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DR FEELGOOD
EARLY GIG REVIEWS

 


 
DR FEELGOOD - 1975 Orange Festival/France

OIL CITY MEETS THE RIVIERA - AND WINS

ANOTHER THING you should remember about France, South of,in Claudius day or your own, is that the place boasts abundant natural chauffage, a fair slice of soleil, and that in such conditions even the most placid of themperaments can be worn down after a while and stimulated into the most horrific acts. One thinks uneasily of Pamplona and the dreaded Noonday Sun - as Dr.Feelgood's privately commisioned four motored Handley Page monoplane touches lightly down on the sweat-soaked grass of Avignon Airport.

Airport ? Hah!
Battle of France emergency strip, more like.
And a score of blue-overalled Douaniers leg at top speed out of a Nissen hut and into the Feelgoods' plane. Looking for you-know-what, one supposes though one does hear extraordinary things concerning the local commercial pulling power of marmelade. Nixenheimer gefunden, tho', and after a while one perceives that the dreaded demi-flics are actually not at all disgruntled by the fearsome heat and are actually getting off on the experience.

"Silly buggers, Frogs" snorts Lee Brilleaux. And he's right. There's the usual panic over hire cars (there's actually too many, parbleu) but before too long even that is sorted out to the satisfaction of Tour Manager Jake -- who is adept in Frogspeak to a degree, mightily unusual in Britbands -- and the Feelgoods' caravanserai is soon heading for the fabled town of Avignon, on the bridge of which one dances, etc.
Avignon is some way to the north of Orange, home of the famed Claudian amphitheatre etc., etc., and it transpires that not even the environs of the smaller town are penetrable by vehicles owing to the extraordinary density of the legions of Soufafrance youth packed therin. In the amphitheatre, on top of the amphitheatre in the most unbelievable precarious positions, outside the amphitheatre...
They're not at all here specifically for the Doctor, mind you.
But I've also got this shrewed feeling that it's not T.Dream who've packed them in. 12,000-plus into a 200-year old 9,000-seater, at grave risk to life, limb and cule.
The Baker Gurvitz Army ? Never, Procol Harum ? Well on the cards, I should have thought, and yet it's the total strength of this bill -- which has The Doctor in that key mid-shot slot -- which has brought the punters in such strength.

As all readers of NME will have twigged long ago, Dr.Feelgood is not exactly short of admirers among the editiorial staff of this paper.
Me I've seen the band about a dozen times on various occasions, but all of these gigs were what you'd term small jobs -- pubs, the Marquee, Dingwalls -- and I must confess I'd long wondered how Feelgood (recently and cogently described as "the best local group in the world" by a coiner of epigrams) would make out on an essential high-velocity, big-deal, maximum-crowd occasion.
But the Feelgoods have been Speeding Through Europe, and the Orange gig is one on a scale they've recently grown accustomed to. Being accustomed to it they're in no fear of delivering. Delivering, I'll remind you, is what the F.Goods do better than almost anyone else.

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Mind you, there is John Martyn, who we hear getting applause for his last number as Our party enters the chariot stables (the backstage area). Unfortunately I'm too late to catch the set but there's no doubt the French are going mildly spare. Martyn is apoplectic with disbelief when he comes offstage."Couldn't believe it," he splutters to ZigZag's Andy Childs. "Play on one beat, they clap on another. Couldn't see what was going on, me eyes were shut, but I had to change to get in time with them. Then they changed back again."

The Feelgoods are next on, but there seems to be about a twenty minute timelag. During that time a massive and belligerent roar from the amphitheatre -- of the sort a vintage crowd would make after the Fisher collected his thumbs-down,way back when -- summons all idle eyes on the spectacle of a french petit fasciste being soundly booed by the entire crowd for something or other. He keeps his cool, but seems glad to make it backstage unharmed. With typical logic, his mates -- about twenty, all armed with pipes and cudgels -- come charging backstage to sort out somebody (couldn't take on the crowd, could they?) and for a few moments there's some ugly scenes. Lee Brilleaux and the Feelgoods' manager Chris Fenwick watch from their caravan door with narrowed eyes, Oil City natural reactions hovering on the brink.
No need. nobody gets mauled and the clowns are ejected.
On goes the Doctor.
The Doctor crunches the crowd.

As was predictable given the incredible acoustics, the , the odd atmosphere of edginess-mixed-with-ecstasy, the setting and The Figure, Sparko, Wilko Johnson and Lee Brilleaux.
Brilleaux is in white, Johnson -- as ever -- in black. The interplay between the two, with the able Sparks grooving away in support but not in competition, drives the audience straightaway onto its feet in rapture.
Brilleaux's ability to ignore Johnson's splendidly crazed gyratious makes the front line weave a kind of serpentine dance which never never, but never, comes to grief. Johnson's pickless right hand thrums and chops away at his black Tele and every so often he steps forward to add vocal support, an act so oddly normal that it almost seems out of place, considering who he is and all, and what he does and all. In fact, Wilko tends to vocalise more on his own numbers -- and get this, punters, the crowd, being mere Frogs, are unweaned on the early r'n'b classics which are the Doctor's original stock-in-trade, and not knowing what they're supposed to to like (Christ, what an advantage) plump in equal parts of approval for Johnson's own compositions (featured extensively on "Down In The Jetty") and stuff like "Hog For You Baby" and "Riot In Cell Block #9" -- with the possible exception of "Route 66" the Doctor's closing shot. Johnson is savagely elated by this when he comes offstage. "Did you notice that?" he hisses. "And Nick Kent knocked my songs!"

There's a general decision made not to remain for Procol (reviewed elsewhere by Steve Clarke, who showed up just as the F. Goods were doing "Route 66"); and besides, the Gurvites are starting to look a bit fashionable backstage, and "fashionable" in that sense the Feelgoods are not. Anyway they're knackered, and the grey mood of anticlimax is beginning to settle.

BACK IN Avignon, an hour later,nothing is happening.
Mind you there are two picturesque sets of local churchtower clock bells, each of which peals the time one-and-a-half maddening minutes out of sync with the other, so nobody gets any real sleep.

But you don't want to read about that.

By Tony Tyler - Source: NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, August 23 1975
(Thanks to LARS from Sweden for sending this review.)

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DR FEELGOOD - 1975 Orange Festival/FRANCE

On paper saturday evening looked to be the least attractive evening of the festival but it was, in fact, a triumph for Dr Feelgood, who received the biggest ovation of any act through the three days.
Unfortunately, I missed John Martyn's opening set, but the general consensus of opinion was good by the time I arrived and the Feelgoods took the stage.

The band who had flown over in a small plane chartered by the festival promoters, were an absolute knock-out, providing an object lesson to bands who flounder in complexity for complexity's sake.
The Feelgoods were so damn simple you just had to prick up ears and listen as three minute (!) songs were punched out with fire and drive and a certain amount of self-parody.
The crowd erupted as they thundered along, never hesitating for a second, like an express train on a quick inter-city route.
"Doctor Feelgood" itself brought the audience to their feet, and they stayed up for the closing sequence of "I'm A Hog", "There's A Riot Goin' On" and the closer "Route 66".

For five minutes they cheered, but the Feelgoods never returned, and when the crew began to dismantle the equipment the cheers turned to volstile jeers and whistles.

Procol Harum had the unenviable task of following, but the immediate danger was forestalled with a semingly interminable pause between the two acts.
Thus, when Procol finally appeared, well over an hour after Dr. Feelgood left, they were welcomed with a certain feeling of relief.

By Chris Charlesworth - Source: MELODY MAKER, August 23, 1975
(Thanks to LARS from Sweden for sending this review.)

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DR FEELGOOD - 1975 Reading Festival/UK

It was cold and the bitter wind swirled chill around our thighs as Oil City began to turn on that old power machine. All around visible signs of the Doctor's now-massive popularity -- such as the many home-made banners ("Feelgood", "Wilko" et al), the rapturous reception, the sea-of-weaving arms and so on. Onstage, the legendary stage ritual of the Wilko/Brilleaux/Sparks roustabouts' ballet, greatly expanded in scale and venom. Either side of the stage, Lee Brilleaux, homely and menacing both, filling the vidscreens, white-jacketed, much larger than life and large enough to start with; cameras closing in on Johnson's cobra stare, the audience rising like a Tsunami each time the lever got pulled and the Back robot self-launched on yet another foray into the badlands of stage front, stage centre In the audience -- no less than six NME writer, five of whom were at Reading for no other reason. but who the hell cares about that?

It would be unfair (though not, I suspect, untrue) to proclaim the Feelgoods the Hit of the Festival -- simply because I didn't see any other act and anyway I admit to a heavy bias towards the F. Goods. But anybody who went down better (and I accept these may exist, as long as no one tries to tell me it was Robin Trower) would have had to have shifted ass to keep up.

The Feelgoods are now , in the (admittedly rapturous) words of a certain well-known NME reporter With Three Initials And A Penchant For Marvel Comics, "on the same level as The Who, The Stones and Zeppelin" in terms of a stage band. All they now have to do is concentrate on Wilko Johnson's songs, find a good single (they've already made a curiously-good album) and...no, I won't predict; it's bad luck to price the unborn calf.

By ? - Source: NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, August 30, 1975
(Thanks to LARS from Sweden for sending this review.)

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DR FEELGOOD - 1975 Reading Festival/UK

Midnight on Friday. Hawkwind shambled offstage amid amplified exhortations to "smoke plenty of good dope" having blasted the wax cut of every ear for miles around.
As they strolled backstage -- Nik Turner wreathed in orange hair and smiles, Simon House deadly serious and toting a small child -- the audience at the first night of the Reading Festival turned their collars against the sudden cold, shivering.
The temperature never particularly high during the whole day, seemed to have taken a sudden plunge as the last rumbling notes of "Silver Machine" died away.
Camp-fires were being stoked into life here and there. Post-mortems on the the now deceased body of the days music were being held.

"Whatcha fink of the 'Awklords then?" demanded one guy of his pinch-faced girlfriend. "Grayt," she replied "but what about the Feelgoods?"
Yes, what about the Feelgoods? The success of the day. The one band to come to terms with the ambience of the Reading Festival. Identify its physical attributes and then ignore them completely.
When Dr Feelgood strolled on, second on the bill and confident of their ability to blow anybody and anything off stage, they saw before them a field crammed with rather cold, partially drunk, windswept festival-goers.
When Dr Feelgood stamped off they had within an hour, transformed this alfresco association into a tiny, sweaty, steaming R&B club. Charisma is too weak a word to describe what the Feelgoods had going for them that night.
One expected something special following reports of Wilko and the lads destroying all opposition at France's Orange Festival -- but they surpassed all expectations.

Admittedly they didn't have much to compete against among the previous acts -- UFO, Kokomo, Wally and Judas Priest (more of these later) -- but they came on like contenders for rock's heavyweight crown.
"Down By The Jetty", "Don't You Just Know It" and "Going Back Home" blasted us into alertness. In the first ten minutes all the trademarks were there, to be repeated without any hint of tedium through the rest of the act.
Wilko Johnson snatched a solo and scooted round the stage like he was on casters. The first time he took the trip a thunderous roar erupted from the audience. Was there ever such a one as Johnson? He was the archetypal oddball guitarist. His head seemed physically capable of being in just two positions -- looking straight forward and jammed hard to the left. He wielded his guitar like a weapon, a wand, a wild, whanton whip.
"I Don't Mind", "Back In The Night" and "She Does It Right" consolidated the Feelgood power. Take a look at Lee Brilleaux. White-suited taper-trousered with his black shirt, striped tie and razor-cropped hair. He was like Prometheus Bound rivetted to the spot with just his hands and arms to communicate.
Wilko takes the lead vocals on "I'm A Man" and hits bum notes by the score, but no-one's worried. They wind up with "Roxette", "Route 66", "There's A Riot Going On" -- which sees searchlights raking the crowd like it was prison break-out time -- and they encore with "Great Balls Of Fire".

By Brian Harrigan - Source: MELODY MAKER, August 30, 1975
(Thanks to LARS from Sweden for mailing the review)

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DR FEELGOOD - 1978 - Hammersmith Odeon, London/UK

No mistaking it, London's happy to have them back. Winding up their tour with two nights at the Odeon, the Feelgoods respond with everything that's expected of them.
And that means everything: an all-out performance that's epitomised in the title of one of the numbers, "99 1/2 Won't Do". The Doctor shows no signs of mellowing and if there's a term that means the opposite of 'laid back' then that's just what the Feelgoods are.
Their unique tension, controlled frenzy, is personified in Lee Brilleaux himself, fists clenched and teeth gritted as if urging the others on to an ever greater intensity.
The guitar of John Mayo sounds the way Lee Brilleaux looks: sharp, frenetic, straining at the invisible leash that tethers it just the right side of HM overkill.
It's crucial to the group's personality, the way in which this Mayo/Brilleaux partnership - wired-up, short-fused - is counterbalanced by the steadier, solid and sturdy Sparks and Figure Martin, the rhythm-section men who, 'anchor' the band in both the visual and musical senses.
They play an even set, no peaks, just consistent and maximum R&B from start to end. Nor is there any useful distinction to be made between the established numbers ("Stupidity", "Back In The Night", "Roxette") and the "Private Practice" innovations like "Sugar Shaker", "Milk And Alcohol", "Take A Tip" and "Night Time".
"Down At The Doctor's", in particular, established its credentials as the very stuff that heads are banged to.
Finally, we're reassured that the riot still goes on in "Cell Block No.9" and are treated to a song called "Johnny B. Goode" which, I'm told, is actually a cover version.
If it all sounds pretty unadventurous to you then I'm not the one to argue - the Feelgoods' story has always been one of excellence maintained rather than one of progression. And while I've seen them play to more ecstatic audiences in the past, and been more excited by them than I was tonight, nobody went home disappointed so far as I could see.
Every ritual of the Rock Concert had, after all, been observed.
Supporting were Squeeze who, it's always stressed, hail from Deptford though I've not yet grasped the significance of this fact. Jolly rock'n'rollers, whose pianist Jools Holland was to re-surface later with Dr Feelgood, they varied from the likeable ("Take Me, I'm Yours") through to the not-at-all-bad ("Get Smart", "Bang Bang") to the downright sniggering awful "Touching Me, Touching You" which is one of their naughty songs.
"What a bunch of auto-eroticists" and "Gerroff, you onanists!" were just some of the cries not to be heard resounding about the auditorium.

By Paul Du Noyer - Source: Melody Maker or New Musical Express (November 4, 1998)
(Thanks to RUEDIGER from Switzerland for sending the review)

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