EDITION 163 SEPTEMBER 1999 £2.70
By kind permission of the Editor & Publisher of Scootering magazine, Stuart Lanning; Irish Jacks exclusive and extensive interview with Scootering music editor, Mark Sargeant which appeared in the September 99 issue is featured here. Irish Jack would like to thank most sincerely Stuart Lanning and Mark Sargeant for their kind cooperation in allowing this interview to appear on his web site.
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Teenagers in the Fifties discovered both independence and identidy. Compulsory call up for National Service, a disposable income and the arrival of Rock n Roll as an alternative to the middle of the road, safe and accessible music that had been the staple diet for mass consumption. Teddy Boys were the result. As the 50s became the 60s, the Teds evolved. Those with a taste for Rock n Roll music and leaning towards all things American became Rockers, complete with greased hair and greasy motorcycles. While alternatively, others wanting to move forward, and with a penchant for style and clothes, became Mods. The rest is history.
Richard Barnes book MODS! first published in 79, right on cue for the Mod Revival, provided archive photographs, newspaper cuttings, along with other period archive reproductions. Johnny Moke and Jan Mc Veigh provided assistance in the compilation of the book. As for the text, maybe it wasnt definitive, but it was an accurate snapshot of the early 60s Mods Scene, by people who were there. On page 125 is a paragraph referring to a West London based Mod by the name of Irish Jack. The book credits him with originating the term chewing gum weekends in reference to the 60s Mods hectic lifestyle, and use of certain substances to ensure they missed nothing.
Irish Jack was, and indeed is, an influence both directly and surreptitiously, in a substantial amount of things in and around the Mod scene from 62 until right now. A personal friend of The Who, specifically Pete Townshend, Irish Jack was the subject matter for several of The Whos songs. Also, the character Jimmy in Quadrophenia was based on him. He also co-wrote The Who Concert File with an American Who fan, Joe McMichael. In more recent times, he has been performing readings about his Mod memoirs. In an exclusive interview with Irish Jack Lyons in his hometown of Cork, Southern Ireland, the information we had on him only just scratched the surface.
Of all the weekends to pick to meet Irish Jack it was one of the Irish football meetings between Cork and local rivals Kerry. Needless to say, Cork was teeming with people in town, making a weekend of it. Up until then Id never met Irish Jack, so by phone we arranged to meet in a bar called The Roundy. Although Id never seen him before, Irish Jack was unmistakable. Resplendent in a sharp two-piece suit, with a Fred Perry style polo shirt, Jack, with one hand holding a pint of Murphys, the other in the time honoured tradition of Mod style, thrust into his jacket pocket. After a few drinks we decided on the itinerary for the weekend, and met up the following morning on one of Corks many bridges. We headed off for one of Corks hostelries for what turned into a revealing, captivating, marathon interview session.
who are you
For chronologys sake, the start point was how Irish Jack first met up with The Who.
I went to London when I was seventeen. I re-emigrated. I had lived there as a child with my mum. My mum and dad were always breaking up. My dad was a musician, but a musician with an alcohol problem. In 1943, when I was six months old, everyone was running out of London cos the bombs were dropping. But my old lady, God bless her, was running in the opposite direction, heading for London with me under her arm. So if theres a chink of madness in me Ive got from my old lady. We lived in Hampstead with an air raid shelter in the back garden. Ive got very cloudy memories of my childhood, I cant remember it very vividly. You know, what really pisses me off is when people say they can relate back to when they were three years old. How could anyone?
So, I re-emigrated back to London when I was seventeen. I went to live with my aunt Carol and uncle John in Shepherds Bush. My uncle was a bit over protective towards me getting into mischief and one of the first things he did was march me down to the local Youth Employment Centre and I got a job with the London Electricity Board on Shepherds Bush Green. I started off in the post room in August 1960 - and thirty nine years later, right?, I am now a postman! I started my career as an office post boy - which is the job Jimmy had in Quadrophenia - and now Im a postman. So back then, from post boy I graduated up the ladder to the commercial department where I became a much more important filing clerk!
In 1962, when I was nineteen, I went to my first ever proper dance. Id never been to a dance with a live band playing. Up to then, Id only been to what we used to call record hops. So my cousin Joey told me about this dance hall in Shepherds Bush called Boseleys. I told my aunt and uncle I was going to the pictures and I went along to this place called Boseleys. It was a Saturday night and I paid about three shillings and sixpence to get in (seventeen and a half new pence). There were about thirty two people in this place - thirty seven if you counted the band! The place was huge. The stage was colossal, you could have held the dance on the stage, is was so big. To make things more intimate, the band had elected to come down and play in the middle of the dance floor. People jiving and doing the Twist - the only two dances around at the time. The whole thing kind of resembled a wagon train under Indian attack what with the band playing in the middle of the floor and the dancers twisting and jiving around the outside.
I was standing there on the deserted side of the floor watching everybody else enjoying themselves. At the time, I had four main complexes about myself, and theyd been steadily building up inside me. Id been working for two years now and was still at the London Electricity Board. But what I had discovered when I re-emigrated to London was that although Id been christened John, my mum had always called me Jackie - which was a boys name back in Cork. But as soon as I started in the Electricity Board, someone would ask me my name, Id say, Jackie. Then theyd give me that Cockney stare and say, Oh, no. Youre Jack. Jackies a girls name, mate. So Id go through the whole working day telling myself that I was Jack, and then after work return to my aunt and uncles council flat and my aunt would say something like How did you get on today, Jackie? The other complex was my accent. People used to think that I was from Wales you see, because the Cork accent tends to sing a bit, very much like the Welsh accent. Id try to tell someone what Id been up to over the weekend and in the classic style Id start the story in the middle, get to the end and finish up with the beginning. The Irish have a special way of telling a story. The other two complexes that also kept me awake at night was my height and my hair. Id always wanted to be tall but I stopped short at five foot seven. And my hair, I used to hate it cos it made me look like Art Garfunkel. Its gone straight, now that Im kind of old and grey, but back then it really was quite curly and of course everyone told me how lucky I was to have curls, real natural curls. But I used to cry at night over it when I was growing up. The first time I ever saw a photo of George Harrison, I knew I wanted fucking hair like that. I used to spend most of time with my head dipped into a basin of cold water, then Id enjoy an hour or so of the luxury of straight hair. My hair became a huge thing with me. These four complexes were the realest things in my life the night I walked into this dance hall called Boseleys.
So, like I said, there I was, standing all on my own on one side of the dance floor looking across at everybody else enjoying themselves. I was looking at this band playing called The Detours. They were a wedding band, this was long before they got on the ladder. There was five in the band; Roger on lead guitar and trombone, not even singing. Pete was playing rhythm guitar, still just about learning to play then. John was on bass guitar and trumpet. The singer was a guy called Colin Dawson who did Cliff Richard impressions and the drummer was Doug Sandom, who looked about ten years older than the rest. This was long before Keith Moon joined. They played a lot of traditional jazz, country material and a lot of stuff by The Shadows. The Detours were dressed in funeral suits and also did special formation steps just like The Shadows. Anyway, I was standing there feeling very much on my own and wondering why the fuck I had decided to come in here in the first place; I felt everyone at the other side of the floor was looking at me wondering who I was because they obviously knew each other the way they were grouped. And now I discover that it takes as much courage to leave as it took to come in. I thought, I have to get out of here, so I waited for the song to end and while Im waiting it occurred to me that Id been focussing my attentions on one of the guys in the band who had a very long nose. I dunno, there was something about him. In a way, he fitted the image of the person I was trying to be, wanted to be, aspired to be. He was tall - I wanted to be tall. He had straight hair - I wanted straight hair. He had a classic face and was playing a guitar, and I thought Jesus Christ, hes probably even got a girlfriend! That moment was like a piece of mystical light, in a way. I waited until the dance was over and the band were packing away their instruments. Then I sort of sauntered across to them and I went up to this bloke with the nose and said something like..My names Jack, and Im from Shepherds Bush. I certainly didnt say my name was Jackie. The bloke looked at me a bit odd for a second then he stuck his hand out and said, Im Pete from Ealing, and that was it. That was the start of it. Those were the first words in the book of life between us, and from there on we became friends.
That night I was dressed in a pair of Italian winkle picker shoes; red and white striped socks; skin tight Prince of Wales dog-tooth trousers; a cardigan with wooden buttons and a white shorty mac - like Colombos. And on my head was a green Robin Hood hat with the mandatory feather stuck in the side. Those clothes was the on going style at the time and believe me, I didnt look a bit unusual. The only thing I wasnt wearing which would have accomplished my full rig out was a pair of black framed spectacles. Ones like Hank B. Marvin of the Shadows wore. He was God at the time, long before Eric Clapton had his name sprayed on walls. Hank B. Marvin was a cult geezer and fellows in and around London were going into public libraries and nicking black framed spectacles and pushing out the lenses. From the other side of the street no one could tell whether a geezer was wearing genuine glasses, or not. When I met Pete that night he didnt introduce me to the others in the band, that came later. I looked at him and then over at them and I realised that none of them was wearing the black framed spectacles.
side vents, five inches long
An indepth story in itself. What was it like being a Mod in London in the early 60s. How was it really as opposed to distortion in time? I had nine copies of Im The Face and dozens of what are now pretty valuable band pamphlets. I heard my aunt coming to clean my room so I dumped the lot down the back of the piano, as usual. Only for some reason I never got round to retrieving them. When I saw Meaden down the Goldhawk Club that night he looked absolutely fucked. Hed been everywhere that Saturday trying to promote the band in all the different record shops. He believed in The High Numbers more than they did themselves. When I told him Id only managed to sell three copies of the record his face fell, and when I told him the other nine copies were back in my bedroom his jaw dropped. He said, Cant you go home and get them? I said, Cmon, Ill definitely have em next week. I never did and we fell out over that. About a fortnight later I came home from work one day, went in my bedroom to change and theres this big space in the room where the piano used to be. I walked into the kitchen and my aunt told me theyd given it to some rag and bone merchant, she said my uncle was investing in an electric organ. I went back into my bedroom, sat on the bed and worried about what Peter Meaden - the ace face, the manager of the best Mod band anywhere - was gonna say. And thats where those priceless High Numbers flyers and nine copies, NINE copies of Im The Face ended up. Fucking Steptoe & Son got em!
The incident Im talking about occurred in 1962 but Mod didnt happen until, say, the summer of 63. There were stylists around in 1962 - certainly not people dressed like me; people like Marc Bolan who was really Mark Feld from Stamford Hill. People like him got attached to the historical Mod page cos he appeared wearing his stylist clothes in Town magazine, which was a very hip thing to do. As the years go by and people look back they tend to do a lot of appendaging, you know, like attaching things to a culture that never really belonged in the first place. Things didnt always necessarily happen the way theyre remembered, or might like to be remembered.
An old friend of mine who went to art college with Pete Townshend, was a fellow called Richard Barnes (Barney) - he wrote the book MODS! Hes the guy who thought up the name The Who. He ran the Railway Club in Harrow & Wealdstone. The Who had a Tuesday night residency there and they started the residency as The Who and finished it as The High Numbers. After a couple weeks of being there Pete Meaden turned up from nowhere and he was the ace face. The top geezer. He became the manager and changed the name of the band to The High Numbers. The only thing he didnt have was good hair. His hair was awful. Cut short of course, and neat yes, but kind of dead. He had hair like I never wanted. Meadens hair was awful but he was still THE geezer. It was image and style with him. What I liked about him was the speed of his life, even talking to him you felt, he was excited to be born.
I fell out with him, actually. He came up to me in the bar at the Goldhawk Social Club, and says, You know that single Im The Face? Ill give you a dozen copies, you go down Shepherds Bush Market and sell em. Ill give you a commission. I was already under his spell. I wasnt Jackie any more, I was Jack! So when I first met Meaden and saw the speed of his life, you couldnt but be impressed by him. Anyway, he gave me a dozen copies of Im The Face and off I went down Shepherds Bush Market the next day, Saturday. It was a hot July afternoon and I stood there for three and a half hours. It was exhilerating to start with, it was flash, a little Mod face selling a single recorded by his friends, but gradually the big high turned into a big depression. In the entire afternoon I sold just three copies and I thought, nobody knows about them, nobody cares about The High Numbers.
Back in my aunt and uncles place in Askew Road, my aunt was always giving me stick about the state of my bedroom. My uncle John used to keep his piano in there. I used to keep these flyers for the band on top of the piano and at the end of my bed. So whenever I heard my aunt on the way to my room armed with her feather duster, I used to scoop everything up and dump it out of sight down the back of the piano. I always made sure Id retrieve everything later.
I had nine copies of Im The Face and dozens of what are now pretty valuable band pamphlets. I heard my aunt coming to clean my room so I dumped the lot down the back of the piano, as usual. Only for some reason I never got round to retrieving them. When I saw Meaden down the Goldhawk Club that night he looked absolutely fucked. Hed been everywhere that Saturday trying to promote the band in all the different record shops. He believed in The High Numbers more than they did themselves. When I told him Id only managed to sell three copies of the record his face fell, and when I told him the other nine copies were back in my bedroom his jaw dropped. He said, Cant you go home and get them? I said, Cmon, Ill definitely have em next week. I never did and we fell out over that. About a fortnight later I came home from work one day, went in my bedroom to change and theres this big space in the room where the piano used to be. I walked into the kitchen and my aunt told me theyd given it to some rag and bone merchant, she said my uncle was investing in an electric organ. I went back into my bedroom, sat on the bed and worried about what Peter Meaden - the ace face, the manager of the best Mod band anywhere - was gonna say. And thats where those priceless High Numbers flyers and nine copies, NINE copies of Im The Face ended up. Fucking Steptoe & Son got em!
I met other geezers who could have been better ace faces, like Chris Stamp. His hair, oh that was an ace face haircut. Brideshead Revisited. That was what I always wanted, hair like that. But then again, once you were in Peter Meadens clutches that was it. He used to babble on and on when he was speeding and talk like an American DJ, calling everyone bay-bee. I dont know if anyone from East London would agree but West One was where it was at.
The first time I heard the expression Up West it was like, wheres that?
But at the same time, the thing about being a West London Mod was the credibility, if you know what I mean. The Goldhawk Social Club in Shepherds Bush was the headquarters, like power base, for The Who. No where else. They didnt exactly start out there even though they all lived within a mile or two of Goldhawk Road, but the Goldhawk Club became the bands spiritual home. Mods from Tottenham and the East End wouldnt go to the Goldhawk. If you wanted to meet any of these people you had to go Up West to Soho, to the all nighter clubs.
The Discotheque, probably the first of its kind anywhere. I never knew Peter Rachman owned it. A few doors up from that, the famous Flamingo run by the Gunnell brothers, and another little bit further up Wardour Street in Ham Yard the ace place Scene Club. These three places were all within a short distance of each other, and the main artery jammed with Mods on a Saturday night was Gerrard Street. Sweet, vulgar, a few strip joints, Chinese restaurants and danger everywhere. You could be a king in this street for five minutes - and get rolled in the next thirty seconds!
from soho down to brighton
Now theres a question. What did happen at Brighton, 64?
I wasnt at Brighton. I was doing a much better thing than all those silly c***s sleeping on the beach at Brighton---or so I thought! What happened was that I was over in Penge, in south east London in a lovely Georgian house trying to get this adorable young Mod girl in between the sheets. Her parents had gone away for the weekend and as arranged Id gone over there armed with a couple of bottles of brown ale and an armful of blues albums, thinking paradise here we come! I got there in the early afternoon. A lot of my mates from the Goldhawk Club had gone to Brighton the day before, and I thought to myself, you know..they think theyre the fucking business cos theyve gone to Brighton. But Im really the ace face over here in this big house in Penge with this girl you wouldnt believe and all Ive gotta do is play my cards right, and Im in.
Anyway, ace faces dont sleep in a freezing cold sleeping bag on a bloody beach. Id been there about two hours biding my time when all of a sudden the telephone rang and it was her old man telling her that their caravan had been kicked to shit and they were on the way home. Mathematically we could still have had good sex, me and this girl, cos it wouldve taken hours for her mum and dad to get back. But she got into a bit of a state about her parents caravan and before I knew it, the whole atmosphere had gone sour. Theres nothing you can do with a situation like that. So I was sitting opposite her bordering on a sulk in the front room and the news came on the tv about all the trouble at Brighton and it was like I thought to myself fuck me, what am I doing here? I should be down there with all my mates. Going over to Penge, now that was what an ace face did. An ace face did not sleep on the beach at Brighton - he booked a bloody room at the Grand. So I never got the room, and I never got the girl! Story of my life, I suppose.
im a substitute for another guy
Without wanting to sound obvious, your name, Irish Jack, where did it come from. Wasnt it Kit Lambert who bestowed that one?
Yes, Kit Lambert christened me Irish Jack. For a while when people asked me why I was called Irish Jack I used to say it was because I wore odd socks. But the band were calling me Irish Jack before I even knew it. My first experience of finding out I had this nickname was in the bar of the Goldhawk Social Club. This geezer came up to me and says..Are you Irish Jack? I looked at him and said, Yeah, Im Irish. Then he turned to his mate and says..There you are, I told you he was Irish Jack. I sort of looked at them and thought to myself, I didnt know his mate was called Jack. It was a bit of a comedy of errors. Not long after I did actually discover that that was the nickname Kit Lambert had bestowed upon me.
Kit Lambert was like a hero to me. Except that like Meaden his hair was terrible. Chris Stamp had the best hair but Kit was intense and spoke with this clipped Oxford accent. Every word understood. He did try to get off with me more than once, Kit. But I was chicken. When I was in Townshends company Id be in awe - even before he became anyone! I knew straight away I wanted to be him soon as I met him. I loved him as a person. I wouldve given anything to be him, you know, he was the whole reason why the world revolved, but Lambert scared me. Being a young Mod the more he scared me the more I liked that feeling of danger. I loved that edge. It was cool and very very Mod.
kids are alright
There are a couple of incidents in The Whos career that are reckoned to be milestones or significant marks, one being their Ready Steady Go appearance, the other being the Marquee residency.
For the television show, I didnt go. To be on Ready Steady Go you had to be there in the afternoon for rehearsals. And because of my job it wasnt very practical to phone in sick and have the senior filing clerk clapping eyes on me on Friday night at eight minutes past six in the RSG audience on television.. But I was on tv in my own right long before The Who ever appeared on Ready Steady Go. I went to acting school at Ravenscourt Park while I was eighteen or nineteen, it was just off the Goldhawk Road. I was a part time acting student. When I met my drama tutor the first thing he said to me, was.. Why are you trying to be from London? You have a beautiful Irish accent. I told him, You havent met any of my friends from Shepherds Bush. I mean, my aunt and uncle never knew I had a put-on Cockney accent. They wouldve been appalled. That was the thing, you see. When I first met Pete in 62 I had a Cockney accent, or perhaps I was in the process of perfecting it. Then in 1970 when I was back in London on my honeymoon with my wife and Pete called to my aunts place to take us to his house for dinner, the first thing he said, was Blimey, your accents changed, Jack! He didnt understand, you see.
What I should explain is; when I was growing up in London during 65 and 66, Id ring Pete up and say Pete, Im looking for a lift to the gig. Then this pissed off voice at the other end of the line would say, Meet me outside the Odeon at 7.30. And hed be there. He never let me down. Once, I think we were playing the Starlite Ballroom in Greenford near Wembley, and we ran out of petrol and had to walk about a mile with a small can. And in some ways it was as if my high regard for him and the way I always looked up to him, disturbed him.
I think he always wanted us to be friends, but on the same level. He was always a very genuine person. We spent many hours talking about style and music, and religion too. One of my proudest momets was reading his Pop Think-in interview in Melody Maker where he said that hed always made a point of supporting the Young Communists. I showed that to my cousin. I mean, in 66 that was a fucking very nervy thing to say, the way everybody else was playing it so safe with press interviews. After I left London in 1968 and settled down in Ireland we still kept in touch and corresponded regularly with each other. He actually sent me a typewriter when I was down in the dumps and sort of put a pen in my hand, so to speak. We shared some fantastic philosophy together.
The acting school I went to was called Corona Academy. Ive actually got an acting certificate. The drummer of the Jimi Hendrix Experience went to the same school, Mitch Mitchell. Every time Id go down the Goldhawk Club and meet Pete Id be nagging him about the tv play I got a part in. I mean, the poor bloke was trying everything to get himself a record deal, maybe even an agent. Then after listening to me rabbiting on for about twenty minutes hed say, Jack, shut up, please. Youre not still on about that, are you? In a way, he was jealous. Not badly jealous, but envious. I couldnt understand it. I mean, he was my hero. My idol. How could he be jealous of a little wimp like me? Anyway, thats how I managed to be on tv before any of the band. Some years ago a newspaper did a two-page pull-out to show what the social scene was like in the 60s. In the spread they showed the readers what the top tv programmes were at the time, and there on ITVs Play Of The Month was none other than the drama I had part in, Nice Break for The Boys. It wasnt a speaking part, I was an extra. But the money was great and I got my face in the frame.
You asked about the Marquee residency? Well, prior to The Who playing there, the only people who went to the Marquee were beatniks cos most of the music there was jazz. But on the 24th November 64, The Who started their Tuesday night residency there. I used to see Kit Lambert two or three times a week and find out where the band was playing next. Basically I was hanging out at their apartment-cum-office in Belgravia trying to be part of something that was in the air. It was very exciting times, it really was, at that point. Anyway, I found out that The Who had managed to get themselves booked into a series of Tuesday nights at the Marquee Club in Wardour Street. Most of the crowd in the Goldhawk Club were saying things like, What, the Marquee? Its no-mans-land. Its CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and beatniks. They were right. I mean, this place the Marquee; Manfred Mann played there, very organic jazz. Dizzy Gillespie; brilliant stuff but not exactly New Wave R&B, if you know what I mean. If you wanted John Lee Hooker-style R&B you went to the 100 club in Oxford Street. The Flamingo; Long John Baldry and the Hoochie-Coochie Men, Rod the Mod Stewart was playing with them. Yeah, R&B could be heard at a lot of clubs - but NOT The Whos kind of New Wave R&B like James Brown, Martha & The Vandellas, at the Marquee. It wasnt even a nightclub. It was very strictly run by the National Jazz Federation and never went on after eleven oclock every night. So we were not exactly over the moon when we heard that The Who was starting off a Tuesday night residency in this place. I mean, TUESDAY NIGHT, for Gods sake! Ive got this distinct memory of meeting up with my two friends Martin and Lee Gaish (who were brothers) for the first Tuesday night. We met at Hammersmith Tube Station and it was absolutely pissing out of the heavens. We were soaked to the skin even at the station and we looked at each other as much as to say Shall we bother?. Then Martin said, Weve gotta go. Weve promised Kit. And that was that. We just couldnt let the poor sod down. There was about twenty seven people in the Marquee that night and Ill never forget it. When we first arrived at the Marquee it was absolutely deserted, and Kit Lambert was standing by the admission desk with the club manager John Gee. A bored bouncer stood by the entrance to the floor. Kit had a stack of these little concession cards resting on the admission desk. They were black and white which jelled in nicely with the traditional black and white decor of the venue. These concession cards were the hippest thing you ever saw. The special Who logo with the arrow standing on top of the 0 and Townshends nose all over fucking Wardour Street. Maximum R&B, that was the legend. The card entitled you to gain admission at half price for two shillings and sixpence (twelve and a half new pence!). Im so lucky to still have one of these cards, cos theyre priceless. Kit and Chris Stamp also had these big posters printed up. The poster was a larger version of the card except that on the poster you had Townshend dressed in hip black, with Italian shoes which were probably Raouels, with this amazing Mod haircut and hes windmilling on this electrifying Rickenbacker guitar. I know that the first time I set eyes on that poster, I could feel my skin change with pride. Fucking superb, is the only way to describe the audaciousness behind the idea. Like a nervous tailor running a scissors through a Union Jack in a Soho back street. No other band anywhere - Beatles, Stones - you name them, had anything like those little concession cards and the Maximum R&B poster. Its also true to say that no other band had a Kit Lambert or a Chris Stamp!
So, into the Marquee I walked with the Gaish brothers and the first thing Kit did when he saw us was let out a sigh of relief that at least wed remembered to turn up, and then he picked up the stack of concession cards and handed them to myself, Martin and Lee. Kit said he wanted us to hand out the cards to people passing outside in the street. So we were standing there with long faces looking out at the rain when suddenly the club door opened and three punters wandered in. The first two came up and paid the five shillings admission, then the third noticed the cards under my arm and said to me, Can I ave one of them? Anxious to help, I said Yeah, course, and handed him the card. When he moved up to pay, John Gee said in his posh voice..Thatll be five shillings please, young man. The geezer looked at John Gee and then produced the concession card Id just given him and said, No. Its only two and six with this, innit? Fucking hell, Id just cost Kit Lambert half the price of an admission. He kind of stared at me hard. He followed us out to the street door and told Martin and Lee to hand the cards out outside the club. When I asked him if I should do the same he turned to me with a sarky expression (which he was always good at) and smirked, No, Jack. You go to Oxford Street, theres bound to be lots of Mods hanging around up there. Hanging around up there, I thought - on the wettest night of the year? I walked up Wardour Street towards Oxford Street with my head down and the rain pissing into my face and running down my neck...and I did it willingly because I was doing it for the only band I ever believed in and because I thought Kit Lambert was a bloody genius. By the time I got back down to the Marquee the band had only a couple of numbers left and I stood drenched to the skin, watching my friends on the stage and cursing Kit Lambert.
NOTE: (Web site visitors can read a fuller account of the above incident by clicking on Part 1Lets Have Dinner and Part 11 Friends & Associates)
i can see for miles
We spoke about Mod lasting from 63 to 64 and how things began to mutate into deviations - musically and style-wise. What were the changes like from a first-hand experience?
From first hand experience? Well, theres a bit of a story on that. Unbelievably I was still a Mod in 67. The Goldhawk had closed. I was meeting up people involved in Psychedelia, Pink Floyd versus Ian Smith at Chalk Farm, and it was around about then too that Camden was beginning to happen. One night I decided to go up to the UFO Club on Tottenham Court Road, it was held in an Irish dance hall called the Blarney Stone. At the time, where I was hanging out there wasnt even a drink culture. I think I was something like twenty one before I had my first half pint of Watneys Brown Ale. At that time the only people youd see having a good drink was somebody in their thirties and married. There was no alcohol available in any of the clubs, you went to the clubs for the vibe and for the speed. Speed and lots of chewing gum. So, there I was in the queue at this makeshift Coke bar at UFOs, Soft Machine were playing that particular night. The scent of joss sticks everywhere and lots of bubbles floating in the air. I was looking pretty sharp.
Some geezer was leaning over me at the Coke bar, I could feel his body weight and turned around to say What the fuck! and it was Pete bloody Townshend. He was in a big afghan coat and wearing a necklace. A real hippie. He looked at me and I looked at him. And his next words mortified me, he said, Jack, youre still a Mod! Im looking a bit speechless at him and he says Whatre you doing here? There werent any more Mod venues left so people like me just turned up in these places hoping to meet someone who could at least remember what a fucking Mod used to look like, you know. I got my drink and waited for him to get served. He came over and I said, Do you want to nip across the road for a proper drink? He said, Id like to Jack but I cant. Im with my girl friend. I looked around but couldnt see anyone with him. He nodded his head in the direction of this tall girl serving Cokes behind the bar. Karen was her name. This tall beautiful girl with long hair. She was friends with the editors of International Times, the hippy newspaper. And it was her face that was used on a lot of the UFOs psychedelic promotional posters. So, theres me and Pete and the two of us couldnt get across the road for a drink, and Im standing in front of him still wearing my Mod gear and looking at the beads around his neck. And Im thinking, Jesus, this is my Mod hero, my
all time hero and five minutes ago he says Youre STILL a Mod!
he rides a GS scooter
What about scooters, have you owned any?
Well, no. Ive never owned one myself. I did ride around on the back of a lot of them though. There was a specific cool way of sitting on the back whic I suppose in a way has now become biblical, thanks to Richard Barnes book MODS! Feet sticking out, leaned back with hands clasped behind. The beauty of not having to wear a crash helmet. You know, complete freedom. I liked the GS Vespa and the TV Lambrettas---when I was a kid my old man had a Lambretta, and I always drooled over the magnificent shape of it, the fairing so unique, so unlike a motor bike!---but in truthfulness I have to admit that when I was a Mod back in Shepherds Bush, it never really mattered to me that I didnt own a scooter. That might sound strange now to young readers, but its the truth. I was much more taken up with clothes, pills, dance steps and writing never-to-be-heard Mod songs for Pete Townshend. By the way, I should point out that theres a scooter club here in Cork for the local Mods, its called the Kool Kats S.C.
Speaking of scooters theres a bit of a story regarding a particular scooter and The Who, which I sometimes use as part of my reading. It happened in 1973 in Newcastle during the bands original English Quadrophenia tour.
A funny thing happened on the way to the Odeon, and all that. I was a bus conductor at the time, and I had this travel pass that allowed me free travel all over Europe, but you had to travel overland, of course. Anyway, something got into me and I caught the ferry and travelled to Newcastle on the occasion of my 30th birthday. The band were playing at the Newcastle Odeon. So when I arrived in Newcastle some time in the afternoon I took a walk around the town and discovered this big store called Fenwicks and I bought this little toy scooter for my daughter Karen who was two. I have to say that it was not without any sense of self irony that I bought this little toy scooter being fully aware that I was going to see the band during the Quadrophenia tour. I went to the theatre and the sound engineer Bobby Pridden told me the band were staying at the Five Bridges Hotel. I got a bus to the hotel, walked into reception with the scooter hanging over my shoulder and a small travel bag. I approached the girl behind reception and said, Im Jack. Irish Jack. And I asked for Pete Townshend. The girl looked at me a bit suspicious and asked if he was expecting me. I said, No, its a surprise, were old friends. She smiled and dialled a number, and said, Mr. Townshend, I have a friend of yours down here, if youd like to come down. He came ambling down the stairs in a pair of Doctor Martens with the laces undone. He sees me standing there with the scooter over my shoulder comes up and gives me a big hug. Then he says, What are you doing here, Jack? Why arent you at home with your wife and child? At that time we were writing to each other quite regularly. He was always concerned about my marriage, almost to the point of being a much wiser older brother which always made me feel uncomfortable. I said, Ive come for the show. Its my birthday. Im 30 today. He biffed me under the chin and said, I love you, you c**t!
We went upstairs. The night before, thered been a bit of aggro in the band. So Roger had gone out shopping and arrived back with a sack full of model railway models. It was a way of saying sorry to Bobby Pridden. Bobby is a big model railway enthusiast, big into it. Pete bought me a drink and took me across the residents bar, which was practically empty, to meet Bill Curbishley, the bands new manager. He said, Bill, Id like you to meet a very old friend of the band, Irish Jack. Its his birthday today - hes thirty! I shook hands with Bill and he said he had heard one or two things about my exploits. Because it was my birthday, there was something half planned. None of it was absolutely prepared but it was obvious there was going to be some kind of knees-up. So, just before the band go onstage, were all in this tiny cramped communal dressing room, thats how bands operated in 73; Bill Curbishley comes up and says Jack, happy birthday, old son, have this on myself and the boys. He handed me a bottle of Southern Comfort. I already had a pint of Newcastle Brown in front of me, there was a spare empty glass next to it so I proceeded to pour the Southern Comfort up to the brim of the pint glass. I started drinking from both. I took the drinks out backstage to watch the band and I think they got as far as the fourth or fifth song before I passed out.
I woke up fully clothed in an empty bath tub, I didnt know where I was or who I was. Id vomited everywhere, and my head! - Jesus, I was a shambles, man. I didnt know what time it was, or what fucking day it was. I crawled across the floor to a telephone above the bed and managed to get reception. Hello, I said, this is Irish Jack. The receptionist said something like, Oh, youre the Irish fellow. I said, Yes, thats me. Youre in Mr. Townshends room, she said, he said you can stay there until youve recoverd. Mr. Townshend has checked out and returned to London. He said you can catch up with him there, and he wishes you a speedy recovery. I put the phone down and went back to sleep for a while and then woke up feeling like that guy in Trainspotting. Id been on some bad downers in the old days after pills and acid, but nothing like this. This mother was something else. I got out of the bed and was heading down to reception but saw this girl in the bar cleaning things up. I went over and said, Im in a bad way. She looked at me and said, Are you the boy from Ireland? I heard about you. You were carried into the hotel last night, you were pretty much out of it. I looked at her with a pained expression on my face. Then she said, Oh, by the way, weve found your bag. Ah, the bag. I remember, yes I had a bag. The girl went behind the bar and came back with a tiny glass of some medicinal which she said would make me feel a lot better. I asked the girl if everyone had gone back to London. She said she thought everyone had left but then in afterthought said, I think Mr. Moon is still in his room. I couldnt believe my luck.
I phoned him from the bar and he says Come up, come up! So I go up to the room and hes in bed with this girl. It was surreal. I mean, he greets me by shaking my hand like he hasnt seen me in years and theres this girl next to him pretending to be asleep. I said, Keith, I need a lift back to London. Keith Moon says, No problem. Just give me a couple of hours and well be on our way. I was delighted. Keith told me to go and see Chalky Davies, his driver, and tell him I was going back to London with Keith and his personal assistant, Dougal Butler. I went to see Chalky and he said fine. Then he says Got luggage? I said, Luggage? No, just a travel bag... and a scooter (meaning my daughters). Chalky said I could look after the travel bag while he chased up the scooter. He seemed very matter-of-fact about it all. No messing about with this bloke, he was a tough looking geezer. I went back to my room and lay down on the bed. My head still ached and I still felt bad. After a while, Chalky came to my room and said, Jack, this scooter, Ive been all over the place. Where did you put it? I said, What do you mean, where did I put it? He said, Jack, dont fuck me about, right? Suddenly hes become aggressive, as if hes doing me a big favour driving me back to London despite the fact Keith Moon is one of my oldest friends and hes personally invited me to share his limo and stay at his house. Chalkys leaning over me and says, Jack, you listen to me, son. Ive checked the fucking garage, Ive checked the fucking parking area, Ive checked everywhere for this fucking scooter and I cant find it. Now where the fuck is it? At last something clicked, Chalky, I said, its not a fucking scooter. Its a kids toy scooter. Its probably still down behind the reception desk .
you better get running now
What about Quadrophenia, how were you involved in that?
Ill tell you how the whole Quadrophenia thing started. We can do some photos later outside the shop, though its a pet shop now, not a shoe store anymore. In a way, Quadrophenia, for my part, started with me buying my first ever pair of size seven Doctor Martens - you didnt know that, did you?
I bought the Doctor Martens from this shoe store on Lavitts Quay in Cork called Drummys.
At the time, Pete Townshend and I were corresponding a lot and I wrote and told him about the Doctor Martens, and how I had just become the first bus conductor in Cork to wear Dr. Martens. Pete wrote back telling me he was elated in the knowledge that one of his oldest friends had embraced 70s youth culture. The next few letters between us was full of stuff about the old days at the Goldhawk Club and then I sent him my old membership card from the Goldhawk, asking him to be sure to return it to me - which he did. Pete was forming the idea of Quadrophenia whilst I was writing to him and his image of what Jimmy Cooper should look like and be like, was based on me.
There are definitely some Who songs that I can relate to in a personal sense, like Happy Jack. But I went enquiring about that all the wrong way. When I went to Newcastle and met Pete, we went to the restaurant and had dinner. We were knocking back the drink a bit. After a coversation about the old days, we were both slightly inebriated and I playfully pushed him up against the bar wall (which was deserted at the time) and I got him by the lapels and demanded, Why the fuck didnt you say in the song...Happy Jack wasnt tall but he was a man, And he lived in the sand IN THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND? Pete said, I couldnt write that cos I couldnt make it fucking rhyme! He was right. But of course nowadays you dont have to have the rhyming word so accurate. The right chord will do.
In one way, the song that always seemed to sum me up as the kind of character I was---though its quite possible its not about me at all---is Substitute. The words, I look pretty tall but my heels are high - that was me; trying to come to terms with my lack of height in my Cuban heeled boots. The simple things you see are all complicated - me to a tee with my complexes. I look pretty young but Im just back dated - thats right; older than any of the band and very likely the oldest Mod in the Goldhawk Club. My Coke for gin - Jack was the elemental substitute for this geezer called Jackie who I was trying hard to bury. So I suppose considering the way I carried on and the way I felt about my on going complexes like height, hair, accent and name, it goes without saying that the first time I heard that song it immediately struck a familiar chord. I actually did feel like a substitute of myself.
When I think back now, I get the distinct feeling that what Pete Townshend was doing, without actually telling me - which of course wouldve ruined the whole point - was actually using me as some kind of springboard or catalyst for his ideas. From what Ive heard him say in interviews I appear to have been an influence on him. I mean, Jesus, I was a fucked up young Irish boy in Shepherds Bush who wanted to fit in so bad that I learned how to speak Cockney. How the fuck could someone like me be an influence on Pete Townshend?
In some way my personae or character mirrored his perception of what a real Mod was. And I wouldnt have described myself as a very good Mod. But I could fucking talk and I had some dance steps to behold, that much is true. In a way that didnt count for much, I was flash. Its as if he adopted me as this younger personage despite me being all of two years older than him. In a physical sense, he has spent the last thirty eight years looking down on me from his six foot frame and maybe, for me at least, that lent a bit to the general concept of him being like a big brother. I used to sort of hate and love the way he always seemed to be looking out for me. Advising me about my marriage. Giving me the occasional bollocking when I deserved one. He did an interview with Back Street Heroes and said, Nowadays when we meet, Irish Jack has the same reverence towards me as he did when we first met.
This is the thing about a band likeThe Who, you see. Theyre for fucking real. You dont get the big sanctmonious pat on the back, the big lifetime endorsement. You dont get the OH, THAT SONG IS ABOUT YOU! kind of thing. Petes never actually come out and said, Oh, Happy Jack - well, thats Irish Jack. Hed never say that. Its not saying it that makes it all the more real and gives the mystery length and longevity. It was the same with the Mods. Youd never go up and ask some geezer where he bought his Henley boating jacket. It just wasnt done, it was considered bad table manners. If you did show complete crass and enquire, the bloke would give you a look and say Well, I got it Up West, mate. Then hed walk away, leaving you none the wiser. The secret, the mystery, that was what held the whole thing together.
I do pop up in one particular song called Long Live Rock which of course was the seed for Quadrophenia. Billy Fury sang it in the David Essex film Thatll Be The Day. I took my wife to the film, I was very excited. I bought her some chocolates and told her that Billy Fury was going to mention my name - MY NAME - in a song. And he did. The verse goes.. People walk in sideways pretending that theyre leaving, We put on our make-up and work out all the lead-ins, Jack is in the alley selling tickets made in Hong Kong, Promoters in the pay box wondering where the bands gone.. Rock is dead, they say, Long Live Rock. Its a kind of very weird feeling knowing that Billy Fury has just mentioned your name.
The great thing about Townshend is that hes a story teller, in pop circles one of the best. Hes up there with Ray Davies, THE English pastoral poet. And good story tellers never endorse their stories. They know that to do that is to kill a thing. For instance, every time Pete does an interview and talks about Quadrophenia and my role in it, his perception of me changes. In one interview, Im a composite. In another, Im part of five boys and a girl from the Goldhawk Club who influenced him to write Quadrophenia. In another I was the leading protagonist. Personally I think its all very healthy because it strengthens and lengthens the on going mystery about me. Tomorrow morning, Ill take you to the pet shop on Lavitts Quay where I bought the original pair of Doctor Martens in 1971. I wish it was still Drummys shoe store.
You wont believe this but you know I havent seen Quadrophenia more than four times? Theres a story I use in my readings called Bell Boy, and its all about how I went down to Lee International in Wembley which was the production offices for Quadrophenia and how I actually walked out of that building feeling very much like how the Bell Boy felt in the movie. What happened was that initially I got a call to go and have a chat with Bill Curbishley who was an executive producer on Quadrophenia. We talked and he told me he would like to hire my knowledge of being an original Mod and be an assistant technical adviser on the movie. Bill knew I had spent the last couple of months in London working on the Who Exhibition and while we chatted he was curious as to how I managed to get so much time off work. I explained to him that I was currently unemployed but had a reliable income in my window cleaning round. I wanted to know how much an assistant technical adviser earned. Bill looked at me and said, Jack, Im not too sure of the current rate but i know that its a lot more than a window cleaners. Well, I was overjoyed. Id just finished the Whos Who Exhibition at the ICA and had already been approached by the director Franc Roddam. He was a lovely geezer and we got on very well. He had done this amazing thing called Dummy for television and his reputation was hot. He was genuinely interested in me and my Mod background from the Goldhawk Club. He picked my brain quite a lot. I was immediately ensconced in an airless basement room at Essex Music and spent the time typing up scripts of Mod situations I had remembered from the old days at the Goldhawk Club. All of this inspired material was then sent over to the screen writer David Humphries at the Whos offices in Wardour Street. So, I get the big call from Bill Curbishley. He and his wife Jackie take me to see a forty-minute tv short in this tiny cinema in Soho and Im looking at this geezer playing the lead role and hes some chatter-box, skinney, speed-freak and I ask Bill who he is and Bill says His names Phil Daniels. Were thinking of casting him for the part of Jimmy. What do you think? Fucking perfect, I say.
And thats was it, he was in. So now Im going to be an assistant technical adviser down at Brighton. Then a few days later I get a call from Bill Curbishley and I go to the ofiice and he looks like somebodys just died on him. His voice was low and without character. He told me that there had been this important meeting about the budget and they were now seriously over-budgeted. I knew what was coming. Bill was genuinely put out and upset that he had to cancel my appointment as assistant technical adviser. Then he said that he felt sure there was some other area I might be productive and I should get down to the production offices at Lee International studios in Wembley and enquire about this.
So, off I went, this time dragging my feet. I waited around for an hour for some meeting to end. Eventually I get to see the associate producer John Peverall; the bloke who now holds my destiny in the palm of his hand. He told me all about the unfortunate cut-backs in the production staff, and then says that Im still in luck cos theyve managed to hold a location job on the shoot at Brighton.
Im standing there, hardly daring to breathe, waiting to be told what it is Im supposed to be doing while Mr. Peverall takes a badly timed call. Finally he puts the phone down, looks at me with an expression on his face like hes trying to remember why Im there in the first place.. Ah, hes remembered.. Yes, weve er managed to secure a job for you on the location shoot at Brighton. Well, thats really great, I say, What is it Ill be doing? He looked through some papers on his desk. Lets see now. Oh, here it is. Well, it seems youre in luck.. Oh, really? Yes, weve got you employed in security. Security?, I asked. Yes, you know, holding a rope to keep the public back while the shoot goes on, that sort of thing. My heart sank. My entire mouth closed up tight, and I had that same old feeling back in my system. I just stood there looking at him, and something I never used to have a lot of stirred inside. With my last shred of dignity, I heard myself say, Holding a rope? No thanks. I think Id prefer to back home with my wife and kids. He looked back at me as if I had just thrown away a career.
I walked down that plush carpeted corridor of Lee International studios, tears welling up in my eyes. Quadrophenia was my baby. It was ME, for Christ sake! I never wrote a word of it, but it was so much ME. I had lived it all for someone else. Someone brilliant with a pen. A stunning young girl from central casting and holding a clip file, passed by me. Her eyes were glued to the floor as if I carried the symptoms of reject and she was afraid if she looked it might spread to her. She made me feel very invisible and certainly of no consequence in the scheme of her tightly gripped clip file. I reached the exit of that Lee International where dreams were made for some and broken for others, and then I thought; Holding a fucking security rope? And in that instant I realised what it must have been like for the Bell Boy, because up there in Room 209 or wherever it was, I had become the fucking Bell Boy!
When Bill Curbishley heard about my situation he wasnt very pleased. He invited me back to his office and wrote me a generous cheque which far exceeded my writing imput, and then I took the first flight home. All the dates of that star-studded galavanting period in London are still encircled in my window cleaning book. A diary entry tells me that I got back from London in late September and by the following Monday morning I wasnt being made up on the Q set at Brighton : I was cleaning the windows of Mrs. McDonalds bungalow. Ironically, I was reminded of the bungalows Pete had referred to in the sleeve narrative of the original Quadrophenia album, but I dont think that Mrs. McDonald ever heard of Quadrophenia, or the Outer Hebrides.
The epilogue of all this is that Pete Townshend has never done a United Nations speech saying Quadrophenia is all about Irish Jack. Thats the whole mystique of it and in a weird way its like truthfulness repeats itself in so many different forms. What Im trying to say is that its like the night I found myself sitting in his drawing room in Twickenham at two oclock in the morning, drinking his expensive wine and listening to him ranting on and on at me, telling me I was a total prat for walking out on my marriage, walking out on my wife and my two kids, and how Id walked away from a good job as a bus conductor. As I sat there, I cursed him under my breath for not being hip to my present situation and wondered what kind of a friend does this to you. I thought hed understand.
But he was right, totally right about me. Only it took me a few months to realise that he was a much bigger friend than Id ever bargained for. I did eventually get back with my wife, and Im so glad someone had the sense to point me in the right direction. So what would I like to see, now? Well, I still have a hankering for some kind of situation where I could have picked up the original 1973 album and read in the credits.. This album is dedicated to an old friend of mine who was a Mod in the Goldhawk Club and who is STILL a Mod! His name is Irish Jack That would have been nice.
A friend of mine whose involved in computers saw these Japanese Mods on scooters in Tokyo recently, and he got talking to them. He asked if they had ever heard of a guy called Irish Jack. At first they thought he was talking about some local guy but when he mentioned Quadrophenia there was big grins all around and one of these Japanese Mods said, Irish Jack? He is Mod king! Jesus, Im going to be fifty-six in November and Ive got a grandson. Some Mod in Tokyo says Im Mod king - and Im never going to meet thay guy. I never will. I dont have the money to make it to Tokyo and shake his hand. I dont have the lifespan. Who is he? How does he know about me?
im the face, now baby
After the film Quadrophenia, you co-wrote a book The Who Concert File, and began performing yourself with readings. How did they both come about?
Ah, the book, that was a nightmare. It just took too long. A guy called Joe McMichael who lives in Los Angeles and works at the airport as a baggage handler, wrote to me. Dear Irish Jack, you dont know me but.... He was suggesting that with his limited physical experience of The Who coupled with my two thousand-year history of the boys; we should put our heads together and write a book which would be a chronology of all the bands live performing dates.
I read the letter to my wife at breakfast and said, Who on earth would want to know where The Who played, say, on April 1st 1965? As I said it, something clicked in my head and I thought Jesus, thats when they played Wembley town Hall with Donovan. I remembered the date, somehow. Keith Moon kept taking the piss out of poor old Donovan - I think he kept asking him what colour was turquoise - and the guy was almost in tears. I put the letter away with every intention of writing back to this guy Joe, wishing him well with his project but saying I didnt really want to be involved. Then what happened was I read the letter again and checked some of the sample dates hed sent. I started correcting some of the dates from my own records and soon I was taking it seriously. By now Id taken the bait. Instead of writing back thanking him for wanting to involve me in his project, you know, thanks but I dont really want to; I was writing back to this guy saying what a fantastic idea, lets get together. I met him just three times in five years and each time no longer than half an hour. But I was amazed at his knowledge of The Who. At the start the only person interested in giving me any help with the research was John Entwistle. I used to ring him constantly looking for obscure stuff, and that guy has some scary memory. Roger didnt want to harp on about the old days and Pete was only marginally helpful in the beginning. Politely telling me he was too busy to dwell on the past. Though we did have a session on his barge and then he made me late for an appointment by saying every time I was getting up to leave, Were you there when...? Anyway, after about five years of expensive long distance phone calls, faxes and a million letters back and forth, not to mention all those dark despairing Sunday afternoons I spent writing fifteen, sixteen letters to every civic librarian in the country, and about 30 trips to the London newspaper library at Colindale; Joe McMichael and I decided that he would pay half my air fare and I would go out to L.A. and meet up with Richard Evans who would in turn become our book designer and a girl who would advise us on how to present a book proposal to the right people. It turned out that it certainly wasnt a wasted journey. If I hadnt gone I might still be trying to get the book finished.
As soon as I got to Los Angeles, I spoke to Roger on the phone and he was mildly amused that I was in L.A. He knows Im a postman and lead a pretty modest lifestyle. You know, it was.. Jesus, whats Irish Jack doing in Los Angeles? Are we playing the Hollywood Bowl, or somewhere? When I spoke to Roger he said, Jack, are you writing a book, or something? I told him I was. What books that, then?, he enquired. Well, Rog, I said, its the same book I was on to you about three and a half years ago. And he went, OH! From then on I got band help.
A couple of days before I was due to fly back home, I took this guy Joe McMichael into a Burger King, we chose a table and sat down and I got out this sheet of writing paper and said, Joe, youre looking at history in the making.
Joe looked at me a little mystified. Then I started the letter.. Dear Pete, I hope this finds you as well as it leaves me here. Im in Los Angeles with Joe McMichael getting advice about our book. I would be extremely grateful if you would consider writing the foreword.. etc etc. By now, Joes eyes were popping out of his head.
I was home about a fortnight when I got a note from Pete. Dear Jack, Id be delighted to write the foreword.. etc etc. I think it was something like four oclock in the morning in L.A. and Joe McMichael didnt go back to bed after my call. I think he put on a Who album!
The Who Concert File took something like six and a half years to write, and I dont think I want to do another book. People like well meaning Who fans keep telling me I should write all my exploits down and put them in a book. But my stories are bar stool stories, the best in the world, philosophy of life. Its like reading about Keith Moon in a book. It only half works. I dont want to be disrespectful to a good friend whose done a marvellous book on Keith, Tony Fletchers Dear Boy - The Life of Keith Moon. I helped Tony quite a lot with that book, brought him down the Goldhawk Club during his research and got him the ultimate tribute (in his view) by his being asked to leave the premises because he was wearing jeans. Jesus, can you imagine that? Being asked to leave the old Goldhawk Club because of jeans! I got it straightened out with the club steward for him and he didnt have to leave. But he was beside himself with irony when it happened. But getting back to Moonie, I think the best stories about him are told at the bar by people like Dougal, Keith Altham, Cyrano and Wiggy who knew. You get the facial expressions going and the impersonation of his voice. Thats far more real than a book. You know, the perceived notion of Keith Moon is when he was throwing television sets out of a fourteenth storey hotel window. Its not. The real Keith Moon, the real looney, was at four oclock in the morning in a deserted hotel bar with just one person next to him, which I did a few times. And even then, he still felt he had to put on the act, despite the fact that wed known each other since 1963. Hes still Dear boying me with his Oxford accent and theres nobody around, just the two of us. That was the real Keith Moon. Not the guy who drove a Lincoln Continental into a swimming pool. Anyone couldve done that!
The readings that I do is, I suppose, my way of performing. I had two great chances in my life and I blew both of them. The first chance came along when my dad started encouraging me to learn to play the saxaphone - I told you earlier he was a musician - but I didnt want to know because of his heavy drinking. My immaturity mistakenly connected musical instruments with alcoholism. The second opportunity was when Pete Townshend offered to show me some chords on the guitar. What I should explain is that in the early days when The Detours played at the Goldhawk Club, they would still be on stage after the gig talking to young geezers who wanted to know how much theyd need for a down payment on an Echo or how to get a band going. And Pete, John and Roger would be showing them bits and pieces and giving advice. I had a friend called James Shanley from Chiswick who was the lead guitarist of a little rhythm and blues band from Shepherds Bush called John Browns Bodies and he spent a lot of time on the Goldhawk stage talking to Pete about chords and stuff. So it wasnt so unusual for someone like Pete to offer to show me some chords when he realised how much a frustrated musician I was. Its simple, he said, anyone could do it. But I chickened out. I have to admit that as far as the friendship stakes go, I failed to uphold my end of the bargain. I chickened out because it was my fucking idol who had offered to show me the chords, not anyone else. And in a way I think he sussed that much and he was disappointed. But Ive always been like that. Im always hiding behind big explanations and big reasons why. I find it much easier to revert back into my shell sometimes than come out with a brave face to meet the world. You know, the safety shell is about having the wrong name, being the wrong height, having the wrong accent and terrible curly hair.
Anyway, my readings started when I sent this guy called Mark Johnson who was editor of the Phoenix List (the excellent weekly Mod bulletin) a copy of a story Id written called Rick The Face. This was back in May 85. The List was organising an all-dayer at Hammersmith Town Hall with some Mod bands and I sent the story to Mark suggesting that he ask one of the Purple Hearts to read the story to a small Mod audience in a bar somewhere near the town hall. Mark Johnson passed it on to the geezer in the Purple Hearts who looked at it and said, No way can I read this. The guy who wrote it must do it. About a week later I got the Phoenix List through the post and I opened it and got the shock of my life when theres this bloody front page announcement that Irish Jack is to read his Mod story Rick The Face at the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith Broadway! I couldnt believe it. This was about a week away and I had no flight reservation and not only that but had never read a story publicly in my life!
So I booked a flight and turned up at the Clarendon Hotel with my manuscript under my arm. There were about 150 Mods there and those that werent pilled looked like theyd been up all night drinking. Despite all that, I did manage to get order for my reading. When I told these young Mods that the last time Id been to Hammersmith Town Hall had been to see The Yardbirds, they couldnt believe it. It got things off to a great start. So I read my story Rick The Face in two halves and I got a great reception. I seemed to have a knack for telling a story and I warmed to it. There were Mods from all over ; London, Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle. After the reading some young Mod came up and asked if I would do a quick interview into this little tape machine. I said, Yes, of course! and before I knew it about a dozen others had unwrapped theirs. They were all young fanzine editors, and theyre going..Irish Jack, is it true that..etc.---and---Irish Jack, I read about you in the MODS book, chewing gum weekends!. I just couldnt believe how all these Mods knew about me, it was very uplifting and encouraging.
So that was my very first reading. That was back in 85 but the funny thing is that I really treated it as a one-off. I never really followed through with the idea of entertaining young Mods with my own experiences at the time.
I didnt really begin to take it seriously again until 1994 when I did a reading in New York for Who fans, and that was the start of a lot of other readings which Ive been doing since. So, you could say that the New York reading in Manhattan really was the beginning. Since then, Ive read a few more times again in New York and in New Jersey. I did a Quadrophenia re-print cinema reading for my local art house, and the Southern Soul Festival in Cork. Did Trinity College in Dublin, Cafe Pop in Manchester, Trinity Hall Cambridge, Paris Scooter Show.
Ive actually got into it all a bit late in the day. I mean, I should have been doing readings ages ago. But Ive discovered an extension of myself, Ive found something that I like, something I love doing. When I used to watch Townshend on the stage at the Marquee, I was up there wearing his clothes, playing that electrifying Rickenbacker. That was me! So now, at last, Ive finally made it on to a stage, as it were. The greatest feeling in the world is being up there reading, watching peoples responses to something youve written. None of its fictional, its all true, for good or for bad. Like my web site; if youre going to tell a story, you have to tell the full story, warts and all. You remember me telling you much earlier in the interview how I cant play any instrument, and how that frustrates me so much? Well, my mouth is now my instrument; my Mod memoirs are my musical scores.
Believe me, Irish Jack is a character, a real character. His stories are superb, and hes got a knack of enthralling, spellbinding his listeners, whether they be few or many. If I was to print all the stories, anecdotes and memories that Irish Jack shared with us, it would probably take two issues of SCOOTERING, from cover to cover - with no adverts - and even then wed have to be very careful and use ultra small print size.
Also, after meeting Irish Jack, Im convinced, totally convinced, that Id spent the weekend with the blueprint, the original, the genuine article - Jimmy Cooper, the part played by Phil Daniels in the film. His four complexes (Quadrophenic), his fast talking, his mannerisms, fifty five years old, hes still talking the talk, walking the walk. And chewing gum, too!
Irish Jacks readings are something that anyone and everyone with even a passing interest in Mod and The Who should have on their agenda as being absolutely essential. My last view of Irish Jack was stood, one hand in a jacket pocket, resplendent in a sharp suit and Fred Perry shirt. Irish Jack is not only the real Jimmy, but the epitome of Mod incarnate. A real geezer.
Music Editor, Scootering
Jack and SCOOTERING music editor, Mark Sargeant, Cork, July '99