With Julien Temple's Oil City Confidential out next week, suddenly Dr Feelgood. maybe the greatest of the Pub Rock bands of the pre-Punk Seventies, are back in the news. In an interview in the Sunday Times last week guitarist Wilko Johnson gave an insight into why the band eventually split up:
There was this... antagonism... and I tell you, I don’t know what it was about. I know that in our final year, we couldn’t stand one another. A real antipathy. Lemmy puts it down to me being a speed freak and them being boozers, and there's some truth in that, but with Lee, his dislike of me became intense. He never did me wrong. And I never did him any wrong, to my knowledge. It’s sad...
It hadn't occurred to me before, but...of course. Cherchez le drug. That astonishing manic chopped guitar style just had to be amphetamine-fuelled. And Lee Brilleaux was the archetypal pub rock boozer. That clash may have led to their break up, but it's what made them great. And, um, talking of clash:
Temple notes that both the Pistols and the Clash were MC5 fans; Johnson agrees, saying that he got on well with the original punk bands, feeling they were kindred spirits. “The Feelgoods distilled music and lyrics to the very basics,” Temple says, “stripped away everything until they were working from a classic R&B template. Joe Strummer saw them and went off and formed a band. They created the blueprint for what was about to explode out of the UK. Same in New York — they were all listening to Dr Feelgood albums.”
If you can get past the annoying sub-Jimmy Saville DJ at the beginning, this 1975 clip shows off the Wilko Johnson style pretty well, though Lee Brilleaux looks a lot more scrubbed up - and fired up - than usual: could even have had a sniff of the old powder himself:
This one, Going Back Home, is more typical, a real sweaty live gig, with Lee Brilleaux in fine form on harp.