At the height of the punk era, a time wherein musical skill and instrumental prowess were frowned upon, therein emerged England’s most cherished cadre of musical misfits who played their respective arses off: Ian Dury and the Blockheads – seamlessly fusing jazz, music hall, funk, and traditional rock ‘n’ roll. Norman Watt-Roy’s bass-lines danced amid Mr. Dury’s wicked cockney word-play, hysterical character sketches, and farcical sexual humor which were rooted in Lord Upminster’s astute observations of everyday British life.
Clash fans note that it was Norman who rendered the fantastic dub reggae bass parts on Sandinista (1980). Watt-Roy has been recording and touring for thirty years and counting with guitar icon Wilko Johnson, and continues to work with the surviving Blockheads in the UK pubs, keeping the waggish flame of the dearly departed Ian Dury burning into the 21st Century.
Norman’s bass artistry can also be heard with Frankie Goes to Hollywood (“Relax”), Wreckless Eric, Nick Cave, and Roger Daltrey, among others, including Wilko and Roger’s collaborative Going Back Home (2014).
Bringing his contemporary jazz yearnings to the forefront, Mr. Watt-Roy waxed his first solo album in 2013 entitled Faith & Grace.
Coda: Norman’s masterpiece is unquestionably “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” – a benchmark for bassists, that is, if you can master the rapid-fire 16th note passages without bursting into laughter from Ian’s lunatic libretto.