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Oil City Confidential (2009)

The story of Dr Feelgood, four men in cheap suits who crashed out of Canvey Island in the early '70s, sandpapered the face of rock'n'roll, leaving all that came before a burnt-out ruin - ... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Lee Brilleaux ...
John Martin ...
The Big Figure
John B. Sparkes ...
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Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Will Birch
Himself (archive footage)
Andy Gill
Richard Hell
Jools Holland
Glen Matlock
Alison Moyet
Jake Riviera


The story of Dr Feelgood, four men in cheap suits who crashed out of Canvey Island in the early '70s, sandpapered the face of rock'n'roll, leaving all that came before a burnt-out ruin - four estuarine John-the-Baptists to Johnny Rotten's anti-Christ. Taking London by storm, they sped through Europe and conquered the UK with No 1 chart success, before imploding just as punk was born and America beckoned with open arms. Contributions from members of The Clash, Blondie and The Sex Pistols join Dr Feelgood with collaborators Jools Holland and Alison Moyet to tell the story of Canvey, '70s England and the greatest local band in the world. Written by Stephen Malit

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band | punk rock | See All (2) »


Oil City is 100% pure below sea level, Canvey Island Noir.


Documentary | Music


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Release Date:

2 February 2010 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Dr. Feelgood: Oil City Confidential  »

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Box Office


£450,000 (estimated)

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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User Reviews

Feelgood documentary looking at the lives and times of those in and around a certain Feelgood band.
5 May 2010 | by (Hampshire, England) – See all my reviews

At the very end of this 2010 documentary about a popular rock group of the 1970s named Dr. Feelgood, the lead guitarist and appointed guide for the entire piece Wilko Johnson stands outside a casino with his guitar with an aim to seemingly 'play us out'. Just above him and behind him, the word 'amusements' flickers sporadically, advertising the gambling machines within the building behind; it flickers, but it is not entirely unlit – a sort of visual representation of this once great, once famous band on behalf of the maker who's a certain Julien Temple: the members that are still alive are always up for it; they speak throughout the documentary of the band and the days that made them famous in an upbeat and loving manner and everybody in the contemporary crowds still seem to enjoy seeing the guys doing their thing on stage. The 'amusements' sign flickers, it's still going, it might very well be on its last legs but it's still ticking over.

Oil City Confidential is the documentary all about a British band whom ploughed through the boundaries of what was expected of them and became all but household names as they played out in Britain and America to packed and usually somewhat riotous audiences. They were Doctor Feelgood. The best thing about the piece is that it never pretends these people were anything other than normal, everyday guys of whom you feel you could just casually bump into, doing what they loved. Having gone in knowing nothing of the band, I came out rather enthralled and entertained at their story of just over thirty years ago; the tale of what it was that made each of them who they are today and most of whom have carried on with degrees of success since. Temple keeps everything low-key and understated, there's a knowing sense about their humble beginnings, a location on the Thames known as Canvey Island; a place that is shot through grey hues but is adored by those that came from there and made good accordingly; the documentary isn't so much into selling a downtrodden place as something that it isn't as much as it is interested in looking at the beauty and the goodness amidst all the other stuff most people would use as fodder against it. Oil refineries on the distance spewing out flames from its funnels; grey, unwelcoming beaches and caravan parks set up in the oddest of locales: it's all part of the charm.

The anchor of the piece is a certain Wilko Johnson, the band's guitarist. Later on, we'll come to learn of his stage exploits; a free-roaming and somewhat eccentric figure whom waltzed around the stage in a flurry of creative mannerisms, his most iconic moment being the one in which he supposedly riddled the audience with bullets out of his machine gun-come-guitar. Nowadays, he seems quite humbled by what it was he did; such an attitude capturing what most of the guys feel. Nobody really knew what they were doing or where it would lead them, they just went with the flow and loved it – the watching audiences loved it as well. These days, there seems to be a knowing sense of what was then and what is now. Johnson stands, guitar strap around his neck, at a lonely bus-top on Canvey Island; he plays a few cords and you can see the school boy-like glee it fills him with as he begins to jolt and move around to the tunes he creates. He seems sweetly embarrassed.

Placing Johnson at the heart of the film sees us guided through the life and times of Doctor Feelgood by a force of great charisma; a sort of knowing eccentric, a man who it's established even the other members were somewhat in awe at when they first met him. One other member gives a roaming tour of some Canvey Island coastline; documenting some of the band's exploits but most of the other members, or people connected to the group, are kept away from any sort of limelight to proceedings. One is shot in an enclosed and relatively low-key barber shop; another inhabits the confides of a darkened public house bar area while Johnson's mother sits in her living room and recounts her experiences at some gigs. Each person chips in with their own musings on the band and its history but each are kept to a far more routine documentary infused interview technique as opposed to Wilko. Johnson leads proceedings; the tale of the group, of which various members have come and gone, and his eventual feud with a certain Lee Brilleaux, the lead singer. These guys were most certainly with the crowd they performed to; never pretending to be anything they weren't and that comes out in the documentary.

They were never into psychedelic music or modifiers. This wasn't a case of having hordes of dumb kids turning up to scream at the latest singer that rolled off of the production line, dopily churning out the latest track of old to be covered by way of synthetics, this was a case of guys grabbing those microphones and instruments and belting out what they thought was good, fun music to play to a good, fun time. The film is curiously inter-cut with footage of various gangster films, but done enough so as to not annoy or distract; films about young guys ploughing on ahead with what it was they were good at, but having a blast in the process and always coming home with the swag and a bit of a reputation in the process. While Doctor Feelgood were never criminal in that sense, although one American thought they turned up to a gig once looking a bit like gangsters, that same carefree sense of getting on with what comes naturally to oneself is present, hovering above all involved, and it would seem the world is better off because of it.

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