Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Wilko Johnson

So there I was, in Room 207 of the Holiday Inn Express in Stoke this morning, wondering what to wear for our next batch of gigs. I had clothes all over the place and was trying them on, like you do when no one’s looking and you can kid yourself that you’re some sort of rock star whose adoring public cares about such things and indeed is desperate to find out what look they’ll all be salivating over next… time for some suitable music methinks. 

‘Started out, feeling good…’ 

There’s no better record than ‘Walking On The Edge’ by Wilko Johnson is there? Well, I don’t think that there is. Oh hello, the phone’s ringing…

You know what they said to me.  

Wilko Johnson has died. 

I first became aware of Dr. Feelgood when I saw pictures of them in the music press. They looked to me like they could be a gang of villains in The Sweeney, which to us just-about-teenaged lads was as good as it got. Articles on them always seemed to use words like ‘menacing’, ‘brooding’ and ‘fearsome’, particularly when they described their guitarist who frankly looked and sounded as mad as hell. What on Earth was their music like?

I found out when I stumbled into our front room sometime in February 1975 to watch a teatime pop music programme called The Geordie Scene. This was an interesting show as it featured bands playing live rather than miming, and this week I was very excited as it featured the afore-mentioned Dr. Feelgood. This should be good. 

Thirty seconds into their performance I was screaming at my mum to come in from the back kitchen. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They were astonishing. She seemed to like them or at least not hate them, which if nothing else boded well for an album as a birthday present… by the end of the show I’d seen the future, and it involved my new mates from Essex. At bloomin’ last. 

Or did it? At school the next day I couldn’t stop raving about them, but I was all but alone. No, said most of my chums, they were awful. They couldn’t play. The singer couldn’t sing. The guitarist looked like a nutter and the other two looked daft. I should like real music like Yes and Genesis, you know, like our older brothers and cousins do. 

I thought about it all day. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe they were right. Hmm. 

Then that night I heard ‘Roxette’ on The Nicky Horne Show on Capital Radio. It sounded magnificent. It still does. I was right and my chums were wrong. It was time for some new chums. Ones that liked Dr. Feelgood. 

So began my journey with Wilko Johnson. Since then I’ve seen him play countless times, searched out any recording that features him, played on the same bill on quite a few occasions and generally been inspired by his works and indeed by him personally more times than I’ll ever know. For me only Pete Townshend has played with more rock ‘n’ roll firepower, and even that’s a close run thing. His and indeed The Feelgoods’ influence on punk is well documented, and with his well-publicised battle with cancer making headlines a few years ago he seemed to finally get the greater recognition and respect that he’d always deserved. 

My journey with Wilko Johnson isn’t over yet, and hopefully nor is yours. The Canvey Assassin, The Telecaster Master, the man who I’ve seen play guitar more times than any one else - thanks for doing it all Wilko. It wouldn’t, indeed couldn’t, have been the same without you. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play ‘Roxette’. Again. Cheers Wilko!

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