|Dr. Feelgood’s Wilko Johnson in his prime
In Britain, the rock & roll guitarist Wilko Johnson is a national treasure.
For years he laboured with his magnificent band, the sadly now-defunct Dr. Feelgood, barely noticed by the general populace, but extremely highly-rated by those in the know. Only in recent years has Wilko Johnson risen like cream to the top, mainly due to exposure given by a 2009 film about Dr. Feelgood, called Oil City Confidential.
Many cite Wilko (real name John Peter Wilkinson) as one of the driving forces behind the English punk movement. The Jam’s Paul Weller once said, “Wilko may not be as famous as some other guitarists, but he’s right up there. And there are a lot of people who’ll say the same. I can hear Wilko in lots of places. It’s some legacy.”
Well, a lot of people heard Wilko Johnson blazing guitar riffs, last night at London’s Shepherd Bush Empire, including Bob Geldof, Blondie’s Clem Burke, TV’s Top Gear guys and The Who’s Roger Daltry; who, as it happened, was up there on stage singing in front of Wilko.
|Left to right: Wilko Johnson, Howe, Daltry, Watt-Roy
Playing bass was a guy I used to know quite well in the 70s, Norman Watt-Roy, when I did the press for his band Glencoe, and on drums was Dylan Howe – making a power trio if ever there was one. Daltry joined them a third of the way through, along with harmonica player Steve Weston and the former Style Council keyboard player, Mick Talbot. They punched out songs from a new album Roger Daltry and Wilko Johnson have put together. Called Going Back Home, it will be released in
the UK in March.
Altogether the evening was a rousing success, with Daltry saying afterwards, “This has been good fun, I’ve got to say. We’ve had a bloody good time with this one.” That’s the good news. The bad news is that Wilko Johnson, 66, has pancreatic cancer and should have been dead by last October. Last night’s show was a one off. Just like Wilko Johnson.
Here’s a a link to Wilko playing in Paris in 2010 with Norman Watt-Roy and Dylan Howe. It’ll give you just a small taste of what this big-hearted guitar player was all about.
Going much further back, here’s a link to Wilko and Dr. Feelgood in their prime, playing a gig in Southend, England, in 1975.Well worth a viewing, if you can put up with the film’s drawn-out opening sequence of Southend pier, supposedly the longest in the world.
UPDATE. WILkO JOHNSON HAS BIGGEST HIT FOR 40 YEARS.
27 March 2014. Wilko Johnson’s recent collaboration with Roger Daltry, Going Back Home, looks like being his biggest hit record for 40 years, when it’s expect to reach number two in the British album chart this weekend. Johnson, who has refused chemotherapy for terminal pancreatic cancer, last had a number one with his band Dr. Feelgood back in 1976.