An Exotic Tour with Ian Dury and his 'Rhythm Stick' Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

An Exotic Tour with Ian Dury and his 'Rhythm Stick'

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A drum-stick waves across images of the deserts in Sudan and a garden in Japan

Ian Dury and the Blockheads's classic 1979 single 'Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick' mentions a number of exotic (and some not so exotic) locations. So here is his magical musical tour, courtesy of Ian's unique rhyming scheme, which of course means that the tour is limited to the rhymes for each verse, which are presented here as the subject headers for each section.

Just one more thing before we get started. What is a rhythm stick? Well it does exactly what it says. It is a stick that you beat against another as a percussion instrument. We might even call it a drum stick, if we have to...

In the Deserts of Sudan

There are two deserts in Sudan. These are both in the north of the country; the Libyan Desert in the northwest and the Nubian Desert in the northeast. Both are actually part of the vast Sahara Desert which stretches across North Africa.

The Libyan Desert is very dry, and consists mainly of sand dunes. It covers eastern Libya, naturally, and western Egypt, and touches the northern corners of Sudan and Chad. The Libyan desert is framed by the Fezzan region in Libya, the volcanic debris region of the Tibesti in Chad, the Uwaynat region in Egypt, and the oases along the old run of the Nile before its diversion.

The Nubian Desert is the easternmost region of the Sahara. It covers around 407,000 square kilometres (157,000 square miles) of NE Republic of Sudan, between the Nile and the Red Sea. It is largely an arid sandstone plateau with numerous wadis1 flowing toward, but not quite reaching, the Nile, whose great bends are entrenched in the western part of the region.

And the Gardens of Japan

Japanese gardens are renowned for their landscaped tranquillity as they are created to take into account many Zen-inspired qualities. The reason for this is that the traditional Japanese gardens that still exist today are located within the Zen monasteries. There is not one template style for a Japanese garden as each of these is designed to harmonise with their own settings; every aspect of the garden - water, planting, space and wind - carry different levels of importance dependent on the surroundings. Through time Chinese influences, changing aesthetic tastes and values of the patrons have also influenced designs.

These gardens contain elements such as water, carefully raked stones, manicured trees and bushes. There are minimal gardens and expansive gardens, but all try to harness the essence of their location and enhance the senses.

From Milan

Milan is the main industrial city in Northern Italy. It is the famous home of La Scala Opera House as well as its two world renowned football teams AC Milan 2and Inter Milan3 founded in 1899 and 1908 respectively. However, its vulnerable position in the North of Italy has made it a location of conflict between most of the great powers through history.

The city itself has ancient roots being founded by Celtic tribes in the 7th Century BC, when they settled alongside the Po River. In 222 BC the Romans invaded and occupied the town calling it Mediolanum (Middle of the Plain) and it quickly became a key position on Roman trade routes. In 313 AD Constantine I made his edict granting Christians freedom to worship in Milan.

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Milan suffered many barbarian invasions. The Commune (town council) was founded in the 11th Century and the city prospered. It didn't get on well with the surrounding cities, which was something that the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa attempted to exploit when he attacked in 1162. However, he was more hated by the neighbouring towns so they formed the Lega Lombarda kicking Frederick out of the region in 1176.

Major families which governed Milan from the 13th Century were the Torrianis, Viscontis and Sforzas, which led the city into prosperity: in 1535, Milan came under Spanish rule before being ceded to Austria in 1713 as part of the treaty of Utrecht. The Empress Maria Theresa’s influence can still be seen in the city in the facades of La Scala Opera House and the Palazzo Real. These are both in her favourite shade of yellow. Napoleon Bonaparte made Milan the capital of his Cisapline Republic in 1797 and his Italian Republic in 1802. It was also the location of his coronation in 1805 as King of Italy.

From 1814-1859 it returned to Austrian control until the forces of Emmanuel II and Napoleon III defeated the Austrian forces at the Battle of Magenta, bringing Milan into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. The City was heavily bombed during the second World War, but was rebuilt and rapidly grew to its current industrial status.

... To Yucatan

The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the richest archaeological zones in the ancient Mesoamerican world, situated in modern-day Mexico. It is believed by many scientists to be the site of the meteorite strike which led to the elimination of the dinosaurs. The crater it left is the 150 mile wide Chicxubul Crater.

The main city in the area is Cancun, but on the Yucatan Peninsula itself the chief town is Merida. The area is famed for its historic haciendas. Other interesting places of note in the area include Chichén Itzá, Celestun and Uxmal. One of the World's Greatest Beaches - North Beach, Isla Mujeres - is found in Yucatan.

The Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza consist of temples and pyramids built out of the local limestone. These ruins have been rescued from the encroaching jungle and are now one of Mexico's most valued and protected treasures. Though built in the dark ages, these ruins show that the Mayan people mapped the heavens, were mathematicians of note and had created the only writing system native to the Americas.

Every Woman, Every Man

In 19794, the world population was approximately 4.35 billion, in 20035 the world's population was approximately 6.3 billion. Since 1979, over 1 billion of those alive when the song was written have died, including the writer himself.

Chorus One

Hit me with your rhythm stick.
Hit me! Hit me!
Je t'adore, ich liebe dich,
Hit me! hit me! hit me!
Hit me with your rhythm stick.
Hit me slowly, hit me quick.
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

The third line of each chorus is a rhyme for Ian's rhythm stick. However to keep up the exotic nature of this song they are in foreign languages which the average schoolboy should have no difficulty in translating. In this case the French and German phrases for 'I love you'.

The other line that changes in each chorus is the sixth. In this first chorus this line just emphasises the sense of rhythm hitting him slowly and quick.

In the Wilds of Borneo

Borneo is an island in South East Asia and the third largest in the world; only behind Greenland and New Guinea. It is split between two countries: Indonesia rules the southern two thirds and Malaysia the northern segment. The Malaysian part is the provinces of Sarawak and Sabah, between which is situated the small oil rich state of Brunei. The Indonesia segment is called Kalimantan and is split into four provinces.

The wilds refer to fact that unto very recently most of Borneo was covered in tropical rainforests. A lot of this coverage still remains sometimes in deep ravines which have claimed a number of adventurers who have attempted to conquer the wilds, even some experienced army groups have been surprised by the ferocity of the gorges. It also contains the highest peak in SE Asia Mount Kinabalu.

The jungles of Borneo are famous as one of the last places where Orang-utansare found.

And the Vineyards of Bordeaux

On the slopes near the French west coastal city of Bordeaux are 115,000 hectares of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée producing vineyards, responsible for 98% of all Bordeaux production. The vineyards produce reds, rosés, dry whites, sweet whites and dessert wines, as well as sparkling wines.

The main volume of wine produced is Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur. The principle wine regions within Bordeaux are Côtes de Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, Libourne, Graves and Médoc.


Now in the days of political correctness these are the Inuit community which occupies the Tundra of Northern Canada and Greenland, the Yupik people of Siberia and Inupiaq of Alaska. The word 'Eskimo' is not native to their own tongue but from the Algonquin Indians of eastern Canada, given to their hardy neighbours who wore animal-skin clothing and were adept hunters. It means 'eater of raw meat', referring to them eating seal, whale, fish or deer meat without cooking.

Famous for their igloo icehouses in the winter snows, the Eskimos however do camp in the summer on the permafrost of the Northern Tundra herding their reindeer to the isolated patches of vegetation for feeding. They also fish and hunt seals and whales for supplies of meat and fat for use in insulation and cooking.


The Arapaho were native Americans who lived along both the Platte and Arkansas rivers during the 19th Century.

The Arapaho call themselves 'Inuna-ina' and are close allies with the Cheyenne. This name is roughly translated into 'our people'.

The Arapaho are buffalo hunters on the plains but also have traditions dating from when they lived in the east and planted corn. The Arapaho, of whom there are about 1800, live in two divisions. The larger body lives with the Cheyenne in Oklahoma, while the northern division resides with the Shoshoni on a reservation in Wyoming. The Grosventres of Montana, formerly associated with the Blackfeet and numbering now about 700, are a detached band of Arapaho. Unlike the Cheyenne they adapted more easily to the white man's civilisation than their Cheyenne cousins.

Move their body to and fro.

Inuit communities would most likely move their bodies from side to side for warmth. The Arapaho on the other hand are most likely to move theirs for one of their traditional dances, quite possibly to evoke rainfall in the arid and dry land.

Chorus Two

Hit me with your rhythm stick.
Hit me! Hit me!
Das ist gut! C'est fantastique!
Hit me! hit me! hit me!
Hit me with your rhythm stick.
It's nice to be a lunatic.
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

French and German in the third line of the second chorus as well. This time the German is that is good and the French being the superlative it is magnificent.

Anyone who is a fan of Ian Dury and his Blockheads will realise that although he behaved like a lunatic his music and lyrics showed you this was an act. He played it well and at the same time put a little bit of political commentary into his fun lyrics.

In the Dock of Tiger Bay

Tiger Bay is the dock area of Cardiff. One of its most famous exports is Dame Shirley Bassey, the only singer to have sung the theme to three Bond movies Diamonds are Forever, Goldfinger and Moonraker.

It was the major dock for South Wales and during most of its life mainly exported coal from the South Welsh coalfields so undoubtedly there would have been a haze of coal dust over the location.

Redevelopment started in the 1960s when the run down terraces were replaced with high rise blocks. However £200 million has been invested in the run down former dock areas since the 1980s to turn Tiger bay into a commercial leisure area with provision for modern housing. Tiger Bay is now home to the Welsh Assembly building, a leisure complex, waterfront shopping centre and a 500 acre lake created behind the Cardiff barrage.

On the Road to Mandalay

As well as being the line of Rudyard Kipling's poem Mandalay and title of the 1926 MGM film, it was a well-known trade route to Burma, now known as Myanmar.

Mandalay itself is set inland over the Irrawaddy river which is still one of the main means of transporting goods to the impressive city. It is the second largest city in Myanmar and a centre of tourism. On both banks white pagodas and temples contrast with the greenery of the jungle covered hills.

Legend says that Buddha had prophesied that a great city would be founded at the foot of Mandalay Hill. However it was not until 1857 during the reign of King Mindon Min that a new capital, Mandalay, was planned. Two years later it was inaugurated; most of the monuments that can still be seen today were built in that short period or shortly after.

It did not remain the capital for long, the next king Thibaw Min lost the jewel of his kingdom to the British. The British shifted the capital from Mandalay to Rangoon (modern day Yangon). Mandalay 'the golden city' became just another outpost of the British Empire.

The mighty Mandalay Palace built for Mindon Min was almost destroyed by fire during World War II but has since been restored to its former glory.

From Bombay...

Now correctly called by its Hindi name Mumbai. In 1661 10,000 people lived there, in 1901 over 812,912, in 1991 12.5 million. In 1508 the Portuguese invaded the Bombay archipelago seizing it from the sultans of Gujarat. In 1534 they fully defeated Gujarat and amongst the concessions they obtained in the peace was the right to the islands. However, this was only important to the Portuguese in their quest to head further east.

Spain annexed Portugal in 1580 and later the Spaniards were defeated by the English, which lead to other Europeans seeking to open up the spice routes. The Dutch and English soon came and established themselves here. The British established the East India Company in the city, building a quay and warehouses in the 1660s; and fortified the Manor House, calling it Bombay Castle. The East India Company would actually control the whole country until it was dissolved in 1858. Bombay became the capital of the British Raj.

The buildings the British left in Mumbai show the importance the Empire placed on this gateway to the spices, teas, minerals etc that the Indian sub-continent contributed to Britain's wealth. However some of the earliest remains are the temples set in the Malabar hills, which date from the 13th Century. The oldest extant structure is the Banganga Tank built in 1715. All the other important buildings in Mumbai were designed by the British occupiers. Or since independence in 1947 by an India determined to gain a place worthy of its many inhabitants on the world arena. Santa Fe

Santa Fe, New Mexico sits 7000 ft high in the Rocky Mountain foothills. It is America's oldest capital city, founded by Spanish settlers and missionaries in 1607 as a capital city for 'New Mexico', their territories in the new world.

In 1680 the Pueblo Indians of the region rebelled against the Spanish occupiers and reclaimed the city, which they occupied until 1692, from which point Santa Fe grew as a city under the prospering Spanish Empire. There were constant raids by nomadic Indians and wars with the Comanches, Apaches and Navajos. The Spaniards however forged an alliance with the Pueblo Indians and maintained a successful religious and civil policy of peaceful coexistence.

In 1821 Mexico gained independence from Spain and Santa Fe became the capital of the New Mexico province. From 1846 to 1912 the territory of New Mexico and Santa Fe's fate was hotly disputed by the Mexican Civil War and the American Civil War. Briefly during this period the American and Confederate flags were raised over Santa Fe but they only flew briefly. In 1912, New Mexico became the 47th State of the Union and Santa Fe remains state capital.

The city itself has preserved its historic buildings and has a zoning code established in 1958 that mandates the city's distinctive Spanish-Pueblo style of architecture, based on the adobe (mud and straw) and wood construction of the past.

Over Hills and Far Away

This is a line from a popular Nursery Rhyme 'Tom the Piper's son'. It is also the name of the third track on Led Zeppelin’s fifth album Houses of the Holy.

Chorus 3

Hit me with your rhythm stick.
Hit me! Hit me!
C'est si bon, mm? Ist es nicht? Hit me! hit me! hit me!
Hit me with your rhythm stick.
Two fat persons, click, click, click.
Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!

This time the French asks the question 'that is so good, hmm?'. The German responsive question is 'isn't it?'.

The sixth line in the final chorus refers to working class women's6 weekly bout of small stakes gambling, the Bingo. This line is a politically correct version of Two fat ladies 88 along with a derivation of Clickety Clicks 66 to fit the rhyming scheme. So our exotic tour has ended up at the bingo hall with the women fantasising about winning the national game and the big money to be able to see some of these places named in the song.

1A part time river in desert zones.2Originally the Milan Cricket and Football Club. Full name now: Athletic Club Milano. 3Full name: Internazionale Football Club Milano.4When Ian wrote this song.5When this entry was written.6Men now do attend bingo in the 21st century, but in 1979 it was mainly a woman's preserve apart from the caller.

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