The Who, The Mods and the 60s

by Irish Jack

Irish Jack
I went to London when I was 17 years old. Re-emigrated, really. I lived in London as a child with my mum. Her and my dad were always breaking up. He was a classically trained violinist and saxaphone player but was too fond of the Guinness. We lived there while I was a year old in 1944. The bombs were dropping and half the Irish were running out of England but my old lady was running in the opposite direction. We lived in Hampstead with a bunker in the back garden. Then we went back to Cork for a few years and when I was 17, in August 1960, I re-emigrated. This time, to the centre of the universe: my beloved Shepherd's Bush. I lived in Askew Road around the corner from the Goldhawk Club. I lived with my aunt and uncle Carrie and John Sears and my cousin Janice. My aunt and uncle were very protective of me and he didn't want me hanging around the tea stalls of Shepherd's Bush Market so my uncle marched me down to the Youth Employment Centre on Shepherd's Bush Green and I started as a postboy in the London Electricity Board on 24th August, two weeks after I arrived. So my first job was as a postboy in 1960 which is the job Jimmy did in Quadrophenia. Fifty years later, I'm a postman.

"Hello Jack from Shepherd's Bush, I'm Pete from Ealing."

 In 1962, when I was 19, I went to my first ever dance with a live band (up to then I'd only been to school record shops back in Cork). My cousin Joey Wagner told me about this little dance hall called Boseleys in Faroe Road in Shepherd's Bush where they had a dance band on Saturday nights. I knew my aunt and uncle wouldn't allow me to go to a dance so I told them I was going to the Odeon in High Street Kensington. I walked across the 'Bush to Faroe Road looking like a man on a mission. My get up was a pair of winkle-picker shoes, a pair of Prince of Wales check trousers (narrow), a shirt, a collarless cardigan with wooden buttons, a white Colombo-shorty mac and, on my head, was perched the inevitable green Robin Hood hat complete with a mandatory feather.

All I was short of to complete the look of perfection was a pair of black spectacle frames a la Hank B. Marvin. ‘Cos Hank B. Marvin was bloody God at the time...long long before Eric Clapton got wind of him. So, it's 1962, May, I think, and I walk up the little steps of Boseleys and I pay three shillings and six-pence admission. I looked around the big ballroom and there were 32 people in there – 37 if you counted the band. This place was huge and the stage was colossal – you could have had your own dance on the stage! The band had elected to come down and play on the dance floor. People were jiving and doing the twist. I was standing there looking at everybody else enjoying themselves while I stood on my own, like a born loner.

At the time, I had four main complexes about myself, which had been building up inside me. I'd been working for two years as a postboy at the London Electricity Board and what I discovered as soon as I started there was that anytime someone would ask me my name, I'd say "Jackie", which is a boy's name in Ireland. But in London, I'd get a funny look and someone would say in that Cockney accent: "Jackie? No, that's a girl's name. Your name's Jack!"  So I'd be "Jack" all day at work and as soon as I'd get home my aunt would ask "How did you get on at work today, Jackie?" Trust me, I didn't know who I was. The other complex was my hair. It's gone straight and grey now ‘cos I'm in my 60s but back then when I was 19 it drove me to despair. It was like a coiled spring, as curly as Art Garfunkel. I used to dip my head in a sink of cold water and my hair would be straight for a couple of hours. My aunt was always complaining about wet towels all over the bathroom. My third complex was my height. I reckoned I was a fucking midget at five foot seven. My dad was short like a whippet and so was everyone else in my family, but I would have given anything to be six feet tall. My fourth complex was my accent. When I started at the London Electricity Board everybody started calling me "Taffy", thinking I was from Wales ‘cos the Cork accent sings. That was a big thing in my life. I remember when I went on to Corona Academy drama school in Chiswick my tutor asked me one day, "Why are you trying to sound English? You have a lovely Irish accent." I could've said, "Try speaking like that mate in the Flamingo up West," but I didn't bother. I don't think he'd have understood.

The Detours
The Detours
So, there I was standing at the side of the dance floor in this run down ballroom in Shepherd's Bush called Boseleys and wondering why in God's name I had decided to come into this place with my quad-fold complexes. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself as all loners of 19 would do and then I discovered it took as much courage to collect my coat and leave as it had taken me to come in. I was waiting for the right moment to make my exit and found myself kind of focusing on this guy in the band. The band were wearing dark funeral suits with white shirts and ties and three-cornered cardboard hankerchiefs in their top pockets. They were really very much like a kind of Shadows Mark 111 and they played everything by them and did the dance steps as well. I didn't know anything about them but discovered shortly after that they were in fact a wedding band called The Detours. The singer who looked like Cliff Richards was called Colin Dawson and he worked for a wine company. The bass player was John Entwistle who worked as a tax officer in Acton. He also played trumpet. The lead guitarist was Roger Daltrey who worked as a sheet metal apprentice in Shepherd's Bush. He also played the trombone. The drummer was Doug Sandom who worked as a brick layer in Acton. And the fifth member was Pete Townshend who played a jumbo rhythm guitar and who had just started at Ealing Art College.

This was the bloke who I found myself focusing on. He was tall. I wanted to be tall. He had straight hair. I wanted straight hair. He had a nose, or a trowel, that resembled Rembrandt's beret. I remember zeroing in on him and studying him thinking, "If I had a nose like that it would be a weapon. People would be so busy looking at it they would forget all about my name, my height, my accent and my hair. That moment has always stayed with me. It was like a piece of mystical light when I found myself looking at the real me. I couldn't wait for the dance to finish with the excitement in me. And when everyone had loped off into the night I crossed the floor to this guy with the nose and just put my hand out and declared, "Hello. I'm Jack from Shepherd's Bush."  He looked at me amused and in that funny kind of Cockney manner he said, "Hello Jack from Shepherd's Bush, I'm Pete from Ealing."  He was Pete Townshend from Ealing Common, and that was 49 years ago.

Meaden was the ace face...

So, that was 1962...but Mod for me happened a year later in the summer of 1963. There were stylists around in 1962. People like Marc Bolan – Mark Feld from Stamford Hill as he was then – did a lot of modelling in Town magazine. Early in ‘63 I'd already been to the Goldhawk Social Club to see Screaming Lord Sutch & The Savages and, of course, the early Who. They'd dropped their Cliff Richards-type singer, Colin Dawson, and Roger Daltrey had stopped playing lead guitar to concentrate on vocals. They'd decided to do this after supporting Eddie Kidd & The Pirates at St Mary's Hall in Hotham Road in Putney where I used to go on a Sunday night. When they saw the four-man power of the Pirates and Mickey Green (their lead guitarist), that's when they went from being a wedding band to a beat group. Pete Townshend had taken over lead guitar and things were beginning to look serious. By 1964, a friend of mine who was at art college with Pete (Richard Barnes, widely known as 'Barney', who had thought of the name Who and who later went on to write the MODS! book) ran the Railway Hotel in Harrow-and-Wealdstone.

The Who had a Tuesday night residency and I used to go there with my Mod friends from Hammersmith. Then Peter Meaden came along and in late June he changed the name of the band to The High Numbers but we still carried on with the residency. 

There's no doubt about it, Meaden was the ace face. You couldn't get any more Mod than him. The only thing that Peter Meaden didn't have was hair. Well, he did have hair but it was terrible. It was sort of half curly and, to be honest, not very Mod. But he was the geezer to be seen with. What I liked about him was the speed of his life – even talking to him it was like he was excited to be born. The pills made him speak like an American DJ at a hundred miles an hour – sort of clipped, and everyone was, of course, 'bay-bee'.

Goldhawk Social Club
Goldhawk Social Club
He lived his life a word, a sentence, a style, a dance step ahead of us all. He told everyone that he lived in a tiny room in Monmouth Street, which was in London WC2. And that was flash. When you asked most people where they lived, they might have said Acton and that was W3, or say, Hammersmith W6 and so on, but Meaden knew that Monmouth Street WC2 was different to everywhere else and that's what made him the ace face. He lived in a tiny cramped room, he had a sleeping bag instead of a bed, he had a filing cabinet – I mean, what did he need a filing cabinet for with nothing in it? But a filing cabinet was the thing to have if you were Peter Meaden. He had an ironing board and his prized collection of Sue records. And he had a Dansette record player and a box of tea bags and a kettle. That was all you needed back then if you were the ace face. I fell out with him on one occasion. Here's what happened: Meaden approached me one Friday night in the bar of the Goldhawk Social Club and said, "You know this new single 'I'm The Face' which we've (The High Numbers) just released? Well, I'll give you a dozen copies. You go down Shepherd's Bush Market tomorrow and if you sell them I'll give you a commission. They'll go like hot cakes."  I was already under his spell. I wasn't "Jackie" any more; this was the real me: "Jack, the local Mod."

Anyway, he gave me the dozen copies of 'I'm The Face' and the next day it was a boiling hot Saturday in July. I felt like a bit of a promoter or band manager as I took up my pitch in the middle of the market walk-through. This was a really hip thing to be doing. This was going to be a doddle. A little Mod face selling records for my friends The High Numbers. It was exhilarating and a bit like being on speed except that as the afternoon wore on, and after three hours, I still hadn't sold a single copy. Soon it went from being a hip bit of posturing to a big depression. By half-past five I had sold three copies. It was so soul destroying. I thought nobody cares, nobody bloody believes in this great band The High Numbers. When I met Meaden down the Goldhawk that Saturday night he looked positively wrecked. Not from a come down but literally out on his feet from exhaustion. He'd been all over London trying to sell the single to shops who'd mark it down as a sale and hopefully get it into the lower reaches of the chart. There were certain record shops who'd take a bribe and exaggerate your sales – that's how it worked in those days.

When I told him I'd only sold three copies in the whole afternoon, his jaw dropped. And then he buried his head in his hands when I told him the nine unsold singles were not with me but back at my aunt and uncle's flat. He asked me if I would go home and get them. I told him I couldn't but I would give them to him the following week. Then he very unwillingly handed me a little brown envelope that looked like a factory wage packet. I opened it up to discover that Peter Meaden's "commission" was not crispy English sterling notes but a supply of fucking leapers.

At the time I used to keep all my Who flyers and posters in my bedroom. My aunt Carrie was always going on about not tidying my room, so as soon as I'd usually hear her approach armed with her feather duster I'd scoop everything off the floor and hide it down the back of my uncle's piano, which was strategically placed at the bottom of my bed. I'd usually remember to retrieve everything after she'd gone, but on this occasion I forgot.

A week later, I got home from work and headed into my bedroom to change my clothes. In the corner was a big space where the piano used to be. I walked into the kitchen and asked aunt Carrie what happened to the piano. She looked at me and said, "Oh listen, uncle John is going to be so pleased when he comes home..."  I looked at her a bit speechless as she continued, "a rag and bone man called this afternoon and took away the piano, so now we'll have room for uncle John's new electric organ".  I was dumbfounded. Stuck down the back of the piano were dozens of flyers for The High Numbers and the earlier Who now worth a small fortune AND nine mint copies of 'I'm The Face' on the Fontana label. Jesus wept! Meaden was convinced I'd sold all the singles and conned him out of his money. He didn't speak to me for ages after that. So that's what happened. Steptoe & Son had a bloody field day.

Being a 60s Mod…

Back then, what was regarded as bad table manners was turning up at a dance wearing a Parka if you didn't own a scooter. It was unthinkable. There might have been the exceptions that did it to try and get off with a girl by giving her the impression they could drive her home on their scooter. But it was a practice frowned upon. And Parkas didn't have anything written on the back, none of that happened until about '78 or '79. And we didn't wear any badges either. We were a pure styled movement. I think what's really a bit silly in retrospect is how the original Mod history seems to have got appendages over the years, like the Avengers for instance – they had nothing to do with Mod. And James Bond – all that is “designer” Mod.

We appear to be fascinated by the 60s, but nobody talks about the '70s or '80s. Yet the 60s seem to be an epoch with so many different reference points – in many ways, it appears to have been the longest decade we've lived through. Somebody says to me, “Do you remember the 60s?” And it's like, “Hang on, what part are you talking about? Are you talking about Woodstock '69? ‘66 when England won the World Cup? ‘63 when President Kennedy was shot and we had the Cuban missile crisis? Or ‘62 when I met the Detours?” Whenever one of my kids starts asking me, "Dad, what's all this about the 60s?" I just have to smile and say, “which part of the 60s do you mean?” You could say that the Mod era lasted from '63 to '65, maybe it dipped into '66, but I was still walking around dressed up as a Mod in '67. I've got this great love inside me for the Small Faces. I don't know why but way back then they were regarded as The Who's rivals, yet Ronnie Lane who I got to know was a huge admirer of Pete Townshend and The Who. I just wish the Small Faces were still around. If you listen to their music, some of it is so old English music hall – almost a backdrop to Charles Dickens’ Fagin and all his little pickpockets earning their keep in the East End markets. Without the Small Faces a lot of things wouldn't have happened. I've got a commissioned piece called 'History' in Paolo Hewitt's book The Sharper Word and I'm so proud of that.

Getting back to the Mods: they lived on the edge. Mods were effeminate, girls in a way became a bit more masculine. You had to have a certain amount of effeminacy to be a Mod. I didn't have a problem with that. I did have a problem with sex – I wasn't very good at it. I always lacked confidence. I could talk to a girl all night as long as it was about being a Mod or about Pete Townshend. But when it came to ABC sex, I was terrified. I couldn't do it.

Irish Jack with Maureen
Irish Jack with Maureen
Whenever I meet young Mods today they seem to have a batch of target questions for me. And some of them are, I dunno, disappointed? Surprised? When I tell them that I wasn't at Brighton. It's like if you weren't at Brighton on that appointed day on May 17 1964 then you couldn't have been a genuine Mod. And that is very ridiculous. It's true that most of the young Mods I meet are more interested in WHY I wasn't at Brighton, and the reason why is a lot more interesting than not being there. Brighton?... Of course I wasn't at Brighton. I was doing a much better thing. All those poor blokes trying to keep warm in damp sleeping bags on the beach? I was at Penge with this adorable girl trying to get her in between the sheets. Her parents had gone away for the weekend and I'd gone over there with a stack of blues albums under my arm and a few bottles of brown ale thinking “paradise, here I come!” I felt sorry for some of my mates from the Goldhawk Club who told me they were heading for Brighton and there I was with this fantastic looking girl. I'd been there for about two hours and everything was looking promising, as they say. Then the phone in the hallway erupted into life and it was her old man to say their caravan had been kicked to shit, and her parents were on their way back. That moment ruined everything. She became very concerned about her parents and I just felt like a spectator to this unraveling tragedy. I went into a kind of sulk and didn't speak for a while. She switched the telly on and there were news reports about all the trouble in Brighton. I was sitting there watching it and I thought, "Fuck me, what am I doing here? I should be down there with my friends."  Me going over to Penge, now that was what an ace face did. Only it didn't work out for me as planned. And anyway, a real ace face thought more of his suit and brogues than getting into a soppy fight. And a real ace face wouldn't dream of sleeping on the beach at Brighton. He would've booked himself into the Grand Hotel and ordered a carton of leapers for breakfast.

As soon as I left her house that night, I knew she wouldn't speak to me again. I was devastated. So bad that I jumped the ticket barrier and rode all the way up to Hammersmith without a ticket. When I got to the ticket collector it was some old codger looking really pissed off ‘cos he had to work on the Bank Holiday. I proffered sixpence into his hand. He looked at me and asked, "Where'd you get on mate?" I said the first place that came into my head, "West Brompton."  He looked at me with a sneer and said, "That's strange, ‘cos West Brompton's usually closed on Sundays."  I looked at him and just made a run for it. I got to the exit and turned round at shouted back at him like a madman, "Brighton, mate. That's where I got on... fucking Brighton!" Then with half a dozen blues albums under me arm I ran like the romantic idiot I have always been down Shepherd's Bush Road. The helpless dancer. Is it me for a moment?

Kit Lambert christens me "Irish Jack"

Kit Lambert
Kit Lambert

Yes, Kit Lambert christened me "Irish Jack". The band were actually calling me "Irish Jack" before I became aware of it. My first experience of being called "Irish Jack" was in the bar at the Goldhawk Club. Some geezer came up to me and asked: "Are you 'Irish Jack?’" "Yeah," I said, "I'm Irish."  Then he turned to his friend and said, "There y'are, I told you he was "Irish Jack". I was listening in to this so I said to the geezer, "I thought you told me your name was Tom? I didn't know you were Jack?"  The geezer looked at me like I had two heads. "You taking the piss?" he asked. We were staring back at each other and there was a bit of tension. Then Kit Lambert came up and said, "Irish Jack, will you hand out some flyers for me?" I said okay and then suddenly the penny dropped. I was Irish and my name was Jack. So I was "Irish Jack".  Kit Lambert was a hero of mine but again, like Meaden, his hair was terrible. Chris Stamp had fantastic hair, like something out of Brideshead Revisited. Lambert was intense. I knew he was homosexual but I was raised by broad-minded parents.

I'd seen Kit Lambert become the butt-end of a lot of homophobic jokes and snide comments ‘cos some of the Goldhawk lot could be unmerciful. But Lambert had a tongue like a rapier and I'd seen him cut a lot of people down to size. He was no pushover and he had a command of the English language: he'd use certain words and make an image become real. He was the son of the English composer, Constant Lambert, and his godmother was the famous ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn. He also went to Trinity at Oxford. When I used to be in Townshend's company during that time I'd be in awe of him. Even before he was anyone and attending Ealing art college he was my hero. When I met him I knew straight away that I wanted to be just like him. I loved him as a person. I would've given anything to be tall like him with straight hair and playing a Rickenbacker guitar in the only band that ever mattered. Townshend was the whole reason the earth revolved on its axis. But Kit Lambert's homosexuality scared me. And the more he scared me the more I liked it, ‘cos I loved that edge.

The first time The Who went on Ready Steady Go, Townshend asked me if I wanted a couple of tickets. My friend from the White City estate, Joey Bitton, called up to the studio and Pete got him in. Kit Lambert had handed out quite a few to as many Mods as he knew. The trouble with Ready Steady Go was that you had to be there in the studio for the afternoon dance rehearsal and that meant you had to bunk off from work. Well, I was a clerk filing bloody legal papers in Kensington Square. It was a very snooty Victorian building and I was Mod from head to toe, I loved it and the pay was good. I thought about phoning in sick for the day but remembered that a friend of mine who worked as a shipping clerk did exactly that and when Ready Steady Go burst on the screen at one minute past six on the Friday night there's the bloody cleaner goggle-eyed watching him doing the Monkey with Mickey Tenner. When the poor geezer went into work Monday morning it was all over the job that he'd been seen dancing his socks off with somebody who looked like a male model. I didn't want that to happen to me so I took a deep breath and watched half the Goldhawk Club on the TV waving scarves around and almost taking over The Who's stage.

Maximum R&B at the Marquee

We started our residency at the Marquee at 90 Wardour Street on Tuesday November 24th 1964, supported by a small band called The Sneekers. We had been The High Numbers since July 3 up to October 28 . In the space of two weeks, Peter Meaden got paid off in the Intrepid Fox bar on Wardour Street and Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert secured a Tuesday night residency at the Marquee: up to then on a Tuesday night there had been jazz with Dick Charlesworth Big Blues. On Wednesday November 18 we were back to The Who and played at Wolsey Hall in Cheshunt. Word had got round the Goldhawk Club that the band had got a residency at the Marquee. Everyone was gob-smacked at this news ‘cos the Marquee was the complete opposite to the Flamingo and the Scene club.

We had already done a Wednesday night residency at the Scene Club for a few weeks, but the Marquee: it wasn't a place for Mods, no way. It was full of long-haired CND beatniks who listened to Johnny Dankworth and the Dick Morrissey Quartet. The Marquee was run under the strict guidelines of the National Jazz Federation and – horror of horrors – it ended at 11pm sharp, and had no bar. And you had to fucking behave in there. You had to go up to the Ship at the interval if you wanted to have a glass of brown ale. Anyway, on Tuesday November 24 1964, I met my two Mod friends: the brothers Martin and Lee Gaish from Riverside Gardens, at Hammersmith tube station. As far as I can remember, it was pissing out of the heavens and I had walked down the King Street like a drowned rat. My socks were wet and my hair was plastered to my face and impossible. We met and looked at each other as if to say, “Shall we bother?” Then Martin whined, "We have to go, we've promised Kit we'll be there." We arrived at the Marquee to find it deserted. In the hallway stood a forlorn Kit Lambert next to the admission desk. Inside the desk was a toff geezer called John Gee in a suit that meant business. Across from the desk and leaning against the wall was a huge bouncer. I can still see those moments to this day. On the table was a mound of Maximum R&B black-and-white posters which was later included in the 'Live At Leeds' sleeve. Next to the posters were these little concession cards, like birthday-card size, with an image of Townshend's nose all over Wardour Street. They looked arty, flash and so bloody creative. They'd been designed in Soho and of course most striking of all was the arrow sitting on the “o” in “Who”.

I couldn't believe that anybody could be so inventive, artistic and dangerous. AND in classic black-and-white. I mean, no other band anywhere had anything like these, not the Stones nor the Beatles. And it was these little two-shillings and six-pence (2/6) concession cards that myself, Martin Gaish and his brother Lee had promised Kit Lambert we would hand out to the public to try and coax people into the Marquee. The rain lashed down outside and it looked like it was going to be a disastrous opening night. Nobody spoke, we just watched the door to see if anyone, anyone at all, would push it open and come into the Marquee. Suddenly, the door was pushed back and three well dressed Mods sauntered in, looking around them at the black-and-white striped wall (which were Marquee themed colours – same as the stage background). They walked a bit unsurely, right up to the admission desk. The first two paid the required five shillings admission. While the third was waiting he noticed the small concession cards on the table and asked, "Can I have one of these?" Anxious to help, I said, "Yeah, sure," and handed him the card. He stepped up to the pay box and John Gee in his effeminate, managerial manner said, "That'll be five shillings please, young man." The guy looked at him and said, "No. It's only two-and-six with this, innit?" John Gee looked at Kit Lambert and Lambert looked at me with a not-very-pleased expression on his face. I had just cost him two-shillings-and-sixpence on the opening night when every penny would count to pay the band and cover expenses. I felt like such an idiot. Kit took this to his immediate advantage. He handed out 50 of each of the cards to the brothers Martin and Lee Gaish and said, "I want you to stand outside the club and just hand out these to people." I picked up another 50 from the table and said, "Will I do the same, Kit?"  He said, "No, Jack. I want you to go up to Oxford Street and hand them out, bound to be plenty of Mods up there."

Irish Jack
Irish Jack

The Gaish brothers were outside huddled in a doorway sheltering from the rain. I walked up Wardour Street like a lunatic trying to keep 50 concession cards dry inside my jacket, head down, my hair impossible and plastered to my face and half in ecstasy, half in a foul mood that here I was helping out the only band that ever mattered, the only band that meant anything to me, and I knew that Kit Lambert was already taking me for granted. When I reached Oxford Street there weren't very many people around – not even tourists. I handed out some of the cards to people who just glanced at them and carried on unimpressed. Presently, two Mod girls came up and I handed them each a card. "What's this then?" they asked. "It's a concession card for the Marquee. If you go along with this you'll be able to see The Who for just two-and-six instead of five bob."  One of them opened it out and said, "Oh look, Kath, The Who!" The other girl looked and said, "Blimey, look at the size of that bloke's nose. Is that on tonight then?" "Yeah," I said, "But you'll have to hurry before the concession ends." One of the girls looked at me inquiringly. "Are you their manager?" I hesitated, and in a flash had the answer: "Sort of. Well, ASSOCIATE!"  I had hit the word “associate” like a spitfire from Oxford. There wasn't a trace of my Irish accent – that had been well buried. "Tell you what," I said, "my other associate's down in the foyer of the Marquee. His name's Kit. Tell him I sent you down and you're to get in for free." The girls hurried off down to the Marquee. The rain was running inside my collar and down my back but I might as well have been on a sun-kissed island for all I cared. I took another look at the concession cards and put two into my inside pocket. One to carry everywhere with me, the other for my bedroom wall. I was soaked to the bone but I was a fucking face handing out these brilliantly designed cards. "Yes", I thought, "Lambert had used me alright and probably would do so again but he was a fucking genius – and that was the difference. Paid? Who'd want to be paid for this? I could think of a hundred Mods who'd give their right arm just to stand here in the pissing rain and hand out cards for a band like The Who. My payment was the “edge” I just experienced telling two Mod girls I was Kit Lambert's “associate”. And as for the claim “associate”, I wondered, would I have the bottle to face Kit when I returned to the Marquee?

When I eventually did, there was no sign of Martin and Lee Gaish. The crafty beggars had got shot of their cards and were now drying themselves off and enjoying a coke inside. I could hear The Who from the door the way you do when you know from the echo that the place is half empty. My heart sank. I walked up to the admission desk where Kit Lambert was talking to the bouncer. The bouncer continued talking but eyed me and, realising I hadn't paid, put his arm out and stopped me. Lambert turned around and when he realised it was me, he said, "Oh, he's ok. He's one of my eh..." "ASSOCIATES!" I practically spat the word. The bouncer stood down and Lambert looked at me in surprise with a knowing look on his face. If anything, he was sussed with a cool sense of irony. I thought Kit was going to tell the bouncer that I was one of his band helpers but I had stopped him in his tracks. I'd found the bottle alright. Found it more from anger than anything else. And Kit had recognized it. I was even with him and he knew it.

He followed me through to the dance floor where all 30 lost souls of the audience were gathered in a miserable knot watching The Who's opening night at the Marquee. "Coffee, Jack? You must be soaking?"  Lambert placed his hand on my shoulder and I felt nervous. And instead of saying something like, "Have you got a job in the office for me, Kit?" the bottle I had five minutes earlier totally deserted me and I said rather meekly, "They didn't take too long to get rid of..." "What didn't take too long to get rid of?" he said. Lambert's train of thought was obviously focused on a more personal nature. "The concession cards, Kit. You sent me up to Oxford Street." "Yes, yes, of course I did."  I thought I might as well ask: "Did two Mod girls come in, Kit?" Lambert looked back at me holding a cup of coffee in one hand and a saucer in another with an attracting degree of delicacy. "Yes, I met them." He looked at me and smiled. Neither of us said anything for a few moments, then Lambert said quietly, "Associate??" I ignored it and asked, "Did you let them in?" "Of course not, they paid like everyone else." "Whaaat?" I replied, in surprise. "Only joking," Lambert laughed, "Yes, I let them in for free," before adding, "I like your sense of humour, very Irish, Jack." I looked back at Kit Lambert – there was something about him that I instinctively liked. He was articulate, spoke like the BBC, he had a command of the English language that I would never attain. I was aware of his homosexuality, and I was nervous.

Chris Stamp had style as well but was straight and an East End geezer from Plaistow. Like Lambert, he was more cool than face but was always chasing skirt. As I stood trying my best to make small talk with Lambert it occurred to me that in the space of a single evening we had established an unspoken camaraderie, almost a pact. But I was chicken and I had to run. In the few weeks that followed, the Gaish brothers and I continued to hand out concession cards and run around with posters. As more and more people began to come into the Marquee in the following weeks it occurred to me that the compact size of the club with its black-and-white striped theme colours and, of course, its jazz-inspired surroundings was inch perfect for The Who. The tiny stage suggested a kind of avant-garde West End Revue.

John Entwistle
John Entwistle
Each Tuesday night John Gee, the Marquee manager, would appear on stage in a dark suit and bow-tie to introduce The Who in his posh tones. And then they came on and they’d hit your ears with an assault called 'Heatwave' by Martha & The Vandellas and James Brown's 'I Don't Mind'. Townshend windmilling and spearing the neck of his Rickenbacker into a Marshall speaker, falsetto chorus lines and feedback like chamber music in the middle of an air raid. Daltrey, whacking his tambourine off the mike stand in his pullover with a black diamond on the front, Moon's facial expressions and huge eyes popping and his 16 pairs of hands and Entwistle... oh yes, Johnny Entwistle, looking like he'd prefer to be anywhere else. Nobody watched him of course yet he was the driver of this runaway train. Yes, this was the hippest act in Soho. This was Maximum R&B at its best. We even had a single in the charts and we were still playing Tuesday nights at the Marquee. The first night that the really big crowd turned up I couldn't believe the length of the queue as it snaked down Wardour Street. I still had my prized concession card in my inside pocket. The whole thing sent a tingle up my spine. It was like someone in your family had become famous. I just felt so proud to be part of all that.

This work is the copyright of Irish Jack and Zani Media. The article originally appears in ZANI online magazine and photographs are from Jack's private collection. The views expressed are purely those of the author and are not attributable to any other person or institution.

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