Friday, 30 July 2010

Dr Feelgood's Canvey (and surrounding areas!) Pt 3 of 3

Here's the third and final part of my Dr Feelgood project........
(Part 1 here and Part 2 here)

The band were keen to record a new album post-Wilko. It was written and recorded in double quick time, and amazingly, released just 4 months after Sneakin' Suspicion.

Dr Feelgoods 5th Album: Be Seeing You is released in September 1977. Once again it is a Canvey location featured on the cover, the lads in the 'public bar' of their regular local The Admiral Jellicoe (love that 'Worthington E' pump light\sign, just on Lee's right shoulder!).

(Be Seeing You - In the Public bar of the Admiral Jellicoe - 1977)

(The Admiral Jellicoe 1930's/1940's)

Built in the 1930's, The Admiral Jellicoe was the only hotel on Canvey where you could still get a room during the second World War (this continued to be the case for some time after the war too). During the war, the owner of the Jellicoe used to let local troops come in and have a bath.

(The Admiral Jellicoe - June 2010)

(Dr Feelgood pose for a photo outside the Admiral Jellicoe - Circa 1977)

(The same spot - July 2010)

To promote 'Be Seeing You' the Feelgoods returned once more to Canvey's Labworth Cafe. They had already taken a series of iconic shots here a few years earlier with Wilko, so perhaps the return marked the final handing over of the baton.... For this shoot, the lads donned Prisoner style jackets (the title of the album had been lifted from a phrase used in the cult TV show).

(Dr Feelgood outside the Labworth - 1977)

(The Labworth - July 2010)

Dr Feelgoods 6th Album: Private Practice is released in September 1978. This is the album containing 'Milk and Alcohol', the first song I ever actually heard by the band. From here on, the local references become a little harder to spot... nothing Essex related here:

And as the back cover picture has been taken in Harley Street, there doesn't seem to be any local connections there either.... but hold on, isn't that a 'Steves' cab that the boys have just stumbled out of??!

Yes, Steve's cabs were the big taxi company on the island in the 70's, and after my recent visits, I'm delighted to say it appears they still are (although I'm pleased to say that it looks like the fleet has been updated a bit!) .

And the '4433' phone number shown in the Feelgood picture is still part of their number today!

To launch this album, the record company were keen on a big bash in London, but the Feelgoods were having none of it! They insisted that the album launch party would be held at their local, the Admiral Jellicoe, and they got their way too! I wonder what all those record industry execs and music journos made of their evening in Canvey complete with strippers playing topless snooker!

(Lee playing snooker with a couple of chums at the Private Practice launch party in the Admiral Jellicoe! - 1978)

Dr Feelgoods 7th Album: As It Happens is released in June 1979, and is the bands second live album. As with their first live album (Stupidity), each side is taken from a different gig. Side 1 comes from The Pavilion in Hemel Hempstead, where as Side 2 comes from Crocs, just up the road in Rayleigh. Nowhere on the sleeve (or inner sleeve) does it mention where the live photos used on the sleeve were taken, but I guess there is always a chance that one (or more) of them was taken at Crocs.
Crocs was 'the' alternative nightclub in these parts, but the name changed to The Pink Toothbrush in the early-to-mid 80's. Some legendary shows have taken place here, Depeche Mode were almost the resident band for a while, Soft Cell played one of their first shows here, and Culture Club played their first ever gig here. This will always remain the club I frequented the most in my life, and I was a regular here from the early 80's right up to the early/mid 90's. Some of my best friends today I met at this place (including Mondo!). It was a life-saver to those of us who had no interest in going to regular 'casual' nightclubs like 'TOTS' and similar. As well as almost every Saturday night, I would often be here during the week for the odd gig or two as well. It's still going today, but seems a shadow of its former self. The gigs fell by the wayside years ago, but I think it's still popular with the indie 'yoof' at the weekends.

Oh, and why was it called Crocs I hear you say? Because there was a small glass tank in the corner of the club containing TWO live crocodiles in it! Seriously! (I only ever remember there being one though) Can you imagine getting away with that today??!

(The Pink Toothbrush - July 2010)

Dr Feelgoods 8th Album: Let It Roll is released in September 1979, just 3 months after the live album. Once again it's the back cover that provides the local link, as this photo was taken in the bar of Feelgood House #2! The photo on the shelf between Lee and Gypie is actually the below picture of Chris, Sparko and Lee (the three on the right in the back row) when they were the Razzamatazz Washboard Band:

As for the Toby jugs, well Lee had become something of a collector over the years, and these 4 were specially commissioned to represent each member of the current line up of the band. They still exist, and even feature in the Oil City Confidential movie, along with a hastily made addition of a Wilko Toby! (I understand Chris keeps the originals in his office).

This album closes the 70's for Dr Feelgood. There are two more albums in the early 80's for this line up - (9th album A Case Of The Shakes and 10th album On The Job), before Gypie leaves, replaced by yet another John - Johnny Guitar! There is one more album (their 11th - Fast Women and Slow Horses), before the departure of both The Big Figure and Sparko, leaving Lee as the sole original member.

From here on in there was a somewhat flexible line up for the next decade or so, and with a number of the new members not being from the surrounding area, it inevitably removed the local connection from the Feelgoods somewhat. Even Lee eventually left good old Canvey Island in the early 80's for a move 'up the hill' to Leigh-on-Sea (my home town). He moved into a modest property just off of the High Road, which he cheekily referred to as 'The Proceeds'! This house was walking distance to a number of local watering holes, and Lee became a regular in the The Grand in Leigh High Road, as well as The Crooked Billet in Old Leigh.

(The Grand, Leigh-on-Sea - July 2010)

Not quite my 'local', but The Grand was certainly my regular pub for a number of years too. Many a brain cell was lost in here on a Friday night with E.F Rice, The Brownster, Marmite Boy and others. This was a huge pub, with three separate rooms\bar inside. Each bar was for different clientele. The left hand side was the biggest bar, and ran the whole length of the pub. This was the trendy\youngster bar. The 'front bar' on the right hand side was a middle aged bar. The 'back bar' (also known as the Piano bar) was for the old boys with their half of stout! We migrated fairly early from the youngsters bar straight to the back bar, because we soon worked out that you got served about 20 minutes quicker in there! (plus we were never very trendy anyway!). Alas, this pub was mothballed a couple of years back, and is likely to become a block of flats in the near future (sigh).

Almost all of the clips of Lee Brilleaux talking in Oil City Confidential were taken from an interview filmed in the 'back bar' of The Grand in the early 1990s (you can just see the 'front bar' behind him). The whole 50 minute interview is also on the DVD as an extra.

In 1988, Lee and Chris started their own record label, the name 'Grand Records' was chosen in honour of this very place. Over the years Grand Records have obtained the rights for all of the Dr Feelgood albums released for various labels, and is now a 'one-stop-shop' to pick up all the back catalogue.

(The Crooked Billet, Old Leigh - July 2010)

When Chris Fenwick finally left Feelgood House #2, he moved Dr Feelgood HQ to the office above this bookies in Canvey High Street:

(Feelgood Office Number 3! - June 2010)

I think I'd be right in saying that the Feelgood Corp. still owns this whole parade of shops.

In the early 1990's Lee became unwell, and was eventually diagnosed with cancer. Dr Feelgood were put on hold whilst he went through an agonising course of chemotherapy. During this time Chris Fenwick's brother (who was a builder like their father) had acquired the Oysterfleet pub (a venue that those jug bands used to play at back in the 1960s!).

(The original Oysterfleet pub is that house on the left hand side of this picture from 1920.)

The Oysterfleet pub was originally a private house located on Oysterfleet farm. It's unclear when it was converted into a public house, but likely to have been in the early 1900's.

By the 1990's this building was on its last legs, but was still licenced, so Chris was asked to temporarily take it over whilst his brother decided what to do with it. With help of ex-Feelgood Sparko, they turned it into the Dr Feelgood Music Bar, which opened in late 1993 - with live music most nights.

Lee finished his treatment, and for a while things seemed to be looking positive. As well as his favourite haunts in Leigh-on-Sea, he also became a regular at the Feelgood bar too. Alas, the optimism was short lived, and the cancer returned. Not prepared to go through chemo again, there really was only one outcome. Although very unwell, Lee asked Chris if he could play a couple of gigs at the bar. These were duly arranged, and on the 24th and 25th January 1994, Lee performed what would be his swansong with the Feelgoods. The shows were recorded for posterity at Lee's request.

A little over two months later Lee died, passing away at home on 7th April, aged just 41. His funeral was held on the 15th April at St Clements church in Leigh-on-Sea.

(St Clements Church, Leigh-on-Sea - July 2010)

To celebrate what would have been Lee's 42nd birthday, a live album taken from the January shows was released:

Dr Feelgoods 19th Album: Down At The Doctors was released in May 1994.

The cover shot, taken outside the Feelgood Music Bar, is a cheeky homage to the Sneakin' Suspicion cover. It's quite shocking to see how unwell Lee looks in the picture.

In July 1994, the always temporary Dr Feelgood Music Bar was pulled down to make way for a much bigger and grander replacement Oysterfleet. Chris still remains involved with the management of this establishment. In the mid-2000's he moved the office of Dr Feelgood here too.
(The Oysterfleet - July 2010)

There's a nice blue plaque at the entrence, to inform all visitors that one Mr Lee Brilleaux played here in 1994.

The launch of the Oil City Confidential DVD was held here (21st July 2010), and Chris Fenwick and Wilko Johnson were on hand to sign copies for the gathered crowd.

In the mid 1990's a memorial bench for Lee was unveiled in Leigh-on-Sea (walking distance from 'The Proceeds'), overlooking the Thames Estuary
(Lee's memorial bench, Leigh-on-Sea - July 2010)

It's the perfect position, and incredibly, of all the benches placed in this area, Lee's is the only one that provides a full, un-interupted view of dear old Canvey Island.

(The view from Lee's memorial bench - July 2010)

(Piley takes a rest after being on the Feelgood trail for two months!)

Lee's final wish was that Dr Feelgood continued, and in 1995, Chris Fenwick started the unenviable task of trying to fulfil that request. Incredibly he did it, and in 1996, what was Lee's last line-up of the Feelgoods went public with a new lead singer, Pete Gage. In 1999 Gage left, and was replaced by Robert Kane, who remains on lead vocals to this day. As Dr Feelgood move into their 5th decade, the band are as busy as ever, and amazingly still push around the 250 gigs a year mark, the benchmark set by Lee and Co back in the 1970s.

There, I've finally made it! Thanks for sticking with it. Thanks also to Chris Fenwick who was very kind in helping me with a few hard to find locations, and by no means least, thanks to Lee, Wilko, Sparko, The Big Figure, Gypie and all the following Feelgoods for providing us with nearly half a century of incredible music.

Here's a few videos from the period covered above to finish off with....

A truly scorching live appearance from 1977 on the BBC's 'Sight and Sound', where they perform 'Looking Back', 'Stupidity' and 'You'll Be Mine'.

Lights Out (1977)

She's A Wind Up (1977)

Milk and Alcohol (1979 - alas the soundtrack has come away from the video slightly, I don't think Lee was THIS bad at miming!)


Monday, 26 July 2010

Dr Feelgood's Canvey (and surrounding areas!) Pt 2 of 3

Oil City Confidential is released on DVD today! Here's part two of my Dr Feelgood project. (Part 1 here)

Another regular Feelgood venue in those early days was the Monaco pub on Canvey seafront.
(The Monico being built in the late 1930's)
The Monico was built as a 25 room hotel in 1938 by Mr A H Beaumont, and took just ten months to build. It stood next to the huge Casino which was also owned by A H Beaumont. The building was made in a semicircular and built on a 'Raft'. On the first floor a sun balcony was constructed, and on the roof was a 'roof garden' containing amongst other things a badminton court. The Monico was the first building on Canvey to have central heating installed.

(The Monico shortly after it opened, 1938)

Beaumont eventually sold the hotel in 1946 to the Charrington brewery, after which it was converted to a pub.

(The Monico in the 1990's)

(The Monico - June 2010)

The Monico certainly seemed to have had an odd paint job when I visited. It looked as though it had been decorated to resemble a huge St George's cross (remember I was taking these photos during the world cup).

Dr Feelgoods 2nd Album: Malpractice is released in October 1975. The cover photo is taken outside Phil Moss barbers shop in Maurice Road, Canvey. Great cover, particularly love the furtive look from Wilko, caught in some dodgy deal with The Big Figure!

Here's another shot from outside that barbers:
The barber shop is alas long gone, replaced by houses.... (bah!)

(The Phil Moss Barber Shop was somewhere along here - July 2010)

Here's a few more photos taken from the Malpractice photoshoot. These were literally just over the road from the barbers at Discount Furnishings, 191 High Street (I took the above picture of Maurice Road standing outside 191!).

(Discount Furnishings, 191 High Street, Canvey - 1975)

(Discount Furnishings, 191 High Street, Canvey - 1975)

Discount Furnishings may be no more, but 191 High Street remains:

(191 High Street, Canvey - July 2010)

Here are some more great Canvey promo shots of the Wilko line up of the band:

(Oil City by night 1975)

(Oil City by day! July 2010)

(Canvey Amusements, underneath Cloud 9, 1975)

(Canvey Amusements, underneath what was Cloud 9, July 2010)

Here's another classic location from the seafront area... The Labworth Cafe, Canvey.

This fabulous Wilko era Labworth shot was used for the Oil City Confidential film promo poster, and is also used as the cover of the DVD:

The Feelgoods will return here a few years later to promote their album 'Be Seeing You'.
(The Labworth July 2010 - Tide out)

The Labworth is a stunning art-deco building, sitting directly on the sea wall, looking out to the Thames estuary. It was designed and built in 1933 by Ove Arup, the same man who designed and built the Penguin Pool at London Zoo and Sydney Opera House. Arup designed the Labworth to look like the bridge of the RMS Queen Mary ocean liner.

(The Labworth June 2010 - Tide in!)

Between the 70's and the 90's, the Labworth managed to dodge the demolition ball on more than one occasion, as it slowly went to wrack and ruin. It's fortunes finally turned around in the late 90's when it was taken over and restored by a local lottery winner (it's now a listed building). By day it's a seaside cafe, but by night this is one of the most exclusive restaurants around, and there is always a six month waiting list for a sea-view table! (honest!).

The now almost legendary 'Canvey Is Englands Lourdes' graffiti on the sea wall (the Labworth is just visible in the far background) which is featured in the Oil City Confidential film:

In 1976, Feelgood manager Chris Fenwick vacates Feelgood House for a much grander property in Canvey, complete with full bar in the living room (called The Cluedo Club)! The boys are in heaven, and the place is immediately dubbed Feelgood House 2! This now becomes the hub of the Dr Feelgood machine.

(Feelgood House 2 July 2010)

By this time there has been some considerable tension growing between (tea-total) Wilko and the rest of the (hard drinking) band. With little new material to work with, the band decide that the next album should be a live recording. Some recordings are already in the can so......

Dr Feelgoods 3rd Album: Stupidity is released in October 1976, and goes to number one in the album charts. Side one captures the band live at the Kursaal in Southend (November 75), with side 2 coming from Sheffield City Hall (May 75). The cover shot, arguably the most iconic Feelgood photo ever, is also taken from the gig at Southend.

(The Kursaal, Southend - 1910)

(The Kursaal 100 years later! - June 2010)

In 1894 a brand new area opened along Southend seafront, combining amusements, a marine park and gardens. A grand entrance to the area, complete with a huge silver dome overhead, was built by the Margate and Southend Kursaals Company, and opened in 1901. The Kursaal (Kursaal is German for "cure hall" or "spa" by the way) soon became one of the biggest attractions in the country, with its circus, zoo, scenic railway ballroom and regularly changing amusements.... The list of features held in the 'amusements' area over the years is truly mind boggling! the world's first female lion tamer, the world's first female 'wall of death' rider, the first venue in England to display Al Capone's car, even Eric the sixty ton stuffed whale was on display at one point! The ballroom was supposedly the finest in the country, and many star performed here over the years - Vera Lynn started her career at the Kursaal.

The Kursaal remained popular after the war, but went into decline during the 70's (although don't forget that the Pistols 'Anarchy in the UK' tour almost played here in December 1976!) and eventually closed in 1986. 12 years later in 1998 it was re-opened after a multi-million pound face lift with the tower finally being restored to its former glory (it's now a listed building too). However it's little more than a glorified chav-fest these days, and it's main attraction is fast food and a 30 lane bowling ally... nice!

During the making of the fourth album, Wilko and the rest of the band have a major falling out about tracks to be included. The album is recorded, but it's the end of the line for Wilko. A search is soon underway to find a replacement, and a name is soon recommended to the band.... Another Essex lad, John Mayo (incredibly, keeping up the 3 John's and a Lee line up!) from Harlow. Mayo soon has the obligatory Feelgood nickname, and is re-christened 'Gypie'. It's back to a venue already mentioned for Gypie's inaugural performance - a warm up at Cloud 9 on Canvey seafront, which by now was called Bardot's.

Within a few months of Gypies arrival, Dr Feelgood are releasing their next album.

Dr Feelgoods 4th Album: Sneakin' Suspicion is released in May 1977, but of course it features Wilko on guitar rather than new recruit Gypie. Originally, the cover of this album was going to be a shot of the band outside the Labworth (almost certainly the same picture seen earlier in this post), but now Wilko was gone, a new cover had to be designed. This shot was taken outside The Canvey Club, which for some reason (even the band can't remember why!) they re-named the Alibi Club for the purpose of the photo.

(The Alibi Club - 1977)

(The Alibi\Canvey Club - July 2010)

Amazingly, the delightfully ramshackle Canvey Club is still there today, looking just as it did back in the 1970s.

(The Canvey Club 1970's)

(The Canvey Club July 2010)

(The Canvey Club July 2010)

Piley bumps into Wilko Johnson whilst on the Feelgood trail... where? Oil City of course!

(Piley and Wilko - July 2010)

That's it for part two. Part 3 is here


Here's the explosive trailor for Oil City Confidential:

Going Back Home Live at The Kursaal in Southend (recorded for the Stupidity album):

All Through The City Live at The Kursaal in Southend (recorded for the Stupidity album):