RIP Wilko Johnson (1947-2022)

24th November 2022 · 1970s, 1975, 2020s, 2022, Music

RIP Wilko Johnson (Dr Feelgood, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, The Solid Senders) 1947-2022. Gone but never forgotten.

Reminding myself of the first time I saw that gimlet-eye stare, that open hand flaying the guitar strings, that head bobbing like a chicken and suddenly swivelling sideways, those legs strutting back and forth, those arms pointing the guitar neck like a machine gun…

It was March 1975 and the Old Grey Whistle Test presented a new group from Canvey Island, a place I had never heard of that sounded wildly exotic to my teenage ears. The amphetamine-fuelled singer held centre stage, looking like he might burst a blood vessel at any second, but you couldn’t take your eyes off that guitarist in his black outfit.

When he played those little breaks there seemed to be TWO guitarists onstage because he picked out those solos without once interrupting the jagged staccato riffing that drove the song.

Then there was the last time I saw him, about 45 years later, long after the farewell tour he played after being given just ten months to live in 2014. I found myself sitting next to him at the launch of his own memoir and I can still remember his estuartine snort of laughter at a joke affectionately directed at him from the stage.

But mostly I remember him like this, because you always remember your first time.