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I found myself in Aberdeen last night, in the middle of a blizzard of snow, wondering if it were possible to be further away from the Canvey Island of Dr. Feelgood. Not that odd a thought, as I was there to see “Oil City Confidential” at one of only four cinemas in Scotland showing this hybrid rock/cinema event.

Sitting at the start of the second decade of the 21st Century, watching a paean to proto punk, pub rock is probably pretty weird as evidenced by the almost embarrassing smattering of people that left probably 90% of the seats vacant. Director, Julian Temple had melded a strange amalgam of home movies, film noir clips, reconstructions, live footage and talking heads into a fatally flawed film. That isn’t to say it wasn’t a good film, or an interesting one. It was, but it didn’t gel as a film about Dr. Feelgood. Far more, it seemed to be an homage to Wilko Johnson.

If Wilko was dead, not Lee Brilleaux, I could see the point and how it would work; friends and band-mates recounting anecdotes and tall tales but this didn’t work for me – because of Wilko. His stage persona was lithe, frenetic, focussed but as narrator of his own story he seemed largely lost. It didn’t help that I seemed incapable of accepting that the old shambling figure before me seemed nothing more than a detached observer of his own life. This really couldn’t be Wilko.

From time to time, we’d see this narrator play something to illustrate part of the story but the playing, like his words, was all over the place. I met him once. Dr. Feelgood were in the middle of their first U.S. tour but during a few days off, Wilko flew back to London. I was at United Artists offices in the city, sitting in reception when he walked in. The exact details are somewhat clouded by the passage of time but the trip home had been prompted by the non-appearance of a bag of white powder in The States.

The receptionist greeted him warmly and having ascertained why he wasn’t on the other side of the pond, found the missing bag. Wilko then asked for a room with a typewriter and disappeared. On my way out from seeing the press officer, I was walking past an open door when the, by then wired, guitarist called out to me. He’d been busy battering out lyrics on a portable and asked me if I’d listen to some of them and give my opinion. I remember being impressed both with the occasion and words but that’s all the information I’ve retained.

That’s the crux of my problem. I remember the Wilko that I met and yet I seem unprepared to accept that I have aged as much as he has. Somehow, the juxtaposition of the 1970’s high-energy performances seen in the captured live footage, with the guitarist as he is now seemed all the sadder. I wanted an unsullied celebration of this all too English amphetamine fuelled, electric, delta blues. I wanted the snapshot in time.

Canvey Island was itself a major player in the film. The faded fifties glamour of the casinos and holiday camp were a powerful backdrop to the evolution of the band. Even seeing it now, it offered far less pathos than inspiration as we followed one of the regular 2 hour tours that takes fans round all the important Feelgood landmarks.

The fact that fans still take those tours is testament to something hugely important that was sidestepped to a large degree: there was a Dr. Feelgood after Wilko left the band. It might not have been as exciting an era as when he was part of it but it saw the band continue to grow as a group of musicians and Lee Brilleaux take his rightful place as one of Britain’s best blues men. They may never again have had the startling effect that their early years made on the music industry but it can easily be argued that without Feelgood, there would never have been Punk. Unlike Punk, of course, Feelgood weathered the changing musical tastes of several decades and stayed true to their roots. They also remained in the hearts and minds of fans of basic rhythm and blues.

For me, the most poignant part of the film was Wilko sitting with his life in cuttings and pictures spread out before him. I had a deep sense of intruding on a private moment, watching someone access personal memories that should never be lightly shared. That, more than anything else troubled me. It seemed that he had lost his own connection with those events; was seeing them as a third party and yet I understand the reasoning (if there is one).

Despite that pathos there was one real sense of emotion in the film. It came from Shirley Brilleaux, Lee’s widow. She was filled with such feeling for this man that saw her smile, laugh and cry whilst thinking of him. Such simple emotions that were obviously heartfelt left me hungering for more knowledge of her husband. In many ways, Shirley was the unexpected star of this film. She did Lee proud.

When the film petered out there was a break before the video feed was turned on again. It was just enough time to hit the bar and hope for better things to come. I wasn’t expecting much, based on what I’d seen of Wilko and the announcement that Alison Moyet was going to be a guest did not bode well for me. “Alf” from Yazoo with Wilko Johnson? No way!

Strangely, that was the unexpected highlight of the evening. She looked great and sounded amazing! As for the shambolic narrator, a simple truth became self evident – all he needed was an audience. Not a film crew but a real audience that he could strut his stuff in front of – and boy, did he strut! The moves, the energy and, of course, the licks were all there. I just wanted someone to put a “Wilko” wig on him and take me back 35 years. The video feed was stunning. To see every chop of his fingers on those strings, every chord change, was incredible. I just didn’t want to see the bushiness of his eyebrows or the lines on his face that the high definition picked out in minute detail.

Playing counterpoint to Wilko’s machine-gun like guitar was Norman Watt-Roy on bass. Watt-Roy goes back to 1968 with The Greatest Show On Earth, an early signing to the Harvest label. From there he joined Glencoe, then Loving Awareness and finally Ian Dury & The Blockheads. It was an odd sight. He seemed unaware of his guitarist but somehow, as is the case with all great bass players, totally attuned to him. Odd isn’t really the word. More outlandish. Part gargoyle let loose; part Orang Utang; part octopus. A figure dancing to his own tune yet producing the most incredible runs far beyond the reach of many. His dexterity on the fretboard and his obvious skill with picking and slapping the strings between the bridge and first pick-up was totally breathtaking.

There was one other guest onstage. A leather-jacketed harmonica player that looked totally familiar and yet I couldn’t believe I was seeing. Charles Shaar Murray, one of the greatest music journalists ever, showed he really knew how to blow a blues harp and paid a fine tribute to the one man missing from the stage – Lee Brilleaux. Somehow, that tied it all together. Wilko’s guitar was as good as it ever was but his singing was weak and reedy.

Alison Moyet lifted the event, as did C S M but really all it did was point out that Dr. Feelgood was at its best when the original line-up was together. A stunning guitarist capable of great lyrics and a wonderful vocalist who could make a harmonica wail unlike anyone outside the American blues elite. One thing is certain, Lee and the Feelgoods are missing from today’s music and that’s sad.

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The last week should have seen me working in the house. There’s painting, plastering and varnishing to do but with Friday’s daytime temperature a chilly -8 C, it will have to wait.

It’s meant I’ve been huddled over a heater in front of the computer and working on my various blogs that haven’t had any attention paid to them for ages. The Rockmine Television one is very nearly finished. I’ve only got 2009 and the start of this year to do and that will be every U.K. number one up. At the moment, along with the Eurovision Winners, it amounts to 1157 videos.

I would have completed it had I not been distracted looking for festival footage. I started collecting rock video in 1982 and have cupboards full of video tapes that would take me years to digitize and as a result, I’ve become rather bored by the whole thing, or so I thought. A casual trawl through YouTube once again got me excited about video.

You mention festivals and everyone will say Woodstock, Isle Of Wight, Glastonbury, Reading, Knebworth, Phoenix, T In The Park, the Hyde Park Free Festivals and many more. Material from all of them is available but I discovered was there was footage of Fehmarn Isle, Bilzen Jazz ’67, ’68 & ’69, Windsor ’67, Copenhagen Jazz ’68, Rome ’68 and even Kastival ’68!

I know it’s rather sad to say it but I got rather excited by that. I went looking for footage of the Sunbury Festival in England and found another of the same name in Australia that I’d never even heard of. And I call myself a rock music archivist! There is just SO MUCH stuff out there! It really is a video collector’s dream. So, while I haven’t yet finished one listing, I’m adding masses of stuff for the next one. There are people who would say that sums me up perfectly but, hey! what the hell…

Having put a posting up several days ago, I was completely taken aback when my stats rocketed. It’s very strange to discover that the key to the blogs is just to be me. When I started www.rockmine.com back in 1995, I shut myself in my office for several days while I got to grips with HTML and then just put up the stuff that interested me. Somehow, over the years, I forgot that.

Many years ago, Radio One’s “Newsround” did a piece on me. I was the last article on it and it went straight back into Nicky Campbell, who described me as “anally retentive”. Fine praise from a James Bond collector! I prefer to remember Mick Wall who, when he was editor of Classic Rock, came to visit the archive with the board of directors of Future Publishing and called me “the real deal”. The editor of Total Guitar said I was “the God of anoraks”. Oh, happy days!

Yet here I am snowed in, wondering what on earth I’m doing in the wilds of Perthshire with a garage and a house full of books and papers when all I really need is in my head. Mid-life crisis is really no excuse for the amount of time I’ve taken to remember that! Back in 1975, I was working on a college project that needed a slogan or dictum. Being a pretentious sod, I came up with “If religion is the opiate of the people, then rock music is marijuana for the masses”. Somehow, I forgot that myself.

If you want to get up, or get down, get maudlin or melancholic, energized or ecstatic, music can get you there. Since I was a kid, I’ve known that and yet it’s so easy to lose track of the simple constants and truths we hold dear. Oddly, in amongst more than 1,000 number ones, I found songs to do all of those things and songs that took me back to so many moments in my past. There are even songs I hated that had other memories attached that give them significance way beyond their artistic value.

That’s what makes rock and pop wonderful. There are tracks today that don’t do anything for me and yet they’ll be no less significant for someone twenty or thirty years from now than the music that I still listen to. The secret may just to be open to everything. That’s what made John Peel such a great DJ, he listened to everything with an open mind and an open heart.

If music touches you, it doesn’t matter who it’s by, or what it is. All you can say is that you feel it.

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Sunday, 8th February):

Birth

1946. Alfredo Fito (Canned Heat) born Adolpho De La Parra in Mexico City, Mexico.

On Stage

1963. Shane Fenton is pelted with eggs when he appears at a lunchtime rock ‘n’ roll session at the Lyceum Ballroom in The Strand, London. Fenton was a last minute replacement for Jess Conrad and was miming when the eggs started to fly.

In Court

1980. David Bowie‘s marriage to Angie ends as their divorce is finalised today. David gets custody of their son, Zowie (now calling himself Joe). Angie gets a cash settlement of £ 30,000. She’s also telling the world that she expects to make another £ 100,000 by writing her memoirs!

In Hospital

1997. The New Edition reunion tour runs into problems in Los Angeles. Bobby Brown fails to show for the gig claiming he has flu and couldn’t perform. If that wasn’t enough, Ronnie Devoe walked off stage during the set after seeing his uncle, the group’s manager Brooke Payne, collapse with chest pains in the wings. Devoe accompanied his uncle to hospital where he was checked over before being discharged to rest at home.

On Television

2008. Later… With Jools Holand. (BBC-2, U.K.) Mayra Andrade; Morrissey; Ida Maria; British Sea Power and Joe Brown. Morrissey performs four tracks. Here he is with one of them, “All You Need Is Me”.

Death

1973. Max Yasgur, the farmer on whose land Woodstock was staged, dies of a heart attack in a Florida hospital.

 

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© Copyright 1995 – 2009 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Monday, 26th January):

Birth

1963. Andrew Ridgeley (Wham!) born in Windlesham, Surrey.

On Tour

1997. Lars Ulrich (Metallica) secretly marries his girlfriend Skylar in secret at a small ceremony in Las Vegas. James Hetfield does the honours as best man/witness.

In Hospital

1998. Joey Ramone‘s appearance as DJ at Toronto’s Phoenix Club is cancelled when it’s announced that the 46 year old punk has been ordered not to work for two monts. Ramone was hospitalised for tests earlier in the month. Although his management told The Toronto Sun that “Joey’s condition is very serious” they gave no other details.

In Church

1962. The Catholic Bishop of Buffalo, New York State bans The Twist being danced, sung or talked about at any catholic school or youth event.

On Television

1978. Rockpalast. (WDR, West Germany). Roy Harper (WDR Studio-L, Koln). Here he is with “Another Day”

Death

1991. Singer Karen Young dies in Philadelphia from a bleeding ulcer.

Babble

It’s amazing the things you find by accident. Looking for the clip of Roy Harper I was more than a little taken aback to see the man himself pictured in Sky Trax “studio” back in 1985. What took me by surprise was that I set up the interview and live set that he did and apart from my own VHS copy, thought it sunk without trace. It seems that “Rock Arena” rebroadcast the “Pat Sharp Show” session.

I’d set up a small Scottish tour for Roy and was looking to get as much publicity as possible. He was touring in Europe before hitting Scotland, so Sky Trax was perfect to promote him there and would certainly help me. Anyone I contacted in the BBC or ITV stations seemed to take fright at the mention of his name and his promo video for “Elizabeth” was deemed unplayable by most stations. That meant getting Roy in to do a live set.

Sky Trax studios were hidden away behind the Post Office Tower in London and he’s pictured in a loading bay, straight off the street. they weren’t used to live sessions and we were plagued by mains hum that no-one seemed able to eliminate. Happy days indeed! Here he is with “One Man Rock ‘n’ Roll Band”:

 

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© Copyright 1995 – 2008 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Monday, 19th January):

Birth

1949. Robert Palmer born in Batley, Yorkshire.

On Stage

1994. The Animals, The Band, Duane Eddy, The Grateful Dead, Elton John, John Lennon, Bob Marley and Rod Stewart are inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame at a ceremony in New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Jerry Garcia can’t make it, so the rest of The Grateful Dead take along a cardboard cut-out of him instead. John Lennon was inducted by Paul McCartney who made a public display of reconciliation when he hugged Yoko Ono.

In Court

1999. Rapper Bizzy Bone‘s assault trial opens in Columbus, Ohio. The Bone Thugs-n-Harmony member (real name Byron McCane) is charged with assault and disorderly conduct and could face up to six months in prison and a fine of $ 1,000. It’s alleged that Bone , accompanied by two bodyguards, confronted student barber Terrance Harden and accused him of slandering him. In the course of a heated discussion Harden is said to have lunged at the rapper but been restrained by the bodyguards. Harden’s story, which the City Prosecutor believes, says that he was dragged down a flight of stairs sustaining “visible injuries”. Neither of the bodyguards has been charged in connection with the assault.

In Hospital

1978. An unconscious Sid Vicious is carried off a flight from Los Angeles to New York on a stretcher after taking pills and alcohol during the flight. He is taken to New York’s Jamaica Hospital where, after being given oxygen and an intravenous drug antidote, he recovers to semi-consciousness. A spokesman for the hospital says, “He said he was feeling fine but his eyes were rolling about in his head”. Its thought that Sid may have travelled to New York to see Johnny Rotten who arrived in the city on January 18th claiming he had left the band.

On Television

2005. The Ellen DeGeneres Show (Syndicated, U.S.A.) 255. Guests include Wyclef John who performs with the African Children’s Choir, singing their Golden Globe-nominated theme song, “Million Voices” from the movie “Hotel Rwanda.”

Death

2008. Singer-songwriter John Stewart dies in San Diego, California. He was a member of The Kingston Trio, wrote “Daydream Believer” for The Monkees and produced a collection of highly regarded solo albums through his career. Check out “Fire In The Wind” for a taste of the man at his best.

Bbabble

I’ve spent the last couple of days listening to Bruce Springsteen‘s new album, “Working On A Dream”. It has all the feel of a “real” E-Street Band album and the clips available on Amazon show The Boss enjoying himself in the studio, trading chops with old friends. 

It’s got a feel-good feeling to it and the more I listen to it, the more I warm to it but something rankles me about it. I don’t know if it’s a cynicism that’s dogging me over it. I’d like to be listening to it when a new president wasn’t just about to take power in America. It seems laden with hope, from its title onwards.

In interviews, Springsteen has said that The American Dream had been lost but now with Obama, we see that it can be achieved. I worry that even more than with “Born In The USA”, this work will be misunderstood or misinterpreted. My basic distrust of politics has always seen me believe that rockers should be protesting, not encouraging us to believe in anything.

Newsclips last night showed Bruce on the steps of The Capitol singing “The Rising”. I hope the coming days and weeks see his faith in America strengthened and not shattered as politicians have so often done before.

His finest work charted growing up in America’s industrial heartland. He now faces his greatest challenge, to give voice to the millions affected by economic hardship and job losses. Rich, secure middle America has seen its world shattered. Regardless of what happens in The White House, it certainly needs hope in the future.  

As for the album itself, I’ll be back with a review tomorrow.

 

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© Copyright 1995 – 2008 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Sunday, 18th January):

Birth

1941. Bobby Goldsboro born in Marianna, Florida.

On Stage

1973. The Rolling Stones play a concert at the Los Angeles Forum to aid victims of the Nicaraguan earthquake. The gig grosses $ 516,810 the largest box office receipt for a charity show until that time.

In Custody

1985. Jerry Garcia is bust by cops while he freebases cocaine in his car in Golden Gate Park. He will be ordered into a rehab programme and instructed to play a benefit concert for the Haight-Ashbury Free Food Programme.

In Court

1980. Japanese prosecutors obtain a court order to detain Paul McCartney for another 10 days shortly before the 48 hours they have to charge a subject was due to run out. They have still not decided whether to charge the ex-Beatle or deport him. Despite being in handcuffs whenever he’s moved around Tokyo, Paul’s local lawyer, Tasuku Matsuo, said that he’s being treated quite well but is not being allowed visitors apart from a brief meeting with his wife on January 16th. According to promoter Harvey Goldsmith, Linda is “rather distraught, completely frustrated and confused”. It’s also been said that Paul will willingly perform for free for the 100,000 people who have tickets for the now cancelled Japanese tour.

On Television

1976. Rockpalast (WDR, West Germany) Climax Blues Band (WDR, Studio A, Köln). Here they are with “All The Time In The World”

Death

1990. Mel Appleby (Mel And Kim) dies in London’s Cromwell Hospital. Although she had struggled for five years against a rare form of spinal cancer, she died from pneumonia which developed after she caught the common cold.

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© Copyright 1995 – 2008 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.

From the Rockmine Almanac for today (Friday, 16th January):

Birth

1970. Brendan O’Hare (Teenage Fanclub) born in Belshill, Scotland.

In Custody

1970. Police raid the exhibition of John Lennon‘s lithographs which opened yesterday. They confiscate eight of the lithographs claiming they are erotic and obscene.

In Court

1989. 26 year old pub “bouncer”, Kenneth Simmons, is fined £ 200 and ordered to pay £ 300 compensation at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after an assault on Fish and his friend Robbie The Pict. The trial follows an incident at the Kasbar pub in the city’s Cowgate on August 14th last year. Fish told the court that he was knocked unconscious by a single blow from Simmon’s plaster cast arm, complete with aluminium fingers. When he came to he had been badly cut; there was “a lot of blood”.

In Hospital

1998. James Brown is admitted to hospital in South carolina suffering from the effects of addiction to painkillers. A report in the Augusta Chronicle says the “Godfather Of Soul” was served with court papers ordering his hospitalisation. Brown’s agent, Jeff Allen, declined to comment but confirmed that sheriff’s deputies had taken guns from the singer’s house.

On Television

2004. Late Show With David Letterman (CBS, U.S.A.) Show #2108. Musical guest: Christina Aguilera sings “Walk Away.”

Death

1973. Gospel singer Clara Ward (The Ward Sisters) dies in Los Angeles a week after suffering a stroke and falling into a coma. She was 48.

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© Copyright 1995 – 2008 Rockmine Archives. Use of this content is prohibited unless licensed by Rockmine Archives.