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Wilko Johnson

Friday 31 May 2013, 14:43

Robert Hoy Robert Hoy Wilko Johnson's manager

Editor's note: Wilko Johnson's Mastertapes session can be heard in two parts - the A-Side and the B-Side. You can also download it for free

Wilko Johnson at Maida Vale Studios Wilko Johnson acknowledges the applause of the audience at Maida Vale Studios.

When Wilko Johnson had the hugely enjoyable experience of recording Mastertapes he was only six weeks into his diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer.

When Wilko Johnson had the hugely enjoyable experience of recording Mastertapes he was only six weeks into his diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. 
Since then he has continued to enjoy a renewed enthusiasm for life, declining any chemotherapy, and as yet showing no signs of the onset
of the disease. 
He is currently in Japan for his third holiday there this year. Shortly after recording Mastertapes Wilko began a farewell tour, and such was the desire to witness one last time his uniquely raw and energetic performance that all the venues sold out within an hour of tickets going on sale. Happily for the thousands who could not get tickets (or would not pay the touts the £200 they were so cynically demanding) the two London shows at Koko were filmed for a
live DVD, to be released early in the summer.
It was unfortunate that the last two shows of the tour, in Wilko's birth town of Canvey Island, had to be cancelled – not due to the cancer but to that particularly virulent flu virus which was doing the rounds. Although Wilko has declared that he does not want to tour any more, he has been working
on a studio album to be released later this year.
Wilko was recently photographed by Rankin for his deeply moving exhibition Alive in the Face of Death, being held at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. This is a celebration of life in portraits of people who have received a terminal diagnosis, who have faced a near death experiences, or who have lived against the odds. The project was filmed by the Culture Show for transmission on BBC2 in June.
Such is the interest in his history, influence and positive response to his diagnosis that, as well as the daily flow of goodwill messages and interview requests, there is even talk of a stage play based on his life. It seems that, after a 40 year career which many felt did not receive the recognition it
deserved, Wilko is now becoming something of a national treasure – and this is surely reflected in the warm, lively and enthusiastic response he enjoyed in the Mastertapes sessionWhen Wilko Johnson had the hugely enjoyable experience of recording Mastertapes he was only six weeks into his diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer

Since then he has continued to enjoy a renewed enthusiasm for life, declining any chemotherapy, and as yet is showing no signs of the onset of the disease. He is currently in Japan for his third holiday there this year.

Shortly after recording Mastertapes, Wilko began a farewell tour. Such was the desire to witness one last time his uniquely raw and energetic performance that all the venues sold out within an hour of tickets going on sale.

Happily for the thousands who could not get tickets (or would not pay the touts the £200 they were demanding) the two London shows at Koko were filmed for a live DVD, to be released early in the summer.

It was unfortunate that the last two shows of the tour, in Wilko's birth town of Canvey Island, had to be cancelled – not due to the cancer but to that particularly virulent flu virus that was doing the rounds.

Although Wilko has said that he does not want to tour any more, he has been working on a studio album to be released later this year.

Wilko was recently photographed by Rankin for his deeply moving exhibition Alive: In The Face of Death, being held at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. This is a celebration of life in portraits of people who have received a terminal diagnosis, who have faced a near death experiences or who have lived against the odds. The project was filmed by The Culture Show for transmission on BBC2 in June.

Such is the interest in his history, influence and positive response to his diagnosis that, as well as the daily flow of goodwill messages and interview requests, there is even talk of a stage play based on his life.

It seems that after a 40-year career which many felt did not receive the recognition it deserved, Wilko is now becoming something of a national treasure – and this is surely reflected in the warm, lively and enthusiastic response he enjoyed in the Mastertapes sessions.

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Left-handed Wilko talks about playing guitar right-handed and how his style evolved.
Radio 4 Mastertapes
BBC Music: Wilko Johnson
Wilko Johnson's website

Comments

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 1.

    Robert, I don't think Wilko's did not get the recognition he deserved - it's just that too few people never got around to telling him. They've woken up from their complacency and want to tell him before it's too late!

    I think he has also won new fans due to how he is handling the run up to his demise because it is inspirational as much for the living as it is for the dying. He seems to be telling us to forget the past and to assume there is no future - so, live in and enjoy the moment that is "now"!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 2.

    He's always been a legend in my eyes and in the eyes of many 'in the know' and I will treasure the CD I got signed ten years ago, forever. As for how he's handled his illness, well it's just amazing but typical of such a talented man!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 3.

    Hello Robert,
    I agree with Graham. I think a great many people have never felt the need to rant on and on and on ad nauseum about Wilko's abilities in the way at sycophants of many 'guitar heroes' do. Having watched and met Wilko on many occasions I am enormously grateful to have been able to be at what turned out to be (possibly) his last gig. The warmth of his Mastertapes recording appearance as he signed copies of Down By The Jetty hopefully reinforced for him how loved he is by a vast number of fans both old, like me(!), and young. I took that opportunity to have a quick word and an autograph I've never felt the need for in 30-odd years. Here's to a lot more life yet with 'a shot of rock'n'roll in your arm'.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 4.

    I caught the farewell tour at the most bizarre venue, an odd nightclub on an industrial estate in France just at the end of the Basel airport runway. There was zero publicity and it took several calls to the management to establish that Wilko was indeed playing. We turned up on the appointed evening and even the bouncers were not sure but it turned out to be correct. In contrast to the sell-outs and price gouging in the UK leg of the tour, about 80 of us had the pleasure of listening to Wilko and Norman in a bar. Were they fazed at the size of the crowd? Not at all and it was as fantastic and intimate a performance as I have ever seen. He will never be forgotten.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 5.

    We could not get tickets for the UK, but managed to see Wilko at La Boite a Musique in Wattrellos near Roubaix. Booking was through the tourist information office, they wanted to know a name, mobile number and how many tickets I needed. It felt too good to be true, but my tickets were waiting for me on the door, and only 9 euro each. Along with about 300 enthusiastic fans we enjoyed a tremendous set form Wilko, Norman and Dylan. We spun the car in the snow on the way back, but what the heck, it was worth every penny. Thanks again Wilko for another great evening

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 6.

    I remember when Wilko was an english teacher at my school in Thundersley (King John Comprehensive in Shipwrights Drive) where he sometimes used to play guitar to the kids in the class room instead of english. But more fondly I remember Dr.Feelgood being the guest band at some of our sixth form disco's at SEEVIC college on Kiln Road. The music and atmosphere was fantastic and to this day are among the best nights out of my life. Thank you John.

 

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