Irish Jack is the author of ‘The Who In Concert File’ (Omnibus Press) which is co-authored by Joe McMichael. Some of the references to Peter Meaden and ‘I’m The Face’ are extracts from ‘History’ which he contributed to Paulo Hewitt’s, ‘The Sharper Word : A Mod Anthology’ (Helter Skelter Books) Irish Jack is one of Pete Townhend’s oldest friends and was the inspiration for ‘The Who’s’ ‘Quadrophenia’. Now 63, he continues to read his Mod memoirs about ‘The Who’ and growing up in 60’s Shepherd’s Bush in such exotic places as the Oxford Union, Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin, New York, New Jersey, Portsmouth, Southampton, Glasgow and Leeds. His first ever readings of his stories was at the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith Broadway to a roomful of pilled up Mods. There is no plaque. There was a bar.
If I had my way, the World would begin on 1st January 1960 on Shepherd’s Bush Green. Whether, dear reader, it would be through the intercession of the athiest theorem of the Big Bang or Gentle Jesus’s divine 3-day week, I’m easy, because I am obsessed with Shepherd’s Bush. There is a favourite bench of mine that to this day I seek out on the Green and I sit there and stare across at the line of shops along Uxbridge Road and remember the happiest days of my life and sometimes the hardest. Hardly any of the shops still remain from when I started my working life some 47 years ago‚in the London Electricity Board offices.
The old L.E.B. is now an international student learning block. I snuck in there last Summer, 2006 under the walk-thru and I could have been anyone. The entrance across the tiny courtyard is still the same. The lift still goes to the 7th floor which housed the L.E.B. canteen above six floors of offices. The ladies and gents toilets are still between floors where they always were and on the day I slipped in there with a plastic bag of photo-copying, pretending to be one such international student. My heart beat like a hammer as I walked down some of the office corridors that I had walked down with mail from the post room in my hand in 1960 as a 17 year old post boy, the job ‘Jimmy’ did in the film, ‘Quadrophenia’ (I can’t say as a 17 year old Mod cos we didn’t really exist in August 1960 !) so, as a 17 year old boy from Cork in Southern Ireland with a Cork accent trying very hard to sound Cockney and a tuft of wiry hair that looked more like Art Garfunkel. Oh how I hated it, short in stature, 5 foot seven, almost 5 foot eight but not quite (I used to say a decade of the Rosary every night as a kid that I would gain 2 inches and have straight hair when I woke the next morning – it never fucking worked !) Worst of all was my name‚ JACKIE, JACKIE LYONS !
I don’t think I was in the LE.B. a week when everyone started telling me that I wasn’t Jackie, cos that’s a girls name mate. “You’re JACK !” So I would be ‘Jack’ at work and when I’d go back to 22 Kelmscott Gardens in Askew Road by the ‘Seven Stars’ in the wondrous Shepherd’s Bush to my Aunt Carol and my Uncle John, my aunt would ask, “How did you get on at work today JACKIE ?” So I had these four main complexes along with a whole load of others that I’m too embarrassed to mention here. Also between being called JACK at work in the old L.E.B. and making a few friends in the Askew Road/Goldhawk Road/Ravenscourt Park, everyone calling me ‘Jack’ then going back to 22 Kelmscott Gardens to being ‘Jackie’, I was a prime contender for s-c-h-i-z-o-p-h-r-e-n-i-a (it’s alright Editor, I’ve looked it up but there was a time back in the 60’s when I could spell it backwards)
Then in 1962 in a dance hall called, ‘Boseleys’ in Faroe Road (just off Blythe Road) in Shepherd’s Bush, I met this group of five fellas dressed up in funeral suits with cardboard handkerchiefs sticking out of their pockets and playing guitars like, ‘The Shadows’.
Well, at least they tried to play like them and even did the dance steps. That night was probably the beginning of ME as a person. That night I had elected to go to this place called, ‘Boseleys’ having been told about the place by my cousin Joey and his wife Sheila, who was a Lambe from Masbro Road. I paid about three shillings and sixpence admission and walked into a hall to see a live group for the first time in my life. I stood on one side of the floor while over the other side, a group of no more than thirty people stood chatting in between the odd jive to, ‘Apache’ and Chubby Checker’s, ‘Let’s Twist Again’
Everyone looked over at the weirdo standing on his own, dressed in a white ‘shorty’ mac (a bit like Detective Columbo), a dark green Robin Hood hat with mandatory feather, a pair of skin tight, dog tooth trousers, a pair of black winkle pickers and underneath the mac, a collarless grey cardigan with wooden buttons – the very latest !!! All I was short were the mandatory black framed glasses to look like Hank B Marvin of, ‘The Shadows’
Cos Hank was a bloody God back then – much more important than Cliff. Geezers were going into libraries all over London nicking black spectacle frames off of reading tables and walking around wearing them ‘two a penny’ Most of them didn’t realise the damage they were doing to their eye sight. So it’s not just from the odd hand job that the eyesight can go y’know. So, the group were called. ‘The Detours’ and like I said they did a lot of ‘Shadows’ stuff and bits and pieces from the charts like ‘Telstar’ (The Tornados) As I stood on my own suffering my lot, I felt so miserable. I was completely self conscious about myself, about my hair, my height, my accent and my bloody name. Back in Ireland, ‘Jackie’s’ a boy’s name and my parents always called me so as did all my aunts and uncles (especially the ones in Askew Road)
As soon as people met me, they just stared at me for a few seconds and then decided that I was tinder for a good piss take. I stood at the side of the floor looking over at everyone else enjoying themselves and now suddenly I discovered, as you do, that it was just as difficult to leave the place as it had been to venture in. I stood there in turmoil saying to myself, “I’ll get out of here after the next song.” I think the next song was Nat King Cole’s, ‘Too Young’ (you know that one, ‘They Try To Tell Us We’re Too Young ?
A slow one, so I thought I’ll go after it ended. But during the song something happened which, I suppose looking back, changed the rest of my life ! As I stood there feeling sorry for myself, I began to study this tall looking geezer in the band. He was playing a big jumbo guitar and the more I studied him the more I felt fascinated by his appearance. Unlike me, he was nearly six foot. He had straight hair and a nose like a fucking trowel, it was unique, like Rembrandt’s beret. I didn’t for a second consider it as a serious disposition of the face, to me, it was like a weapon. I thought, if I had a nose like that, I wouldn’t be bothered about my name, my accent, my hair or my height. People wouldn’t take the piss out of those things about me cos they’d be too busy looking at my nose. To me, it was a shaft of mystical light looking at that fella, because to me he had everything, height, straight hair and a banker his name wasn’t something stupid like ‘Jackie’ and here he is playing a guitar. I thought that he probably even had a girlfriend.
I looked at the others in the band and noticed that the singer, who I was to learn within half an hour was a geezer called Colin Dawson, modelled himself on Cliff Richards (what’s the Latin name for who else ?) The bass guitarist who doubled on trumpet was a hefty bloke called John Entwistle. The lead guitarist was a feisty geezer who doubled on trombone. He was about an inch shorter than me but whereas I was a weakling filing clerk, this geezer was a sheet metal fabricator with attitude. His name (again, 30 minutes later) was Roger Daltrey. The drummer was a fella called Doug Sandom and he turned out to be a brick layer and was about ten years older than anyone in Acton.
About half an hour after this mesmerising discovery of mine, the dance was over and everyone on the other side of the floor had left. I should explain that none of the thirty or so people had been there to actually SEE ‘The Detours’, it could’ve been any band and the same people would’ve been there. They were just there for the dance regardless of who was playing. So, the band were packing away their instruments and in a moment that took great courage to summon (and later I recognised as destiny), I crossed the floor to this lanky geezer with the nose and I very awkwardly stuck my hand out and said (the greeting ‘Hi’ was unknown at the time, this was 1962), “Hello, I’m Jack from Shepherd’s Bush !” And in that Cockney way which I was to become more than familiar with in the next decade or two, this fella took my hand and said, “Hello Jack from Shepherd’s Bush, I’m Pete from Ealing” And that was it, he was Pete Townshend from Ealing Common and like I said, that was the beginning of ME and the rest of my life.
‘Irish Jack’ Lyons
(Many thanks to Jack for this wonderful and exclusive insight into the very earliest days of ‘The Who’ and his fascinating account of Mods and Shepherd’s Bush in the 60’s. The two images shown above are – 22 Kelmscott Gardens, Askew Road, Shepherd’s Bush, where Jack grew up in the early 60’s and his last pay slip from the London Electricity Board at 154 Uxbridge Road, Shepherd’s Bush Green. Parts 2 and 3 will follow in the near future) Steve Russell