Picture sleeve for Dr. Feelgood's "Baby Jane" single.
Dr. Feelgood was formed in 1971 on Canvey Island, Essex, U.K. The original lineup consisted of Lee Brilleaux (lead vocals, harmonica), Wilko Johnson (lead guitar), John B. Sparks (bass guitar), and John Martin (a.k.a. “The Big Figure”, drums). The band signed with United Artists and released their first album, “Down by the Jetty”, in January 1975. Their second album, “Malpractice”, was released in October 1975, and became their first album released in the United States, as well as their first album to chart in the U.K. (peaking at #17). The band’s next album was the live “Stupidity” (1976), an album that topped the charts in the U.K., confirming their mushrooming popularity. This was followed up with “Sneakin’ Suspicion” (1977), the title track of which became their first charting single. This would be their last album with Wilko Johnson, who subsequently left the group and was replaced by Gypie Mayo. Their next album, “Be Seeing You” (1977), contained two charting singles: “She’s a Wind Up” b/w “Hi Rise” and “Baby Jane” b/w “Looking Back”. The latter is today’s featured single.
“Baby Jane”, penned by Bishop, Nesbitt, Reed, Simmons, and Wilson, is fairly typical of the band’s output: an upbeat, catchy tune anchored by a driving riff and Lee Brilleaux’s harmonica. It starts off with a guitar riff, soon joined by a punchy drum beat, as well as an organ and the abovementioned harmonica. Then Brilleaux launches into the lyrics, where he laments a lost love: “Baby Jane, what a fool I’ve been/I let you go, I cast my fate to the four winds/Baby Jane, can you forgive me now/And take away this heart of pain/That I’m living girl”. About one minute and ten seconds into the track, we get a brief but compelling instrumental break, including a great harmonica solo, before a reprise of the first verse. Brilleaux sings the song’s title repeatedly as the track fades out slowly. Nick Lowe produced this track (and the whole album), and delivers a nice, clean, radio-friendly recording. This single, unlike its predecessor, “She’s a Wind Up”, did not chart in the U.K. On September 20, 1977, Dr. Feelgood recorded a version of the song for a Peel Session, along with several other tracks.
Picture sleeve for the 12-inch release of "Baby Jane".
The B-side of the single, “Looking Back”, clocks in at a mere 1 minute and 59 seconds and is also based around a solid riff; Brilleaux’s harmonica-playing is less prominent here. In spite of its brevity, it contains a raucous 33 second-long guitar solo, which is entertaining, but what really holds the song together is the chorus of “I was looking back to see/If she was looking back to see/If I was looking back at her”. Overall this was a fun track and a worthy addition to the Dr. Feelgood catalog.
The single (catalog #: UP 36332) was released by United Artists. The 7-inch single release had a picture sleeve, and the 12-inch version had a completely different picture sleeve (also shown). The 12-inch release also had an additional track: a live version of the B.B. King-penned “You Upset Me Baby”, recorded at the Paddocks, Canvey Island, by Vic Maile with the Maison Rouge Mobile, on 10 June 1977. With Gypie Mayo as lead guitarist, the band never achieved the peak of popularity they did with Wilko Johnson; nevertheless, the band’s next album, “Private Practice”, was a moderate success, and contained their U.K. Top Ten single “Milk and Alcohol”. Gypie Mayo left the band in 1981, and was replaced by Johnny Guitar. The band’s popularity declined in the 1980s, but they continued to release albums throughout the decade, on a succession of different record labels. When the band found themselves without a record deal in the mid-1980s, Stiff Records signed them (returning a favor, as Lee Brilleaux had loaned the band’s ex-manager Andrew Jakeman 400 pounds to help launch the label). Brilleaux died of cancer in 1994, but the band reunited in 1995, the lineup then consisting of Steve Walwyn (lead guitar), P.H. Mitchell (bass guitar), Kevin Morris (drums) – all whom played together in the band from 1983 to 1989 – plus new vocalist Pete Gage. The band recommenced touring in 1996. Pete Gage was replaced by Robert Kane in 1999.