Kilburn and the High Roads

  • Kilburn and the High Roads
  • Handsome (UK Dawn) 1975  (UK Pye) 1977  (UK Sequel) 1990 
  • Wotabunch! (UK Warner Bros.) 1978 
  • Upminster Kids (UK PRT) 1983 

Although new wave was still two years away, the London music scene of 1975 wasn’t all Queen and the Rolling Stones; pub-rock bands were making fresh and exciting music, laying the groundwork for more radical outfits to follow. Some included musicians whose skills came in very handy when the punk wave slammed into the British music industry dam in 1977. Kilburn and the High Roads, named for an English road sign, included Ian Dury, saxman Davey Payne (a future Blockhead) and Keith Lucas, who changed his name to Nick Cash and founded the group 999. During a commercially frustrating career that lasted from 1970 to 1976, the Kilburns were cult-popular and influential, not commercially significant. Still, their records are neat reminders of a fine, original band.

An album cut in 1974 was shelved due to record company politics, which made the band’s debut its second recording. (That lost first LP, Wotabunch!, was later dredged up and finally released after Dury’s solo career took off.) The subsequently recorded Handsome contains much of the same material (co-written by Dury and pianist Russell Hardy) that the group had used the first time. Got that?

Handsome is musically low-key, featuring Dury’s clever Cockney wordplay and a bit of high-powered blowing from Payne. Although not above some raving, the debonair album is overly understated, touching on both rockin’ ’50s styles and dapper ’40s lounge subtlety.

Upminster Kids is a reissue of Handsome with several tracks deleted.

[Ira Robbins]

See also: Ian Dury, 999