Dr. Feelgood

Guest Blogger: Peter Aaron, author of If You Like the Ramones… Enjoy Aaron’s post about another band who, like the Ramones, were on the front lines of the punk rock movement. 

In Chapter 3 of If You Like the Ramones there’s a sidebar about pub rock, the street-level, old-school-R&B-based movement that thrived in the sweaty barrooms of early 1970′s England and provided the launch pad for punk’s explosion across the pond. And naturally a sizeable chunk of the entry is devoted to Dr. Feelgood, the Canvey Island-bred quartet whose tough sound informed the music of the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Jam, Gang of Four, Eddie and the Hot Rods, and legions more. While I was working on the book I learned that Dr. Feelgood guitarist and co-founder Wilko Johnson had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. The news hit me hard.

Although I never got to see Dr. Feelgood or Wilko play live—being a twelve-year-old suburban American boy during the Feelgoods’ prime 1975-1976 period, I was blissfully unaware of much that happened beyond the walls of my model kit-building garret—my eventual discovery of their LPs via used-record bins was revelatory. Besides being blown away by the band’s hard energy and overall coolness, Wilko became one of my all-time favorite guitarists. Strike that—I’m inclined to say he is my favorite.

Looking like a simmering, bug-eyed thug behind his trademark Telecaster, that’s exactly how Wilko plays on Dr. Feelgood’s defining early albums—1975’s Down by the Jetty and Malpractice, 1976’s Stupidity, 1977’s Sneakin’ Suspicion—and his similarly fine later solo releases and those with Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Skittering, scraping, and bursting percussively out of the speakers like rabbit punches to the chest, Wilko’s lead-eschewing attack is a method of musicianship you wish more six-stringers would embrace, rather than chasing the soulless noodlings of Joe Satriani and similar masturbators. No wonder the Ramones were tapped to open for Dr. Feelgood’s appearance at New York’s Bottom Line in May 1976. Director Julien Temple’s riveting, award-winning Feelgoods doc Oil City Confidential (2010) is mandatory viewing for all music lovers.

But despite his grim, it’s-just-a-matter-of-time prognosis, Wilko has continued to be a divine inspiration in other, far bigger ways. He’s opted to go out swinging—one might say swinging his axe, in the face of his own mortality. Refusing chemotherapy, after the diagnosis he promptly booked tour dates and has vowed to keep performing as long as he is physically able. And from all reports the shows have been excellent. Something to think about the next morning you’re lingering in bed, dreading that limp to the shower and that mind-numbing commute.

So, as a musician, a music lover, and a human being who strives daily in small ways to better himself, thank you, Wilko Johnson, from the bottom of this battered heart. You and your vibrant art have made the universe a better place. Irreversibly so.

If You Like the Ramones…

With that quick count-off, four hoppin’ cretins from Queens who called themselves the Ramones launched the 1970s musical revolution known as punk rock. And ever since, popular music hasn’t been the same. Perhaps the most imitated band of all time, the Ramones stripped rock ‘n’ roll down to its bare bones and beating heart and handed it back to the people, making it fun again and reminding everyone that, hey, they could do this, too.

But “da brudders” didn’t just influence their key comrades in the original punk explosion. Their raw, tough sound and divine gift of enduring, melodic songcraft has power-drilled its way into musical styles as divergent as college rock, power pop, hardcore punk, thrash metal, grunge, and the avant-garde, and continues to be felt in newer waves of young acts. And what about the music that influenced the Ramones themselves – early rock ‘n’ roll, surf rock, British Invasion sounds, garage rock, girl groups, hard rock, bubblegum, proto-punk, and glam rock? Or the nonmusical stuff that also warped the skulls beneath those trademark bowl haircuts – weird movies, cartoons, trashy TV shows, comic books, and other cultural jetsam? It’s all here, just waiting for you to discover and dig. Hey Ho, Let’s Go!

Dave Thompson, an interview

Onstage and Backstage podcast from Hal Leonard is available on iTunes and Libsyn. Each episode authors and their guests have a chat about the topics of their books. Today, Dave Thompson, author of If You Like True Blood…, joins Patrick Phillips on The Patrick Phillips Show to talk about True Blood and vampires!

>>LISTEN HERE<<

With chapters embracing silent movies and modern erotica, mist-shrouded myth, and gothic rock, If You Like True Blood… transports the reader from the moss-drenched wilds of Louisiana to the mountain haunts of Transylvania, via introductions to some of history and literature’s most accomplished bloodsuckers. More than 200 new-to-you stories, movies, adventures, and eccentricities are staked out in the sunlight. Exclusive interview material stirs fresh plasma into the pot, and selections from the author’s own collection of vampirabilia are among the many illustrations.

Dave Thompson, an interview

Onstage and Backstage podcast from Hal Leonard is available on iTunes and Libsyn. Each episode authors and their guests have a chat about the topics of their books. Dave Thompson, author of If You Like Bob Marley…, joins Patrick Phillips on The Patrick Phillips Show for a quick interview about Bob Marley and reggae music.

>>LISTEN HERE<<

If You Like Bob Marley… is the unique and utterly compulsive story of the King of Reggae, told not through the life and times of Marley himself, but through the music and magic of the musicians who grew up around and under the influence of Bob Marley and his band, the Wailers.

A-HUNTING WE WILL GO: OR, A SPLASH OF HOLY WATER …

The following is an excerpt of If You Like True Blood… by Dave Thompson, as it was posted on Bookgasm.com. Visit their site to read an excerpt from the same book, this one titled “A Little Gothic Interlude.”

In October 2004, Sotheby’s auction house catalogued, and sold for $26,400, what was described as: “a vampire killing kit circa 1900. The walnut box with brass lock and red plush fitted interior contained a wood stake, a double barrel pistol, nine bullets, six bullet cloths, an ivory-mounted wood crucifix, serum and a lidded tin containing powdered flowers of garlic.”

Seven years later, a similar kit sold at the same house for an almost equally remarkable $25,000, and visitors to the various Ripley’s Believe It or Not “odditoriums” scattered around the world can see up to forty more of these fascinating items on public display.

More lurk on eBay; many more are still being manufactured, or at least fabricated from sundry antique items, today. Vampire killing kits are big business, and have been ever since …

… ever since when? Since Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing first went abroad armed with “something like a cricketing bag,” filled with the many and varied tools of his trade? Before that, in the wilds of the European East, perhaps; after that, in the golden age of manic merchandising, for certain. According to an investigation in the Fortean Times magazine in spring 2012, the earliest printed reference to an actual “real life” vampire killing kit is less than thirty years old, appearing in a House of Swords and Militaria mail-order catalog in the mid-1980s.

This is not to say that people were not making, and using, such kits years, decades, or centuries before then. Just that such specialist tools are probably best regarded as the property of specialist workers. People who really do hunt vampires for a living, people who really do need a monogrammed Gladstone bag. People whose name is Van Helsing.

Or Buffy.

Or even the Fellowship of the Sun.

Read “A Little Gothic Interlude” from the same book on Bookgasm.com!

 

If You Like True Blood… is a popular history of vampires in classical and popular culture, by an author who has been reading and watching such things since high school, and who seriously believes The Hunger is one of the best things David Bowie has ever done.

20 Essential Live Reggae Albums

The following is an excerpt from If You Like Bob Marley… by Dave Thompson.

As the album that spawned the original hit version of “No Woman, No Cry,” the song that remains Bob Marley’s best-loved (and most-covered) number, the Wailers’ 1975 Live album ignited a trend for in-concert recordings that persisted for much of the next decade, at least in western markets. More recently, the regular release of archived live recordings from the same period has done much to distill the importance of such documents—even the original “No Woman, No Cry” has been supplanted on certain Marley compilations by other live recordings.

Nevertheless, an hour or so spent in the company of a great live album is almost . . . almost . . . as good as being there; or, at least, know­ing somebody who was. And here are ten of the very greatest.

Trojan Reggae Party—various artists (1971)

Recorded live in London in 1971, and the soundtrack to many a period party, Trojan Reggae Party preserves punchy performances from the Cimarons, Bruce Ruffin, Nicky Thomas, the Pioneers, Dandy Living­stone, Greyhound, and more. (All had scored U.K. hits recently, with Thomas’s impassioned “Love of the Common People” and Ruffin’s loopy “Mad About You” especially outstanding.) Hard to find, and ex­pensive when it does turn up, but a seriously magnificent album.

Live—Burning Spear (1977)

Recorded on Burning Spear’s sensational visit to London in 1977, where he was accompanied by local reggae band Aswad, Live is an electrifying set that could easily be his best album ever.

Live—U-Roy (1978)

Not an album per se, Live was a twelve-inch EP capturing highlights of the DJ’s summer 1976 visit to the U.K. Recorded at the Lyceum Ballroom, with Sly and Robbie in thunderous attendance, it whets the appetite for more. Which, sadly, has still to be delivered.

Prisoner in the Street—Third World (1980)

Third World’s studio output often painted them as the soft and sweeter side of roots reggae. This set tears expectations to shreds, delivering wildfire eruptions through “96 in the Shade,” “African Woman,” and the title track, keeping it up so long that the vinyl has practically melted by the time you hit the end.

Live at the Music Machine—Dillinger (1981)

Recorded in London before a deliriously packed house, it is no surprise to find this album has since been repackaged as The Best of Live. Because that is what it is, as Dillinger travels through all his best-known numbers: “Natty Don’t Need Glasses,” “Roots Natty Congo,” “CB 200,” “Judgement Time,” and, of course, “Cocaine in My Brain,” a thumping celebration of white powder and its power, together with a lesson in literacy that the crowd that night knew by heart.

Live at Reggae Sunsplash—Big Youth (1983)

He opens with “I Pray Thee”/“Satta Massagana”; closes with “Hit the Road Jack”; and, in between, delivers a seething greatest-hits collection that is topped by what might be a career-best “Green Bay Killers.”

Live at the Controls at Jack Ruby Sound Ocho Rios J.A. —Brigadier Jerry (1983)

A blistering dancehall celebration, with the Brigadier joined by fellow stars Sammy Dread, Michael Prophet, and, sounding great in the midst of things, the veteran Dennis Brown.

Junjo Presents Two Big Sounds—various artists (1983)

The album that introduced the world to Beenie Man, a wild DJ collection that also features Dillinger, Michael Irie, Fathead, and Ringo, recorded live at 82 Chisholm Avenue, Kingston, in early 1983.

Prince Jammy and the Striker Lee Posse Presents Music Maker Live at the Halfway Tree Jamaica —various artists (1984)

Horace Andy, Chaka Demus, Don Carlos, Super Liki, and many more gather for a night of high-energy dancehall mania. Raw and unproduced to some ears, this album redefines excitement.

Live in Tokyo—Augustus Pablo (1991)

Pablo’s reluctance to tour is good reason why there are no live recordings from his earlier period; but this set, dating from his first-ever visit to Japan in 1991, catches him making up for lost time.

Vibes Alive—Israel Vibration (1992)

Recorded in California the previous year, the long-running saga of Israel Vibration hits the road with the ever-seething Roots Radics.

Live On—Wailing Souls (1994)

Another album that you wish could have been recorded a decade-and-a-half before, but it wasn’t, so you live with it. And that really isn’t that great a hardship.

Party in Session Live—Michael Rose (1997)

Recorded at various halts on former Black Uhuru frontman’s Michael Rose’s 1997 U.S. tour, what could have been a wearying set of revivals instead morphs into a magical celebration of past and present.

Cultural Livity—Live 1998—Culture (1998)

Spanning the years with a crowd-pleasing set, Cultural Livity scarcely remedies the absence of a 1970s concert recording from this most powerful of live bands, but it’s still hot. Especially if you can ignore the keyboards.

Live at Reggae Sunsplash 1994—Garnett Silk (1999)

Garnett Silk was poised to become the biggest reggae star of his era when he was killed in a house fire in December 1994. Recorded at Sunsplash earlier that same year, this is thus the sound of Silk at his peak, neither beholden to the familiar versions of his greatest hits, nor particularly interested in them. If you own just one Silk album, make sure it is this one.

Live—Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers (2000)

A handful of his father’s songs could, but do not, overshadow Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers’ own material on an album that captures all the joy and excitement of a period Melody Makers gig.

Words of Truth—Sizzla (2000)

Two CDs for the price of one: a new studio collection and a savage Sizzla live set that is alone worth the price of admission.

Live—Luciano (2000)

The king of the 1990s roots-consciousness revival, Luciano is caught live at the end of the decade he dominated with a set that shows you how he accomplished such.

Live in Paris—Yami Bolo (2000)

Yami Bolo’s version of “Curly Locks,” which turns up at the end, is what clinches this as a fabulous album—but the entire performance is spot on.

Live in San Francisco—Capleton (2007)

Too many live albums are now delivered as DVDs these days, and the pros and cons of that approach are for you to decide. This stunning Capleton set, however, repeats the concert on an audio disc, and it’s definitely worth diving into.

If You Like Bob Marley… is the unique and utterly compulsive story of the King of Reggae, told not through the life and times of Marley himself, but through the music and magic of the musicians who grew up around and under the influence of Bob Marley and his band, the Wailers.

If You Like Led Zeppelin… then you’ll LOVE Rory Gallagher

The following is an excerpt from If You Like Led Zeppelin… by Dave Thompson, as posted on Shadowplays.com. Please visit their site to read the entire excerpt.

Blues guitarist Rory Gallagher moved to London from his native Ireland in late 1967 with Taste a band constructed firmly in the three-piece shape of the Experience and Cream. But it was Fleetwood Mac and, in particular, their guitarist Peter Green who gave Taste the confidence to follow their hearts, Gallagher later reflected — a debt he repaid shortly before his death in 1995, when he contributed a couple of tracks to the Rattlesnake Guitar Green tribute album.

“You cannot overestimate Fleetwood Mac’s importance at that time,” producer Mike Vernon agreed. “They brought the blues back into focus and rejuvenated the whole scene.” Vernon signed the infant Mac to his own Blue Horizon label, and admits it was the band’s immediate success that allowed the label to flourish as it did, becoming the primary staging ground for virtually every homegrown blues band of the era.

…And so back to Rory Gallagher, the man Jimi Hendrix once called the best guitarist in the world. Two studio albums attest to Taste’s brilliance, both released in the wake of Led Zeppelin I and both learning its lessons; Taste and On the Boards, two slabs of archetypal blues rock shot through with some astonishing detours. “some of the tracks,” affirmed Gallagher’s nephew and archivist, Daniel Gallagher, “could almost be very early metal, with that very deep, almost guttural bass. They tried to handle everything — tracks are country, the amazing jazz stuff they did on On the Boards — and that took a lot of attention away from that dark, brooding sound. It was brilliant. And if Rory had allowed ‘What’s Going On’ to be released as a single after [they played] the Isle of Wight Festival, when they were really flying, a lot could have changed.”

Keep reading this excerpt on Shadowplays.com!

If You Like Led Zeppelin… is the unique story of how Led Zeppelin came together not just as players, but as influences and ideas. It unearths the music that the musicians themselves were listening to, to open up an entire new world of experience and excitement for both casual and committed fans. It then travels beyond Led Zeppelin, to the bands and artists who in turn took their own lead from the Zep.

Dave Thompson, an interview

Onstage and Backstage podcast from Hal Leonard is available on iTunes and Libsyn. Each episode authors and their guests have a chat about the topics of their books. Today, author Dave Thompson chats with Patrick Phillips, host of the Patrick Phillips Show, about Dave’s new book If You Like Led Zeppelin… and to talk about the band’s influence and the bands who were influenced by the mighty Zep. Not to mention really odd things about band nicknames, where the name of the band came from, and playing records backward.

>>>Listen Here<<<

If You Like Led Zeppelin… is the unique story of how Led Zeppelin came together not just as players, but as influences and ideas. It unearths the music that the musicians themselves were listening to, to open up an entire new world of experience and excitement for both casual and committed fans. It then travels beyond Led Zeppelin, to the bands and artists who in turn took their own lead from the Zep.