Old Friends Are Best

GS scooter

(by Irish Jack)
Irish Jack

Back in the old Goldhawk Club days in Shepherd's Bush where I grew up, I used to know a local Mod called Jez Clifford. He wasn't exactly a hard man like some had to be in those days when sometimes a man's reputation was the size of his fists. Jez Clifford was smooth. He never believed in pitching himself head first into a frazzle if he could avoid it. Something to do with not wanting to get his suit ruined or his Italian racing shoes scuffed in the kickin'.

In many ways Jez Clifford was the envy of a lot of Mods who frequented the Goldhawk Club on Friday and Saturday nights, the Scene Club Wednesday nights, the Marquee Tuesday nights, and the Crawdaddy in Richmond Sunday nights (we didn't get around much, did we?) Envied by a lot of Mods because Jez, y'see, apart from being blessed with Terence Stamp good looks and pulled like nobody could compete: Jez was the proud owner of one of the best kept scooters in Hammersmith. A mouth watering Vespa 160. Honest, there was a shine from that little Italian hair dryer it would've walked into a part in Cleopatra. It was like a Roman chariot.

Now, Jez had a dad made in heaven. He and Jez went down to the traders, signed the hire purchase agreement, Jez walked out with a beam plastered all over his good looking mush and with dad in tow together they walked into the Builders Arms in King Street for a quick one. It was lunch hour and I happened to be in there on a break from work, eating a cheese roll and drinking half a Watneys Brown. Jez was a mate of mine but I thought it was so unfair to have brilliant hair, amazing clothes, the new owner of a glorious chariot....and the sometimes boyfriend of Jeanette. Did I mention Jeanette? Oh my God! Jeanette! She was Mod girl personified. I have spoken about her in some of my public readings and she is the girl that Pete Townshend part-based Quadrophenia on besides myself, others too were involved even if in Pete's words, I have become the main protagonist.

Jeanette was a bit of a tom-boy. She went everywhere with our little Mod set, and sometimes the fact people would stare at what was obviously the only girl in a group of boys, it didn't trouble her. It was difficult to embarrass Jeanette. Naturally we all went out with her at various times but always she would be part of our set. She took a strong liking to my mate Martin Gaish, got tired of him and then moved on to his brother Lee. After that it was Peter Campbell. Then me. By the time she had gone through us four it was time to move further into the favours of the extended set. Alan Bull was next and then Jeanette had a crack at Joey Bitton from the White City estate. (She didn't get around much, did she?)

As soon as Jez Clifford picked up his Vespa 160 GS and was showing it to everybody who didn't really want to see it, Jeanette had reawakened the hormones that women do reawaken when usually they take a renewed interest in someone. 'Oh, you got a 160. I thought you were getting the 150 type?', this extremely female piece of whispered choreography was purred toward Jez whilst a group of us were on the tube heading for the Marquee. The recently usurped Martin Gaish glanced at me in suspicion of Jeanette's sudden detailed knowledge on the Vespa scooter. Then it dawned on me why Jeanette had been cross-examining me the previous weekend about the particular viscosity of the classic Vespa. Women ! Will us men ever learn?

Jez was proud as Punch on the new bike. Spots, wing mirrors, gleaming crash-bars, rabbit-tail aerial, it just made the mouth water. It had never bothered me before that I hadn't owned a scooter. I was one of those Mods who lived, ate, slept and dreamed Pete Townshend, the Who, and Steve and Ronnie Lane of the Small Faces. A mate of Townshend's as I was, every time I spotted Jez on his gleaming chariot I felt a quiver of envy. Not only could Jez handle a scooter he could also actually bloody fix it ! With me I wouldn't know a spark plug from me elbow, as they say. But give me a carton of leapers and I'll bloody write a Who song for yer..bay-beeee!

A few weeks later I got a phone call from Martin Gaish. He wanted to have a chat about something too important to mention on the phone. It sounded ominous, and I worried that he might have contracted a venereal disease whilst sitting on the toilet bowl at Hammersmith Broadway. I met him in the Builders Arms and it was like something out of James Bond's MI5. He got two halves of Brown in and began to tell me that he couldn't get Jeanette out of his mind. I wanted to say 'Neither can I, mate' but listened as he unhatched his plan. It was just before a trip to Hastings which all of the set was going on by scooter and well kitted out with leapers. Martin told me he would be out of his mind being there at the thought of Jez sharing a sleeping bag with Jeanette. So the idea was to separate Jeanette from Jez..not easy, considering his good looks and, of course, the new scooter.

I don't know if Martin ever went on to work for MI5 (I think he's a silk screen designer in Epsom now) but I have to say that the plan was a masterpiece.... On the Friday afternoon of the long weekend I would ring Jez and inform him that I had been speaking to Pete Townshend about him (which actually I had!) and had been telling Pete about Jez's brand new Vespa 160 GS (not a 150, definitely a 160 !) and Pete, who owned a Lincoln Continental convertible had told me he was very interested in learning to ride a proper scooter..(note the carefully placed words 'proper scooter'). I made the call to Pete, then when I told Jez that Pete "might, just might" let him have a drive off his Lincoln Continental, Jez let out a well known expletive and immediately almost dropped the phone in shock.

I told Jez how to get up to Pete Townshend's top floor apartment in Brewer Street off Wardour Street. He sounded like he couldn't wait to get up there. The reader will have to appreciate we didn't have mobile phones back then, and just as well. I phoned Martin Gaish and he was rubbing his hands in delight at the prospect of he, and not Jez, sharing a sleeping bag with Jeanette at Hastings. Well..as these things usually happen.. in fact, nobody shared a two-in-one with the lovely Jeanette in Hastings - because as soon as Jez told her that he was heading up to Pete Townshend's apartment, he of The Who, to drive his Lincoln Continental around Soho nobody stood a chance. Not even Jez. And to this day I feel slightly ashamed that I did the diLincoln Continentalrty on my friend Jez Clifford and used an old and loyal friend, Pete, in a plot that backfired. Human nature being what it is; we weren't surprised to hear Jeanette boast some time later that she was actually going out with Pete Townshend ..'for about a week'.

Irish Jack

I know Jack would love to hear any feedback on this article. You can comment on the article in the forum here or I will pass on any messages to him using the contact address.

'Irish Jack' is one of the mods from the Goldhawk Social Club in West London, where The Who first built up their mod following. His name has been associated with the band ever since and he has, over the years, shared stories of his life and times with audiences all over the world. Jack is very kindly sharing part of the story of his involvement in the Quadrophenia story here. You can also find many more stories from the great man on his site:Irish Jack's site