Saturday, 26 January 2013

Wilko Johnson and the Feelgoods - Bringing it all back home

It is sad news indeed that Wilko Johnson has been diagnosed with untreatable pancreatic cancer and has chosen not to receive any chemotherapy.

Wilko is one of the great British characters on the UK music scene and is a genuine one-off.

Wilko, John B Sparks, The Big Figure and Lee Brilleaux

Dr Feelgood, in its original incarnation of John B Sparks on bass; The Big Figure on drums; Lee Brilleaux on vocals, harmonica, occasional slide guitar and punching the air; and Wilko on demented percussive staccato machine gun guitar, were one of the best bands I have ever seen. At the time, mid 70s, they were truly mind-blowing.

In the mid 70s, pre punk, when dressing up as space wizards and playing bass guitar solos through clouds of dry ice was considered normal, to see four geezers from Canvey Island walk on a minimally lit stage wearing dirty suits and playing even dirtier R'n'B was revolutionary. All they did was play their arses off. That was it. That was the show. What a brilliant idea!

The next thing that happened was Punk Rock.

Funnily enough the first time I saw the Feelgoods was also the first time I saw anyone pogo dancing. And it was a hippy. We were in front of the stage and he was doing it right in front of me. It irritated the hell out of me. He kept popping up and down like the Magic Roundabout's Zebedee on amphetamines. I also remember that, unlike quite a few other bands I'd seen at the time like Hawkwind, Black Sabbath or Richie Blackmore's Rainbow; all of whom did take the space wizards riding the dry ice path to stage presentation, the Feelgoods only played around 60 minutes. If that. Everyone else at that time was playing long 90 minute sets plus encore but the Feelgoods' hour long speedathon was the one that left us absolutely shattered yet hungry for more. The Feelgoods were a physical experience and emotional catharsis at a time when most rock bands were keen on being "listened" to... man. Sitting down... like "real" music.

Dr Feelgood were the band that brought true rock back to the 70s.
Thanks Wilko. Our thoughts are with you.

Here are some examples of the Feelgoods' early greatness.

From a TV show called the Geordie Scene from around 1975

France 1976

Home territory 1975

Wilko's interview on BBC Radio 4's Today

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