Do The Mime By ‘Irish Jack’ Lyons

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Hammersmith is a well populated area of West London, a commercial centre with a lot of indigenous Irish people who’ve made London their home. A kind of city within a city in a sense…surrounded and linked by other areas like Shepherd’s Bush, Fulham, Acton, Ealing, Chiswick and of course, the White City Estate.  Hammersmith had its own Police Station, a place I had seen the inside of once or twice. There was a Wimpy Bar on the Broadway, a Fire Station and a subway connecting the entrance to the District Line and to the greater and more pompous Piccadilly Line from whence things only got better. The walls of the subway were always filthy and the passageway sometimes reeked of drunken urine.

The subway also played host to a gentleman’s toilet complete with washroom where, for the exorbitant fee of the old sixpenny piece, you could borrow a fresh towel and soap to get your hair in place and recover from the ‘comedown’ as well as parade before the greasy mirror to get the collars of your Fred Perry slipping over your jacket lapels and straighten the parting in your hair. Sometimes the attendant, usually some old Irish guy, looked on in curiosity while you went about the business of back combing your hair with a plastic pocket brush. This particular washroom was always populated by people like Irish pub landlords, news vendors, pimps – and members of the Drugs Squad. Oh ! And Mods. A lot of Mods. Hammersmith also had a very chic Greek coffee bar where you could score pills and across the street was a so-called posh dance hall…it was known as ‘The Palais de Danse’

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They used to have these Monday nights down there. No live bands, just records. ‘Off The Record Night’ that’s what they called it and you know what, judging by the antics of some of the geezers that got down there – it was ‘Off The Record’ ! There was one particular novelty spot every Monday night where the DJ would invite anyone who happened to be celebrating their birthday to come up on stage and he’d present them with a free record album. In those days of course we used to call them ‘LP’s’which is short for Long Playing record. Well, there was always some wise guy who reckoned he would treat himself to a free record by going up and lying about his birthday. So what used to happen, see, is that some guy, encouraged no doubt by his friends, would go up intending on a good piss-take of the unsuspecting DJ.

Usually when somebody from the crowd walked on stage, the DJ would introduce them by their first name and they’d get a polite round of applause. The DJ would enquire as to how old they were that day, and that wouldn’t be too difficult. Then the DJ would throw the guy completely off-guard by telling the crowd some quick joke and as soon as the laughter died down he would suddenly turn to the so-called ‘birthday celebrant’ and ask: “What’s today’s date then ?” The point of the exercise is that if it really was the guy’s birthday there was no way he wouldn’t know it. But that DJ used to catch so many people, he was real clever. The guy who had tried to bluff his way to a free LP would look like he wished he’d never been born and the whole Palais would slag him to death down in the crowd. He wouldn’t get a free record either, just a condolent pat on the back as he walked off stage with his tail between his legs.

‘Off The Record Night’ used to finish at 11 o’clock but at about twenty to eleven the place would suddenly go into overdrive. The toilets would flush out the steel comb merchants having their last back comb of the night and the bar on the balcony would empty, leaving half drank cups of cappuccinos. Dozens of overweight geezers in made-to-measure Burton suits with top-of-the-range shoulder padding who, up until this mesmerising overdrive countdown, had trooped round the sides of the floor too shy to dance, would come rumbling out of their shells to catch the last bunch of records. How could anyone resist the latest in Blue Beat or Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs ‘Wooly Bully’ ? Now, during this heptone period just before the end, some of us would go and collect from the cloakroom, our scooter parkas, belted blue nylon macs and the girls would look for their full-length red suedes. And all of this to avoid the crush in 15 minutes time. We’d come back dancing on to the floor with coats and scarves draped around our hip Wooly Bully shoulders and the Bouncers hated that ! They liked to see a lot of respect, especially from Mods, probably because they couldn’t be like us. Sometimes I think it was the fantastic records that got these guys wound up. I mean, two and a half hours watching 400 Mods dancing ‘The Dog’ or ‘The Monkey’ ? The music was so brilliant no wonder they wanted to be out there with us.

At an earlier point in the evening…close to 10 o’clock…the DJ would announce what they called ‘The Weekly Mime Competition’. People from the dance floor would have put their name forward to mime on stage to their favourite topical record, usually something currently in the charts. Some would go up on the stage and make complete prats of themselves but me and the other three of my friends used to take the whole thing so seriously. We could be a real pain. I mean, it weren’t just for a laugh with us. We were the real thing, if you know what I mean. We used to go up as the Who, well, I mean, what else ? It was a fantastic feeling up there, and the butterflies in our stomachs before we took the stage….sometimes that was the realest part. You have to understand this, once you went up as the Who you couldn’t break out laughing at yourself halfway through the record like some of them did. The Who weren’t a joke, they were for real. And so were we. There was me, Martin Gaish, his brother Lee both from Riverside Gardens off King Street and a bloke called Peter Campbell from Southerton Road just behind the Broadway. I was from Askew Road in Shepherd’s Bush. We’d never swap around our chosen characters either…we always went up as the same person. Martin Gaish would be Roger Daltrey, Lee would be Keith Moon, Peter Campbell would be John Entwistle cos he was really the quietest one of the four of us…and I’d have to be Townshend.

Before the mime contest would start and once we knew the inevitable was about to happen, each one of us would feel our character part begin to take over. Sometimes, though not always. The Who’s Managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp would turn up and watch from the balcony, sipping brandies and smoking French cigarettes that left a scent. They were like a couple of ace faces from Paris. When you had the real Who’s Managers watching you it really did feel like the real thing. Kit once told us it was a ‘useful device’. The Gaish brothers and Campbell had looked impressed but I was burning with anger…’useful device’ ? Is that what Kit had called it before getting into posh fucking metaphysics and stuff about that geezer Jean-Luc Godard. This was my bloody gig. That was me up there doing that mime being Pete bloody Townshend ! We used to really work hard at it. People clapped and cheered…if you were good, and we were. The eventual winner was decided by which contestant, solo or group, received the loudest applause when re-introduced to the crowd by the DJ. So it was vital to have learned your parts.

Just on the stroke of 10 o’clock, the DJ would step down from his record booth, walk to the edge of the stage, microphone in hand and with a dramatic fanfare befitting something out of Caesar’s Palace, he would announce the mime contest. The bloke who usually did this was a fella called Ken with sleek-backed Brylcreemed hair and a striped blazer. In those days there was always more than a hint of the Music Hall with Comperes at a lot of Dance Halls and Clubs. There was a special record he used to announce the spot and I think it was Sandy Nelson’s ‘Drumming Up A Storm’. So, as soon as the announcement was made, crowds of people would come flocking around the edge of the stage. The floor lighting would dim for dramatic effect and the DJ would turn the volume up a few notches. And then, the first contestant would be announced. We used to hang back a bit so’s we’d be placed either second or last. This would ensure we remained fresh in the audience’s memory. Oh, we were clever bastards, alright.

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Anyway, on one such unforgettable Monday night, as they say when referring to the great epics…a group of three guys and a girl went up miming to The Seekers current hit ‘I’ll Never Find Another You’. And they managed to get the audience laughing its head off cos they obviously hadn’t even bothered to rehearse the mime. Next up was a sharp looking geezer from Wimbledon doing PJ Proby’s ‘I Apologise’. He had the body action right but kept missing out the words. The biggest threat to us however was next up, a bunch of fellas from Hounslow who went on as The Animals and they really went to town on ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’. We were standing stage-side watching this and Martin Gaish looked at me with a worried expression cos these guys had done their bloody homework. Gaish’s brother Lee clutched a pair of Keith Moon’s actual drum sticks as he stood watching and incessantly chewed on what looked like six packets of Wrigley’s spearmint. The guys from Hounslow had it all worked out and something which enhanced their performing licence was the singer wearing a white Madras jacket dangerously similar to one Eric Burdon had been photographed wearing in Fabulous magazine. If that wasn’t bad enough, the odds were further stacked against us by yet another Eric Burdon dead giveaway…a gingham tab collared shirt buttoned to the top not to mention the obligatory absence of a tie. “Flash cunts !” Lee Gaish hissed into my ear through a mouthful of gum as he leaned over to get a better view of the Hounslow Animals. I nodded in agreement and used my small finger to remove the fall-out spittle from my eardrum.

Meanwhile Lee’s brother Martin had disappeared. It was coming to the end of ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ and we were next up. “Where’s Martin gone ?” Peter Campbell enquired. “All he said was he was going to the loo, I dunno.” Lee replied. Well, that was all we needed now, I thought, bloody Martin with a case of the runs. The stage can be a frightening place y’know. Anyway before I could enquire into which particular brand of women’s laxative he was currently doing, Martin suddenly re-appeared with a wide grin on his face. I noticed a large circular object bulging beneath his Fred Perry. “What the fuck’s that…a carton of leapers ?” Peter Campbell exclaimed. With hubris rising in him, Martin revealed a full size tambourine from underneath his Fred Perry. Then like a trophy he punched at the skin with his fist. “Kit got it off Roger for the mime,” he declared, beaming like an idiot. Lee, Campbell and I looked at each other in amazement…now why hadn’t we thought of that ? The Hounslow Animals trooped off stage to loud appreciation from the crowd. They’d done well and as they walked by us in the wings, one of them instinctively stuck his hand out: “Good luck mate.” His hand met thin air as Martin ignored him, tucking the tambourine back under his shirt…and…we followed Mister Roger Daltrey on to the stage. Oh yes, we were the Who alright, and we had contempt.

We stood, stage centre, chewed on our collective gum and stared in a mocking manner into the heart of the crowd. You had to hold the look otherwise you were dead. It caused a ripple of anticipation. The DJ (Ken) began to announce us in his condescending manner…”And now, ladies and gentlemen, the final contestants of the evening…four local lads from Hammersmith…..” There was an encouraging cheer from the middle of the floor from a brigade of fat geezers clad in pay-by-the-week Burtons, quickly followed by a salvo of raspberries from the Acton Lot somewhere at the back. The DJ continued: “I’m sure everybody knows them by now.” He read out our names from a slip of paper in his hand: “On drums, Lee Gaish. On bass guitar, Peter Campbell. On lead guitar, Jack Lyons and on vocals, Martin Gaish.” Another cheer went up, this time lightweight. Then the DJ handed down a gift from the gods and fantasy became real. “Ladeeez and Gennnelmen…the Hammersmith Who with ‘I… Can’t …Explain’, I swore under my breath as he screwed up the title of the song. Like all DJ’s and those not in the know, he had implanted momentary pauses in between the words. If the song was anything, it wasn’t ‘I…Can’t…Explain’. Said slowly that was the title of some limp wristed fucking pop song. You had to say it quick like you would in everyday conversation…”I dunno. I can’t explain.” There, like that. ‘I…Can’t…Explain’ that was pop rubbish. This wasn’t pop, this was more, this was street talk, poetry even, fucking Elgar on speed.

In those fleeting moments with the record needle waiting to enter the opening groove, a hush fell upon the entire Palais. Before he had taken the stage, Martin upon advice from Kit, had placed the tambourine back under his shirt. And now, in full view of the crowd, he drew it out with maximum effect. Kit had been right. The sudden and totally unexpected appearance of the tambourine had struck the required chord as it became patently obvious to all and sundry that by association and in view of Lee already twirling a pair of drum sticks as good as Viv Prince, this just had to be Roger Daltrey’s very own tambourine. Anyone in the audience with an eye for detail might have noticed its battered condition, deeming it the very one Roger had used the previous Tuesday at the Marquee. I threw a quick smirk at some girls by my feet as my brilliant wrist clanged out the opening chords. The staccato. It’s supposed to be in E so I’m supposed to crook my fingers into that shape. My body tightened like an over-wound coil spring as I leaned back against an imaginary Marshall cabinet to induce feedback. Yes, this band even mimed feedback ! Then I turned around to twiddle invisible knobs on an even more invisible amp. How can one thing be more invisible than another ? A shimmering vibe reached me from the well of the crowd. The feeling was indescribable.

Since Lee Gaish didn’t have a drum stool, miming drummers were obliged to sit on a stage step leading to the DJ booth. A tell tale ring of spittle formed around the edges of his mouth confirming he’d had his usual Monday-Night-Palais dose of French Blues. He was pilled, naturally and with an exaggerated energy, attacked the thin air with Keith Moon’s drum sticks. He threw monkey faces, made his eyes rather huge and now and then feigned mock surprise. Peter Campbell, the quietest man I’ve probably ever known, with a certain stage craft stood far to the right of us. It was a kind of staged and exaggerated distance drawing attention to the cleverly worked choreography. (Yes, I’ll take the credit for that, dear reader !) Despite the fact he was definitely exhilarated by the experience, he managed to look suitably bored as he ran the fingers of his left hand up and down an imaginary bass guitar…a fairly long necked imaginary bass guitar, may I add. And now, in this instant, Martin grabbed the microphone by its head to stabilise it and the expression on the DJ’s face turned purple when he realised Martin was going to start bashing the microphone with the tambourine ! A Mecca Ballroom piece of property. Gaish timed the opening perfect…”Oh well, I feel inside, Certain kind, I feel hot and cold, Way down in my soul…”

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Martin Gaish was the leader of our little Mod set. He weren’t the toughest but whatever he said everyone usually followed cos he was usually the one who showed most nerve. He was barred from entering Woolworths cos his hands were like grease lightning, he could nick anything. He could talk back to Coppers with suicidal intent and reserve sarcastic lip for Fish Shop Managers. Lee argued a lot with his older brother but secretly looked up to him. Their dad Fred Gaish, worked in the Hammersmith sorting office and he would often bump into Martin and Lee on the stairs leading to their flat at 6am on a Saturday morning after a night ‘Up West’. Peter Campbell regarded Martin as the front man. Gaish slagged me off cos of the funny way I spoke and the fact I talked ‘Who’ all day and all night. But all the time there was a link between us, something we both recognised in the other. I wasn’t a fighter and I was useless with a girl, I just acted everything out. Nobody listened to me when it was time to decide where we’d go, what to do, I didn’t have a voice. I was this follower and yet, it was me who spent a month trying to get Martin to do that mime. He reckoned we’d look silly on the stage. I said we wouldn’t cos we’d be The Who, not a bunch of prats miming to something like Peter & Gordon. I got through to him in the end. I could be Townshend at the drop of a hat, really. Cos, see, I’d had plenty of practice at home in front of the mirror and I’d perfected my windmill to the extent that my arm became like a propeller blade and I’d miss the lamp shade by inches. The others knew the band just as much as I did but it was me who drove them to this almighty elixir on that Palais stage. When I had first suggested it they reckoned I was losing my marbles. They thought the mime was only for soft boys and the real ace faces were tooled up charging across the Broadway in pursuit of a couple of Rockers. That was rubbish. I told them that done properly ‘ace’ belonged on that stage, that we could be someone up there. We stood in a group one night and watched a few idiots trying to mime and I was like a Field Marshall pointing out to them where they were going wrong. They saw the power and they wanted it.

Gaish sang word perfect. It might’ve been a mime contest but Martin still believed in actually singing. He whacked the precious microphone stand with the tambourine. The DJ, standing stage side, mentally counted how many record grooves were left while he waited to retrieve his beloved public address. Lee continued to attack the thin air with a pair of real Keith Moon drum sticks. Peter Campbell, oddly positioned, almost to the stage wing, it was cool because he looked marooned. It was Who-ish and theatrical and would have struck a chord in the back of a stage designer’s head. I walked across the stage to the front. It was the walk of a man crossing the floor of a Belgravian drawing room. And when I reached the door and opened it wide…I snared into the front rows at my feet and speared an imaginary Marshall cabinet cloth with the neck of an imaginary Rickenbacker guitar. Hard guys standing by the lip of the stage, are giving me that ‘want bother ?’ look – but I can take on anyone while I’m up here. I returned the eye ball challenge and next thing WHAM ! I flash my speed-freak skinny arm around like a windmill blade (not everyone is able to do it, apparently).

And when the chorus line comes up, I shout into a sea of Hammersmith Palais faces…”I Can’t Explain” and the odd thing is that I couldn’t explain. I couldn’t explain to that throng of people looking up at me, how doing that incredible mime was being me and someone else at the same time, another Jack trying to burst out. How could they understand ? When the Palais was over and they all went home to go to bed and get up and catch the bus to work, I would return to my lonely apartment with my invisible guitar wondering once again who the fuck I really was. So what would anyone in that crowd have known about the mime being a mirror, a reflection of the two-person thing ? As the record faded out and my arm pits squeaked with sweat, I felt that I had once again exorcised the ghost of the person I didn’t want to be. No longer trapped…for two minutes seven seconds I had successfully transferred my body into someone else’s but the spell would eventually wear off, just like leapers.

We walked off the stage knowing we had done well. The Hounslow Animals looked deflated. The feeling was good, so real, I had to pinch myself to remind me. I didn’t have a Rickenbacker strapped around my neck. But in any case, what was I talking about ? I couldn’t even play guitar but I suppose such inconveniences don’t get a look-in in fantasy. The DJ (Ken) walked back on stage and having made a point of carefully examining the microphone, he read out the names of the contestants once more to remind everyone. “Ladies and gentlemen, Mods and Rockers…” There was an outbreak of booing at the mere mention of the word ‘Rockers’. “Now, first on the stage tonight we had from Fulham, a game bunch of lads and a young lady miming to the Seekers hit ‘I’ll Never Find Another You’. Now, don’t forget,” he reminded everyone, “The winner is decided by your applause, so can we have your appreciation please for the Fulham Seekers…Tony, Barry, Jeff and Doreen.” The Fulham Seekers went into a ridiculous series of arm waving and light applause was their thanks. The DJ continued, “Next up ladies and gentlemen, was a young man called Vince, Vince Barrett, with PJ Proby’s ‘I Apologise’. Some half wit in the balcony shouted “You’re fucking forgiven !” – much to the amusement of everyone. Refusing to be fazed by such profound humour, the DJ continued, “We had Vince Barrett doing PJ Proby’s big hit ‘I Apologise’. How’s your pelvis Vince ?” Gaish jabbed me in the ribs and remarked, ”That’s the second time he’s announced him, are they related or something ?”  I had to agree, the DJ (Ken) was making a lot out of this flash little geezer Vince, whoever he was. Lee Gaish verbally attacked his brother, “You shouldn’t have whacked his poxy microphone. He’s just getting back at us.”  “Not up to him, is it ?” Martin replied in the way brothers bicker at each other. “It’s the crowd what decide.”

Well, that might have been very well but meanwhile the DJ was still rabbitting on about his protégé, Vince. “So, ladies and gentlemen, connoisseurs of good taste, let’s have a big round of applause for Wimbledon’s answer to PJ Proby…VINCE BARRETT !” Whoever he was, this little geezer Vince must have had a controlling share in the entire Mecca organisation. Even the Hounslow Animals who had already fancied their chances, were shaking their heads in disbelief. They glanced across the stage at us in a kind of shared fraternal disgust but we ignored them completely. Meanwhile the ‘Son of God’ and Wimbledon’s answer to PJ Proby…Vince…flash…little…cunt…Barrett, managed to get himself an impressive round of applause. The DJ was back in action. “Okay everybody, our third contestants on the stage tonight were a bunch of lads from Hounslow.” Wild cheering broke out in different parts of the floor. One of the group edged closer to the DJ and appeared to whisper something vital. Martin Gaish sounded a bit like Dixon of Dock Green…”Hello ? Hello ?” Then the DJ, acting like a robot on automatic pilot, took up the whispered suggestion and made it public. “Well, ladies and gentlemen, it seems not only do we have two Alan’s playing in this band but one of them has been miming on the organ just like his name-sake the real Alan Price.”“Bastards !” Peter Campbell, usually very quiet had found the right word, as the DJ continued…”So, let’s show our appreciation and give a really big round of applause for none other than the Hounslow Animals…Chris, Alan, Ronnie, Jeremy and Alan.” The Hounslow Animals waved to their loyal supporters and would have read a message from the Queen, if they had one. The noise was impressive.

Now it was our arses on the line. As planned, we walked to the centre of the stage, except that Peter Campbell carried on walking and didn’t stop until he reached the spot he had earlier occupied as John Entwistle. He turned and looked into the crowd with his hands in his jacket pockets and a sullen expression on his face. It looked good. The Seekers from Fulham; Vince Barrett Proby and the Hounslow Animals hadn’t a clue what was going on. Nobody had thought of returning to their original miming positions. You see, normally contestants flocked around the DJ because basically once their spot was over they felt inhibited by being on the stage, but not us, we were the fucking Who. This was a clever little piece of Maximum R & B choreography. But would it work ? The DJ’s face bore that unmistakable expression when he wants the world to know you are not his favourite contestant. Lee had returned to where he had sat on the step while Martin, still holding the offending tambourine…and I, stuck our hands into our jacket pockets and scowled like Ronnie Lane into the audience. It was act, of course but better to lose defiantly than to go out looking like a bunch of happy-go-lucky idiots. This was serious stuff.

The DJ waved his hand to bring us together for the re-introductions but we wouldn’t budge. This earned a light ripple of attention from the crowd. “Well, folks ?” Ken, the DJ sang, “They’ve won before. But what about tonight eh ?” He tapped the head of the microphone with his knuckle before wagging a scolding finger over at Martin. Gaish didn’t bat an eyelid. An atmosphere was beginning to build and it was on our side. He was trying his level best to sway the crowd away from us.”Last on tonight, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, four lads from Hammersmith and among other things they were miming to the Who’s new record ‘I… Can’t…Explain’ …” Jeezuss, he was mispronouncing it again. He continued, “Now that’s the group who like to smash things up that cost money folks.” He knuckled the live microphone again. He was obviously trying to appeal to the crowd’s sense of respect for other people’s property. But to be perfectly honest, it was having the opposite effect, because that deck chair wrecking crowd there on the Hammersmith Palais floor didn’t appear too concerned about other people’s property. Martin Gaish flashed me a look of hope but the DJ hadn’t finished with us yet. “Anyway, they did their best to wreck the place, ladies and gentlemen, so let’s see what you think of the Hammersmith Who. Who ? Lee, Peter, Jack and Martin.”

It was usually at this point when each of the contestants went into ridiculous arm waving like the Tiller Girls on ‘Sunday Night At The London Palladium’. But we didn’t lift a finger. The others had done it, but not us, not the Hammersmith Who. By now the DJ was grinding his back teeth cos we had refused to conform to convention and act like stage monkeys. The crowd could sense it, whatever it was. They sensed rebellion and the expression on Ken the DJ’s face when the crowd reacted…..

It started small in the middle of the floor where our friends stood…Ray Ord, Tommy Shelley, Dave Massey, Jez Clifford, Alan Bull, Little Joey Bitton from the White City Estate and the two blonde Shirleys from Chiswick and Jeanette and others. It registered up on the balcony where Lambert and Stamp were…having handed Martin the precious tambourine. And when that grapevine that Chris Stamp had talked about began to take root…that unspoken word between Mods when everybody knows something is cool but nobody needs to affirm it. That was when the Hammersmith Palais des Danse stomped and cheered its approval. I mean, they weren’t necessarily applauding us or the mime performance, but the fact the DJ had managed to make a public dick of himself and the Who had a hand in it. It was better than any other time we’d won. We remained so cool up there…that was the best part. It was a temptation to blow it all by relaxing into sloppy smiles but I told you earlier that we were a pain in the arse. I mean, there’s the Hammersmith Palais giving us one night’s respect and all we’ve done to thank them is sneer back into that sea of faces.

We trooped off stage feeling like a million dollars and still caught up in the cool we had just portrayed. We went by the DJ (Ken) who proffered a fake smile as he held out the winners’ LP. The tail end was Lee and he accepted the prize. We crossed the crowded dance floor through knots of people whose eyes signalled recognition…you all know what it’s like to be wired. Some of these people looked at us like they wondered why they couldn’t go up and do the mime. But it was easy; cos we totally believed in what we were doing. That was the difference. It weren’t a laugh with us, nor a giggle…at best it weren’t even fun. It was serious role playing and it allowed each of us, Martin and Lee Gaish, Peter Campbell and myself, the precious gift of the chance to dream.  I swaggered through a group of hard guys who had given me the ‘want bother’ look whilst I was on stage but nothing happened. Hands stuck deep in my jacket pockets, six-inch vents like a tailor’s dream, elbows stiff like peacock’s wings. I was high and felt like I could take on anyone…talk to any girl.

Through the crowd I noticed the Gaish brothers, Martin and Lee, the toast of a big circle and no doubt still going on about the mime. It occurred to me how peculiar they both looked from a distance. Martin stood talking with a large bulge beneath his Fred Perry where the coveted Daltrey tambourine had been stored away. Lee, standing a few feet from him, his chest resembled a perfect square as the front of his tee-shirt revealed the unmistakable outline of the recently won vinyl ‘long playing record’. That was the trouble with winning Oscars at the Hammersmith Palais, you had to fit the prizes into some convenient part of your attire. Lee Gaish clutched Keith Moon’s drum sticks as if, any minute, he was about to depart for a gig. It struck me how any time I ever saw Lee he always seemed to have a pair of sticks either in his hand or sticking out of his pocket. The amazing thing is that he never played drums. He also danced in big Mod circles and every now and then he would play a snatch of harmonica, Roger’s of course. It was a bit like me, I suppose, I would talk about the guitar for the rest of my life and never actually play one. But I could mime to one brilliant.

‘Irish Jack’ Lyons

(The first pic shows of course the Hammersmith Palais. The other is from inside the Railway Hotel Wealdstone in 1964’. On the right is Lee Gaish playing the harmonica. Extreme left is his brother Martin. Also featured are Ray Ord and probably Tinker Berry. The article first appeared on the ‘Long Live Rock’ Website at: www.longliverock.org. Many thanks to Carrie Pratt for letting me use Jack’s wonderful memories from 1965. Sadly, the Palais closed in April 2007 and it was announced that the site will be used for an office and restaurant complex – Steve Russell)



33 Responses to Do The Mime By ‘Irish Jack’ Lyons

  1. Kerrins says:

    Jack…and there was I just content to stay at home and watch Ready Steady Go and Top of the Pops on TV..Look what I missed!

    It was a good job you never entered any of those miming competitions at The Sulgrave Boys Club Christmas Party events of the mid 60′s otherwise none of the others would have stood a chance.

    A very entertaining read Jack. Great Stuff.

    Kind Regards
    Bernard

    PS by the way whatever happened to those Steel Combs? lol

  2. Kerrins says:

    Colin…so thats one of the reasons why Mafeking was saved then!..Glad I played my part.

    Jack…This may sound like 1960′s fashion treason but I have to admit that I wore my Fred Perry shirt whilst playing Table Tennis at Sulgrave.

  3. jj says:

    Once again a top read. The content, detail and words used, create a very realistic picture of that era.
    Big thanks to Irish Jack

  4. bigdave says:

    what a good read jack brought back lots of good memories top class mate ,keep writing mate sheer class DAVE

  5. irish jack says:

    Big Dave,
    My heartiest Congratulations to you, Dan and Newcastle Brown-Annette on the joyous birth of Charlie Marie. I’m glad you enjoyed my story Do The Mime. Walking by the old Hammersmith Palais whilst I was in London in October to meet up with Steve Russell, Bernie Lambert and Colin Woodley it was hard to believe that it all happened behind those rotted doors on a Monday night in 1965. I wish you, your family and baby Charlie Marie a very happy and safe New Year.
    Irish Jack

  6. irish jack says:

    Hello Bernard,
    Thanks for your compliments for Do The Mime. I actually wrote the piece about twenty years ago whilst going through some of my archives for Quadrophenia. The steel combs actually got banned. If a copper found one in your back pocket or inside jacket pocket it could be construed as an illegal weapon.
    PS. I am visually trying to imagine you playing table tennis at the Sulgrave Boys Club in one of Philip Grants’
    Fred Perrys’ – I like the quote ‘fashion treason’ Very apt.
    Irish Jack

  7. irish jack says:

    Hello Colin,
    Yes, it seems the Hammersmith Palais was an institution. Like so many other places we all enjoyed back then when we imagined the world was never going to change. As I told Big dave in a post I walked past it back in October whilst over for the Rangers v. Notts Forest game and it brought a tear to my eye. On lots of other previous visits to my beloved Shepherd’s Bush down through the years I noticed that it ran ‘School Uniform-dress up’ discos or live band gigs once a month. How rueful I became that I had hocked my old Eton trousers and tails to a Stepney pawnbroker ! But about two years ago I happened to pass the doors and found them open. I took a few steps in and was confronted by a burly gentleman of Eastern European descent. Once again my beloved Shepherd’s Bush-historical pursuit of all things Cultural came to the rescue when I conjured up my trusty clip file and told the worried looking gentleman that I had frequented the place in the 60′s. To my astonishment his accent became a little more Bush-friendly, gone was the Slovenian growl, and he was more than happy to show me the dance floor. And before Bernard, Steve or anyone else jumps in….NO, I DID NOT DEMONSTRATE THE ‘DOG’ OR THE ‘MONKEY’ in the hope of ever spreading Shepherd’s Bush culture. I did see a lot of ghosts still on the floor though. Wishing you and everyone else reading this a very happy and safe New Year.
    Irish Jack

  8. irish jack says:

    Very many thanks indeed JJ for your kind compliments. There’s nothing better than words of praise or indeed encouragement and I am honoured that people enjoy my Mod memoirs. I should also thank Steve Russell as well for agreeing to put this story up all in one go since putting it into parts would of course have killed the continuity. I am indebted to him. Have a very happy New Year JJ.
    Irish Jack

  9. Colin Woodley says:

    Thanks Irish. I must confess I was probably also guilty of treason in respect of the Fred Perry shirt, being an enthusiastic table tennis player at the time. But Sulgrave had an excellent coach. No doubt young Kerrins will remember his name!

  10. linda08 says:

    Great read Jack.

    As a little girl I’d get off the (then) Metropolitan line train with my mum at Hammersmith and was always entranced by the huge advertising mural painted high up on a brick wall to my left “Hammersmith Palais de Danse” – oh how grand it sounded! As a 6 or 7 year old, I longed to be able to go there. My first visit was several years later for a Player of the Year do in around 1977 and then most Friday nights about 3 or 4 years after that. It still holds fond memories for me, but your memories would have been a great thing to witness first hand. I’m eternally jealous(!) but thanks again.

  11. Kerrins says:

    Jack…so thats what became of those Steel combs!..You have to smile at the irony of it all bearing in mind the present day knife carrying climate.

    By the way Jack did you happen to spot the Ghost of my Father in 1930′s Oxford Bags tripping the light fantastic to “In the Mood” LOL

    Colin…the table tennis coaches at Sulgrave throughout the 1960′s were Stuart Cox and Valentine (Val) Dereza.

  12. Martin says:

    A terrific read!! My Palais memories are of a much later era. My first gig there was 30th Dec 1980 for Siouxsie and the Banshees supported by the Associates and the Altered Images. I was a regular then through to the early 90s and was at the very last gig in April 2007 – The Fall. Sad to see the old venue just standing decaying now. I suspect the recession has put a hold on the supposed site development for offices and housing.

  13. Jan Bungay (Dickinson) says:

    Can you tell me if Lee Gaish is still around. I am an old girlfriend of his and often think of him and his family. Would love to know if he ever married and at last settled down. Peter Wigley is my brother-in -law who also hung around with the group.

    Many thanks

    Jan

  14. Geoff Dossetter says:

    To answer Colin Woodley’s question the table tennis coach at Sulgrave was Stewart Cox – a lovely bloke. Does anybody remember John Wyman? He was the basketball coach, who lived at the club as caretaker, and then emigrated to Australia. And, of course, the club manager Eric Pead was an incredible bloke – what happened to him?

    This Monday night at the Palais stuff is all very familiar! Good stuff.

    Geoff Dossetter

  15. Kerrins says:

    Hello Geoff..Bernard Lambert here. Glad you found this website.

    Yes Stuart Cox TT coach great Bloke..The other Coach was Val Dereza.

    THe Football coach John Freebody emigrated to Australia..but I cant recall the name of the person who ran the Basketball team..stocky build crew cut hair.

    Eric Pead died in 1993..a sad loss to the world. What a Debt us kids of Shepherds Bush owe him!

    Kind Regards to you.

    PS Any News of Peter Bunker the OTHER great Sulgrave TT Player of the era lol..and well known Chelsea Supporter(wash my mouth out with soap and water lol)

  16. Irish Jack says:

    Hello Geoff,
    I’m honoured to know you like the Do The Mime article and so glad to learn that those Hammersmigh Palais Monday nights are familiar to you. Geoff Dossetter? – a shot in the dark but are you the Geoff Dossetter who started in the Post Room at the London Electricity Board, Shepherd’s Bush Green in 1962? Or was that a chap called Len Ringrose who was from Shepherd’s Bush. Both names ring strident bells in my ears. Historians, where are you tonight? Thanks for your kind words Geoff.

  17. Kerrins says:

    Hello Jack…I’m sure Geoff can Speak for himself but when I knew him at Sulgrave I always understood that he started off at the Legal and General Insurance Co..could be wrong though.

    Kind Regards
    Bernard Lambert

  18. Geoff Dossetter says:

    Peter Bunker started work at Legal & General Insurance in the City. I started off at Car & General Insurance in the West End. I dunno about Pete but I got out and moved on to other things. Never been near the LEB though! The ‘stocky bloke with the crewcut’at Sulgrave was called Colin (can’t remember his second name) He was a fitter at the Seven Stars Garage and condemned my first car (a Renault Dauphine that I paid £50 for) when he failed its MoT – thanks Colin! Amongst other things he coached ‘Sulgrave tennis’in the summer- which was pretty good stuff played with a plastic ball and wooden racquets. Wasn’t John Freebody the bloke who flogged knocked off LPs? I’m pretty sure he was. Peter Bunker and I both went to St Clement Danes – and both got out as soon as we could! Peter lived over a pub almost opposite Kelmscott – we played table tennis for Sulgrave all over London. We had one match at the asylum at Hanwell and were not sure whether we were playing the inmates or the staff? Where the hell is old Pete now?

    Funny how these little reminders dig out all sorts of forgotten memories.

    Keep it coming chaps!

    Best wishes.

    Geoff Dossetter

  19. Kerrins says:

    Yes Geoff spot on with your Sulgrave recollections.

    Colin took the Sulgrave Tennis and those “House Runs” along the Goldhawk Rd up to the Commodore cinema and Back. He also organised that NABC fitness award Scheme..Ooops I got it wrong about the basketball.

    Reter Bunker lived in a flat above the (Eagle?) Pub across the Rd from Kelmscott Gds.

    The Sulgrave junior table tennis team also played the Hanwell Asylum in the Acton And District league….and I can assure you Geoff in the game I played in we were playing against one of the inmates!

    A nice mild mannered guy like John Freebody flogging knocked off LP’s? surely not?..thats another childhood illusion shattered lol

    I once tried tracing Peter Bunker via the Shepherds Bush Cricket Club but there was no trace of him from circa 1970 onwards..Arthur Gates(he is still alive y’know) might know his whereabouts.

    Regards
    Bernard

  20. Kerrins says:

    Jack…a fortnight ago Sat evening on Radio 4 there was a prog called Archive on Four all about the History of the Mod movement.

    Great Listening! Did you catch it? I think Phil Daniels was the narrator.

    Regards
    Bernard

  21. Irish Jack says:

    In a New Year greeting I recently told Bernard ‘Kerrins’ Lambert that the world had become a small place the size of a golf ball. His response was to declare that once you go on line at http://www.indyrs.co.uk the world does indeed become a very small place.. Until I read the very latest messages, all very belated but more than welcome on the tail-end of my Do The Mime article, the name Peter Bunker didn’t mean very much to me. But NOW suddenly bells and grand pianos are jangling like hell in my head—because in 1960–when I lived with my Uncle John Sears at 22 Kelmscott Gardens, Askew Road across the green from Colin Woodley and around the corner from Bernard Lambert I can vividly recall my Uncle John asking a boy who lived over the Eagle bar across from Kelmscott (with another two or three boys) if they would take me along to Stamford Bridge to see my first ever floodlit game (AND, may I majestically add..to hear at halftime The Shadows’ ‘Apache’ which has been chiselled into my soul ever since..the record, not Chelsea).. whether the Peter Bunker discussed in the messages above is the boy who safely escorted me to Stamford Bridge I can’t be certain but I am almost certain that he lived over the Eagle pub. Being of Irish origin one does not forget an important detail like that. One of the other boys who escorted me as well that night was a chap who I think played with us in Ravenscourt Park, he was a fantastic goalkeeper and I remember him as being Ray Chappel who lived just around the corner from Kelmscott in one of the big houses on the right of the little green by the bus stop for the 657 going to Shepherd’s Bush. At aged 66 my memory valves are not as they might be direct from the Osram factory in Brook Green but I seem to recall my cousin Janice (she of long hair, great legs and member of the Official Elvis Presley fan Club) sharing a private joke about Peter Bunker as in : “Don’t tell Aunt Carol and Uncle John what I said but he’s known as Peter Bunk-Up !” Needless to say that in 1960 with hay sticking out of my size 7 shoes I then had to ask Cousin Jan exactly what ‘Bunk-Up’ meant.

  22. Kerrins says:

    Jack…very interesting comment.

    Almost certainly it WAS Peter Bunker who went with you to Stamford Bridge. He was a big Chelsea supporter back then…and also a very good footballer

    You are also sure to be right about Ray Chappel( very Blond Hair)..The Chapel Family lived in a big house(now gone replaced by flats) almost opposite Sulgrave Boys Club…Ray went to Victoria school two years above me..I was friends with one of his younger Brothers Graham.

    I had too much respect for Peter to refer to him by that nickname lol…but I know he DID get engaged at a very early age..I think it was while he was in his last year at Sulgrave Boys Club.. he must have been only 19 then!

    Cheers Bernard

  23. Kerrins says:

    PS I reckon the younger Chappel brother was called Roger not Graham as I originally stated.

    Apologies folks. The mists of time appear to be clouding my memory.

    Bernard

  24. Geoff Dossetter says:

    I mentioned this stuff to my friend Brian Pearce (Westville Road, Sulgrave 1959-65). Brian has produced a script, written by Eric Pead, of the Sulgrave pantomime for either 1962 or 1963. Brian and I were both in the cast. It is all in verse and features the names of many Sulgrave members (including Ray Chapple as mentioned above). But it also gives clues to members without mentioning their names! Very tricky. We’re just trying to find the best way to get it either on to this site or create a link to find it elsewhere. Sulgrave members of the period will enjoy this.

    Geoff Dossetter

  25. Kerrins says:

    Geoff..It would be great if you could get that script on here.

    Yes I remember those festive seasons at Sulgrave..in Particular John Terry doing a mime to the Rolling Stones Record I wanna be your man. There was also The Eldest Son of Mr Phillips who came with his group and performed for us in the Games Hall.

  26. John Terry says:

    My thanks to Geoff Dosseter guiding me to this site.
    I could not believe my eyes to see my name.
    That Bernard could remember this after 46 years or more
    can only mean on thing it was so good or so so bad me thinks the later.Well done to Irish Jack for a great piece my everlasting memory of the Who is at Goldhawk Social when Sonny Boy Williams joined them on stage.Nice to see so many names from Sulgrave i have been in touch with Glenn Kenyon and his brother Barry.Also got an email some time ago from Gordon Jackman John Terry

  27. Kerrins says:

    Hello John…nice to see you posting on this site. Its been a long time since we last made contact. A lot of water has passed under the (Stamford) Bridge since then thats for sure!

    No John you did a pretty good Mick Jagger!

    Glad you are still in touch with Glen and Barry Kenyon and Gordon Jackman. Heard anything about George Russell or Mick Quinn your team mates in the Sulgrave seniors Football team.

    For the record my E Mail address is bernardlambertuk@yahoo.co.uk

    All the best to you
    Bernard Lambert

  28. Colin Woodley aka ESSEXURs says:

    God Kerrins you are well and truly taxing my old memory banks with all these names!
    Good to see Geoff D posting. Funny how we had similar paths I was at St Clement Danes and then in the City with Atlas Assurance(subsequently Royal Exchange Group and then GRE)
    I must confess that much of the detail my brief days in Sulgrave have been lost in the mists of time but I did enjoy the odd game (or should that be battle!) of Shinty.

  29. Kerrins says:

    Colin…I was never brave enough to go up into the gym and play Sulgrave Shinty! lol

  30. irish jack says:

    Please accept my apologies for being out of the loop but our near and dear Steve Russell tipped me off that a very interesting comment had been added to my piece Do The Mime, thanks Steve. I would like to thank John Terry for his kind comments on my story. I apologise here for the correction John but to the best of my memory (and the old Osram memory valves certainly stand corrected..) but I don’t recall Sonny Boy Williamson performing with The Who at the Goldhawk Social Club..Jimmy Reid the blues player performed on the tiny Goldhawk stage but Sonny Boy Williamson supported us during the interval up at the old Marquee at 90 Wardour Street while we had our Tuesday night residency there from 25th November ’64 to mid April ’65. He wore a zoot suit on stage. My apologies to you and readers if I am wrong. Whilst I was a Goldhawk regular from ’63 to ’66 when old Eric Woolgar barred me, I lived at 22 Kelmscott Gardens and at 194 Flora Gardens on Dalling Road. I also shared a flat with a mad Scottish woman called Mrs. Boyle at 35 Ravenscourt Park Mansions. It was quite posh. I had Pete Townshend up there a couple of times poisoning him with my over-boiled soup. I also made the classic error of deciding to hold a Mod party there while Mrs. Boyle was overnighting with her auntie in Goodge Street in Tottenham Court Road. The party was supposed to be only for ten people and half the bleeding Goldhawk turned up. I saw the last person out the door at 6am and spent the next seven hours hoovering, wiping sick off the carpets and praying that Mrs. Boyle wouldn’t notice her precious china bowl from Benedorme was no more. Let me know John if you were a Goldhawk regular and thanks again for your compliments.

  31. Kerrins says:

    As I recall there were a number of Sulgrave “seniors” who were quite regular visitors to The Goldhawk social in the mid to late 1960′s…John Terry Jim Huxley Alan Elliot Brian Pearce to name a few.

    Should be an interesting debate if any come on here!

    Of course a young innocent Sulgrave “junior” like myself cant provide much input or info about such establishments! lol

  32. Geoff Dossetter says:

    Brian Pearce and I are still trying to sus out how to make the pantomime script available. It’s very long and very clever and anybody from Sulgrave 1960-1965 will love it! We need an IT expert to advise. We were just reflecting on the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh to Sulgrave in 1960 (ish) – there we were chatting up royalty and getting our pics in the West London Observer! Visits to the Goldhawk Social were not as frequent as you guys – we used to hang around Soho (Bastille, Marquee, Scene etc) great days. John Terry made contact a couple of months ago then it all went dead until checking out this website again – typical John. Regards to all Geoff Dossetter and Brian Pearce.

  33. Kerrins says:

    Geoff sorry but I’m no IT Expert…far from it.

    I remember seeing many club photos of that D of E visit but I just missed out on the actual occassion because I was not a member until 1961/62

    There was one of Eric Pead and the Duke having a tete a tete and photos of a very young George Russell and Mick Quinn up in the gym…Many more of course but I cant recall them all.

    It would be great to have a read of that pantomime script

    Bernard Lambert


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