Dr. Feelgood
Wilko Johnson - Record Mirror (8 janvier 1977)

© Record Mirror

Just a song at twilight. Wilko bounces into the room like a spot that needs scratching. Three guesses what he’s wearing. An old pinstripe will never let you down. White face, black suit red sofa. Well-worn Wilko with the baby features. Ducks DeLuxe on the turntable. Bobby Darin on the television. It’s Christmas.


"It was the last gig of the tour that established The Feelgoods - Hammersmith odeon about a year ago ; I really didn’t know where I was or what I was supposed to be doing. All I remember is standing out front and thinking to myself ‘This is a big place, it must be important? I had geared myself into the two nights a week set • up at the smaller venues.
"The night before the concert we had had this big party at the Kursaal and all the tension went. So I had nothing more to give.
"I guess I just misjudged things. See, the rest of the band worry a bit less than me. They were knackered all right, but not as bad as I was. All the music press were at the Odeon that night. We were terrible and they knew it.
"After the show I just went home and stayed in bed for three days. I wanted to kill myself. I felt like apologising personally to everyone who went along. That's why we played two nights in London before going to America - to make up for it.
"The only way of showing that you do care is to give all you’ve got I learned a lot from that episode."
His shadow laughs at him from behind. The white wall is alive with Wilko wriggling from one position to the other. His hands speak for them- selves.


"Everyone doing this job is sometimes bound to feel ‘To hell with it'. It’s such a crazy life. As a kid, I remember reading interviews with rock stars saying how hard the whole thing was.
"I thought 'Wow, that’s ridiculous'. But now I know. It’s hard work physically. People are judging you all the time, and that’s probably the hardest part – the competition.
"When you’re on the way up - that’s the best time. But it’s so difficult to realise afterwards you’re in a place you thought was reserved only for other people.
"But I’d rather feel that I’m giving every ounce now than saving it up for my old age. Better to believe you are living as much as you can in the present.
"If you start worrying about your health and being sensible then you’ve got one foot in the grave. You’ve got to believe you’re invincible.
"I never stop and think - I jump in and see where I end up."
A quiet fag. What a drag.

© Robert Hopee


"On stage is where it all makes sense. All the travelling, all the hotel rooms gets very depressing.
"But in an emergency people will discover parts of themselves they never knew existed. And going on stage is like an emergency every time. It’s so charged.
"And when I come off I can’t talk to anyone.
"That makes me uneasy. The life I lead is making me behave in ways that I would never have done previously. It’s just a way of survival. Life on the road is 90 per cent boredom - airports, cars, trains, hotels, dressing rooms. You’re forever waiting for something to happen.
"So I just live for walking on that stage. To me that’s Rock’n’Roll."
The top button of his black shirt looks like it’s strangling him. He sits on the back of the sofa, then moves down the arm.


"The Feelgoods are in a funny position. We are not famous like famous groups are famous. We are not hit names. The people who are into us are very into us.
"They can think, justifiably, that they have made a little discovery for themselves. And I guarantee that none of their mums have ever heard of us.
"The lady who lives next door has known me since I was a little boy. She knows I’m playing in a group, but she doesn’t think I am like ‘that’. I can travel on the bus and tube and I know no-one will recognise me.
"It’s like a ridiculously well-known secret.
"When this is all over it’s going to hit me quite hard. There are not many scenes where you can travel around the world and get money for doing something you really love.
"If four years ago someone told me I would be doing this now I would have laughed. And I haven't the faintest idea what I’ll be doing four years from now.
"The Feelgoods can expect to keep going for as long as anybody. It’s just so silly to count on anything. Logic tells you that eventually something will happen to the band."


"My old man was in the army on the North West Frontier and told stories about it that fascinated me. I'd vowed I'd go there and just before we formed the band - four years ago - I took off.
"I lived on the street I with the beggars (who were very interested in your wristwatch). But at the same time they look at things very logically, very relatively.
"It enabled me to see just how greedy we are in the West. I realised then the troubles with world shortages are because so-called civilised people simply eat too much.
"When your address is a street corner in Bombay and your home is a blanket that’s true poverty."
Wilko contracted hepatitis (don’t they all) in India. Now he doesn't drink. Well, you can’t have everything.

© Robert Hopee


"‘Are you really like that ?’ is the question people always ask when they are introduced. It’s such a joke.
"Up to a year ago none of the band thought of themselves as musicians. The whole thing seemed like such an accident. I was teaching English when I bumped into Lee Brilleaux on the street and we decided to form a band.
"Now we are riding in limos through New York. I' m just an ordinary bloke that this happened to but yes - now I do think of myself purely and simply as a musician.
"At university I was always well known as an extrovert. Now I get everything out on stage. Hence it makes me more withdrawn."


"My father died when I was 16. That’s the time most kids want to kill their old man ’cos he is the person restraining you...
"So I had these guilt feelings after his death for all the bad things I’d thought about him. Then I had to start living my own life.
"I didn’t turn out the way my mother had hoped. Although in the end she wasn’t ashamed of me, she would still have liked me to be a quantity surveyor or something.
"But she died when I was a teacher and probably thought that I'd settled down at last to something sensible.
"My dad got very ill during the time of the Canvey Island floods because he worked in the water, laying gas pipes. He badly damaged his lungs and finally died - six months before my mum was due to have qualified for a widow’s pension from the company.
"And what really sickens me about the whole thing is that for a long time after his death the same firm for which he worked for many years still sent us bills in his name. They didn’t even know he was dead.
"When my mum died it upset me greatly because she was really enjoying herself.
"She had just started work and had saved up some money for the first holiday of her life. Then suddenly she got cancer and within three months she was dead.
"She had done such a lot for me and it seemed so unfair. I don’t get all DH Lawrencey about it - you always get the rough end of things.
"I come from the working class and feel most at ease with working class people.
"But at the same time I'm not working class because I’ve never ever done a day’s work in my life."


"I think it’s f…… good that punk has happened - that’s just to set the record straight. But The Feelgoods can justifiably take a bit of credit for the whole thing.
"We showed the record companies you don’t need to look at established rock musicians to make music. It can come from anywhere.
"And now the tables have turned. They are looking everywhere for new acts because they constantly have money on their minds - consequently they sign rubbish.
"OK, so we might take the piss. But I also take the piss out of the working class because I feel close enough to it to laugh. That way I'm laughing at myself as well.
"Punk is back to the fundamentals, the basics of music, the musicians themselves. What frightens me is the headlines in The Sun and Daily Mirror. If the establishment takes over the music it will make it a part of itself and finally destroy it.
"The political side of punk is another matter. I think you can make more effective political statements just by laying your own emotions on the table.
"Overt political comments are easy to deflate. Look at the mid sixties. Those heavy revolutionary songs have been castrated. 90 per cent of them sound so embarrassing now because it all came to nothing. "The Feelgoods don’t set out to do anything. When I write songs I write about the things I know and understand, not about rolling down some freeway in a truck. When the Pistols sing about anarchy I don’t know what they mean - I’m not sure they do either.
"But good luck to them."
His voice bears the customary cockney accent and it’s hard to detect whether or not it’s false -like so many other of the acquired tones in rock. His replies are very precise and roll out with all the speed of a charging snail.


"Violence at punk gigs - at any gigs - is a complete waste of time. What’s the point of tearing into each other when the guys who should be getting a punch in the mouth are sitting on the side raking in all the money !
"This whole idea of violence as being the great unleashing of a revolutionary power is crap ‘cos when you get down to it a punch in the kisser hurts - you want to avoid it.
"Sure, I’ve been involved in fights. I hurt someone real bad once, and now I’m ashamed even to think of lt. "There were a lot of harder geezers than me - on Canvey Island and the only injuries I used to get was jaw - ache from trying to talk my way out of tight spots.
"In the band there is a lot of heaviness. Friction really reaches a head in the dressing room. But it soon clears. I can honestly say there has never been any physical violence within the Feelgoods. We have had our heavy moments - but if something like that happened it would be the end.
"There are several different personalities within the band. Lee is the kind of guy who will suddenly explode when things go wrong.
"Me, I get very moody and sulk in a similar situation. Sparko is very laconic while The Big Figure is very calm and such a nice guy.
"We never argue about the stage act, although we have been getting some criticism recently. It does change - but not much. We know how we get off on playing.
"We have never planned the act and never will. Let’s face it - we’ve only done two tours of this country, and on the last one there were a lot of people who wanted to see just me same as before.
"Perhaps next time we will do something a bit different. Our kangaroo suits are nearly finished ! At the moment we are taking our first real break. Towards the end of this month we will go into the studio to record some new material and then think about going back to the States."


"The only responsibility I have towards my son is simply to look after him and to give him the benefit of such wisdom as I have acquired.
"By the time he’s old enough, he’s going to think I’m a silly old sod. While I’m crashed out on the floor stoned out of my head he will probably dash out to catch the 8.20 into town in his suit, carrying a briefcase and I shall say I don’t understand the younger generation and fall back over in a stupor.
"Cos in the end everybody’s a f…… idiot."

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© Dr Feelgood & Lucie Lebens - Tous droits réservés
In Memory of Lee Brilleaux & Gypie Mayo