Originally posted on Psychedelicgaragepunk.com on November the 4th 2008.
On the 11th of August, I had my second rehearsal with Second Offense, having had the first one on the 29th of July. Ralph initially called me in June, offering his services as a dep for George, the Surf Rats drummer. But he also asked me whether I’d be interested in singing with his band, who he described as Dr Feelgood / Pirates clones, which certainly intrigued me, as I love both bands.
The first time I saw the Feelgoods was in 1973, at the Alexandra palace, which essentially I went to to see the New York Dolls, though 10cc were the headline band, who I had no interest in at the time.
I went to the gig with great anticipation, I was actually going to see the Dolls!!! And what a beautiful looking venue the Alley Pally was in those days, I can recall lots of glass, and big palm trees, like a giant greenhouse. It must have been a nightmare for the sound crew, with all those shiny surfaces for the sound to bounce off of. There were lots of really strange looking Transvestites hanging out pretty close to the front of the stage, where we’d made our camp, Bob Mardon, Sally Butcher and I. I saw Chris Spedding chatting with a couple of these weird people, he looked so cool, black quiffed with black motorcycle leathers and winkle picker boots (a look very similar to the band he’d go on to produce in their early days, the Sex Pistols) and really stood out in the crowd, though I didn’t know who he was until he took the stage with Sharks, who followed Dr Feelgood on the bill.
Dr Feelgood came on, dressed in what looked like de-mob suits (a cheap suit issued to soldiers who had finished National service, in the British army, in the 1950’s), very austere and 60’s. Lee Brilleaux, the singer, and Wilko Johnson, the guitarist, immediately caught everyone’s attention, Lee chain smoking Number Six cigarettes, (ah! those were the days, my favourite cigarette, sadly no longer available) blowing a mean blues harp, and vocally sounding like Howlin’ Wolf’s Canvey Island cousin, looking really psycho!. Wilko looking and acting like an escaped lunatic, leaping and running about like a man possessed, wielding his Telecaster like a machine gun. Chicken hawk gusto, as Al once described me! To me, this was the most mind blowing live Rock’n’Roll I’d ever heard. Loud and aggressive, obviously with it’s roots in British R’n’B, i.e. the Stones, the Pretty Things (who I’d loved since hearing “Rosalind”). And in retrospect, very much like latter period Pirates. But it was closer to the noise of the Stooges than the Stones, Punk Rock before Punk Rock had happened!!!
Also, as I mentioned earlier, the band that Chris Spedding was playing with that day was Sharks. Aside from Spedding, who at the time was unknown, despite his session credentials, the other awesome player in this band originally, was Andy Fraser, from Free. Nick Fisher and I had seen them January the 28th, 1973 at the Sundown in Edmonton. They were fabulous, kind of Free-ish, but Snips, the vocalist had a really unique voice, like a more tuneful version of Roger Chapman from Family, and of course Fraser was such a dynamic player. But by the time we saw them at the Alley Pally, Fraser had left, having been replaced by a bassist recommended to Snips by no other than Mick Jagger, Busta Cherry Jones. an excellent, if not more funky player, which changed the dynamic of the band somewhat. Spedding looked total Rock’n’Roll cool, and played a beautifully distorted, very tasteful Gibson Flying V guitar. And their material was very strong too, quite poppy, 70’s Rock, but to imagine they were anything like the 70’s archetype would do them a great injustice, they were a powerful unique band of great musicians.
By the time the very-loud-for-the-time 10cc came on, I was totally cheesed off, the Dolls had cancelled, with no reason given that I can recall. The time I nearly saw the ORIGINAL Dolls!
I saw the Feelgoods numerous times up until late ‘76(the Chancellor hall, Chelmsford, several times, and the Kursaal in Southend) and never saw them post Wilko, though I thought Gypie Mayo was a killer guitarist. Wilko and Lee WERE the Feelgoods, and aside from the beginning of the tidal wave called Punk, it seemed inconceivable to have the Feelgoods without Wilko! I saw Wilko, with Norman Watt Roy on bass, at Will’s niece’s birthday party, at the Berwick suite, a couple of summers back. He’s still fabulous, as is Mr Watt Roy, who I saw a number of times with Ian Dury.
The first time I saw the Pirates, was at Woods leisure centre in Colchester, in 1977, on their Skull Wars tour. My good friend at the time, Martin “Oats” Wheatley, had a punk / skateboard band called the Gremlins, who supported the Pirates that night. The Gremlins (surf speak for a “learner” surfer) were killer, kind of like the Barracudas when they did the “Summer fun” single, but a good deal more English. Oats was a fab player, seem to remember they skateboarded onto the stage, and launched into a punk / surf instrumental, thinking back, very much like the “Surf Tune” that Wade and the Clocks used to play! Oats went on to play piano and sax on the Accidents album “Kiss me on the Apocalips”, but sadly I lost contact with him after that. There is a Martin Wheatley that plays for a jazzer called Keith Nichols, on Radio Four, I’ve emailed Keith for more info. There’s also a video of Oats on youtube, playing the “Tiger Rag”, and though it’s almost 30 years since I saw him, it’s unmistakably him. Watch this space….
When the Pirates came on, to the tune of “Dead man’s chest” and sound effects of canons being fired, the reaction was monumental, even in those crazed, loud Punk times. And Hell they were loud! Dressed in their pirates garb from the 60’s, Mick Green had a sticker on his guitar, “I choked the Happy Hooker” I think it said. They literally bludgeoned the crowd with their loud, very aggressive, high energy R’n’B, they raised the roof and took our collective heads off!!! The Feelgoods were raw and rockin’, but these guys were on another level, turbocharged, if you will, the fullest sound you’re ever going to hear from a three piece band. And Mick Green’s guitar style was extra-ordinary, distorted, aggressive, shredding, but very controlled and precise. I seem to recall him playing more with just his hands rather than with a plectrum, and can picture him in my mind’s eye with his plectrum between his teeth at points in the gig. They didn’t overstay their welcome, probably played for less than an hour, the Punk archetype, but by goodness they made every minute count.
I saw them again, a couple of years back, at the Riga bar in Southend. Although Frank Farley, the original drummer, is no longer with them as a result of heart problems, they still rocked to the max, Mick Green playing as aggressive and attitudinal as ever, having done stints with Paul McCartney, Van Morrison, and Bryan Ferry, since I first saw the Pirates. I know it’s been said before, but along with Cliff and the Drifters, Billy Fury and Vince Taylor, the Pirates are one of the biggest influences in English Rock’n’Roll, and possibly the most original sounding. Where did Mick Green get the influence to thrash his guitar like that? Such a unique style and sound, Farley and Spence were obliged to whip up a storm behind that!
Well, the Rattlesnakes (as Second Offense are now called) have since played our first gig, at the Welcome Sailor on the 13th of September, with Les, the Surf Rats bassist standing in for Nigel, our regular bass player. The reaction was excellent, Lawrence, the guitar player, totally rocked in a Mick Green style. We’re doing our second gig at the Berwicks jam night, on the 12th of November.
Epilogue: Since this article was published, the Rattlesnakes have split, tho’ Ralph has asked me to play a one off gig as a tribute to Mick Green, who sadly passed away on the 11th of January 2010. God bless Mick…………
2 Comments »
2 Responses to “Dr Feelgood and The Pirates”
Alwills // Nov 13, 2008 at 8:25 pm
Great gig last night Tel. I would say that Lawrence must have some telepathy with Mick Green as his style is similar, but not a direct copycat, in the same way that you sang ‘Down TO The Doctors’ making it your own! 🙂
Great article, the best yet.
Terence Ruffle // Nov 16, 2008 at 12:50 pm
One piece of the tale I forgot to tell was the time the Accidents (at that point, Will, Paul and I)met Lee Brilleaux,at a gig where we supported Deano’s Marvels, at the Paddocks in Canvey Island, sometime in 1977.We were sitting in the bar, and who should stumble in, with two chaps virtually supporting him, but Lee. He was sat right next to us by his “minders”, and was shortly thereafter presented with a pint of beer and a sizeable short. To say he seemed incredibly drunk would be a massive understatement! We really wanted to talk to him, and as an indicator of how out of it he was, I decided to ask him the time!Well hey, I was only 20!
“Serler ler ler rer” I believe the answer was.
We decided against any further attempts at communication……
Got to say also, speaking of very drunk people, how come Micky Jupp called the song “Down at the Doctors”, when the lyrics run “Down TO the Doctors”?
The truth should be told! Must we fling this pop filth at our kids?