This year the legendary British rhythm’n’blues band Dr Feelgood celebrate their 50th anniversary. One of the UK’s hardest working groups, The Feelgoods formed in 1971 on their native Canvey Island beside the Thames estuary.
Theirs is a remarkable story. Fronted by singer and harmonica player Lee Brilleaux and guitarist extraordinaire Wilko Johnson, they made their name in the music pubs of London and soon landed a major record deal. Three albums in, their live LP ‘Stupidity‘ topped the charts confirming their status as a must-see act.
All was looking good until an acrimonious row between Wilko and the rest of the band left The Feelgoods without one of their key components. Unknown guitarist Gypie Mayo was quickly drafted in and during his six successful years in the line-up, The Feelgoods chalked up a top 10 hit with what remains their best known song – ‘Milk And Alcohol‘.
That classic recording and many more from the 1970s grace this new ‘Greatest Hits‘ package. So too do numerous tracks from the 1980s when Johnny Guitar, Gordon Russell and Steve Walwyn all brought their guitar skills to the party.
It was during the Steve Walwyn-era that Lee Brilleaux was diagnosed with lymphoma. There was no way back for the main man who died only weeks after recording a triumphant live album at the Dr Feelgood Music Bar on Canvey.
That looked to be the end of the road for Dr Feelgood until a year later Lee’s fellow band members Phil Mitchell, Kevin Morris and Steve Walwyn decided to find a new singer. In came Pete Gage who did the group proud until current singer Robert Kane took over in 1999 and that line-up has been flying the Feelgood flag ever since.
Julien Temple’s critically acclaimed documentary covering the band’s explosive impact on the UK music scene, Oil City Confidential, has certainly done the cause no harm. It’s fair to say that film provided The Feelgoods with a shot in the arm and until Covid-19 they had been as busy as ever.
Dr Feelgood‘s ‘Greatest Hits‘ are all here along with a new recording. It’s a rendition of Willie Dixon‘s ‘You Can’t Judge a Book By Lookin at the Cover‘ which Bo Diddley made his own on the Chess label. This double album is a fitting way to herald half a century of one of the truly great British bands. The good ship Dr Feelgood might be in dry dock at present but rest assured it will set sail again just as soon as life for all of us gets back to normal.