Lee Brilleaux: Rock'n'Roll Gentleman - Zoë Howe
2017 Paperback Edition
(First Published in 2015)
Lee Brilleaux, lead vocalist of the mighty Dr. Feelgood left this life way too early, aged 41 in 1994 but has left us an amazing catalogue of music dating back to 1975 that includes 19 albums and a host of compilations.
Zoë Howe, the author, established herself as a solid music biographer with her Typical Girls? The Story of The Slits in 2009. Writing about Dr. Feelgood was not a new subject for her as she had already penned alongside Wilko Johnson the 2012 published Looking Back At Me.
Whilst maybe lacking in a lot of detail regarding his life (there is little mention of his early years after being born in South Africa in May 1952) there is actually sufficient material gleaned from friends, family, band members and interviews to establish a picture of who he was from his teenage life moving to Canvey Island and what was to follow as he delved into the world of music, specifically the Blues and R'n'B via Jug Bands etc.
The tension that surrounded the relationship between Brilleaux and Johnson is touched upon in various places but not really in any kind of depth and it's only reading Wilko's side of the story that you end up with a more balanced assessment of what was going on.
The book focuses on Lee Brilleaux in many different guises - husband, father, friend, and of course as frontman for one of the finest R'n'B bands to ever come out of the UK. Tales abound of shows and tours, the recording and songwriting process for each album (not though in the kind of depth that someone like me - a pure anarok! - would relish), and the book is peppered with Brilleaux's humour and his humanity.
The final chapter in the book - The Long Goodbye - is worth the price of the book alone as Howe describes touchingly Lee getting diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and the after effects of chemotherapy etc to finding the strength to play two final shows with the band that were recorded January 1994 and released a month after his passing in April 1994 (Down At The Doctors) on their own Grand Label (Listen here to a couple of tracks from the album).
After finishing reading the book last week I said to my wife that there is so many tales involving alcohol in the story that I felt like I had violated my years of sobriety! I'm not sure that should be a nod to the authenticity of the book but it stands out as a major theme!
Well worth reading if you want to delve a little deeper into one of the most important bands of the 1970's. I say that because Dr. Feelgood (and fellow Canvey Island band Eddie and The Hot Rods) were a huge influence on my own musical journey when I first heard their number one album Stupidity in 1976. They were never a Punk or a New Wave band and yet for me their sound led me to Punk Rock and also to The Blues.
Here's a few links to some albums by Canvey Island's greatest band that are worth a listen or three:
Down By The Jetty - January 1975
Malpractice - October 1975
Sneakin Suspicion - May 1977
Be Seeing You - September 1977
Private Practice - September 1978
Let It Roll - September 1979
Primo - June 1991
10. You've Got My Number (from Brilleaux)
09. (I Wanna) Make Love To You (from Classic)
08. Paradise (from Sneakin' Suspicion)
07. She's A Wind Up (from Be Seeing You)
06. Down At The Doctors (from Private Practice)
05. As Long As The Price Is Right (from Be Seeing You)
04. Roxette (from Down By The Jetty)
03. Back In The Night (from Malpractice)
02. Sneakin' Suspicion - (from Sneakin' Suspicion)
01. All Through The City (from Down By The Jetty)