Wilko Johnson, legendary guitarist with Canvey Island rock pioneers Dr Feelgood, and Roger Daltrey, lead singer of rock giants The Who, are set to release the joint album Going Back Home on April 8, 2014, on the world-famous Chess Records label which was resurrected specifically for this record coming out through Universal Music Enterprises (UMe).
Recorded in November of last year, Going Back Home is the first release on the newly re-launched Chess Records, featuring 11 tracks, ten of which are Johnson originals from both his Dr Feelgood days and solo years, plus his version of “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window,” an outtake from Bob Dylan’s classic album Highway 61 Revisited.
The album’s roots began in 2010 when Roger Daltrey and Wilko Johnson found themselves sitting together at an awards ceremony talking about raucous old school British rhythm & blues. “It turned out we both loved Johnny Kidd & The Pirates,” says Daltrey, name-checking the turn-of-‘60s creators of “Shakin’ All Over” and “Please Don’t Touch.” “They’d been a big influence on both our bands” Daltrey continues, “That heavy power trio sound, backing up a singer; it’s a British institution. No-one does that better than us.”
They decided on the spot it would be a great idea to collaborate together on an album but both being busy men, the idea drifted away.
Then in January 2013 Johnson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told he had just months to live. The guitarist, riding high after Julien Temple’s acclaimed Dr Feelgood documentary Oil City Confidential, seized upon the opportunity to make the most of his time left.
When The Who finished a sold-out world tour, Daltrey was delighted to discover that mercifully, Johnson was still well enough to fulfil their ambition of making an album together. “Roger jumped up and said, ‘Let’s do it,’” says Johnson. “He knew this lovely little studio called Yellow Fish in Uckfield. Unfortunate name for a place, but a great studio.”
The album was recorded in a week using Johnson’s touring band, Blockheads bassist Norman Watt-Roy and drummer Dylan Howe, with ex-Style Council and Dexys Midnight Runners’ Mick Talbot on keyboards. Johnson also credits producer Dave Eringa for pulling it all together in such a short time. “Everyone got on famously,” says Johnson. “It was a great atmosphere.”
Going Back Home features re-makes of classic Wilko Johnson tracks including the Feelgoods’ “All Through The City,” “Keep It Out Of Sight” and “Going Back Home” – the latter being co-written in 1975 with Johnny Kidd & The Pirates’ guitarist Mick Green – plus “Everybody’s Carrying A Gun,” originally recorded by his post-Feelgoods group The Solid Senders, and the solo ‘80s rockers “Ice On The Motorway” and “I To Keep It To Myself.” Also included is the hidden gem “Turned 21,” a heart-wrenching ballad that has never been properly released or performed live.
For Wilko Johnson, who has faced down his cancer with admirable good humor and steely courage, Going Back Home represents a dream fulfilled at the end of his life. “I’ve had a brilliant year,” says Johnson. “I was meant to die in October and now I’ve recorded this with Roger. I can’t keep gushing,” he continues, “but I saw The Who in 1969 when I was at university. He’s a star to me.”
“I’m very proud of this album,” adds Daltrey who is donating his royalties from the album to a Teen Cancer charity. “So much music today is over polished. This record has a freshness that can only come from the pressures we’re under.”
“You mean me dying?” Johnson laughs. “Yes,” says Daltrey. “Because of that inconsiderate lump inside you. Who the hell does it think it is?!”
Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey will be performing tracks from Going Back Home at a very special, one-off show at The O2 Shepherds Bush Empire in London on February 25th.
Tracklist for ‘Going Back Home’
All Through The City (Wilko Johnson)
Sneaking Suspicion (Wilko Johnson)
Going Back Home (Wilko Johnson)
Everybody’s Carrying A Gun (Wilko Johnson)
Keep It Out Of Sight (Wilko Johnson)
Keep On Loving You (Wilko Johnson, Norman Watt-Roy, Salvatore Ramundo)
Some Kind Of Hero (Wilko Johnson)
Turned 21 (Wilko Johnson)
I Keep It To Myself (Wilko Johnson)
Ice On The Motorway (Wilko Johnson)
Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window (Bob Dylan)