Tuesday, February 4, 2014


From CBGB's to Canvey Island. Same era, same raw music, same rowdy audiences - just separated by 5,000 miles of water...
Four years after it was released, I just watched a cracking rockumentary of 70s pub rockers Dr Feelgood. I'm not a huge fan of Julien Temple or the Feelgoods, but Oil City Confidential is terrific.
Temple has made a lot of films about music, and even more music videos*, but I'd wager this is his best. 
It really captures the ordinariness and (yet) the energy of the Feelgoods: their Canvey Island background (where the houses are dwarfed by oil refineries), their incendiary gigs, at first in pubs then bigger venues as, by the mid 70s, they became short-lived stars, the drink & drugs, Lee Brilleux's blues-and-harmonica snarl, Wilko Johnson's machine-gun guitar and manic stare… it's all in there. The music was 'just' R&B, nothing innovative, but what they did, they did brilliantly - especially live.
What I liked most was the tiny detail: the hundreds of edits from old B&W noir & gangster films as well as blink-and-you-miss-them re-enactments which Temple must have shot specially, all of which somehow fit perfectly together; the maps of Canvey with tiny plaster models of the pubs they played in and the Dinky toy vans that took them there; the interview with Brilleux's elderly mum; Wilko with his guitar outside an amusement arcade at night just rabbiting on; and just so much detail. 
Johnson left under a cloud in '77, they lost it in the 80s, Brilleux died of cancer in '94, the band carried on (and is still going, with completely different members), and Johnson was diagnosed with terminal cancer himself a year ago. Rock and (indeed) Roll.
(*Given his penchant for rock, I was surprised to find out that Temple shot promos for Gary Numan, Depeche Mode and - incredibly - Jean-Michel Jarre)

1 comment:

  1. Saw Dr Feelgood live once, they were support for Hawkwind of all people! This was at Newcastle City Hall in 73 or 74. No one knew what to make of them.