That Ain't The Way To Behave
January 27, 2010 3:26 PM   Subscribe

Oil City Confidential is a new film from director Julien Temple, previously responsible for The Filth and the Fury, about the Sex Pistols, and Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, focusing on Strummer and The Clash. This time round, in a kind of prequel to both those films, he tackles the life and turbulent times of Dr. Feelgood. Finding fame on the same Pub rock circuit (as remembered by writer and Kursaal Flyers drummer Will Birch) that also supported Ian Dury's Kilburn and the High Roads (not to mention Eddie and the Hot Rods and Joe Strummer's pre-Clash band The 101ers), Dr. Feelgood played stripped-down, taut and aggressive R&B. Hailing from the wildlands of Essex's Canvey Island – the "Oil City" of the film's title – Dr Feelgood were punk before punk really hit, a whirlwind of raucous energy, with a fierce work ethic. In Wilko Johnson, they had a guitarist with a scorching, slash and burn technique, while their singer, Lee Brilleaux (1989 interview), who died of cancer in 1994, aged just 41, oozed cheap-suited menace, and, into the bargain, helped found Stiff Records.

The band took their name from the B-side to a single by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, whose guitarist, Mick Green, was a huge influence on Wilko Johnson, inspiring him to play both rhythm and lead guitar parts at the same time. Johnson explains how he does so, for the BBC's Rock School, and following Green's death earlier this month, talks about Green's influence, and discusses his own influence on other bands.

Dr Feelgood's debut single, Roxette, and their subsequent debut album, Down By The Jetty, which was recorded in mono, were both UK hits, but it was their live performances which truly showcased the band at their best. Their 1976, overdub-free live album Stupidity hit number one in the UK charts, but during the tour to support their studio follow-up, Sneakin' Suspicion, Wilko Johnson quit.

Two years later, the Feelgoods scored their bigggest hit of all, Milk & Alcohol. However, despite that, and the fact that the band, in some form, remain gigging to this day, it's the first few years of their existence which count for their, until now, pretty-much neglected legacy.

She Does It Right (1975)
Riot in Cell Block No. 9/I Don't Mind (cut short at the end, unfortunately).
Boom, Boom
All Through The City/Roxette
Route 66
Back In The Night
Going Back Home
All Through The City
You Shouldn't Call The Doctor
Dr. Feelgood on the Old Grey Whistle Test: Keep It Out Of Sight / Roxette / She Does It Right
posted by Len (9 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Holy shit, this is a great post. Dr. Feelgood's always been off to one side of my radar screen (Paul Weller always cites them as a major influence on the Jam), so can't wait to spend some serious time with these links to delve into their history and catalog further. Thanks!
posted by scody at 3:36 PM on January 27, 2010

If there were more groups like Dr. Feelgood in the early 70s, we wouldn't have needed punk. Alas, the purgative hung around, and lent its sour taste to all that followed.
posted by Faze at 3:37 PM on January 27, 2010

This takes me back. Da dah da da da dah, DA DA DA!
posted by mdoar at 4:02 PM on January 27, 2010

Andy Gill from the Gang Of Four likes to go on about how Wilko Johnson influenced his guitar style on "Entertainment," and you can really hear it on listening to "All Through The City" and a few other tracks above.

Dr Feelgood's records have always been a bit too "rock" for me and I had a hard time understanding the fuss - but this is great post makes sense of it. We still needed punk, as it did some fine things that pub rock never managed - eliminating a lot of the more the rehashed Chuck Berry guitar licks, the non-stop songs about cars, girls and rough nights, and it introduced experimental ideas and structures in a non-proggy way . . . at least in as much as punk was the Subway Sect, the Slits and Wire and that sort of thing.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:24 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nice wrap-up Len.
Scody! - 5 more for the ton :)
posted by tellurian at 4:47 PM on January 27, 2010

Holy shit! Great post.
posted by Jofus at 4:53 PM on January 27, 2010

Oh yeah. Cheers, Len!
posted by carter at 6:33 PM on January 27, 2010

I think the trailer looks great! Julien Temple's style will work well to tell their story.

Three cheers for Pub Rock!
posted by ericthegardener at 6:56 PM on January 27, 2010

Awesome post. I just saw the film and it's fantastic - the combination of archive, contemporary and film footage really works, Lee's mum is a total delight, there's lots of the music, and Temple tells the story without excessive sentimentality or stating the obvious at any point. Also, the portrait of Canvey Island is really compelling.

Wilko talking about his screensaver was, oddly, the bit that was going around in my head on my way home.
posted by carbide at 3:36 PM on February 2, 2010

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