WILKO JOHNSON ATTACKED LIFE WITH ENORMOUS VIGOUR AFTER RECEIVING A TERMINAL CANCER DIAGNOSIS IN LATE 2012. WORKING AS HARD AS HE COULD FOR AS LONG AS HE COULD, A SERIES OF FAREWELL GIGS WAS NOT SO MUCH A SHOW OF AFFECTION TOWARDS THIS UNUSUAL CHARACTER, FOR WHO THE TERM ‘ENGLISH ECCENTRIC’ CAN SEEM TO HAVE BEEN COINED, BUT AN OUTPOURING OF LOVE…
Recognition of Johnson (born John Wilkinson in 1947) and his place in music history had, arguably, been a little compromised by time prior to his cancer diagnosis… but the raised profile triggered by his medical situation gave good opportunity for a reminder, at the very least, that there would have been no punk rock without Dr Feelgood. The Canvey Island band were at the forefront of a crop of ‘pub rock’ rhythm-and-blues outfits to emerge during the early-to-mid 1970s. Frontman Lee Brilleaux (1952 – 1994) and guitarist Johnson formed the band in 1971, with Johnson’s choppy, agitated, lead-and-rhythm style and his odd stage presence – a series of tics, shuffles and commanding “hard stares, basically” – and the pair’s unusually charged personal dynamics giving them a compelling electricity. The classic line-up went on to record four albums before Johnson was unceremoniously ejected from the band following what might politely be termed ‘a series of conflicts’ between the leading pair. Johnson continued to tour with an exceptionally tight, absolutely no nonsense, three-piece band right up to, and through, his cancer diagnosis.
In early 2014, following further medical consultation which revealed that there’d been a level of misdiagnosis – and that his cancer was, in fact, operable – Johnson had an eight-pound tumour removed in a long operation, leaving him extremely weak during a long recovery period. Now, back on the road two-and-a-half years on from surgery, he feels “just about better”. He talks at length about the experiences of the last four years in what is a candid and quite remarkable new interview with The Mouth Magazine…
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