It may be barely 28 minutes long but the concert film Going Back Home manages to do more in its brief duration than many will do in hours (see Metallica’s bore-fest Through The Never for proof!).
Recorded at a so-called ‘homecoming’ show at the Kursaal in Southend in November 1975 the film, and it clearly is grainy, scratchy, film, captures the original, classic and best line up of Dr. Feelgood in their prime.
Though the vocals to opener Going Back Home were redubbed afterwards it’s hardly noticeable and throughout Lee Brilleaux sounds like he’s shredding his vocal chords with his transatlantic, overdriven, blues drawl – while he looks like he’s about to attack every member of the audience.
His vicious delivery brings a sense of life and danger to the abridged performance that is uncanny. He looks like someone has dragged him from an unsatisfying office job, making sure to get his white suit good and dirty before throwing him straight onto the stage and telling him to let out a working week’s worth of frustration through rhythm and blues.
Beside him, of course, is the now legendary Wilko Johnson, dressed in black and red and with his repainted black and red Fender Telecaster he looks like a proto-Jack White, driven by speed, and hailing from Canvey Island.
Whenever Brilleaux isn’t stood forward Wilko takes his place skittering across the stage, throwing jumping jacks and strafing the audience with his ‘machine gun’ guitar in a manner that, at the time, can only have been something rare and fresh as mainstream rock was filled with well-posed glam or over the top prog.
His playing is unique and, teamed with Brilleaux’s vocals, creates a sound that reinvigorates rhythm and blues with the energy of what was to become punk rock.
Behind the two lead men, John B. Sparks (bass) and The Big Figure (drums) complete the misfit gang line up and keep the whole thing rolling and swinging with a similar, if toned down, style to Brilleaux.
The set list of the film mixes some of Wilko’s most notable originals with R’n’B standards, all delivered in Dr. Feelgood’s inimitable style while the crowd eat it all up. I was left wishing we could see the rest of the concert given the reaction to the last song and encores.
The encores, Shouldn’t Call The Doctor and Route 66, see the band go all out and, if the whole thing captures them at their peak, these songs are the very summit of that.
The recording itself is suitably dark and grainy which matches the band’s sound and aesthetic excellently. While this is clearly simply a result of the technology of the time, it couldn’t have given a better final product, bookended with a helicopter shot flying over the Southend seafront to and from the classically styled Kursaal venue.
If you want a taste or introduction to Dr. Feelgood’s Thames Delta Blues then Going Back Home is a great place to start and a fine companion to the more recent documentary Oil City Confidential and a great counterpoint to the recent Wilko Johnson Live at Koko film.
Going Back Home captures ‘The Feelgoods’ at their fullest and most powerful best – if only there was film of the whole concert!