Julien Temple (Earth Girls Are Easy, Absolute Beginners) brings his music film trilogy to a close with Oil City Confidential. All three are about the important music people in the 1970s in the UK. This one is about rock band Dr. Feelgood.
Dr. Feelgood was one of those bands that had a huge following, but no commercial success. In the early 1970s they emerged out of Canvey Island in Essex, England. Lee Brilleaux, Wilko Johnson, The Big Figure, and Sparko got together and formed the quartet that began as a skiffle and jug band to evolve to a maximum R&B band. They influenced the music industry of the day through their love of music and the energy they put into making it. Music fans fed off the energy and passion.
The story begins with each member in childhood and then moves on to the formation of the band. Through the footage and interviews we learn how hard the band had to work to get where they did and how much talent they possessed. The film clips fill in the gaps. Plenty of knowledge is heaped on the viewer in a short span of time (104 minutes).
As they begin to have some success egos take over and bring about the downfall of the band. They blew up in the UK going to the top of the charts and then they went on to conquer the rest of Europe. Just as punk was becoming a music genre and the band was being invited over to the U.S. the implosion began.
Bands like The Ramones are shown listening to Dr. Feelgood.
They are one of the forefathers of punk music. Influencing many young musicians like Joe Strummer (The Sex Pistols) and leading the punk explosion. During their day it wasn’t called punk, but rather pub rock.
Their story is told through film footage, clips from classic gangster films and interviews including some with the surviving band members. Lead singer Brilleaux died in 1994.
We are guided through the story by the charismatic Wilko Johnson. This eccentric but undeniably talented man tells the story of the band. He shows how the members did not really have a plan when it came to their careers, but just took it one day at a time. Humble, Johnson shows many times how the band never pretended to be anything except what they were.
Temple doesn’t try to make the band and its members out to be anything other than what they are. They are average Joes and that is how they are portrayed. Just like the four men, the film is low key and without fuss. The grey skies match the downtrodden nature of their hometown. Oil refineries are always in the background. But the residents of Canvey Island love their hometown.
Interviews with members of The Sex Pistols, Blondie, The Clash, as well as artists like Jools Holland and Alison Moyet (Yaz) prove to be very interesting and insightful. Temple definitely has a distinct voice in the world of filmmaking. His eye and the way of telling a story is unlike any other.