

“Fucking hell, that’s really difficult! Oh – salamander. I can’t remember those lyrics.”

WRONG. It’s salamander, goat, goose and fish.

“(Laughs) I’m a genius, aren’t I? No wonder I can’t remember my own cleverness! Some quite hardcore people told me when they heard the ‘Miami’ demo that I shouldn’t release it because the sentiment was too strong and they didn’t feel it would ever be acceptable. But I just took a risk and went for it. You know, it feels good to create a character that you can launder the more vitriolic parts of you through. When I sing it, I always forget the lyrics and just talk a load of topical – or untopical – bullshit.”

‘Len Parrot’s Memorial Lift’ contains elements of a song by which rock legend?

Lou Reed.”

CORRECT. It references the chorus of The Velvet Underground’s ‘Oh! Sweet Nuthin”.

“I met him once. I wasn’t too long before he died – it was like meeting a mannequin. He didn’t say much. I did a French TV show – him, me, Metallica, and Lana Del Rey all sitting in this little room as we’re rolled on for the farewell credits, and it was really weird. Dad had toured with [Lou Reed] in America and they famously really hated each other. He just made a series of indistinguishable growls and grunts at me – that was about it. And Lars [Ulrich] from Metallica was so embarrassed, and went ‘Hey man’ and was really nice. And also fucking Lana Del Rey looked like she’d just come from some frozen Martian wax factory. She didn’t say anything. She just looked like her eyes were alive and nothing else. I don’t think Lou registered who the fuck I was – but it was funny.”

Why did you decide to use ‘Oh! Sweet Nuthin”?

“I put it in there because I didn’t know what else to do, and I didn’t know what to do afterwards because I didn’t have the skill-set to change it. Geoff Travis, who ran Rough Trade, said: ‘Don’t worry, Lou will love it and he’ll be fine’. Consequently, we put it out and Lou took 99.99 per cent of the publishing. It was a stitch-up (Laughs).”


You appear on the cover of your father, Ian Dury’s 1977 album ‘New Boots and Panties!!’. How much does the sign in the shop window you’re standing in front of say that suits cost from?

“I ain’t got a fucking clue! It’s probably six and four shillings. Is it even decimal? (Laughs) I’m joking. Wait… I’m going to look it up. Fuck, my internet isn’t working!”

WRONG. They’re priced from £10.

“I remember that day clearly – it’s burnt into my mind. I was hanging out with my dad for the weekend, and I drifted into shot out of shyness because I didn’t want to sit next to the photographer because I was only young. My dad just went: ‘Don’t worry, come and stand here, son’. It was totally by fluke. They didn’t lure me in thinking let’s capture the young boy in a massive pair of flares and football boots and stitch him up for about 20 years – it was totally by accident.”

How is the book you’re writing about your memories of your dad going?

“It’s tough. It was meant to be finished two months ago – but there’s nothing better than an apocalypse to force you into finishing a book! I’m forcing myself to write 1700 words a day while in lockdown. Had this not happened, there’s a chance maybe I wouldn’t have finished it because it’s much harder than I ever imagined.”

You were a runner on the ’80s/’90s reality show Challenge Anneka. Which activist, who was once played by Julia Roberts in a film, hosted the American version of the program?

“Who was it?”

WRONG. It was Erin Brockovich.

“”That’s brilliant trivia – I love that I’m somehow connected to her! That job was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Working for Challenge Anneka was better than music. I did it for a year and I  got the job through nepotism because someone that knew my dad owned the TV company and I was a useless shit aged 18/19 – no qualifications, son of a rock’n’roll singer and my dad said: ‘Give my son a job now‘. And I thrived. [Host] Anneka Rice was funny – she didn’t do much. She’d have her gin in a plastic cup – that sounds like a Libertines song – and would be filmed tapping the last tile into a redecorated homeless shelter or something. And then she rode off back again. But all the rest of the team were amazing people and really did achieve things. They wanted me to get my driving license so I could go on a UN convoy and to sort out a Romanian war orphanage and I failed my test, so I couldn’t go – and I was gutted.”

Which frontman’s head did you once piss on?

Joe Strummer.

CORRECT. From The Clash.

“It was Notting Hill Carnival day and although bands like The Blockheads and The Clash were all connected, I’d never met Joe Strummer before. I was with another son of a rocker – [Blockhead member] Micky Gallagher’s son Ben, who I’d go on to write tracks like ‘Miami’ with. We were both 13 – We were young, miscreant fucks, and we’d stole a spliff from one of their parties at Ladbroke Grove. We got on the roof, smoked it and then pissed off the roof. As we walked down the little precarious stairway, Micky Gallagher and Joe Strummer were running up yelling ‘Who’s up there?!’, and we quickly realised they were covered in piss (Laughs). We never got reprimanded – probably because people were scared of my dad.”

Did you often get into scrapes like that?

“All sorts of crazy stuff would happen. I remember getting a call when I was 16 at 3am saying my dad was in a cell at the police station. Me and my mate got a night bus there and I just remember walking through the door and seeing a glum policeman with his cheeks in his hands waiting for anyone to save him from my dad. The guy shook my hand and said, ‘Thank God you’re here’. You could hear my dad in the background yelling: ‘THEY’RE TRYING TO KILL ME!’.”

“Dad was disabled and the recording had gone wrong, so he’d found a reason to get drunk and then started criticising the studio, claiming there wasn’t the right banister for him to walk up the stairs. Then he’d got into an argument with the studio owner and told he him was going to come back in the morning and burn the place down. (Laughs) It was all bullshit. But the owner panicked so much he got his arrested.

“The police found him with a quarter of dope – and his teeth covered in hashish – and he’d gone potty. When we arrived there, he was grinning like Jack Nicholson in The Shining! We apologised to the officers, and they just said: ‘Don’t worry – just get him the fuck out of here’. It wasn’t fun at the time – but it seems quite funny now.”

The verdict: 5/10

“Not bad. That’s because I’m self-obsessed. I’ve got Google Alerts on my own name – I bet Bobby Gillespie doesn’t do that!”

Baxter Dury’s latest album ‘The Night Chancers‘ is available now