What a Waste

Ian Dury & the Blockheads

About What a Waste

"What a Waste" is a song and single by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, originally released in 1978 on the Stiff Records single BUY 27 "What a Waste" / "Wake Up and Make Love with Me". The song has remained in The Blockheads' set following Dury's death. Essentially a song about being in a job that makes you happy, Dury claimed in a 1984 interview with Penthouse that while not condemning 9-to-5 jobs, he had written the song to make people question their lives, echoing the sentiments of his earlier single "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll". The song's verses list a number of things the song's narrator could have been, from a driver, poet, teacher or soldier to an inmate in a long-term institution and the ticket man at Fulham Broadway station before the chorus reveals that instead he chose to 'play the fool in a six-piece band' highlighting some of the pitfalls of this (loneliness specifically), before deciding that 'rock and roll don't mind'. The song was written following the break-up of Kilburn and the Highroads in a lull between the formation of Ian Dury & the Kilburns and was written with Rod Melvin in mid-1975, two years before it was released. Originally a third writing credit was given to Chaz Jankel (Dury's long-term songwriting companion): this third writing credit has gradually been phased out and the 2004 Edsel Records re-issue of Do It Yourself credits the song to Dury/Melvin solely. However, in Ian Dury & The Blockheads: Song By Song, John Turnbull (guitarist with the Blockheads) claims that the middle instrumental section was brought over from one of the songs four of the Blockheads had written while they were in their previous band, Loving Awareness. 


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Ian Dury & the Blockheads

The Blockheads are an English rock band formed in London in 1977. Originally fronted by lead singer Ian Dury as Ian Dury and the Blockheads or Ian and the Blockheads, the band has continued to perform since Dury's death in 2000. As of March 2023 members included Chaz Jankel (guitar and keyboards), Nathan King (bass), Mick Gallagher (keyboards and piano), John Turnbull (vocals and guitar), John Roberts (drums), and Mike Bennett (lead vocals). There is a rolling line-up of saxophonists that includes Gilad Atzmon, Terry Edwards, Dave Lewis, and from time to time, the original sax player, Davey Payne. Between 2000 and 2022, the band's lead vocalist and main lyricist was Derek Hussey. The band are best known for their hit singles, recorded with Dury, "What a Waste… more »

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10 facts about this song

Song Composition and Release
"What a Waste" is a song and single made by the British band Ian Dury & The Blockheads. It was released in 1978.
Chart Success
The song achieved considerable chart success in the UK, reaching number nine in the UK Singles Chart in April - June 1978.
Unique Style
The tune of "What a Waste" is characterized as a pop song incorporating elements of funk and rock.
Contributing Artists
Ian Dury was a great contributor to the song production. Along with Dury, the band "Blockheads" includes Chaz Jankel, Norman Watt-Roy, Charlie Charles, and Davey Payne, all of whom had a significant part in the creation of the song.
Lyrical Theme
The lyrics of "What a Waste" touch on the theme of underemployment. It talks about the various jobs held by a person, and how they all seemed to be a waste, hence the title.
Music Video
The music video of "What a Waste" features Ian Dury and the Blockheads jamming out in a scrapyard, fitting in with the music's gritty, working-class aesthetic.
Compilation Album
The song was eventually included in Ian Dury & The Blockheads' hit compilation album "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll: The Best of Ian Dury and the Blockheads" in 1992.
Dury's Health Condition
Interestingly, Ian Dury, who was the leading voice in "What a Waste," was diagnosed with polio at a young age, but did not let the condition stop him from having a successful music career. His unique vocal style actually contributed to the signature sound of the song.
Pop Culture Reference
"What a Waste" was referenced in the British comedy series "The Young Ones."
Lasting Impact
Despite being over 40 years old, "What a Waste" has managed to maintain a level of popularity, demonstrating the timeless appeal of Ian Dury and the Blockheads' music.

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