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Monday, 22 May 2017

40 Years Old: Sneakin' Suspicion - Dr. Feelgood (May 1977)


🌟🌟🌟🌟 ½
Sneakin' Suspicion - Dr. Feelgood
United Artists
Produced by Bert de Coteaux
Released May 1977
UK Chart #10

Side 1

Side 2

Dr. Feelgood
    Lee Brilleaux - vocals, guitar, harmonica, slide guitar
    Wilko Johnson - guitar, backing vocals
    John B. Sparks - bass guitar, backing vocals
    The Big Figure - drums, percusison, backing vocals

Additional Musician:
    Tim Hinkley - keyboards

Single on Sneakin' Suspicion

Lights Out

Sneakin' Suspicion
United Artists
Produced by Bert de Coteaux
Released 6th May 1977
UK Chart #47


In 1976 two albums were released that came from bands hailing from Canvey Island that both had a huge impact upon me. The first was Teenage Depression by Eddie and The Hot Rods and the second, a live album called Stupidity by Dr. Feelgood. Both of these albums led the way for me to listening to Punk and New Wave. Neither of course were a Punk band but they had enough attitude between them to put the young Punks in their place!

Teenage Depression (November 1976) only made it to #43 which was not too bad I guess for a Debut Album.

Stupidity was a #1 album...okay, only for a week, but still a #1! That was 16 places better than their previous album Malpractice (#16 - October 1975) and a whole lot more places than their debut album Down By The Jetty (Did not Chart - January 1975).

Sneakin' Suspicion was the Feelgoods third Studio Album and sadly it would be the last to feature the Iconic Guitarist (yep, even back then!) Mr Wilko Johnson. After six years with the band, he left (according to the band, though Wilko himself says he was kicked out) after a disagreement about what tracks were to be included on the album (not totally sure of the truth that it was the inclusion of the Lew Lewis track Lucky Seven that caused the rift but I did hear that ages ago and cannot confirm whether it is true or not as both Lew and Wilko would later do some work together) and was replaced temporarily with Henry McCullough (who had been in Wings - though he left prior to the recording sessions for Band on The Run - and The Frankie Miller Band) before the permanant replacement by Gypie Mayo (who would serve with the band until 1981).

Half of the songs on the album were written by Wilko and Sneakin' Suspicion as well as Paradise are still regarded as two of his finest tunes (along with a truckload from the first two albums!). 

The remaining five tracks were covers: Nothin' Shakin' (But The Leaves On The Trees) was first released in 1958 by Eddie Fontaine on the Sunbeam label. 

Lights Out is another originally released in 1958 by Jerry Byrne on the Specialty label. The song has been recorded by loads of other artists (Shakin' Stevens and The Sunsets had released a version of it in 1970 on the Debut Album A Legend - Parlaphone. Pre-Motors' Nick Garvey released it as a B-Side to the Debut and only single by The Snakes). I didn't connect it until a few years ago that one of the writers, Mac Rebennack, was actually the famous New Orleans Blues, Jazz and Zydeco Musician Dr John!

Lucky Seven was written by fellow Canvey Islander Lew Lewis (he had played with Eddie and the Hot Rods before going on to form his own bands). He would release the song himself a year later on Stiff Records - LEW1).

You'll Be Mine was written by the great Willie Dixon and was released on Chess Records in 1962 by Howlin' Wolf .

The last cover, and indeed the final track on the album is a Bo Diddley song that was released on the Checker label in 1964. The song had also been covered by Georgie Fame and The Harry South Big Band (1966), The Ugly Ducklings (1966), The Pretty Things, Rory Gallagher, The Missing Links (Aussie Garage Band from the 60's), Paul and Barry Ryan, and no doubt by many more folks also.

Wilko Johnson Playing His Songs From Sneakin' Suspicion

Sneakin' Suspicion - Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey (Live at Shepherds Bush Emprire 2014).

Sneakin' Suspicion - Wilko Johnson Band (Live at Ripley Town Hall 2007).

Paradise - Wilko Johnson (from the 1991 album
Don't Let Your Daddy Know)

Paradise - Wilko Johnson Band (Live Barcelona 2016).

At a time when voices within the Punk Scene were decrying anything from the past (though those that seemed to be shouting the loudest drew quite a few tracks from the past to beef up their live sets, mentioning no names at all...ahem...the Sex Pistols! 😏) Dr. Feelgood drew upon it to bring fresh life to what are actually some brilliant songs. It's funny because although Dr. Feelgood were not a Punk band I actually knew loads of Punks who loved them.

I have a lot to thank bands like Dr. Feelgood, The Blues Band and 9 Below Zero for, as they were partly responsible for my tracking down a lot of Blues material I might never have heard of had they not been covering it, and to this day I still love listening to the Blues.

So 40 years down the road from its release it is actually an album I still have a lot of love for and cannot even imagine how many times I have played it (or how many copies of it I have had in one format or another) down through the years. Playing it earlier today as I begun putting this together was a real delight. It still sounds great and is worth a spin or two more in the coming weeks.

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