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Snippets of FEELIN' GOOD Issue 21/September 2000
Published with friendly permission of editor John Butterfield.
Well an earlier than usual issue this quarter to let you all know about the exciting UK tour going under the banner of the Naughty Rhythm 2000 tour. If this is your first time welcome to our surgery, where our aim is to impart with some information on Britain’s Premier R&B band - Dr Feelgood. Details on how to receive a regular dose of “Feelin’ Good” can be found here, but don’t go there now… you may miss something! To all the regular members a big HELLO, sorry I can’t name everyone personally but you know who are you?? I hope you do anyway otherwise you could need help from a different Doctor. The Feelgoods have had their usual relaxed summer playing just a few proper tours sandwiched in between the festivals that are so popular this time of year. They still managed to visit 7 different countries (some more than once too). On their time off they could prepare and get into training for the trip around our sceptered isles being naughty with Eddie & the Hot Rods, The Hamsters and John Otway (with Richard of course). There’s only a few shows (77 towns in 86 days) and I intend to “help out” at some of the gigs and as usual it would be nice to meet any members on the road and have a drink or two!
As always each and every Dr Feelgood gig will be in the memory of the roadrunner himself the late great Lee Brilleaux.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this issue especially Andy Collinson who designs and prints the newsletter, John Alderdice who never fails to display his lexology skills with his docwords, Steve Smith and Ian Fawkes who supplied lots of information on the 1975 tour, Christopher Somerville for his kind permission to reprint “The Walk”.
on Feelin’ Good
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Down at the Doctors
It seems such a long time ago when back in 1972 Dr Feelgood were created on Canvey Island near Southend (the hottest bed of live music this side of the North Pole). After taking on the UK and Europe they quickly became firm live favourites of many a discerning person. I believe they even had a Number One album called “Stupidity” and hit the single charts with a track that has been played at most Feelgood gigs since - “Milk & Alcohol”. They are still rocking the world with their exciting live set of Rhythm and Blues classics such as those found on the latest CD “Chess Masters” and the original classics wrote for or by Dr Feelgood members past and present. In 1975 the first “Naughty” tour happened hitting towns in the UK and now it is time for the sequel (only 25 years has passed but it is here now). The “Naughty” tour brings along some other personnel from the Sarfend area namely those loveable lemming rodents The Hamsters and Eddie & the Hot Rods. The Feelgoods still have their roots on Canvey Island with their own record label Grand Records at 107a High Street (not too far from the original Feelgood House). A salubrious setting hidden away with only a select few knowing the route to access it! Not all of the band live in this area now though as changes in personnel throughout the past 28 years has meant that Dr Feelgood have cast their net wider across the country and they now consist of two local chaps plus a rather nice guy from Leamington Spa and a good old northerner from Sunderland. Let me as master of ceremonies of “Feelin’ Good” introduce you to this rather unlikely bunch of lads known as DR FEELGOOD. (Note by Gabi: the following sequence to this chapter, called The Squad, was added to the Feelin' Good Personal Info page.)
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Naughty, Naughty, Naughty
Throughout the annals of history the acts that make up the naughty tour have connections with each other. Here follows just a few of the many links between the “Naughty” acts!
Eddie & Hot Rods/Dr Feelgood
- Ed Hollis (late manager of Rods) went to school with Lee Brilleaux and was best friends.
- Lee and Whitey (Chris Fenwick) were mentioned on sleeve of Rods “live at the Marquee” EP.
- Lee played harmonica on two tracks of “Thriller” album (another guest on that album was Linda McCartney)
- Former Rod Lew Lewis wrote “Lucky Seven” which was recorded by Feelgood.
- The Oil City Sheiks were Dr Feelgood plus Lew and Jools Holland in disguise who recorded a single.
- Figure and Lee called themselves The Sheik of Araby and Lee Green to appear as part of Lew’s backing band on two singles “Boogie on the street” and “Out for a lark”. Sparko also appeared as Johnny Ocean.
- Wilko and Lew joined forces in the late 1970’s and toured together and recorded some stuff.
- Barry Masters appeared as support on the last live gigs by Lee at the Dr Feelgood Music Bar with members of Dr Feelgood as the backing band. Dave Bronze was part of this lineup.
- Gordon Russell and Steve Walwyn have both been members of the Hot Rods.
- A live album recorded at The Paddocks, Canvey Island featuring both bands was planned but Ed Hollis (Note by Gabi: Ed was manager of the Rods) blocked it.
- Phil Mitchell taught Russell Strutter how to play bass. Russell went on to play with Wilko and with the Hot Rods.
- Hamsters appeared as “very special guests” for a whole Dr Feelgood UK tour in 1990 bringing The Hamsters to a larger audience.
- The Hamsters do a couple of songs The Feelgoods have recorded such as “Cheque Book”, “Down at the Drs” and “I wanna make love to you”!!
- Dave Bronze has played with both bands and has produced albums for Dr Feelgood.
- They both originate from Southend area.
- Barry became a temp Feelgood to cover for Gordon in 1988 including a show that was recorded live for a Belgian TV show.
- Graeme Douglas (ex Kursaals) joined Eddie - Barry Martin replaced him in the Kursaal Flyers.
- Many gigs together including the Royal Albert Hall
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The Walk (or Just what the Doctor Ordered)
The Greatest pub rock band began in Canvey Island. Christopher Somerville searches for the Feelgood factor.
“Going for a walk, mate?” inquired the whey faced man with the mobile phone, eyeing my boots and backpack as the 8am train drew into Benfleet station. “Yes”, I said, “around Canvey Island.” The commuter blinked incredulously, as if I had mentioned a walk around the mountains of the moon. “What do you want to do that for?”
Most travellers, commuters or otherwise, rush along the road and railway corridors of the Thames Estuary’s Essex shore with never a glance out of the window. If they do spare a glance towards Canvey Island, it is only to have their prejudices confirmed: housing estates, storage silos, oil refineries, pylons marching across a flat tableland. The fact that the refineries and pylons are not on Canvey at all and that much of the island is a peaceful green birdwatchers’ paradise is known only to those who strike out on foot along the 14 miles of uninterrupted sea-wall footpath that encircles Canvey.
But the island has another dimension, too, an iconic significance, to head-over-heels Dr Feelgood fans across the world. When the “best local band in the world” came roaring out of Canvey and into the charts in the 1970’s with their spiky R&B music, they boasted a masterful songwriter in Wilko Johnson. The guitarist’s short sharp cameos presented his native island as “Oil City”, a mean place in a moody landscape where hard men and dangerous women drank, did shady deals and cheated on one another against the fume-laden, fiery backdrop of the Canvey Delta.
Dr Feelgood singer Lee Brilleaux growled out Johnson’s mini-epics like a man possessed. Backing them up on bass and drums were Sparko and The Big Figure - wonderful names and a grittily romantic image irresistible to a well-brought-up boy from rural Gloucestershire like me.
A lot of water has flowed under the jetty since those days. Brilleaux died of cancer in 1994 and other band members have come and gone. The two members of the Feelgood camp waiting for me at the station today, band manager Chris Fenwick and bass player turned record producer Dave Bronze, looked unlikely candidates for rock-animal status in their sensible walking boots and warm fleeces. It had been a long time since either had prowled the sea walls of Canvey and they were looking forward to getting a lungful of fresh estuary air.
We set out along the embankment of the old sea wall, with the grumble of the A130 slowly fading behind us. This western end of the island is all freshwater marshes, wide green flatlands where semi-wild palomino horses graze. Walking here, you get a good idea of what Canvey must have looked like 100 years ago, before escapees from the East End of London began to build little dream homes beside the estuary.
Down on East Haven Creek, the low tide exposed shelves of gleaming mud where curlew and black-headed gulls were stepping. The rural tranquillity of the low-lying scene seemed somehow enhanced by the giant geometry that loomed beyond the creek-angular chimneys and cylinders, storage silos and burning flare towers of the Shell Haven oil refinery. From the Canvey shore, the black spiderwork of an oil jetty ran far out into the Thames like a nightmarish seaside pier. “Down by the Jetty - remember Wilko’s song?” said Fenwick. “This was his inspiration. They built the jetty to bring crude oil ashore to a huge refinery they were planning on the marshes. Thank God it never happened.”
The Lobster Smack existed as a hostelry on this south-west corner of Canvey long before refineries, jetties or the modern sea wall were built. In the 1860s, Charles Dickens knew the old smugglers’ pub as the loneliest inn on the Thames marshes and sent Pip and the fugitive Magwitch in Great Expectations to hide out here while waiting for the Continental steamer. Ranks of caravans in the shadow of aviation fuel silos; more caravans in drifts around the improbable yellow sands of Thorney Bay. “We’d swim here as children,” said Fenwick, “when the Thames was far dirtier than it is now.” Then the Monico nightclub and Parkin’s seafront amusements. We walked on above the greasy Thames towards the eastern point of the island. “Canvey Island” was lettered along the balcony of the art deco Labworth Café on the river wall, a siren lure for Thames trippers of 40 years ago. Canvey was always popular with East Enders, always a place with it’s own strong flavour. Len the Hat, Lucky and Handbag Al, Ron the Kite and Dennis the Dog; bar-room names for local characters in the Feelgood yarns spun by Bronze and Fenwick as we sauntered along. “See that little Club Astairs on top of Parkin’s Palace? That used to be Cloud Nine, where we started out in the early 1970s, playing to a hundred people for the door money and a few pints."
The Feelgood image was electrifying in those days, when rock music had gone all self-indulgent and flabby. “Shorter than average hair,” notes Will Birch, then drummer with another gang of local heroes the Kursaal Flyers, in his history of pub rock, No Sleep till Canvey Island, “the street clothes of an out of work bank clerk and, most importantly, a menacing onstage presence”. The tough boys from Canvey rose like an uppercut into the soft underbelly of the music business, which reeled and fell into the unforgiving arms of punk. So Dr Feelgood saved the world.
A curry and baked spud snack in the Windjammer pub and then on past the flounder fishermen on Canvey Point and around the wall to the northern shore of the island. The tide was on the make now, sliding up Smallgains Creek and setting the mud-bound boats of the Island Yacht Club bobbing.
Oystercatchers flew up from the flooding channels. Long tufts of saltmarsh on the mud flats of Hadleigh Bay separated and became islets as the water crept between them. The gradual rise of the tide looked gentle today. But the height and sturdy construction of the sea wall bore witness to the power of the North Sea. On the night of January 31, 1953, a north-east gale and a high tide sent devastating floods sweeping across the east coat of England. Canvey Island, lying below sea level behind its inadequate walls, was the worst hit place. When the sea broke in, it filled the island and drowned 58 people. The sea wall was strengthened and raised after the disaster. Canvey Islanders built “upside-down houses”, whose top-floor sitting rooms allowed a view over the new wall across the marshes and creeks. Fenwick and Brilleaux grew up near each other in upside-down houses.
“Long Horse Island,” said Fenwick, pointing out across the saltmarsh. “Lee and I would row over to our camp there and be pirates for the day. That complete freedom, a pair of kids running wild - it was a wonderful start in life. Kept us sane, more or less, through all the rock‘n’roll madness.”
Ed: The above walk took place on the morn of the Memorial and appeared as “The Walk of the Month” in the June 3rd edition of the “Telegraph”. Many thanks to Christopher Somerville for permission to reproduce it here for Feelgood fans everywhere. The Walk is 14 miles long and as you can see passes many sites associated with Dr Feelgood.
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Naughty Rhythms 1975
Back in 1975 the advert for the tour read “Watch Out! First Time Ever! Non Stop Real Music Coming Your Way At 1000 Smiles An Hour!” The bands featured then were Dr Feelgood, Chilli Willi and Kokomo. The trek across the UK took in a mere 21 towns starting with warm ups at Bristol University (January 11) and Guildford Civic Hall the following night. The tour proper saw them hit
28 Watford Town Hall
29 Birmingham Town Hall
30 Manchester Free Trade
31 Penzance Winter Gardens
01 Plymouth Guildhall
02 Yeovil Johnson Hall
05 Sheffield City Hall
06 Leeds Poytechnic
07 London University Ball
08 Ewell Technical
13 Cheltenham Town Hall
14 University of East Anglia
15 London Rainbow
21 Cardiff University
22 Eastbourne Winter Gardens
23 Chelmsford Chancellor Hall
25 Leicester De Montford Hall
27 Cambridge Corn Exchange
28 North London Polytechnic
The package tour that was supposed to introduce the bands to larger audiences. It worked for Dr Feelgood but the tours casualties were Kokomo and Chilli Willi, the latter even losing their road manager to Dr Feelgood. The original name for the tour was to be the “Real Music 1975 tour” after Dave Robinson’s Hope & Anchor festival (read more about Dave in “No Sleep Till Canvey Island”) then Kokomo wanted to change it to a pun on Bowie’s Diamond Dogs tour slogan but Chilli Willi came up with “Naughty Rythyms”. The idea of the tour was from Chris Fenwick and Andrew Jakeman and the idea was to alternate the running order each night and set the tickets at 75 pence! Dr Feelgood and Chilli Willi had similarities in that they were both hard working bands (in 1974 the crowds were getting bigger at Feelgood gigs and the Chillis played 260 gigs in that same year). Kokomo were managed by Steve O’Rourke (Pink Floyd) so had much more money and some very well seasoned musicians. No one “topped the bill”, in fact that phrase was out of bounds. Dr Feelgood usually did a 50 minute set all classics from “Down by the Jetty” and of course “Route 66” and “Riot”. They were supposed to alternate but it soon became clear that Dr Feelgood were “The Band” of that tour so had to go on last which did cause upset in some quarters. The Feelgoods travelled in their van whereas Kokomo had their own coach. Paul Riley (bass man with Chilli Willi) said “It was quite good natured apart from Kokomo staying in expensive hotels and travelling on their own coach. They said 'come on our tour bus; we don’t mind', so if you had a short haul, you went on the Feelgoods’ van which was cold and uncomfortable but quite a laugh. If it was a long haul, you travelled with Kokomo." As mentioned earlier there were casualties in that Kokomo and Chilli Willi soon split up leaving only Dr Feelgood still playing today so for the “Second Time Ever…….Non Stop Real Music Coming Your Way At 1000 Smiles An Hour!”
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NO SLEEP TILL CANVEY ISLAND
Who hasn’t bought the book called “No Sleep Till Canvey Island” the tome of the great pub rock revolution? Not you surely - do you know what you are missing!! Are you still on this planet we call the Mother Earth? Where else can you find the answers to the following?
- Which bass player received a severe electric shock onstage 5th July 1969 and almost died?
- Which band took their name from a fruit machine?
- Who made their debut on 13th July 1973 in front of 40 people at the Tally Ho, London?
- Which 70’s American pop act wanted Wilko to join them?
- Which 17 year old saw Dr Feelgood on the Naughty Rhythms Tour at Guildford leading him to copy Wilko’s guitar style and eventually become one of the most popular in Britain with a band and as a solo artiste?
- Was Nick Lowe lined up to replace Peter Gabriel in Genesis?
- Who hasn’t touched dope since being arrested in America?
- What did former Feelgood tour manager Andrew Jakeman change his name to and form Stiff Records?
- Who has a framed cheque for £52.50 by Wilko Johnson?
Get the book before we send the boys around. You know it makes sense so just part with your well earned dosh and make someone very happy.
It could be the lad on the Merchandise Stall or Ann at Grand Records. It could even be the one and only Mr Will Birch who has now become infamous for writing such a classic piece of music history revealing the answers to all of the above, and many other tales of frivolity and heartache during the pub rock scene that helped many a band up onto the first rung of the ladder to success.
You will be happy too! Nuff said just buy it now - “No Sleep Till Canvey Island” by Will Birch on Virgin Books (ISBN 0-7535-0411-1).
Yes a Virgin book that goes all the way!
PARTS OF THIS ISSUE
Squad to Personal Info
Chess Masters Reviews to Chess Masters CD page
Go to Newsletter Issue 22/Jan. 2001
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