Wilko Johnson. Seventy Today.

There’s no-one like him. No-one. When I think about him, I feel sad and glad and flooded with memory. I feel the thrill of buying Down By The Jetty with the HMV token I got for my thirteenth birthday. I feel the slash/punch of his nuclear cheese-grater guitar on that LP, his sardonic voice, the tense glory of his gives and takes with Lee and the blues and the rhythm section. I feel a laughing, oh-yes gratitude for the fuses of punk he helped set alight. I feel the breathlessness of seeing him the night after 7/7 and feeling so, so glad to be alive, realising that this – his power and passion and mad-stare lust for life – is what gives us meaning. I feel the dark skies and silly Bergmanisms of watching Oil City Confidential and The Ecstasy Of Wilko Johnson and wishing I could access just a fraction of his magical brew of the visceral and the intellectual, the serious and the playful. I feel the stabs of his pushed-away pain for the loss of Irene and of the years and of Lee. I feel the ache of talking for hours about his sweet, real, gleeful/holy response to his terminal diagnosis with a mate who was himself dying of that bastard disease. I feel the joy of each time I’ve seen him since he was supposed to be dead.

I feel… everything about Wilko, because he represents everything good and sharp and doomed and flawed and perfect and hopeful about England and Englishness. Cheers mate: many, many happy returns.

One thought on “Wilko Johnson. Seventy Today.

  1. Unfortunately, or, in a way, fortunately in an odd way, I’ve only seen him play once. It was way back, just before he left Dr Feelgood, and he was utterly mesmerising. The memory of seeing him strutting around the stage like a prowling guard dog on amphetamine is just unforgettable and unique. I went to see them later that year again and was disappointed to find he was no longer with them. Which made the one experience so tattooed into my treaured memories collection…