Thursday, 2 October 2014

Guilty Pleasures (Part 4)


All the world's a stage just as it's also a hall of mirrors. Refracting, reflecting into infinity it echoes. Exmouth is a prism of rainbow light, iridescent against the beckoning sea. And if music be the food of love, play on.
The hungry and the hunted no longer explode into rock'n'roll bands but was a time when music offered a way out from lives pre-determined by place of birth. What could a poor boy do but to play in a rock'n'roll band? Though these are the days where the mode is retro the beat still goes on. Just put your ear to the ground and listen very carefully. Like a dim, distant signal from a dying star - the beat goes on. Kids walk around with their head in the clouds. Cities burn in the summertime. And the beat goes on. From this mad ball of confusion - oh, the beat goes on.

Can you hear it? We want the world and we want it now? Can you smell it? Something burning?

But in the pubs of Exmouth and I'm sure throughout the land, the majority of bands play covers of their favourite songs or pander to what they presume the punters want. It's the 1970s all over again but without the Glam, without the glitz, and without a 1960s hangover. The new groups seem unconcerned with what there is to be learned; not turning rebellion into money let alone turning money into rebellion. But the bands play on.

Hope, however, springs eternal because cover bands are actually really strange and very weird and with weirdness comes the potential for innovation. Which brings us neatly to Dr Feelgood.

Hailing from Canvey Island, in Essex, Dr Feelgood specialised in raw R&B honed into lacerating perfection through constant gigging. Arguably they were at their prime during the early 1970s when they would play to packed crowds in pubs and clubs in and around the Greater London area, spearheading what was to be known as 'pub rock'. The energy and malevolent sense of menace they exuded was tangible and in the opinion of many were the British godfathers of punk rock. With growling, shouting vocals, singer Lee Brilleaux spat out lyrics like hateful accusations as lead guitarist Wilko Johnson chopped out riffs and hurtled around the stage propelled by an amphetamine-fueled psychosis.
Dr Feelgood are still gigging to this day although the band contains no original members, which suggests that to all intent and purpose they're a covers band though that's in no way meant to belittle them. If you're going to have a covers band then why not have one of the very best? Why not have Dr Feelgood because with them points the way to an example of endless possibility.
Dr Feelgood in the 1970s inspired by rejuvenating energy into the pub-based gig, paving the way for the youth-quake of punk rock. If these days are an echo of the 1970s then an echo of a band such as Dr Feelgood can only be a good thing if only as an example of the potential for innovation.

Turn and face the strange, as Bowie sang. Check out Dr Feelgood at the Exmouth Pavilion this month or at a town near you. At the same time, check out Oil City Confidential, the 2009 film documenting the early days of Dr Feelgood which is not only director Julian Temple's best film by far but also in my opinion one of the best films concerning music that has ever been made.

John Serpico

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