This month our resident Dr Feelgood expert has news of his latest compilation of recordings made by Canvey’s finest at the BBC, this time during the Wilko Johnson era. That double album coincides with the publication of the eagerly awaited book by Zoe Howe on founder member Lee Brilleaux.
I have never made any secret of my fondness of the music of Dr Feelgood. Why should I? The Feelgoods are without a shadow of a doubt one of the finest live acts this country has ever produced. They’ve had many magical moments in the studio as well but to experience the band at its best you have to see them in concert.
That remains the case to this very day which is why the current line-up remains a big draw here and in mainland Europe. This month Messrs Kane, Mitchell, Morris and Walwyn are gigging in our part of the world. They share the bill with Nine Below Zero at The Junction in Cambridge on Thursday 10th December and then a fortnight later are back in Ipswich for one of my promotions at Venue 77.
The Dr Feelgood story began well over 40 years ago. I’m sure you don’t need remaining how they formed on Canvey Island, burst onto the London pub-rock scene, landed a major record deal and within three years topped the album charts with the live set Stupidity.
The classic line-up of Lee Brilleaux, Wilko Johnson, John B Sparks and The Big Figure were a force to be reckoned with and almost singlehandedly paved the new way for punk. Not surprisingly they were invited by the BBC to record sessions and In Concert programmes for Radio One.
All their BBC recordings during the Wilko years have just come out on a double album which I compiled for the group’s record label Grand. It isn’t my first project for Grand by any means. As with previous releases, the recordings have been re-mastered by Pat Grueber and Lee Boswell at Ipswich’s Gemini Studios and that means they sound even better than they did when first broadcast between 1973 and 1975.
I am a little biased of course but Gettin’ Their Kicks At The BBC is a must-have for Feelgood followers old and new. It’s been a real labour of love for me to produce this latest release and I loved getting the memories of the perfect rhythm section – Sparko and Figure – for the sleeve notes.
Also out in time for Christmas is Zoe Howe’s eagerly awaited book on the legendary Feelgoods’ frontman Lee Brilleaux. In many people’s eyes Lee was Dr Feelgood but anyone who suggested that to him usually received short shrift. He may have been captain of the ship but during his two decades at the helm he always insisted it was a team effort.
Zoe’s excellent read, Lee Brilleaux – Rock’n’Roll Gentleman, is full of great stories about his love of life on the road, his often strained relationship with Wilko and his passion for food and drink. His widow Shirley admits he wasn’t always the easiest man to live with and the book also features the candid thoughts of Lee’s mum Joan.
What I really love about this biography is that the author doesn’t attempt to gloss over the bad moments. Some music books forget the human interest aspect of their subject. Zoe steers well clear of the bull (Lee would certainly approve of that) instead telling it as it was. As I well know having been in his company plenty of times, Lee was a gentleman with a heart of gold. He didn’t suffer fools and fully appreciated all the good things that came his way.
As I finished the book, I wiped away a tear. I still think of him every day and I am so proud to have been involved in numerous CD releases over the past 20 years which have helped keep his name alive.