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Friday 25 November 2022


Several blogs from this corner of the internet paid tribute yesterday to Wilko Johnson who died earlier this week aged seventy five and I felt I should do so too. Wilko was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer in 2013 and then went onto defy medical science by recovering from it. His past, guitarist and writer in Dr. Feelgood, playing hard, short, slashing r'n'b inspired guitar influenced all the punks who followed them- Joe Strummer, Paul Weller, Billy Bragg, Suggs and Bill Drummond were all fired up by Wilko and Dr. Feelgood. He was the latest (in the early/ mid 70s) in a line of English guitarists inspired by the music that came from the Mississippi delta, another English beat boom fanatic but one who stripped it back and sped it up, amphetamine frenzy, no plectrum, fuzz guitar, using the guitar as percussion instrument as much as melody. 

One of the things I like most about Wilko is that he took his home, Canvey Island, the Thames and it's industrial skyline and oil refineries and made it into a romantic, rock 'n' roll home, the Thames estuary now linked by his records and his guitar style to the Mississippi delta. Andrew Weatherall used to say that what he did was he took his influences and added his own wonky take on them, and that's exactly what Wilko did. 

I saw Wilko play at Sale Waterside, a ten minute walk from my front door, back in April 2012. Norman Watt- Roy was in the band on bass and they played an hour or so of Feelgood/ Blockheads style pre- punk, British r'n'b. Wilko was pure Wilko- black suit, strutting across the front of the stage, eyes bulging and occasionally holding his guitar up at his shoulder as if machine gunning the audience. Electrifying. I was in two minds about going, nearly didn't and was very glad I did. 

Roxette was Dr. Feelgood's debut single, released in 1974, written by Wilko. It turned up on their debut album Down By The Jetty and year later and a live version came out as a single in 1976. 


R.I.P. Wilko Johnson. 

1 comment:

AKickIndieNutz said...

Nice article and good song by Dr. Feelgood, band that helped pave the way for punk. He was a guitar legend, not a Hendrix or Clapton etc, but with his own unique and wonderful unmistakable 'choppy' style and stage presence. Also wrote a little article about him and the pub rock scene on my own blog too just out of respect. All the best🤘