When the fashion really began to take off, it took any one of us seven or eight weeks to save up to buy something that was old hat after a month. Figure that out, cos I can’t, but that’s how much we cared about how we looked. Mods hated finding themselves out of sync with the leading Faces. We were like an organised army, we were everywhere. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there were Mods in Burnley, Bolton and probably Glenda Loch but London really was the place. London had Soho, no one else did. Leading Faces appeared in fashion magazines and classy stuff like ‘Town’, wearing Levis faded to perfection and Henley boating jackets. Lambrettas, Vespas and the road to the coast for the best music you ever heard in your life. Cartons of pills, you see us Mods were the only generation that really cared about how we looked. And judging by the speed of the fashion, it soon became obvious that the only way any Mod worth his salt could keep abreast of things, was to have a job. We were the first youth culture who believed in work. Teds and beatniks didn’t, I mean, I was a bloody filing clerk with the London Electricity Board and my friend was a meat pie packer but we were just as Mod as each other. That was the thing about this big army of Mods, we could be working at anything really and still go into work dressed smart and be Mod. The bosses didn’t know what to do with us.
The first time I heard the expression ’Up West’, I hadn’t a clue what it was ? I thought it was a dog at the White City race track but soon every Mod was using the expression. ‘Up West’ meant being up the West End, the Soho district of London. When you were ‘Up West’ with Mods from all over London and the sticks, you couldn’t help but feel theatrical. ‘Up West’ was where all the leading plays were and films before they went out on general release. There was a perceived air of exclusiveness about the places that seemed to fit the Mod ethic to a tee. Wardour Street and Gerrard Street were the main arteries where hundreds of Mods gathered to pose and score pills on Friday and Saturday nights, but mostly Saturday nights after the suburban pubs and clubs had closed.
I used to get the train from Goldhawk Road to Hammersmith, walk under the subway and change over to the Piccadilly line to Piccadilly Circus. When I’d come up the steps of Piccadilly it actually had the sensation of coming up out of the ground like a great Phoenix. Suddenly I’d dramatically appear, come up out of the ground and suddenly be surrounded by a tidal wave of people, a fucking world party. Everyone, Mods, young boys and girls pilled up to the eyeballs. News vendors with dirty magazines hidden under the counter, three-card-trick merchants, drug pushers charging sixpence each for French Blues, a shilling for a Roaring Twenty or a Black Bomber. Prostitutes, ten quid for it or a fiver for a hand job, ‘The End Is Nigh’ placard carriers, Coppers looking for a collar, Country bumpkins looking for a kinky night in Soho and tourists, thousands of tourists. No wonder I felt like an Ace Face as I strutted along Shaftesbury Avenue like a well plumed peacock with my hands buried deep in my jacket pockets, bloody cool that was.
That was the thing about being ‘Up West’ on a Saturday night, in one sense you were a nobody, just another one of the West End’s lost souls but at the same time you’re standing there at the pedestrian crossing in the middle of a mob of camera clicking tourists and you’re ‘there’. Bloody Mod from head to toe and outside you don’t want to be photographed cos you’re too cool to really care but inside you want to be photographed. You’re so cool you could be Albert Finney or Tom Courtney, just slipped out of the Garrick Theatre during the interval.
The Ace in everyone’s book was Peter Meaden from Edmonton. A nervous wreck, he spoke at you at about a hundred miles an hour and used to sound like an American DJ. He was as Cockney as Bow Bells but Drynamil made him sound American. He was King, well he was King Mod, that was for sure. He was plugged into everything and lived his life in that tiny room in Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, a word, a sentence, a style, a dance, a step ahead of everyone else. When I heard that this guy Meaden had become the manager of ‘The Who’ it sounded like a marriage made in heaven cos they were perfect for each other. A couple of weeks after he took over the band in June 1964, he changed the name to ‘The High Numbers’ and told everyone in the Goldhawk Social Club to stop calling them ‘The Who’. He also mentioned that we should spread the word….and we did because we believed in this geezer Meaden but I still reckoned that the previous name was better.
One night, Meaden told me that ‘The High Numbers’ were going to release their first ever record, a song called ‘I’m The Face’. It sounded like a great title and I asked Meaden if Pete Townshend had written it. He said no and refused to say anymore on the subject. The following week, I went down the Goldhawk, Meaden had a little sales table under the stage selling copies of the single. I didn’t buy one because I knew I’d get a free copy from my mate Townshend. Later on that night, Meaden approached me in the bar and said if I took copies of the record down Shepherd’s Bush Market the next day (Saturday), I could earn myself a nice little commission. I was so excited about it I forgot to ask him how much the commission was.
Saturday afternoon, I walked down Goldhawk Road to the Market, confident I would shift all twelve copies within the hour. Meaden had explained that it didn’t take many sales for a record to climb at least into the lower reaches of the charts. What a fool I was, the Market was jammed like every other Saturday, a hot afternoon in July, Mod girls buying sling backs, West Indians haggling over crockery and Indian husbands and wives haggling over the price of a carpet. Everywhere was the smell of bird seed and I spent the next three hours baking in the hot sun, standing in the middle of the walk-thru holding out copies of ‘I’m The Face’ but nobody wanted to know ! In the entire three hours, with sweat running down my neck, I sold just three copies. In the end, I got so fed up of people ignoring me and this great bloody band, I just said, “Sod this, I’m off home”. When I got indoors, I stepped into a lukewarm bath and it felt like heaven.
I bumped into Peter Meaden in the Goldhawk later that night and he told me that he had been all over the place trying to get shops to stock the record. Even though Fontana were the label they were fucking useless and only pressed about a thousand copies, that’s how much they believed in the band. I knew I felt bloody exhausted, but Meaden I had to admit, looked positively wrecked. I told him I had only managed to sell three copies of the record and he looked very disappointed. Then his face completely dropped when I told him I’d left the nine unsold copies at home. Then, Meaden very begrudgingly, handed me my commission for three hours work. I took the little brown envelope from him, it was the standard pay envelope they used at the L.E.B. and when I opened it up, I discovered that Meaden was paying out his commission in pills!
‘I’m The Face’ never got anywhere, someone said that Meaden gave away a stack of records to club and radio DJ’s who never kept their word. John Entwistle’s mother and aunt bought about a dozen copies and completely dried out the stock of a record shop in Acton High Street. I never did give Meaden back those nine unsold copies and we were never quite the same after that. See, what actually happened is that my Aunt Carol was always nagging me about keeping my bedroom tidy so whenever I heard her approach my room with her dreaded feather duster, I used to scoop everything off the bed and keep it out of sight. My Uncle John kept this old piano in my room and that was usually the favourite dumping place for the ‘High Numbers’ fliers and the unsold records. Usually, when the coast was clear, I’d scoop the lot out of the back of the piano and place them somewhere else. Sometimes I’d forget (and sometimes it depended on how many pills I’d had), so I dumped the lot one weekend into the favourite hiding place and went off to work on Monday. When I got home that evening and walked into my bedroom, there was a space in the corner of the room where the piano used to be. I couldn’t believe it, I walked straight into the kitchen to find my Aunt Carol humming away to herself and very relieved to inform me that Uncle John would be thrilled when he got home to discover that at long last, a rag and bone man had called out of the blue and taken away the piano ! I was almost in tears, Jesus, nine copies of ‘I’m The Face’ stuck down the back of the piano as well as (nowadays) priceless fliers for the ‘High Numbers’ and the Goldhawk Social Club. One copy of the record is now probably worth twice the value of that piano.
To this day, though now living in Cork, as I frequently find myself for one reason or another, walking down the Goldhawk Road, I sometimes make a point of walking through the old Shepherd’s Bush Market. I get to a point halfways down and I remember standing there on a baking hot July afternoon in 1964 trying to sell a dozen records for ‘The High Numbers’. There was the old tea stall run by John at the Goldhawk end and another one at the Uxbridge Road end as well which were usually populated by members of the Irish community. Usually as I walk through the Market, I take a right down Uxbridge Road, past the library towards Shepherd’s Bush Green and I go and sit on my favourite bench. I look around at where the old Gaumont cinema and the Odeon were and the BBC television studios. The public gents toilet on the Green where a famous tv actor was once arrested for importuning (those were the days). From the bench, where if I had my way the world would begin on 1st January 1960, I stare across at the shops along Uxbridge Road and look for the old London Electricity Board building that was numbered 154.
*The images shown above are as follows – Another view of my beloved Kelmscott Gardens taken from Askew Road. Our 3rd floor flat can be seen through the tree branches on the right of the picture. The Sulgrave Boys Club where nearly every lad from Kelmscott was a member AND also included Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. The early picture of the band was given to me by Roger’s late mum Irene, when she lived in her little semi in Turnham Green. She used to write letters to me even though she suffered badly from polio in her hands. She was a dear lady and always made me very welcome. The photo shows Roger (left), our old drummer Doug Sandom and Pete Townshend. It would’ve been taken at the old White Hart in Acton High Street on a Sunday night where I used to go. Finally, the large photo was taken outside the Goldhawk Club on 26th July 1978. Roger arrived by helicopter from his house in Sussex and then caught a cab to the Club. After five minutes, the others turned up and we went inside. The photo shows from the left, Ian Moody, ex-Mod and now deceased. Tom Shelley, ex-Mod from Riverside Gardens in Hammersmith. Behind him on the left is an unknown who decided to turn up. Standing at the door with typical arm in a sling is ex-Rocker and Kelmscott terror Chris Covill, now deceased. The geezer holding the glass is yours truly, Irish Jack, ex-Mod from Kelmscott Gardens, Flora Gardens and Dalling Road. Martin Gaish, ex-Mod from Riverside Gardens in Hammersmith. Leaning on the pillar is Roger Daltrey, ex-Mod (maybe?) from Little Percy Road, Askew Road and Fielding Road. Roger put £25 on the counter (a fortune in 1978) and asked the barmaid to keep pouring the drinks !
‘Irish Jack’ Lyons