Kilburn and The High Roads formed at Canterbury College of Art in 1970 when lecturer Ian Dury let his inner Gene Vincent fan take control, with co-writer and keyboard player Russell Hardy.
Playing an eclectic, English mix taking in rock & roll, reggae and a splash of Music Hall, they were also menacing and defiantly unfashionable – one writer called them a band of “demobbed cripples”.
Over the years the Teddy Boy/suedehead/vagrant-looking band would contain a drummer on crutches, a four-foot bassist, a seven-foot bassist, and a demented sax player who would fight with the singer. One-time bass guitarist was renowned portrait artist Humphrey Ocean.
Driving things forward was Dury’s confrontational stage persona, facing down the audience in the way Johnny Rotten would a few years later. Pete Townshend was impressed enough to invite them to support The Who on their ‘Quadrophenia’ tour in 1973.
Bad luck with the labels meant their recorded output was slight. They turned down the chance to record for Virgin because Dury wanted “to be on the same label as Max Bygraves”.
They recorded the Handsome LP for the Dawn label but split up the week it limped out in June 1975.
A partial resurrection was enacted with Ian Dury & The Kilburns the following year with Chas Jankel, en route to The Blockheads.
After six years of sporadic activity, the Kilburns finally called it a day in 1976.
The band’s influence was substantial. The Sex Pistols and The Specials were all fans in inspirational debt, while Dury’s talent as a lyricist has impressed anyone who has ever sung about London – from Madness to The Libertines.