Reasons To Be Cheerful
once had a webpage analysing Reasons to be Cheerful.
Then they announced they were going to chop half
the BBC website to save money so I extracted the information
before it was lost. I couldn't see who wrote it. It
might still be there at Reasons
to be Cheerful
if you want to see the original.
to be Cheerful- the Song
Dury and the Blockheads released the song 'Reasons to
be Cheerful' in 1979. Here is a brief overview of the
song, looking at the things that Dury claimed made him
cheerful and trying to determine why they would have
the same effect on anyone else.
to be Cheerful...
don't you get back into bed?
Why don't you get
back into bed?
Why don't you get back into bed?
Why don't you get back into bed?
if you take this advice you will only really be able
to sample a few of the reasons to be cheerful that Ian
by Master of None
always loved the 'Why don't you get back into bed'
line too, the mental picture is so vivid, and when
you think back to 'Wake up, and make love to me',
the link to tumbling under the covers as the early
morning sun streams through the window, and the
first mug of tea of the day cools on the bedside
worth noting here that various people have searched
for Parts One and Two in vain.
of Buddy Holly
a surprising start to the list for such an iconic star
of punk, but one that acknowledges the roots of modern
music. Buddy Holly (1936-1959) was a leading light in
the early days of Rock 'n' Roll in the 1950s and as
far removed from punk as possible. Though Holly was
famous for such hits as 'That'll be The Day' and 'Peggy
Sue', it's impossible to tell from this which of Buddy's
songs it was that made Dury truly happy.
possibly a reference to the state of the UK economy
at the time. Many manual workers were on a three day
week at the time as, financially, things were tough.
To actually be working at all was also a God-send as
the levels of unemployment were incredibly high so to
be in work was a reason to be joyful indeed.
Golly Miss Molly
song by Robert Blackwell and John Marascalco first performed
by the incomparable Little Richard, this is an iconic
early Rock 'n' Roll number. This was as much a kick
to contemporary music in the 1950s as punk was in the
end of each verse is a single item or thing. The first
verse ended '...and boats'. Certainly being on a boat
with just the wind is a very relaxing experience. Some
people even enjoy being on any boat going anywhere -
a gondola in Venice, a barge on the Thames or a Cruise
liner. Many reasons to be cheerful.
of the major concert venues of the time, as immortalised
by The Clash in the song '(White Man) in Hammersmith
Palais'. It was the main reggae and dub dancehall in
West London, which is reflected in 'listening to Rico'
later on. Renamed the Po Na Na in the late 1990s, it
now hosts School Disco nights (at the time of writing).
The venue provided plenty of happy memories for a performer
and music lover no doubt, as it still does to this day.
strange choice in the context of the style of the song,
but Dury was far more appreciative of the Arts than
his working class gruffness conveyed. However, considering
the skill and excitement involved, a ballet, especially
one performed by the best ballet company in the world,
is an occasion to savour.
Back In the Alley
is from the lyric of 'Tutti Frutti', another track by
Little Richard that was written to stop white singers
from stealing Richard's songs in the (mistaken) belief
that only he could perform such a relentless ditty.
The suspicion has always existed that the song's title
also refers to some impromptu sexual activity. No need
to explain why this would be cause to be cheerful.
and in particular nanny goats, can on occasions be vicious,
especially if they have young kids. However, they do
produce a really nice milk which can be turned into
all sorts of cheeses which would be a reason to be cheerful.
In this context though, the line refers to 'Bo Diddley',
the song by the artist of the same name.
another interesting connection to nanny goats, though.
Dury attended Walthamstow Art College and, two years
after the release of 'Reasons to be Cheerful' and having
left Stiff Records, his band released their first record
on the Polydor label - 'Lord Upminister'. Between Walthamstow
and Upminster lies Becontree Heath, an area of which
is called Nanny Goat Common. The houses surrounding
the heath were built in the post-war years as 'homes
for heroes'. It's possible Dury's memories of this part
of the heath led to his wanting to include an obscure
reference to nanny goats in this song.
derives from the habits of the Dominican monks, which
are black and white. An advert appeared in NME at the
time of the release of the song quoting this line from
the song. It's doubtful if Ian was writing about the
qualities of Dromedary and the Bactrain Camels; after
all they can spit at you even if unprovoked. No, it
is more likely to be a comment to a certain brand of
tobacco and filter combination. Ian was not adverse
to the evil reed. The colour of these could well be
described as black and white, as could the debate over
their usage through time.
by Terry Teadreg
the Tribute gig at the Brixton Academy, three months
after Ian died, every visitor received a program
with the credits and pix of all the bands and artists
that took part in the concert.
inner pages of the folder contained mostly photographs
and drawings of Ian. The background of this was
formed by the lyrics of "Reasons". On
this document you can clearly read "Dominican
the Internet with these words leads to all sorts
of nonsense. One link, however, is about an American
farmer who breeds camels and sells them
all over the world. Quote: "He said the best
market for him is selling camels to customers in
Mexico and the Dominican Republic."
there must be camels over there...
another story about South America I found a reference
to a special type of public transport: buses nicknamed
as a result of their odd shape. It is not clear
whether these buses are present in Havana only or
also in the Dominican Republic. Quote: "One
minute one could be in the Dominican Republic and
another in Brazil. The transport is ancient and
charming, people carriers are nicknamed 'Camels'
because of there odd shape. These crazy buses carry
300 people and help to solve the rush hour. But
in doing so they break the road surface because
of their huge weight."
I think Ian refers to the animals, it make more
sense with the "all other mammals" that
follows. Why these creatures, and in particular
the ones from the Dominican Republic, are a reson
to be cheerful remains a mystery to me.
sources list this as an alternative to the line above.
The company Scammell was established in 1919. Along
with Leyland, Scammell was at the forefront of British
lorry manufacture. Many, including Mr Dury, considered
them to be the epitome of articulated style. Sadly,
Scammell suffered the same fate as most of the British
motor industry and went bust in the 1980s.
Out the Candles
is some debate about what this lyric actually is. Some
think it is 'Dominca Camels' or even 'Dominate the Camels'.
There appears to be no references to camels in Dominca
unless this is where the tobacco came from to make that
brand of cigarette. However, to be able to dominate
a camel, not the most conducive of beasts of burden,
would be enough to make any rider of a camel smile.
in the context of the lyric 'Thumbing out the Candles'
makes a lot of sense. Candles lead to romance and by
thumbing them out rather than searching for and using
a snuffer, Dury is obviously in a hurry to get on with
an enjoyable roll under the covers.
all, dogs and cats are man's best friends, or so they
say. However, being confronted by a cheetah after some
lunch might be a different prospect...
out of the Women's Lib movement of the late 1960s and
early '70s the women already had the vote but were then
looking for equality - a different concept entirely,
and something that is still an issue today.
by Master of None
to have a reminder of this - much better summed
up Ian Dury than Sex & Drugs & Rock &
Roll (although a classic in its own right).
to niggle (well, no I don't actually), but I thought
it was Equal Rights not Votes, but I suppose I could
be wrong. Some nasty person nicked my 12" version
of this in about 1992, so I've not listened to it
for a bit.
in the heart of London's West End, Piccadilly runs from
Piccadilly Circus to Hyde Park Corner, Lillywhites,
the world-famous sports store at one end while the Ritz
Hotel almost at the other. It has it all - the hustle
and bustle of the West End with the added bonus of the
serene Green Park (which sits to one side of Buckingham
Palace) and Hyde Park beyond, while other highlights
include a Wren Church, the Shaftsbury monument (commonly
- but erroneously - known as 'Eros' due to its similarity
to the Greek god of love), the neon signs, the proximity
to theatreland and the locations of many a prestigious
film premiere, and now the Hard Rock Café which
also adds to the area's appeal.
Smith and Willy
these are nicknames for the male and female genitalia,
we can therefore assume it's another reference to sex
as mentioning them can only mean they come together.
being a clown is not a defence mechanism against depression,
being silly is most definitely a reason to be cheerful.
Anyone who ever saw Ian perform can ascertain whether
or not this is the case.
to personal taste you either love or hate porridge oats,
but you may like the oats if formed into a variety of
biscuits. However, as a bowl of porridge can set you
up for a miserable winter's day, it cheers you up inside
Bit of 'Grin and Bear It
you are having to grin it bear it surely you are not
having a good time. Fortunately, a bit of 'grin and
bear it' is also a euphemism for sexual intercourse...
though from a very male-centred point of view, usually.
Bit of 'Come and Share It'
is always a reason to celebrate.
Welcome, We Can Spare It
as with generosity above, always brings a smile to your
face, especially when you're able to spare it.
loved to stand out and often wore weird colours of sock
which stood out against his black trousers and shoes.
Yellow would definitely bring sunshine to the world
Short To Be Haughty
class through and through' and a reference to the Frost
Report sketches starring John Cleese, Ronnie Baker and
Ronnie Corbett, where they used their difference in
height to convey the ridiculous nature of the English
class system. Cleese at well over six feet played the
haughty upper class who looked down on the other two,
especially Corbett, who 'knows [his] place'.
Nutty To Be Naughty
is a long line of British comics who played the cheeky
chappy. They were absolute nutters, and were never considered
to be naughty, as it was always construed to be accidental.
Therefore if you can achieve that sense of nuttiness
then theoretically even the victim of your japes will
laugh with you.
say that is where life begins. Also, if you have lead
a debauched live as a rock star to reach forty is a
landmark not to be sneered at. Ian, having suffered
polio as a child, had other reasons to be happy reaching
this landmark age.
shock therapy had been used as medication for all sorts
of ailments even in the earliest part of this century.
Ian's polio would undoubtedly have meant loads of electric
shocks had be been born earlier.
Juice of a Carrot
juice is very good for you and healthy people tend to
be happy people. They don't get out of breath as often,
can concentrate longer on things, and tend to fight
off illnesses in less time. Insufferable, aren't they...
Smile of a Parrot
rare sighting would be a parrot smiling as the beak
doesn't allow a change of expression. However, you can
tell how a parrot is happy. If it is a talking bird
it will say all sorts of things at the most inappropriate
minutes and you'll burst out laughing, if not at the
time, at least later when you regale in the story.
Little Drop of Claret
good wine is something to savour and it doesn't need
to be much. If you are drinking claret you are generally
drinking to enjoy the wine and not to get blind drunk.
Therefore you are quite possibly in a social event with
close friends and enjoying a whole evening of finery.
Additionally, finding a rhyme for 'parrot' and 'carrot'
must have cheered Dury up immensely.
a rock musician, no doubt the entire genre made him
happy. Already mentioned are Buddy Holly, Little Richard
and the Hammersmith Palais. Also warranting a mention
an interesting combination in this line unless you believe
the tabloids that Elvis is living on the moon. Elvis
Aaron Presley (1935-77) is of course the undisputed
King of Rock 'n' Roll, sang a wide variety of songs
and - as a surprise re-release in 2002 proved - is still
capable of topping the charts 25 years after his death.
Plenty of reasons to be cheerful, sad or romantic, depending
on the song.
Montgomery Scott (or 'Scotty') is the Chief Engineer
on James Kirk's Enterprise on the original series of
'Star Trek'. Scotty's main attribute was no matter how
difficult the situation he always dealt with the disaster
facing the ship with good old Scottish humour. However,
it's more likely this line refers to Scotty Moore, who
on guitar (along with Bill Black on bass) was added
by Sam Phillips at Sun Records to the King's early recordings.
Days When I Ain't Spotty
can be embarrassing and painful as a teenager and can
sometimes continue into adulthood. Any day when you
do not have to face a spot on your face when looking
in the mirror is therefore a day to rejoice.
On A Potty
potty is a colloquial term (usually used by children)
for a chamber pot, that invariably ceramic objet d'art
that used to reside under beds for night time toiletry
requirements, instead of walking through the dark and
freezing house. It is also the vernacular term for the
smallest room in the house. Some of the great thinkers
and writers say their best ideas sometimes come when
enjoying the privacy of the bathroom. Spike Milligan
claimed the toilet helped inspire him, while Douglas
Adams partook in long baths. Inspiration may have struck
Dury while sitting there performing nature's necessities.
of the major achievements of the 20th Century was eliminating
this deadly disease in its natural form. Though we are
now threatened by the possibility that this may be used
in biological warfare, at least we still have the vaccine.
feature of a by-gone age where the least attractive
eye-glasses available in the UK were those provided
by the National Health Service. These were thick plastic-rimmed
glasses as modelled by Sir Michael Caine in his early
movies or a wire rimmed variety made popular by John
Lennon and, in the 1980s, Morrissey of The Smiths. They
showed the owner was poor and looked ridiculous on any
face. If you had perfect eyesight it was a source of
much amusement, as are the photos of people who used
to have them.
and brasses' is rhyming slang for rent boys and prostitutes,
from 'the girls' asses', the idea possibly being if
you have the inclination to pay for sex this may make
you cheerful at least for a short time.
a cockney (and on behalf of my people) you have
the wrong slang for "brass" - "brass"
is short for "brass rubber" = "scrubber".
Ass would be bottle, 'arris or April. "Bottle"
- "bottle and glass" = "Ass";
"'arris" - "Aristotle" = "bottle"
(see above); and "April" - "April
in Paris" = "'arris" (see above twice).
This is slang upon slang opon slang! We're crafty
Or Skinny Bottoms
fussy then but obviously a guy who liked a woman's bottom,
and a nice follow-on from the previous line.
your description of the lyrics, you refer to round
or skinny bottoms. I'd always assumed that it was
"rounded, skinny bottoms". Along with
the weather, food and cheap shopping, it's one of
the reasons that I've spent most of the last over
ten years living in Malaysia.
Your Mum to Paris
your Mum to Paris may not seem the most logical reason
for good cheer. However, if your mother has never been
abroad before to visit the Paris of all the movies of
her youth, taking her there would surely bring a glow
to your heart.
Up a Chalice
by the rest of this song it is doubtful that Ian is
referring to attending a high church service. What is
more likely is that he is referring to smoking marijuana.
As a victim of polio this may have helped to relieve
his pain; this is one of the main reasons politicians
at the moment are again debating decriminalising the
use of it.
Harris was a vertically challenged and very close personal
friend of Ian Dury. As all of us know, close personal
friends are exceedingly good reasons to be cheerful.
So, in this rather personal verse which also mentions
his dear old mum he also name-checks his mate, a 1950s
rocker and entertainer who still performs Rock 'n' Roll,
Blues, Skiffle, Country as well as novelty cabaret songs
Biko was a black South African whose story came to prominence
thanks to the writing of Donald Woods. Biko died while
in police custody but his life story and Donald's campaigning
helped spur the international anti-apartheid movement
which gave a lot of people a sense of purpose and achievement
and personal involvement in a world where individuals
were feeling helpless.
was many years until the result of this publicity came
to a satisfactory result, so the cheerfulness at the
time was in the chase and not the outcome.
Rodriguez is a Jamaican jazz trombonist, who learned
trombone instead of the more popular saxophone in the
1940s when he was learning. He was inspired by the music
of JJ Johnson and Kai Winding, and started to perform
professionally in the late 1950s. His jazz started as
mainly the Latin or Cuban style but he later learned
new styles through the 1960s before joining Undivided
from 1970 - 1975, a band who provided backing for many
of the Jamaican Reggae bands that toured his new British
home during that period.
1975, Rico got his first recording contract and in 1978
- the year before Dury wrote this song - he supported
Bob Marley and the Wailers on tour. Since then he has
continued to record and perform including with the Specials,
the Police, Ian Drury and the Blockheads, and Jools
Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra.
Marx Brothers started out as vaudeville and Broadway
stars before transferring to the silver screen from
the 1930s to 50s. They take their place alongside Laurel
and Hardy and the Three Stooges in a long line of physical
cheese and pickle
traditional English sandwich filling and essential ingredients
for a Ploughman's Lunch at an English Pub. Traditional
British complementary ingredients that go surprisingly
Vincent Motorsickle [sic]
Motorcycles are a line of classic and much sought-after
motorbikes founded by Phillip Vincent in the 1920s.
Here, Dury bends the rhyme a little.
again a reference to sex. Although 'slap-and-tickle'
generally refers to heavy petting rather than the actual
act (and so should really be known as 'tickly and slap',
seeing as that's the usual sequence of events).
can watching the king of neurotic films make you smile?
Because Woody writes, directs and stars in them to highlight
the comedic elements of his own neuroses. His work is,
on the whole, intended to be funny and the laughs are
usually at Woody's expense.
Dali (1904-1989) the Spanish impressionist painter.
He had a major falling out with his surrealist contemporaries
and founded the Dali School of Surrealist Art with his
pupils. In surrealism there are often little things
that pique your interest in any of his paintings, and
the juxtaposition of subjects on the canvas were often
humorous as well as thought provoking.
most likely combination of the two names in this line
occur in the field of Opera and classical music, the
two being Dimitri Schostakowitsch and the Opera Don
Pasquale by Gaetano Donizetti.
(1906-1975) - who had only recently died at the time
the song was written - had fallen out of favour with
the Soviet regime in 1936. However, with three operas,
including Lady Macbeth of Mzensk, three ballets, 15
symphonies, six concertos and other works including
film scores, he left behind an impressive catalogue
and range of pieces which might have appealed to Drury's
diverse musical tastes already evident in this song.
Donizetti (1797-1848) wrote the opera Don Pasquale in
1842 having earlier written Olive and Pasquale (1826).
In Don Pasquale, the Don forbids his nephew Ernesto
to marry a poor girl, Norina. He is distraught at the
lack of respect from his nephew and heir and decides
instead to take a new wife to bear him new heirs. He
turns to a friend - a wise choice. However, once married,
the new wife, Sofronia - with her name now on the Don's
deeds - starts to cause all kinds of trouble for the
elderly Don including having a secret rendezvous in
the garden with a younger lover. He demands she departs
but she insists on staying to ensure the marriage of
Ernesto to Norina. Why does she support this? Well,
this is explained when she unveils herself as Norina.
There is now no objection to her on grounds on wealth
so, after his initial anger, Pasquale consents to the
marriage of the heir to his (for a brief period) wife.
One can only assume the Don's marriage remained unconsummated
or else things might have ended up more unsettling on
a Freudian level which would certainly not be a reason
to be cheerful.
La Ba La Ba La and Volare'
la ba la ba la' is quite possibly the start of Beethoven's
Moonlight Sonata, which of course is a very relaxing
and inspirational piece of popular classical music.
'Volare' is a song also known as 'Nel Blu Di Pinto Di
Blu'. It is Italian and was written by Domenico Modugno
and Francesco Migliacci. Though popularised by Dean
Martin, Pavarotti has recently added the song to his
act, while singer/songwriter Randy Newman quotes from
it on his album Little Criminals in the Song 'Kathleen'.
believe what Ian pronounces as "bala bala bala
and Volare" is actually "Baila, Baila,
Baila" and Volare. They are both songs in Spanish.
"Baila, Baila, Baila" is a song by the
Gipsy Kings. It's upbeat, it means "Dance,
Dance, Dance," and it's definitely a reason
to be cheerful.
Nice To Study
wonders in the context of other things mentioned in
this song what this could possibly mean. It could refer
to educational study, perhaps. Studying something, especially
outside the confines of school or university when it
is not for examination, can be a fulfilling experience.
For a less literal interpretation, it could be referring
to top-shelf magazines. However, as we have covered
the topic of sex enough in this entry we can leave the
word 'study' to simply mean 'watch thoughtfully' and
leave any further analysis up to the individual listener.
by Master of None
nice to study' - I don't see why this can't be taken
at face value. Ian studied art at college I believe
(as did I), and putting together a thesis on Soviet
Propoganda Porcelain gave me great pleasure....honest!
Up A Buddy
Bob Hoskins used to say in the old British Telecom adverts,
'It's good to talk', especially now that so many of
us have mobile telephones and can do this anytime, anyplace,
anywhere. Though the song was written some 15 or so
years before mobile phones really became commonplace,
the sentiment still stands.
In My Nuddy
to just lounging around in the nude (the word 'nuddy'
being a child's word for being naked), feeling the fresh
air, sunshine or even snow on your bare skin can be
quite a sensually uplifting experience.
is a far more cheery way of saying 'Okay'. If someone
is saying 'okey dokey' to you it will more invariably
bring a smile to your face as they more certainly mean
it than a less expressive 'fine'.
were a 1970s rock band whose most famous contribution
to music was their 1976 hit 'Living Next Door to Alice'.
it may refer to soul great William 'Smokey' Robinson
(immortalised in another song, ABC's When Smokey Sings).
He wrote and sang such greats as 'My Girl', 'The Tracks
of my Tears' and 'Tears of a Clown' along with the Miracles.
These classics alone are added reasons to be cheerful.
by Master of None
rock'n'roll references are very easy to explain,
as Ian was a child of the 50s. Just as my 'Reasons...'
would have references to punk, so his youthful memories
would have been from the 50s/60s (Smokey MUST have
been Robinson). Don't forget 'Sweet Gene Vincent'.
Out A Chokey
is a slang term for prison that derives from a time
when a visit to prison might invariably lead to a meeting
with a hangman's noose. To escape to freedom would therefore
be a reason to rejoice.
Coltrane was famous for playing the saxophone. He is
best known for the tenor version, but he also played
Celentano is an Italian singer/songwriter and film actor
who started out as Italy's answer to Elvis Presley in
the 1950s. His career has carried on ever since and
he is still popular in Italy today. Anyone singing Elvis
songs in Italian is bound to bring a smile to your face.
was a minor film star in the 1940s and '50s. He had
roles in The Way to the Stars, Johnny in the Clouds,
A Matter of Life and Death, Stairway to Heaven, Once
a Jolly Swagman and The Sea Shall Not Have Them.
Perhaps next year,
maybe even never
In which case...
this colossal list of reasons to be cheerful, the song
finishes with a little hint of regret that maybe he'll
maybe never get to do them all.
these really reasons to be cheerful? Well one man attempted
to find out. His name is Dave
Gorman. Yes the
same guy who set about finding a namesake for every
card in a deck of cards, including jokers. Yes, the
same guy who followed his horoscope religiously for
40 days to see if it worked. Before he did either of
these he set out to prove this song's validity at the
1998 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. More details can be
found on his website.
here is Ian Dury with the Blockheads:
to be Cheerful; Part 3
on the image for the YouTube Official Video.
to return to BOOTboys
to be Cheerfull
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