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Gene Vincent – whose own disability caused him to walk with a limp – was an early hero and influence, but so too were Max Miller and Alma Cogan (her novelty song Twenty Tiny Fingers was a staple of Dury’s early performances).
He also professed a strong admiration for the trouper qualities of Bruce Forsyth, who was dying nightly at the end of Woolacombe Pier a week before he landed Sunday Night at the London Palladium.
The film is a vividly impressionistic view of Dury’s life, which if not always factually correct seems remarkably faithful to his incendiary and often chaotic character.
Serkis is simply stupendous in the title role, giving a performance which, in its kinetic energy and physical verisimilitude, seems to be less a matter of acting than channelling Dury from the other side.
At the age of seven Dury was struck down with polio.
“The law of the jungle ruled there.” It was no better at the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe, where he was sent at the age of 12 and where he was a frequent target for bullying – and learnt to fight with his fists, and his tongue.
He went on to study at art school in East London and then at the Royal College of Art, working as an illustrator and art schoolteacher before abandoning painting for music.
“He was still in love with his craft,” Dury said, explaining that he’d spent a long time “at the end of the pier” himself before making it.
Dury’s songs were vivid evocations of parochial English life, featuring a cast of wideboys, chancers and scrubbers, leavened with Cockney rhyming slang and lashings of vulgarity.
Wiser counsel prevailed and the album was instead entitled New Boots and Panties.