Damn. Legendary Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson dies aged 75

Great band !

Damn, damn, damn.

I was setting-up to introduce him into the thread on ‘Great guitarists’ voices’ just yesterday. And now he’s gone.

Here’s what we’re on about:

What a life, what a player, what a guy!

Ser Ilyn Payne.
He did well for someone who was given nine months to live back in 2013.

Not familiar with him or the band, but I remember he was on a bunch of death pool lists a few years back.

That video of “She Does It Right” seems vaguely familiar though. (More because of the singer than the guitar player.) I wonder where I might have seen that before.

Not many thread titles make me sit bolt upright and curse. He is, of course, my avatar. One of the great ones.

Treat yourself to 14.23 of greatness.

One of the great rock and roll stories: his album with Roger Daltrey had to be rushed through as a result. Working title? Roger, Wilko and out.

The record company changed it.

Goddamn. I feel old.


Julian Temple, who did a documentary on Dr Feelgood, produced The Ecstasy Of Wilko Johnson for the BBC. It’s an interesting take on Wilko’s perspective during the months after his diagnosis. Definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan.

Dr. Feelgood were huge in many places, but not the US - it may have a lot to do with their never seriously touring here. Their records, good though they were, didn’t let you see this guy hammering away like he really means it! Thirty seconds of any video will make anyone a Wilkolyte.

I have no idea why they stayed away, and maybe it doesn’t matter, but (as a non-traveler) I sure wish I could have caught one gig with Wilko J. In his prime.

Thanks for the video – that was fun!

Decades ago I got some how to play guitar videos by Wilko Johnson, And part of that was him showing how he made his trademark choppy/bendy sound, which was a delight to try to play along with. In the meantime, now that I have bought a turntable, I’ve also been listening to Dr. Feelgood albums, and there’s nothing quite like them. RIP to a real original.

TIL that Johnson played that finger-mangling pick-free style because he was a left-hander learning on right handed guitars, and found it too complicated to also manage a pick.

Greatness, indeed. A while ago we had a thread about tight bands, and this is a class A example of a tight rock’n’roll band. Also, where did Wilko’s moves come from? Have never seen anything like that. Yeah, there’s a bit of Chuck Berry in it, yet very unique.

And I can’t leave without a comment on their singer, Lee Brilleaux. I’ve never seen a front man more menacing and downright dangerously looking than him. It’s a pure joy. I have a friend who’s a singer in a stoner rock band and has the same stare on stage as Brilleaux. He’s a wild man in real life too.

I’ve never heard this band before. That was really good, thanks for sharing.

The Feelgoods were what you might term proto-punk. They were energetic on stage when almost nobody else was. I can’t find a cite right now, but I’m sure that Joe Strummer was inspired to put together the 101ers after seeing the Feelgoods; and (again no cite) I’ve seen it claimed that a copy of their live album Stupidity found its way to a party at CBGBs and profoundly influenced regulars like the Ramones and Blondie. Aside from personal greatness, they played a significant role in the development of punk.

I was too young to catch Dr Feelgood; but I did see Wilko’s Solid Senders; and very fine they were too. They were around when punk was in full flow, and they fitted right in.

As for Wilko’s moves, I dunno; but the crazy stare came (he says in one of the documentaries) from his spell as an English teacher. He learned that if you defocus, everyone in class thinks that they’re the one that’s being stared at. Nice trick with the audience, then.


ETA - @bobot - if you’re referring to my earlier post: you’re very welcome!

So far I’ve only watched the video linked in the OP, but yours is next, with anticipation!

Yeah, I know a bit, but not much about the pub rock scene and their influence on British punk, though the CBGBs connection is news to me (Stupidity is a great live album, by the way). I’ve known Dr. Feelgood for a very long time, they had a big surprise hit in Germany in 1979 with “Milk And Alcohol”. But that was of course long after Wilko had left the band.

Yeah, I should have specified that I was too young to see the Feelgoods with Wilko. And after he left, nobody really thought of them in the same way.


Imagine being taught by Wilko!

He attended Westcliff High School for Boys and participated in a number of local groups before enrolling at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne to pursue a BA in English Language and Literature. Anglo-Saxon and ancient Icelandic sagas were part of his undergraduate studies.

He returned to Essex to play with the Pigboy Charlie Band after graduating and traveling overland to India. Dr. Feelgood evolved into a mainstay of the 1970s pub rock movement. Johnson returned from Goa and worked as an English teacher for less than a year in 1972.

I expect the English, Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic background came in handy for GoT.

Another fine example :-

Dang…sad to see this. I dove into Wilko’s very unique playing style for a bit after watching some videos like the ones I linked to below. I got pretty OK’ish at his style, but you have to have a very tough strumming hand to do it for long (mainly your fingernails and surrounding areas). RIP

The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis wrote - Quite aside from the British artists gobsmacked by seeing Dr Feelgood cutting a swathe through London’s pub rock circuit – they were bound to stand out on a scene that dealt largely in laid-back rootsy Americana – Blondie’s drummer Clem Burke bought their 1975 debut album Down by the Jetty on a trip to Europe and recalled the amazement of the Ramones and Richard Hell when he played it to them on his return to New York. Indeed, it proved to be a huge influence on post-punk, too: Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill always credited Johnson as the key inspiration on his own jagged, hugely aggressive playing.