Despite the death of Lee Brilleaux and Wilko Johnson’s terminal cancer, the pub rockers are promising a lively old carry on
If punk was the anarchy and chaos of the rebellious 1970s, then Dr Feelgood was the adrenalin shot that pushed it into the spotlight with raw-edged classics like Roxette and the chart-topping 1976 album Stupidity.
“The pub blues DIY ethic did change the music scene then. I think Dr Feelgood was a spark for Joe Strummer and Paul Weller to do what they did a couple of years later,” said Feelgood’s drummer Kevin Morris.
“It was a strange era, when progressive bands like Yes and Pink Floyd ruled the roost, and people would cheerily go along as consumers to see these bands play stadium and arena rock.
“Bands like Dr Feelgood pared it back, proving you could turn up in a smoke-filled pub with a couple of guitars and an amp – and blast out energetic, three minute songs.”
Dr Feelgood’s stripped back, machine-gun R&B steered by Wilko Johnson’s choppy guitar and led by the late singer Lee Brilleaux defined their sound and the lads from Canvey Island stormed the charts nearly forty years ago.
Johnson, now 66, left the band at the height of their fame, but continues to defy a terminal cancer diagnosis and performs as his health permits.
Last month, Johnson wowed a sell-out show alongside The Who’s Roger Daltrey in London.
“Wilko’s doing well, and in very good spirits, it’s amazing really,” added Morris.
“I saw him last week because some of his mail comes to us.
“A lot of it is addressed to ‘Wilko Johnson, Southend’ but it all gets here, though.
“He lives down the road, so I go to see him a fair bit.
“All the things that rattled him and upset him before, well he just doesn’t bother about them anymore.
“He did all these farewell gigs, but he’s still there fighting like a lion.”
Since its foundation, none of the original line-up are still involved with the band, with the last of the first members, Lee Brilleaux, having passed away in 1994.
Together the band made the difficult decision to carry on the Dr Feelgood name after Brilleaux’s death and they remain in great demand on the live circuit.
“Despite all the changes in personnel, the music, it’s energy and our audience has always driven the band to continue,” said Morris.
“When Lee died we stopped for a year and only reformed when fans and promoters from all over the world asked us to carry on.
“Obviously it would never be the same and in many ways we carry on as a tribute to Lee who had said that it was his wish for the band to continue.”
Morris, who joined the band in 1983, added: “Music is my life and I saw my boyhood hero – Keith Moon – live in 1967 when I was eleven at the Kingsway Cinema in Essex.
“Tony Blackburn was the MC and Moon looked like he was having so much fun.
“Then he kicked his drum kit all over the stage in a haze of smoke bombs and I was smitten.
“He was a complete lunatic, but he made me want to be a drummer.”
Dr Feelgood, Clitheroe Grand, Saturday, March 22. £16. 01200 421599.
By Tony Dewhurst