As arranged, I met Martin Gaish and his brother Lee, who was also a Mod, at Hammersmith tube station. It was the very first Tuesday night of the Marquee residency, and the rain was pissing out of the November heavens. It was November 24th, 1964 to be precise.
I’d walked down King Street from Dalling Road and by the time I’d reached the tube station I was soaked through to the skin. Gaish, and his younger brother had turned up with rain running down the sides of their faces. We looked at each other as if to say, “Shall we bother?”
Then Martin said: “Come on. We’ve promised.” We got on and rode the tube to Piccadilly Circus. By the time we arrived at the Marquee on Wardour Street, the water was practically an inch deep in our shoes.
When we walked into the foyer of the Marquee Club, the only person there was Kit Lambert. He was standing all on his own looking like a lost soul, with a bundle of posters under his arm and a mountain of unusual black and white invitation cards piled high on the pay-box counter.
I looked at the stack, and then at Lambert; and as my feet swam around in my ruined Italian cycling shoes I had a horrible feeling what Kit Lambert was going to say next.
The place was absolutely deserted except for a huge bouncer leaning against the wall with his arms folded, looking extremely bored. I felt sorry for poor old Kit. He really did look like a worried man on what was supposed to have been the grand opening night of the Who’s weekly residency at the Marquee.
But in all honesty, any Mod who frequented the Goldhawk Club, or indeed any Mod in the know, could have told Lambert and Stamp that we avoided the Marquee Club like the plague. I mean, the Marquee was bleeding square with a capital ‘S’. The only people that went there were beatniks looking for a bit of Jazz and really out-of-touch geezers who wouldn’t know the difference between a Vespa GS and a Harley.
And the bands that played there – apart from a very small exception – were completely off the wall. No wonder Lambert and Stamp had been able to secure the Who’s residency, and on the venue’s worst night of the week – nobody bothered with the place.
A handful of Mods stepped gingerly into the foyer and sauntered up to the admission table to pay their five shillings admission. The last one in the three-man queue spotted the ‘Maximum R & B’ concession cards and asked quite innocently…”Can I have one of these?” Eager to help, I said, “Yeah, sure” and handed him one.
As the bloke moved to pay his admission, John Gee the manager of the Marquee peered through the glass-booth and said, “That’ll be five shillings please, young man.”
“No?” the bloke said, questioningly, “Two and six with this card, innit?” John Gee looked at Kit Lambert and he in turn looked at me with a dissatisfied glance as if to say I had just cost him the price of half an admission on the very first night he needed every penny to pay the band and cover expenses. I certainly wasn’t off to a good start and Lambert used it to his advantage.
Kit spoke, “Ok, Martin. What I want you and Lee to do is stand just outside the club doors and hand these out to anyone who you think might be interested. You know, Mods. Anyone young”.
Lambert picked up another stack of concession cards and turned to me with a sly smile, “Jack. You take these and hand them out as well.”
“What? You mean outside the door with Martin and Lee?”
“Oh no, no, no.” Lambert’s face was triumphant as he led me to the Marquee door and pointed up Wardour Street.
“Oxford Street for you. Bound to be plenty of Mods roving around up there.”
I threw him a dirty look and walked out of the club with the stack of concession cards inside my jacket to keep them dry. The Gaish brothers thought it highly amusing that I should get lumbered with walking up to Oxford Street in the pissing rain.
I trudged my way along, the rain driving into my face, still somewhat elated that I was doing something for the only band that I could ever believe in. Yet I half knew that Kit Lambert was already taking me for granted. I reached Oxford Street and had never seen the place so deserted. Not even tourists, it was so wet. I handed out the concession cards to anyone and everybody, but nobody seemed too interested in making a detour down to the Marquee.
Presently two Mod girls happened to come along. I handed them a card each. They were giggly. One of them stopped like she was in the mood for a joke and sang, “Maximum R & B? Thee ‘Ooo? ‘Ere, look at this Kaff. Tuesday’s at the Marquee. Blimey, look at the size of that bloke’s nose. Is that on tonight then?”
I nodded, saying, “You’ll have to hurry down if you want to get in with the concession card.”
One of them looked at me and asked, “Are you their manager?”
I hesitated and had the answer in a flash. “Manager? Sort of…associate, really.”
I hit the word ‘associate’ like a stone on flint.
“Tell you what”, I suggested, “My other associate is down in the foyer of the club. Tell him I sent you and he’s to let you in for free.”
“Free? Oh, ta very much.” They both sang and hurried off down Wardour Street.
The rain was running down inside my collar and my back, but I might as well have been on a sun-kissed island for all I cared. I took another look at the concession cards and put five or six into my inside pocket for my bedroom wall.
I was soaked. More like a drowned rat, but I was a fucking face handing out these brilliant looking Maximum R & B concessions cards. Because nobody, no group anywhere, had anything like these. So arty, so cool, they were unbelievable. Like trendy West End Revue stuff.
Yes, I figured Kit Lambert had used me alright and probably would again, but he was a fucking genius and that made the difference. Paid for this? Who would want to be paid? I could think of a thousand guys who’d give their right arm to stand here in the pissing rain handing out these two-shillings and sixpence concession cards for a band like the Who.
My payment was the edge I felt when I told people I knew the four in the band and their managers, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. And as for ‘associate’, I wondered if I’d have the bottle to face Lambert when I got back down to the Marquee.
When I returned to the club there was no sign of the Gaish brothers on the street. Obviously the crafty sods had got rid of their concession cards double quick and were now drying themselves off inside. As I entered I could hear the Who from the empty hallway, that awful, stomach-churning echo telling me the place was deserted.
I walked towards the admission point where the bouncer stood talking to Kit Lambert. While he continued chatting with Kit he eyed me with suspicion. When he noticed I didn’t have an admission ticket, the bouncer put his palm across my chest, and said, “Where’s your ticket, cock?” Lambert looked around, realised it was me, and said, “Oh that’s okay he’s one of my.….”
“Associates!” – I practically spat out the word as I ignored the bouncer and walked past both of them. Lambert looked at me in surprise as a knowing smile grew on his face. The bouncer had accepted my cool and thankfully Kit Lambert was blessed with a sussed sense of humour if nothing else. I was sure he was about to tell the bouncer I was one of his ‘helpers’ – but I had stopped him in his tracks.
I’d found the bottle alright. But more out of anger. And Kit had recognised it. We were even and he knew it. Presently he followed me through to where the audience – all 37 of them – was watching the band.
“Coffee, Jack? – You must be soaking.” Lambert placed a hand on my shoulder and I felt nervous. And instead of saying something like, “Got a job in the office for me Kit?” the bottle I had five minutes earlier totally deserted me.
“They didn’t take too long to hand out.” I mumbled.
“What didn’t take too long to get rid of?” Lambert’s train of thought was on something else.
“The Maximum R & B concession cards, Kit. You sent me up to Oxford Street.”
“Yes, yes, of course I did.”
“Well, how much do I get? Y’know, for handing out the cards?”
Lambert’s expression turned to one of uncertainty. “Well, I haven’t discussed that part of it with Chris yet. There’s not too many in tonight. I’m rather hoping however for the word to get about and hopefully we’ll have a better crowd next week. Maybe we’ll be able to sort something out then.”
I looked at Lambert unsure if he was conning me. “Did two girls come in looking for you Kit?”
He held a cup of cappuccino in one hand and a saucer in the other with an aristocratic effected delicacy. “Yes, I met them.”
He looked at me and smiled. Neither of us spoke for a moment then Lambert said quietly…”associate?”
I ignored the jibe. “Did you let them in?”
“Of course not, they paid like everybody else.”
“Whaaat?” I said.
His eyes twinkled like those of a young boy enjoying a tease. “Only joking,” he laughed, and continued. “Yes, I let them in for free. I like your sense of humour. Very Irish, Jack.”
I looked back at Lambert. There was something about it I couldn’t help liking. He was ahead in all conversations, of that there was no doubt. His style was rapier fast and, unlike me, his self-confidence was a thousand per cent.
Stamp had style, and I liked him too, but Kit Lambert seemed to understand me and my complexes. Chris Stamp was usually busy chasing skirt, but Kit was intense. I was aware of his obvious homosexuality and I felt naked in his presence.
And what scared me now was that in the course of just one evening we had established some kind of rapport. But I was chicken and I had to run…
(The above pics were supplied by Irish Jack and used with permission – Steve Russell)