Despite choosing not to submit himself to chemotherapy as a treatment for his terminal pancreatic cancer, Wilko Johnson is not going quietly into that dark night. The former Dr. Feelgood lead guitar player will be doing a series of sold-out farewell gigs in England. That’s one hell of a way to say “fuck you” to cancer and quite a testimony to Johnson’s love of music.
If you haven’t been seduced by the tightly wound rhythm and blues of Dr. Feelgood, here’s a video of the band live that was broadcast on Finnish TV in 1975 that will show you why the band was embraced not only by fans of r&b, but punks as well. The audio is a bit thin, but you’ll get the idea. Includes an interview with a very young Wilko and lead singer Lee Brilleaux.
Wilko Johnson has been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the pancreas. A statement was issued by Johnson’s manager Robert Hoy which read:
WILKO JOHNSON – IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT
I am very sad to announce that Wilko has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the pancreas. He has chosen not to receive any chemotherapy.
He is currently in good spirits, is not yet suffering any physical effects and can expect to enjoy at least another few months of reasonable health and activity.
He has just set off on a trip to Japan; on his return we plan to complete a new CD, make a short tour of France, then give a series of farewell gigs in the UK. There is also a live DVD in the pipeline, filmed on the last UK tour.
Wilko wishes to offer his sincere thanks for all the support he has had over his long career, from those who have worked with him to, above all, those devoted fans and admirers who have attended his live gigs, bought his recordings and generally made his life such an extraordinarily full and eventful experience.
Johnson is hailed as one of Rock’s most influential guitarists with his distinctive choppy, staccato style. He was a major influence on British Punk, and played with Ian Dury and The Blockheads after leaving Dr Feelgood in 1977. More recently there has been a resurgence of interest in Dr Feelgood after Julien Temple’s documentary on the band Oil City Confidential. Johnson has also appeared in Game of Thrones and successfully toured the UK at the end of last year. Our thoughts are with Johnson and his family.
Ian Dury looked like he could have been your Dad. Well, that is if your Dad was cool enough to front a band, and write songs that stuck in the head like a needle in the groove. I suppose it was because he looked like an old geezer and sounded like a cab driver that made him look like your Dad, but in truth Ian Dury was the Poet Laureate of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The Cor-Blimey Bard of Pop Poetry, whose exuberant lyrical dexterity at writing short memorable couplets, made him one of music’s best loved and most respected writers and performers.
In 1977, it seemed everyone had or had heard a copy of New Boots and Panties!!, the album that gave Punk and New Wave its very own T S Eliot, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Edward Lear or W H Auden. We went in-and-out of class rooms reciting “Clevor Trever”:
“Just cos I ain’t never ad, no, nothing worth having
Never ever, never ever
You ain’t got no call not to think I wouldnt fall
Into thinking that I ain’t too clever
And it aint not having one thing nor another
Neither, either is it anything, whatever
And its not not knowing that there ain’t nothing showing
And I answer to the name of Trever, however.”
Or, singing “Billericay Dickie”:
“I had a love affair with Nina
In the back of my Cortina
A seasoned up hyena
could not have been more obscener.”
It made a change from singing “Sha-na-na-na-sha-na-na-bop-de-diddle-de-bop, baby.” And if there had been an O’Level in the lyrics of Ian Dury, then we all would have passed ‘A’ band one. It wasn’t just that The Blockheads’ songs were the bollocks, it was Dury, who was the most literary thing that had happened to music since Ron and Russell told us about “Khaki-colored bombardiers…” over Hiroshima, or, Vivian sang “Sport, Sport, masculine sport. Equips a young man for society.”
Here is Ian Dury and The Blockheads with ex-Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson in the line-up giving it their all and then some in Paris 1981.
01. “Wake Up (And Make Love To Me)”
02. “Sink My Boats”
03 “Delusions of Grandeur”
04. “Dance of the Crackpots”
05. “What a Waste”
06. “Hey! Hey! Take Me Away”
07. “Hit Me (With Your Rhythm Stick)”
08. “Sweet Gene Vincent’
Happy Birthday Lee Brilleaux, the unforgettable lead singer of R&B band Dr Feelgood.
Born sixty years ago today, Brilleaux was raised in Canvey Island the hard-living, oil refinery community on the Thames Estuary. It was a perfect backdrop for Brilleaux to develop his taste for working class R&B, and in 1971, he co-founded Dr. Feelgood with guitarist and song-writer, Wilko Johnson. Together they became the twin poles to one of Britain’s most dynamic R&B bands.
DM’s Marc Campbell notes that last month a CD boxset All Through The City was released, and is a definite must-have for all Feelgood fans.
Meantime, here to remember Lee Brilleaux and Dr Feelgood is “15 minutes of magic in 4 songs” taken from the film Going Back Home from 1975.
Bonus clip of Dr. Feelgood on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’, after the jump…