52 GIRLS"Roxette" / Dr. Feelgood
Dr. Feelgood's debut single, "Roxette" didn't exactly burn up the UK charts in 1975; getting US airplay? No way. Maybe it was too early for the general public to embrace this raw R&B sound, married to gritty satiric lyrics. But their fellow musicians were listening, notably Paul Weller of the Jam, Bob Geldof of Boomtown Rats, Clem Burke of Blondie. The seeds of punk had been sown.
Normally I don't go with a live performance video of a song -- but in this case, the live performance is without a question the version you want.
Watch bassist John Sparks and drummer The Big Figure drive home that propulsive rhythm track, while Wilko Johnson snaps off obsessive-tic guitar licks. Above all watch Lee Brillaux command the mike, snarling Words of Warning to his straying girlfriend Roxette. (Perfect name for a rock girlfriend, with just a hint of cheap trashiness.)
"I saw you out the other night," he begins, head lowered, eyes narrowed. "I saw somebody hold you tight / Roxette, / I wonder who it could be." If there's a whiff of the voyeur about this, so be it. "It was so dark I couldn't see / But I know it wasn't me," he remarks, a cruel ironic jab.
But he doesn't stop there. He follows her into a loud rock club, where he creeps around and eavesdrops enough to hear her "telling everyone / About a new guy you'd found." (Now that lurking guitar line makes even more sense.) Maybe she's clueless, publicly bragging about her new relationship, but I have wonder -- why is he stalking her instead of confronting her? Isn't that what a decent guy would do? Could it be -- is it possible -- that her new man is actually a better bet?
True as that may be, our singer can't afford to think that way. (Classic case of an unreliable narrator.) Love doesn't enter the picture for him at all, only jealousy and a prurient kind of rage. In verse three he's outright sinister: "Roxette I gotta go away / And leave you for a couple of days." If I were her, I'd be scared. And now the threat is made plain: "Roxette, I don't want no more of your tricks / I'm gonna get some concrete mix / And fill your back door up with bricks." (Delicious triple rhymes.) Sneaky songwriting from Wilko Johnson, to draw us into collusion with this yobbo until we're accessories in his hoodlum revenge. I think of the notorious Kray Twins, convicted only a couple of years before for their vicious East End crime racket. File for a restraining order NOW, Roxette!
Talk about clueless -- he's convinced that this intimidation will win her heart. "And you better be there waiting / When I get my business fixed," he signs off with a crisp threat. Because she's still his property, in't she? Well, in't she?