The Feelgood Factor
Vive Le Punk sits down at the bar for an Introduction to Pub Rock and a brief history of the Canvey Island Kings of R and B, DOCTOR FEELGOOD.
When you hear the words Pub and Rock together now, you may create a mental image of the regulars jamming away at their 30 year old instruments to a half empty bar, but what you might not now is that Pub Rock once sold thousands of albums and was played in venues much bigger than your local boozer.
Whilst the glory days of this once small but celebrated scene may have been over for a long-time we do owe it a great deal of debt for the way its shaped the music world as we know it today. This rebellious movement, that was partly created as a middle finger to the over produced, over populated mainstream music of the its time, would go on to create some of the greatest loved musicians and bands in musical history.
Bands like Slade and The Stranglers all plied their trade in the early days Pub Rock, which was at its peak in the late 1970’s with its back-to-basics style of hard rock and rhythm and blues. Also, bands who would go on to make a name for themselves in the first wave of British Punk such as Eddie And The Hot Rods and the U.K Subs were first seen sweating it out in the pubs of North London, Essex and most notably Canvey Island, which was the heart of the no nonsense Pub Rock scene. You may also recognise the names, Ian Dury and Joe Strummer, the former played for a band called Kilburn And The High Roads and would go on to play with The Blockheads and even have an acting career, the latter played with The 101’ers before going on to form a rather successful band by the name of The Clash.
Dr Feelgood’s Wilko Johnson
Although a shadow of its former self, the true spirit of this music is still alive, with a number of the bands from the legendary era still jamming today. Some said Pub Rock was the Punk before Punk, and the band that epitomised this was Canvey Island’s own Dr Feelgood. Headed up by lead singer Lee Brilleaux and Mr Pub Rock himself Wilko Johnson, they were the staple band of the scene and the one that defined everything it stood for. Still touring, drinking and rocking today, this band have gone down as the land mark band of the movement. With a documentary film about the band set to hit cinemas early next year, you can now experience what the classic days of Pub Rock were all about through the eyes of the people who made it what it was and what it still is.
20 Point History of Dr Feelgood.
- The band formed in the middle of 1971
- Their name is a slang term for the drug heroin and for doctors who are prepared to over prescribe drugs to patients.
- They hail from Canvey Island in Essex and they arose from the ashes of former band The Fix And The Roamers.
- Their 1976 live album, Stupidity, reached number one in the UK, this was their only chart topper.
- They released their first four albums in the U.S. but never gained a fan-base across the pond. They would not release another album there.
- Original guitarist Wilko Johnson left the band in 1977, after suspected conflicts with lead vocalist Lee Brilleaux.
- Johnson was temporarily replaced by Henry McCullough whilst the band searched for a permanent replacement.
- John ‘gypie’ Mayo joined the band in in 1977 as the permanent replacement for Johnson.
- Punk began to take over in the later part of the 1970’s leading to most Pub Rock bands to break-up with the notable exception of Dr Feelgood.
- They would never be as popular as they were with Johnson but did achieve a top-ten hit single with 1979’s ‘Milk & Alcohol’.
- Mayo left the band in 1981, and a period of frequent line-up changes ensued.
- The rhythm section was solidified in the mid 1980’s with Phil Mitchell on bass and Kevin Morris on Drums.
- On the 7th April 1994 original member and lead singer Lee Brilleaux died of Lymphoma, but before, insisted that the band re-unite and keep playing
- They re-united first with vocalist Pete Gage and later Robert Kane.
- They commenced touring again in 1996.
- An annual event would be set up to commemorate Brilleaux’s death, raise money for the Fairhaven Hospice and celebrate the band music. It is held on Canvey Island and has not missed a year.
- In April 2007 Robert Kane celebrated his 1000th gig as front man of the band.
- They continue to play across the world and in 2008 played in the UK, Austria, France, Greece, Spain, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
- Film director Julien Temple has finished work on a documentary about the band called Oil City Confidential, it covers the early years of the band and includes memories of original members John Martin, Wilko Johnson and John B Sparks.