The Epic 2017 Project #121: 170501
Wilko Johnson – I keep it to myself (2017)
Well what can I say? Apart from the fact that it’s a miracle the man is still with us. Because when I saw him live in 2013, he had just weeks to live having been diagnosed with terminal cancer. And yet, four years later – the 7th time I’d seen him play – here he is, in full remission and still banging out his unique chopping blues with the brilliance we’ve all come to know and love.
Seven times seeing anyone live is going some – but Mr Johnson is something of the exception. Apart from continually pumping out the genre of music that’s closest to my heart, everything he does and whoever he plays with brings an excitement to music that simply appeals.
First time was – of course – with the ubiquitous Dr Feelgood. Twice as it happens. Then with the Solid Senders; once as himself, solo. Once with the Wilko Johnson Band with second original drummer, Steve Monti. And now twice with the Wilko Johnson band as is; Wilko (of course), Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Dylan Howe on drums.
‘I keep it to myself’ is Wliko’s 2017 best of double album and I can capture no better example of what he does best than here with ‘She does it right’. (As does he!)
So, for the fourth instalment – the letter ‘D’ in my mini Classic albums A-Z – it’s Ian Dury. And this cracker from 1980 – Laughter, the last studio album Ian did with Stiff Records and the last with the Blockheads – is notable for a couple of reasons in my book; the lineup inclusion of Wilko Johnson and the poetic lyricism in each of the 13 tracks.
I have very fond memories of my two eldest children singing along in particular to the chorus of track 7 when they were a lot younger than they are now although, for obvious reasons, I always skipped track 12 in those days!
Laughter is very definitely a feel-good album. Ian Dury himself, in an interview years later, admitted that he picked the title to cheer himself up. And there’s plenty to choose from here – have a listen to the lyrics in tracks 4, 6, 7, 11 and 13 in particular. Here’s an extract from ‘Over the Points’ to whet your appetites…
All over the shop hundreds of people invariably male write our numbers down
We as trains are agreed that this is because we are extremely phallic
Nobody seems frightened on board us ‘cos we hardly ever crash
We’ve been squashing pennies for well over a century
People love it when they’re robbed
And they wave at us and are happy watching us going past
Can you imagine how pleasant it is in general being an iron horse?
I’m quite chuffed
Full track listing:
- Superman’s big sister
- Delusions of grandeur
- Yes and no (Paula)
- Dance of the crackpots
- Over the points
- (Take your elbow out of the soup) you’re sitting on the chicken
- Hey hey take me away
- Manic Depression
- Oh Mr Peanut
- Fucking Ada
- Reasons to be cheerful (Part 3)
- Ian Dury (vocals)
- Wilko Johnson (guitars, backing vocals)
- Johnny Turnbull (guitars, backing vocals)
- Mick Gallagher (keyboards)
- Norman Roy-Watt (bass)
- Charley Charles (drums)
- Davey Payne (saxophone, harmonica, flute)
Just can’t keep quiet about this fantastic album. One of the best collaborations in recent years, Wilko showing that living on borrowed time doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a whole lot of fun and make some really good music. And Roger proving that his vocal talent has just got better and better over the years, doing complete and utter justice to this eleven song retrospective from the Wilko back-catelogue. There’s not one dull moment in these 35 precious minutes. My only complaint – there’s not enough of it. Here’s a taste…