Tuesday, 27 April 2010


Wilko Johnson and Lee Brilleaux

About a mile and a bit from my house is a small park where I used to walk my dog and in that park is a wooden bench where I used to sit sometimes. On the bench is a small metal plaque dedicating it to the memory of Lee Brilleaux. You can't live on the Thames Estuary (or as this film romantically calls it the Thames Delta) without being aware (if you like real music) of Lee and the band he fronted, Dr.Feelgood-they are part of Essex mythology. Back in the days when bands were dressing in flowered shirts and singing about Hobbits and peace and love, Dr.Feelgood emerged from the oil slick mud of Canvey to let rip with some of the grittiest down and dirty rhythm and blues this side of the Atlantic. Lee was a great vocalist and a powerful presence on stage and he was perfectly matched by fellow band member Wilko Johnson who moved around the stage orbiting Lee like some manic dangerous demented Dalek. As a kid I spent a lot of time on Canvey Island thanks to my Uncle Bert who was one of the shack dwelling Canvey Flatbillies and the place has lost none of its fascination - it has always had an atmosphere of decay about it, something not quite right and Julien Temple's brilliant film (which is as much about the island as it is about the Band - the two subjects being inseparable) perfectly captures the atmosphere of place and time. Interviews with the surviving band members, roadies, Jools Holland, Martin Stone, Lee's widow and, most delightfully, his wonderful old mother who almost steals the show from Wilko Johnson who is the focal point of the film. Johnson is still manically jittery (or skittery as he defines it) and comes over as a nice guy in an eccentric sort of way although there is still a touch of danger there and if you were drinking in The Admiral Jellicoe or The Monico he doesn't look like the guy you should jostle. This is a terrific film which chronicles the rise and eventual demise of the band and the culture that gave it birth and I really can't wait for the DVD release.
Rating *****

Scarey or what? Wilko Johnson today.
Still playing a guitar just like ringing a bell!


Cerpts said...

Yay! Real shit-kicking rock 'n' roll!!! I'm a fan so I too can't wait for the DVD release. Of course, since Dr. Feelgood is practically unknown in the U.S. I can only assume we won't get it over here! Ah but don't worry I'm sure we'll be supplied with plenty of that Billy Ray Cyrus kid's new cd.

Weaverman said...

Yes! And it mentions people on Canvey having webbed feet!