Saturday, 26 January 2013
An afternoon with Wilko Johnson: Charles Shaar Murray interviews his mate
Spent Tuesday afternoon with one of the two most beautiful men in rock 'n' roll, the other one being David Bowie. Three if you include the lovely Charles Shaar Murray who I drove through the snow to Wilko Johnson's house in Southend. We found him in awesome mood for a man who's just announced he has terminal cancer that will end his life before the year is out. It's the pancreatic one, the one that got Bill Hicks at the ridiculously early age of 32.
Charles was interviewing his old friend for Classic Rock magazine and, yet again, was let down by his HD Zoom (bring back tape). Luckily, I had my Lumix camera on me so I was able to video them chatting in the living room: mugs of Jamieson coffee and chessboard on the coffee table, walls lined with books and pictures including two Matissesque ones painted by our Renaissance man when he was weighing up whether to become an artist in a garret or a music hero with money, adoration, women and a gold Cadillac.
"I'm euphoric," he told CSM. Knowing where his exit lies has liberated him from his usual grumpiness and a tendency towards depression, putting life gloriously into perspective. He's looking forward to his gigs, the farewell tour of which there will be no repeats like the ones the Stones seem to specialise in. It all seems so bloody unfair, just as the Dr Feelgood guitar supremo and songwriter was finding new audiences and an acting career as Ilyn Payne in Game of Thrones following Julian Temple's Oil City Confidential movie about the band. This is the real deal, the last we'll get to see of him and I can feel myself welling up.
Wilko, though, is the happiest person in the room, floating on his cloud of bliss. I found him bouncy, tigger-like and charming. He even told me he'd loved reading Reaching for my Gnu, my poetry book that I'd sent him for Christmas: "Fuckin' brilliant. I couldn't put it down." Squee!
He's been giving a series of interviews and there's a lovely one he did for BBC Radio 4's Front Row that you can listen to on iPlayer.
The universe requires balance so every sublime expresson of the best of humanity has its dark side. Scummy scalpers have moved in on Wilko's farewell dates. He'd kept the price of the Camden Koko's tickets to £17.50 to give his fans the chance for one last party with him but one friend reports that five minutes after they went on sale, they were sold out. Same the next day when an extra date was added. We know that tickets are being sold on eBay and elsewhere for £165 each. Not that Wilko believes in an afterlife, but I know where these creeps will be going.
Wilko departs this world knowing he's loved, his life's account balanced and with his big soul intact. But not for months. OK. Let's party.