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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Aw, The ’80s (Part 2: 1985-1989)

A two-part feature looking back at music of the decade

Here is the second and final installment of my feature looking back at music and some related events in the ’80s. This part is focused on the second half of the decade. As noted in part 1, it isn’t meant to be a comprehensive review but instead a selection of things I find noteworthy.

1985

To me the key music event during this year and perhaps the entire decade was Live Aid. I was watching it on TV from Germany while simultaneously taping it on music cassette from the radio. Organized by Bob Geldorf and Midge Ure as a fundraiser to fight starvation in Ethiopia, Africa, the benefit concert was conducted on July 13 simultaneously in the U.K. at London’s Wembley Stadium and the U.S. at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. Among others, it featured Status Quo, Queen, U2, David Bowie, The Who and Paul McCartney at Wembley, while some of the performers in Philly included Joan Baez, Madonna, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner and, in a less-than-stellar appearance, a reunited Led Zeppelin featuring Phil Collins on drums. The concerts were watched by an estimated global TV audience of 1.9 billion across 150 countries and raised approximately 150 million British pounds.

Live Aid Wembley
The Live Aid concert at London’s Wembley Stadium was attended by 72,000 people

Other events that year included the official launch of VH-1 on cable TV in the U.S. (Jan 1); recording of the charity single for Africa We Are The World (Jan 28), co-written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie and performed by USA For Africa, who apart from Jackson and Ritchie featured Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Cindy Lauper, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and numerous other top artists; release of Dire Straits’ fifth studio album Brothers In Arms, their best-selling record that among others became known for its exceptional sound quality due to its all-digital recording (May 13); Michael Jackson’s purchase of the publishing rights for most of The Beatles’ catalog for $47 million, out-bidding former artistic collaborator McCartney whose success in music publishing had inspired Jackson to increase his activities in the business (Sep 6); and Roger Waters’ announced intention to leave Pink Floyd, which marked the start of a two-year legal battle over the rights to the band’s name and assets.

The biggest hit singles of 1985 were Shout (Tears For Fears), We Are The World (USA For Africa), Take On Me (a-ha), I Want To Know What Love Is (Foreigner) and Material Girl (Madonna). Following is Money For Nothing, the second single from Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms album, which they performed at Live Aid. Like on the studio recording, it featured Sting on backing vocals.

1986

On Jan 30, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame held its first induction ceremony. The first batch of inductees included Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis Presley. While over the years since, there has been much debate over who should be in the Rock Hall, the selection process, the award categories, etc., I think there is no doubt that the above artists all well-deserving inductees.

Rock Roll Hall of Fame 1986 Inductees
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 1986 inductees (left to right): upper row: Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and Fats Domino; lower row: The Everly Brothers, Buddy Hollie, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis Presley

Other events: Bob Geldorf’s knighthood award to recognize his work for Live Aid and other charity concerts for Africa (Jun 10); release of Madonna’s True Blue album, the best-selling record of year (Jun 30); and disbanding of The Clash, Electric Light Orchestra (revived by Jeff Lynne in 2000) and Men At Work.

The top-performing hit singles included Rock Me Amadeus (Falco) – the first German-language song to top the U.S. Billboard Hot 100Papa Don’t Preach (Madonna), The Final Countdown (Europe), Take My Breath Away (Berlin) and West End Girls (Pet Shop Boys). The 1986 tune I’d like to highlight is Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, which was first released as a single in April. It also appeared on his fifth studio album So that came out the following month. Here’s the song’s official video, which won multiple accolades in 1987, including a record nine awards at the MTV Music Video Music Awards and “Best British Video” at the Brit Awards. It’s definitely one of the most memorable music videos of the decade.

1987

Some of the events in music during that year included the induction of Aretha Franklin as the first woman into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Jan 3); release of U2’s fifth studio album The Joshua Tree (Mar 9), which topped the charts in 20-plus countries and became one of the world’s most commercially successful records, selling more than 25 million copies; Whitney Houston’s second studio album Whitney, the first record by a female artist to debut at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 (Jun 27); launch of MTV Europe (Aug 1); and release of A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, Pink Floyd’s first studio album after the departure of and legal battle with Roger Waters (Sep 7). Waters finally wrapped up his legal separation from the band later that year.

The highest-charting hit singles were La Bamba (Los Lobos), Never Gonna Give You Up (Rick Astley); I Wanna Dance With Somebody Who Loves Me (Whitney Houston), It’s A Sin (Pet Shop Boys) and Who’s That Girl (Madonna) – I remember each of these songs like it was yesterday! Here’s Where The Streets Have No Name from my favorite U2 album The Joshua Tree. Credited to the band (music) and Bono (lyrics), the tune was released as the album’s third single in August 1987, five months after the record’s appearance.

1988

Some of the music events that year included the induction of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Drifters, Bob Dylan and The Supremes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Jan 20); near-death experience for Alice Cooper on stage after one of the props, the Gallows, malfunctioned – yikes! (Apr 7); sale of legendary soul label Motown Records to MCA and financial firm Boston Ventures for $61 million (Jun 27); John Fogerty’s win of what sounds like a frivolous self-plagiarism lawsuit Fantasy Records had brought against him, claiming his 1985 comeback tune The Old Man Down The Road was too similar to Run Through The Jungle, which he had recorded with Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1970 (Nov 7); and final concert by Roy Orbison in Akron, Ohio (Dec 4) prior to his death from a heart attack only two days thereafter.

Leading hit singles: A Groovy Kind Of Love (Phil Collins), Don’t Worry Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin), Always On My Mind (Pet Shop Boys),  Heaven Is A Place On Earth (Belinda Carlisle) and Take Me To Your Heart (Rick Astley). One 1988 song I like in particular is Under The Milky Way Tonight by Australian outfit The Church. Co-written by Steve Kilbey and Karin Jansson, it became the lead single to their excellent fifth studio album Starfish. Both were released in February that year. Here’s a clip.

1989

I can’t believe I made it to the last year of the decade! Some of the events I’d like to highlight are criticism of Madonna by religious groups worldwide over alleged blasphemous use of Christian imagery in her music video for Like A Prayer (Feb 23), which had premiered on MTV the day before; release of Bonnie Raitt’s 10th studio album Nick Of Time, one of my favorite records from her (Mar 21); release of Tom Petty’s excellent debut solo album Full Moon Fever (Apr 24); Ringo Starr’s formation of his All-Starr Band (Jul 23); opening of The Rolling Stones’ North American tour in Philadelphia to support their comeback album Steel Wheels (Aug 31), two days after the album had dropped; and release of Neil Young’s 17th studio album Freedom (Oct 2), best known for the epic Rockin’ In The Free World.

Key hit singles were Like A Prayer (Madonna), Eternal Flame (The Bangles), Another Day In Paradise (Phil Collins), The Look (Roxette) and Love Shack (The B-52s). The final ’80s tune I’d like to call out via clip is Down To London by Joe Jackson, an artist I’ve listened to for many years. He recorded the song for his 10th studio release Blaze Of Glory, which appeared in April 1989.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube