‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ was released on 23rd November 1978, it was Ian Dury & The Blockheads most successful single - eventually reaching #1 in the UK singles chart on 27th January 1979, knocking the Village People’s ‘Y.M.C.A’ off the top spot.
Released during the winter of discontent ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ proved to be a perfect piece of post-punk escapism. The coldest winter in decades arrived at a time when the UK was already rife with political upheaval, civil unrest and strikes. By name-checking exotic locations, utilising positive expressions in European languages and its funky, danceable beat, this track served as an antithesis to the UK’s current social (and actual) climate.
The melody for 'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick' was written by Ian Dury and Chaz Jankel during a jam session. It was inspired by the piano section of 'Wake Up and Make Love with Me', the opening track from Ian Dury's debut solo album 'New Boots & Panties'. Later that same day Dury had procured some lyrics for the song, which he had written some time previously.
Jankel was The Blockheads guitarist and keyboardist. He also acted as the key composer and later producer, essentially taking over the reins from longtime collaborator Laurie Latham during the recording of this single. Despite the song's eventual success, the recording of it has been described as quite unorthodox and has not always been favourably remembered by those involved. However, convinced by his efforts, Jankel famously phoned his mother after the sessions to tell her he had "...just recorded my first number one".
The track was released on Stiff Records, the pioneering independent UK label that was home to other innovative punk and new wave acts including The Damned, Elvis Costello and The Pogues.
The artwork for 'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick' was designed by the highly influential and enigmatic designer Barney Bubbles who, in 1977, was the creative director at Stiff Records. Described by Dury as the most incredible designer he's ever come across, Barney's distinctive record designs, and his rebranding of the NME in 1979 helped forge the identity of British independent music into the 1980s and beyond.
The success of the original single saw a Disco Version released in The US and Canada in 1979 and numerous remixes released, including Paul Hardcastle's in 1985, as well as being used in television and shows and appropriated for adverts.
Selling just short of a million copies upon release before being deleted by the ever image-conscious Stiff, the song eventually sold its millionth copy when it became available as a download - almost four decades after its initial release.