Not to be confused with the Mötley Crüe hit, Dr. Feelgood were one of the greatest and most popular acts from the UK’s pub rock scene in the ‘70s. Pub rock was essentially back-to-basics roots music that stood in stark contrast to the popular glam and prog rock of the time. A forerunner to punk rock, pub rock was unpretentious and harked back to the fun and economical rock ‘n roll of the ‘50s.
Dr. Feelgood’s sound was indebted to electric blues and R&B. They are one of many great British rock bands to never break through in the states, charting six singles in the UK but never cracking the US charts. The band was a legendary live act, playing hundreds of gigs each year. The gravelly-voiced frontman Lee Brilleaux, often clad in a dirty suit (pub rockers shunned glam flamboyance), always brought the energy. I’m generally not a huge blues guy, but I love how Dr. Feelgood’s songs are so revved up and catchy, highlighted by guitarist Wilko Johnson’s choppy fingerstyle riffs. Here are three standout Dr. Feelgood tunes:
“Milk and Alcohol”
Dr. Feelgood’s biggest hit, “Milk and Alcohol,” peaked at #9 on the UK Singles Chart. Taken from their sixth album, 1978’s Private Practice, after Wilko Johnson had left the band, it’s a good tune but not one of my personal favorites. Johnson’s trademark percussive guitar licks are sorely missed. I highly recommend the 3CD+DVD set Dr. Feelgood: All Through The City (with Wilko 1974-1977), which contains four of their best albums with Johnson. For a less exhaustive single-disc overview, check out I’m A Man: The Best of the Wilko Johnson Years 1974-1977.
“She Does It Right”
This is the opening track on their stellar debut LP Down by the Jetty. This video will give you an idea of what a sensational live act they were:
“Keep It Out Of Sight”
An album track from Down By The Jetty, “Keep It Out Of Sight” is my favorite Dr. Feelgood song. The drum break punctuated by Johnson’s guitar stabs gets me every time.