My Playlist: Dr. Feelgood

Shooting some rock & roll in your arm

Leave a late show
Still feel alive
Want a place to go
Round about five
Down to the doctors
Down to the doctors
Come on down to the doctors
Make you feel good all night

Including Dr. Feelgood in my latest installment of The Sunday Six reminded me how much I dig the British pub blues rockers. They’re a great illustration that music doesn’t have to be complex to be fun. Anyway, this is what triggered the idea to put together this post and playlist.

Before we come down to the doctor’s surgery for a shot of R&B, here’s a bit of background on the band. Dr. Feelgood were formed in 1971 by Wilko Johnson (guitar, piano, vocals), Lee Brilleaux (lead vocals, harmonica, slide guitar) and John B. “Sparko” Sparks (bass, backing vocals). Soon John Martin (drums) joined them to complete the initial lineup. The group took their name from Dr. Feel-Good, a 1962 single by American blues artist Willie Perryman, which he recorded as Dr. Feelgood & The Interns.

Dr. Feelgood in 1976 (from left): Wilko Johnson, John “The Big Figure” Martin, John B Sparks and Lee Brilleaux

Everybody needs a shot of r ‘n’ b
So come on down to my surgery
Down to the doctors
Down to the doctors
Come on down to the doctors
Make you feel good all night

By late 1973, Dr. Feelgood had established a reputation for their driving R&B on the growing pub rock scene in London. During the second half of 1974, they recorded their debut album Down by the Jetty, which came out in January 1975. The record missed the charts in the UK but reached no. 6 in Finland. Only nine months later, they issued their sophomore album Malpractice, which marked their breakthrough in the UK, climbing to no. 17 in the charts.

In April 1977 during the recording sessions for Dr. Feelgood’s third album Sneakin’ Suspicion Wilko Johnson left over disagreements over which tracks to include on the record. Egos in rock! Given Johnson’s central role up to that point, this almost led to the group’s breakup. Essentially, Brilleaux took over and Johnson was replaced by Gypie Mayo, who then was still a relatively unknown guitarist. In 1996, he would become a member of the reformed Yardbirds and play with them until 2004.

Eight bars on piano
Down to the doctors
Down to the doctors
Come on down to the doctors
Make you feel good all night

Dr. Feelgood today (from left): Gordon Russell (guitar), Robert Kane (vocals, harmonica), Kevin Morris (drums) and Phil Mitchell (bass)

By 1984, Brilleaux was Dr. Feelgood’s only original member. At that time, the remaining lineup included Gordon Russell (lead guitar, backing vocals), Phil H. Mitchell (bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals) and Buzz Barwell (drums). Brilleaux remained part of the group until his death from lymphoma at age 41 in April 1994. Russell and Mitchell still are with Dr. Feelgood to this day. The other current members are Robert Kane (lead vocals, harmonica) and Kevin Morris (drums, percussion, backing vocals).

Over their 50-year-plus career, Dr. Feelgood have released 17 studio albums, which appeared between 1975 and 2006. Their catalog also includes numerous compilation and live albums, four box sets and three video albums. Dr. Feelgood’s heyday was the mid to late ’70s, which is the main focus of this post, though the Spotify playlist at the end also features tunes from the band’s later years.

Come here baby
Ain’t gonna do you no harm
I just want to shoot
Some rock ‘n’ roll in your arm
Down to the doctors
Down to the doctors
Come on down to the doctors
Make you feel good all night

Roxette (Down by the Jetty, Jan 1975)

Time to get a shot of rock & roll from the doctor to make us feel good. Since I picked the neat opener She Does It Right in my aforementioned Sunday Six installment, I decided to highlight Roxette, another great tune written by Wilko Johnson. The tune also appeared separately in November 1974 as the band’s second single.

Back in the Night (Malpractice, Oct 1975)

Back in the Night, another tune penned by Johnson, is from Dr. Feedgood’s sophomore album Malpractice. The song also became the band’s fourth single. Like the previous three singles, it missed the charts. Luckily, the album fared much better, becoming the group’s first to chart in the U.K., reaching a respectable no. 17, and matching the performance of their debut release in Finland with another no. 6 there.

Hey Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut (Sneakin’ Suspicion, May 1977)

Apart from originals, Dr. Feelgood have recorded numerous covers. Here’s one of them, Hey Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut, which they included on their third studio album Sneakin’ Suspicion. The last record with Johnson became the band’s highest-charting studio album in the UK, peaking at no. 10 there. Dr. Feelgood’s most successful release was Stupidity, their first live record that came out in September 1976. It topped the UK charts, climbed to no. 7 in Finland and reached no. 29 in Spain. Hey Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut was written by Ellas McDaniel, the man who professionally was known as Bo Diddley. He first released it as a single in August 1964.

She’s a Wind Up (Be Seeing You, Sep 1977)

Following Wilko Johnson’s departure, Lee Brilleaux and Dr. Feelgood’s new guitarist Gypie Mayo became the main writers of the band’s original tunes. She’s a Wind Up is a great song that in addition to Brilleaux and Mayo is also credited to the group’s two other members, bassist John B. Sparks and drummer John Martin. Included on Dr. Feelgood’s fourth studio album Be Seeing You, which was produced by Nick Lowe, She’s a Wind Up also became the group’s highest-charting UK single at the time, reaching no. 34.

Down at the Doctor’s (Private Practice, Oct 1978)

One of my favorite Dr. Feelgood tunes is Down at the Doctor’s, off their fifth studio album Private Practice. Also released separately as a single, the tune was penned by English guitarist and songwriter Mickey Jupp. If you’ve been a patient of the doctor, you’ve probably noticed the lyrics at the beginning of the post and interspersed through the upfront section, which are from that song. Oh, and in case you’ve been wondering what the hell happened to the eight bars of piano, here’s what Songfacts has to say about that: At the end of the guitar solo, we hear Lee Brilleaux growl, “eight bars of piano,” which was presumably an instruction to the engineer to dub in another instrument at some point in the future. We never did get to hear the piano and Lee’s request was never wiped from the version commercially.

Milk and Alcohol (Private Practice)

The aforementioned Private Practice album is best known for the song that initially brought Dr. Feelgood on my radar screen in the late ’70s: Milk and Alcohol. Co-written by Nick Lowe and Gypie Mayo, it became the band’s biggest hit single, climbing to no. 9 in the UK. The song did best in the Irish singles charts where it surged to no. 4. It also charted in Germany, reaching no. 30 there. Still love that tune – simple, but it just rocks!

The following Spotify playlist includes the above tunes, as well as additional songs from select Dr. Feelgood albums that appeared after Private Practice. Yes, it may be fairly simple stuff. You may also call it repetitive. But if you’re like me and don’t care, join me and come on down to the doctor’s to make you feel good!

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; Dr. Feelgood website; YouTube; Spotify

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The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

It’s Sunday, July 3 and a long holiday weekend for folks in the U.S. Perfect timing to embark on another mini-excursion to celebrate music from different decades, six tunes at a time. If you don’t have anything better to do, hop on; if you’re busy, hop on anyway – most things go better with great music! 🙂

Lettuce/Insta-Classic

Usually, I start these trips with a jazz instrumental from the past. This time, let’s get underway with music from the presence by Lettuce, a neat American jazz and funk band I first featured in a June 2020 Best of What’s New installment. Initially, this group came together in Boston in the summer of 1992 when all of its founding members attended Berklee College of Music as teenagers. While it was a short-lived venture that lasted just this one summer, they reunited in 1994 when all of them had become undergraduate students at Berklee. In 2002, Lettuce released their debut album Outta There. They have been pretty productive since then with seven additional albums. Insta-Classic is a cool-sounding track from their latest release Unify, which appeared on June 3.

Keith Richards/Take It So Hard

I trust guitarist Keith Richards doesn’t need an introduction. Obviously, Keef is best known as co-founder of The Rolling Stones and for his longtime writing partnership with Mick Jagger. But, of course, no good rock & roll story is without big egos and drama, and the Glimmer Twins are no exception. By the time Richards’ solo debut Talk Is Cheap came out, his relationship with Jagger was, well, on the rocks. The Stones were in their third decade. While Jagger wanted to stay hip and follow music trends, Richards wanted to preserve the band’s roots. After Jagger had released two solo albums in relatively short order (She’s the Boss, 1985; and Primitive Cool; 1987) and appeared to be more interested in continuing his solo career, Keef decided to strike out by himself as well. The result was the above-mentioned Talk Is Cheap, his first of three solo efforts to date. Let’s check out Take It So Hard, which Keef wrote with co-producer Steve Jordan who also provided bass and backing vocals – good traditional Stonesy tune I frankly take any day over Undercover of the Night.

Elvis Presley/Blue Suede Shoes

While I haven’t watched the new Elvis biopic, I can’t deny the movie is the reason why Elvis Presley is on my mind again these days. I’ve mentioned before I adored Elvis when I was a young kid. It all goes back to the start of my music journey. Soon after I got my first turntable (must have been around the age of 10 – frankly, I don’t remember), I received a 40 greatest hits sampler as a Christmas present. The 2-LP set had pink discs, which I thought was pretty cool. While I’ve since matured (at least that’s what I want to believe) and no longer idolize Elvis or anybody else for that matter, I still get a kick out of the King of Rock and Roll. In particular, I keep going back to his ’50s classic rock & roll tunes he recorded and performed with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black. One of my favorites remains their rendition of Blue Suede Shoes, which also features D.J. Fontana on drums. The classic was written and first released by Carl Perkins in January 1956. Elvis’ version, which appeared in September of the same year, surged to no. 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart – almost matching Perkins who scored his only no. 1 with Blue Suede Shoes on the same chart. Let’s go, cats!

Dr. Feelgood/She Does It Right

Let’s slightly slow it down but keep rockin’ and rollin’ with a killer tune by Dr. Feelgood. I guess the first time I heard of the English pub and blues rockers was in the late ’70s when they scored their biggest hit with Milk and Alcohol, a tune I loved from the get-go. Dr. Feelgood were formed on Canvey Island, England in 1971 by Wilko Johnson (guitar, piano, vocals), Lee Brilleaux (lead vocals, harmonica, slide guitar) and John B. “Sparko” Sparks (bass, backing vocals), who soon added John Martin (drums). That line-up remained in place until 1977 and recorded the group’s dynamite debut album Down by the Jetty (January 1975), as well as two additional records. Dr. Feelgood are still around, though their current line-up hasn’t included any founding members since 1994. She Does It Right, penned by Johnson, is a tune off Down by the Jetty. Man, I love their raw sound!

Gregg Allman/My Only True Friend

Alrighty, after a series of rockers the time has come to really take it down. Gregg Allman is another artist I trust doesn’t need an introduction. For the longest time, the only tune I had known by The Allman Brothers Band had been Ramblin’ Man. Finally, eight or nine years ago, I decided to explore what has since become one of my favorite groups – just in time to see them once in New Jersey in the summer of 2014, a few months prior to their final curtain at the Beacon Theater in New York City. Soon my exploration of the Brothers also led to Gregg Allman’s solo work. Even though he started releasing albums by himself early, in 1973, his solo catalog is relatively moderate, featuring seven studio albums, two live recordings and a few compilations. My Only True Friend, co-written by Allman and guitarist Scott Sharrad, is the great opener of Allman’s final studio album Southern Blood. It was released in September 2017, four months after his death at the age of 69 due to complications from liver cancer. Sharrad who also served as musical director had been a member of Allman’s backing band since 2008. Gosh, I love this tune and album!

Lenny Kravitz/Always On The Run

And once again, another Sunday Six excursion is coming to an end. For this last pick, let’s go back to April 1991 and Mama Said, the sophomore album by Lenny Kravitz. It came less than two years after his debut Let Love Rule, which he wrote and produced nearly all by himself and on which he played nearly all instruments. For Mama Said, he got a little help from some friends, including Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash. Kravitz has since released nine additional studio albums, with the most recent being Raise Vibration in September 2018. I previously reviewed here. Back to Mama Said and the album’s great lead single Always On The Run. Kravitz wrote the tune together with Slash, who also played guitar including a cool solo – just a great funky rocker!

Before wrapping up, here’s a Spotify list featuring the above tunes. Hope there’s something you like!

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify