"Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick" is a song and single by Ian Dury and The Blockheads, first released 23 November 1978 and was first released on the 7" single BUY 38 Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick / There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards by Stiff Records. It went to number one on the UK Singles Chart in January 1979, and is the band's most successful single ever. It also was named best single of 1979 in the Pazz & Jop poll.
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 piano part near the end of Wake Up And Make Love With Me (a song on Dury's solo debut New Boots and Panties!! that Jankel had co-written) and that after listening to it, Dury presented the lyrics for Rhythm Stick to him the same afternoon. This was later corroborated by Dury.
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. John Turnbull (guitar) 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. He said the line "it's nice to be a lunatic" was originally "it don't take arithmetic".
Whilst researching his biography of Ian Dury (due for publication in 2010), Will Birch discovered that Ian wrote the lyrics for Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick as early as 1976. Ian's typedmanuscript, 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 toHammersmith Broadway'.
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!!, was recorded. At least 11 takes of the song were recorded before one, reportedly an early take, was chosen for the single release. Mickey Gallagher (keyboards) remains jaded about this method and much of the band as well as producer Laurie Latham remain unhappy with the chosen take's mix, claiming it to be too dominated by piano and vocals. 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".
On radio Rhythm Stick was a popular song from its release, but the single was initially kept from the number one spot in the charts by The Village People's smash hit YMCA (number one for five consecutive weeks). On the 27 January 1979, howwver, Watt-Roy, Turnbull and Charley Charles (drums) were waiting outside the Gaumont State Cinema, Kilburn, London, listening to a car radio when it was announced that 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 Top of the Pops the whole band bought Moss Bros suits. The promotional video for the single was hit by Laurie Lewis, a college friend of Dury, While the video simply showed the band performing on stage, it was significant for Dury who, for the first time, had appeared in public without his pink jacket or long sleeved shirt hiding his withered left arm.
In 2006 its popularity was boosted by its use in a British advertisement for Capital One. By November 2012 the single had sold 1.11 million copies in the UK. The single cover was designed by Stiff's Barney Bubbles, anonymously as usual.
The B-side was "There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards", written by Dury and Russell Hardy, his co-writer from his time in the pub-rock band Kilburn & The Highroads.
An amusing song affectionately describing the achievements of Noël Coward, Vincent van Gogh and Albert Einstein in a working class (specifically Cockney) manner and amusingly dismissing Leonardo da Vinci as an 'Italian geezer' in Van Gogh's verse.
The song has been used for numerous purposes since its release including various adverts and in numerous television programmes (including the Doctor Who episode Tooth and Claw). 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 incredibly easily to find on CD, not only on all of Ian Dury's compilations but in numerous various artists compilations.
However, like many of Ian Dury's stand alone singles, this was not originally the case, and 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. It was not available again until the release of Jukebox Dury years later.
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 re-mix reached number 55 in the UK Singles chart.
Though none of the 11+ takes 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. The 'Straight From the Desk' version also includes an extended instrumental break.