Article on previous Oz tour
pkeets at hotmail.com
Wed Jul 28 16:40:56 CDT 2004
Repost from Whochat Forum:
>Interesting article in the Australian:
Who the hell are you?
The Who land in Australia today despite vowing in 1968 never to return after
being held by police in Melbourne for five hours. Glenn A.Baker looks back
at the horror flight that led to the band's siege
July 27, 2004
LEGENDARY tour manager for four decades, Ron Blackmore, remembered every
second of what unfolded on the last day of the Who's Australian tour in
January 1968, as the party in his care boarded a 7am Sunday flight from
Adelaide via Melbourne to Sydney, where they were supposed to connect to a
Just 3 1/2 years earlier Australia had swooned shamelessly over the B**tles.
John, Paul, George and Ringo were lovable moptops whose every indulgence or
indiscretion was complicitly overlooked by a breathless nation. But the
likes of Pete Townshend and Keith Moon were seen as little better than
In typical tour tradition the last night was party night and being volatile
bands, the Who and their support, the Small Faces and Paul Jones, partied
all night, Blackmore once told me. "I'll never know how we did it but we got
all the performers out of bed at five and then had them at the airport by 6
o'clock. As you could imagine, everyone was dead on their feet. Most of them
hadn't been to bed, none of them had had a shower. It was summer and they
were all wearing singlets. Nobody in Australia had ever seen anything like
those singlets with names printed on them.
"By the time I rounded them up at the airport we were last on the plane. The
last one on was Paul Jones. He wasn't the party type and hadn't been up all
night so he bounded on board as fresh as a bloody daisy. He had done himself
up all ready for the press in New Zealand. He really kept up an image --
open neck silky shirt with a cravat, fancy shoes, all spick'n'span."
The plane took off and Blackmore, roughly the same age as the band members,
had his head in a newspaper when a flight attendant demanded angrily: "Are
you the leader of this bloody mob?" He quickly scanned the rows, ascertained
that his charges were largely out cold and admitted he was. "Well I've had
them," she said. "We've only been in the air five minutes and they want
beer!" He looked around again and spotted three, one being the Who's loony
drummer Moon, going "Yeah, beer".
"I won't serve them beer until I've served everybody teas," she insisted.
Blackmore thought that fair enough so he stood up, told them all the score
and received the general response "Terrific. We'll have a cup of tea then."
He then returned to his paper.
The urbane Oxford-educated Jones, the former lead singer of the group
Manfred Mann, who had sung their global hit Do Wah Diddy Diddy and had
previously toured Australia with them, picks up the tale. "It was a scene of
people asleep, reading newspapers or, in the case of Kenney Jones of the
Small Faces, playing gently with a baby who was leaning over the seat in
front of him. I had been dying for coffee and I saw that the hostess had
begun serving from the front of the plane. She came to the four or five rows
that our party occupied and stopped serving coffee and then resumed serving
it behind us. After I had recovered from the surprise I pressed my call
button, twisted around and said over my shoulder, 'Could I have some coffee
please? And she said 'You'll get coffee when I'm ready'. I thought that was
astonishing so I replied, 'actually no, I'll have some coffee now please',
then she said, 'I've never been spoken to in this way in all my life!' So I
said, 'My goodness, you've led a sheltered life' and she stormed off."
Blackmore heard her say "I was told not to serve you" so he walked to the
servery area and inquired "Excuse me, who's the hostess in charge?" Innocent
but obviously inflammatory words. "This bird with her back to me spun around
in tears, totally distraught, and she started screaming 'I am!'. I said to
her 'Look, I don't understand. I don't know what we've done. I haven't seen
anybody do anything wrong, so what's the problem?' But she kept on
screaming, 'I'm going to see the captain, I'm going to have you arrested!'
'Fine, but what's the problem, what have we done?' 'You know what you've
"She steamed off to the captain so I turned to the other girls and said
'Look, I really don't know what's upset her, if I knew I'd be down there
yelling at them, but honestly, somebody had better give them some tea and
coffee or they're gonna pull this plane to pieces. Remember, that's what you
told them -- don't make a noise for beer, wait for the tea -- and they've
sat there patiently, haven't done a thing and you walked right past them'.
She said: 'You're right, you're dead right, we'll serve them straight away
but you must remember, we've got to take our instructions from her.' I said
'Look, she's in no fit state to give any instructions, so you're on your
own. They're all Poms, bring 'em all tea, don't even ask them, just give it
"They started pouring the tea and I was sitting in my seat totally confused
but thinking that I'd sorted it all out. Then I looked up to see the captain
coming down the aisle checking off the seat numbers. He walked up, looked at
me and said: 'Are you Blackmore? I'm the captain.' I said 'How do you do,
sir?' He didn't waste any time being polite. 'I've just come here to inform
you that on arrival in Melbourne I have arranged for the Commonwealth Police
to meet you and you will all be taken into custody.' 'What have we done?'
'I'm not prepared to discuss it; I have one of my girls in the cockpit
hysterical.' Then he started to march back down the aisle. I just couldn't
believe it was happening, I was spluttering 'Whaa but why ... who ... how
... uh ... uh, wh ... wh ... what ya talking about?!', then one of the Who's
roadies jumped up and said: 'Hey don't you want to hear our side of it?' The
captain turned his head, said 'I'm not interested' and kept walking. So that
was it, these guys started yelling 'You ...', y'know."
As the aircraft taxied at the old Essendon Airport in Melbourne, an
increasingly apprehensive Blackmore sighted from his window what he
estimated to be 40 Commonwealth Police on the tarmac. "One of them started
up the stairs and I looked over at Pete Townshend, who was packing death.
"This guy in a suit was standing in the doorway just watching us and he
looked right at Townshend and said, 'you're coming with me'. Pete asked him
'am I under arrest?' and the cop said he wasn't. 'Well I ain't going
anywhere with you pal, cause the last pig that said come with me when I
wasn't under arrest kicked the s**t out of me in Germany. So I'm not going
anywhere with anybody unless I'm formally charged in front of witnesses and
at this point I can't understand what you could possibly charge me with'.
"The policeman huffed a bit and said: 'Be it as it may, you will all have to
get off this plane and you will go into the VIP lounge where you will be
under close surveillance. You will not be allowed to ring or contact
anybody, you will not be able to leave the room, and you will not be
continuing on this flight."'
Airport manager Allan Trail had been rung at home about the "massive
problem" and dashed in wearing gardening shorts. He knew Blackmore and
persuaded police to let him use a phone, though not an Ansett one. The
Commonwealth Police let him out of the room on the condition that he would
not speak to the waiting media. As he walked past a row of phone booths
outside the airport he overheard reporters talking to their editors.
"Because nobody had told them anything they started making up stories,
things like 'they're all under arrest, it seems they stripped naked and ran
up and down the aisles' or 'they had a fist fight with a couple of
passengers and three people have been taken to hospital' and on it went."
The flurry of calls began but being Sunday, everyone had gone fishing, or to
the beach. Blackmore demanded to speak to airline owner Reg Ansett. "Oh no,
it's Sunday, he's at home, can't get him ..." As a last resort Blackmore
asked to speak to the captain again.
Blackmore apologised for whatever it was the bands were supposed to have
Blackmore recalls: "Then, I'll never forget this, I extended my hand and
said 'Incidentally my name is Ron Blackmore'. He [the captain] put his hand
behind his back, said 'I'm not going to touch you mister, you're s**t',
turned to Trail and said, 'if they're on the plane it doesn't fly, that's
all there is to it', then stormed off with Bawling Bertha [the flight
attendant] in tow.
"When I got back, the Who and Small Faces wanted to tear the place apart.
Stevie Marriott [Faces singer] was just lovely to control. He wanted to kick
a wall down and I was holding him in the corner saying, 'shut up man, cool
it'. There wasn't even a beer to calm him. Paul Jones was simply
dumbfounded, he just didn't believe it was happening. He was running around
warning the rowdy ones, 'no, no that's the worse thing to do'."
Trail finally relented and got Ansett on the line and held the handset an
arm's length as Ansett "blew up, went berserk, absolutely bananas: 'Who made
the decision to offload them? Who gave them the authority, these sort of
decisions are made at management level, do da da da.' When Reg calmed down I
got called over and handed the phone. 'I don't know whether you did this or
not' and I jumped in with 'great, somebody who can finally tell me what
we've done'. 'Well, they're claiming you endangered the lives of the
passengers on the aircraft.'
When I got my breath back I said, 'Mr Ansett, nobody had a gun, nobody got
out of their seats, they didn't even make a noise because they were all
"That may be, but nevertheless we've got to get you to Sydney," Ansett said.
Blackmore thanked him and pointed out that his group had been held for 5
1/2hours without a biscuit, sandwich, cup of tea or even a drink of water.
Ansett barked, "right, give me back to the airport manager" and in five
minutes laden trolleys materialised.
By this time the waiting media was becoming fevered and Ansett insisted that
there be a statement to the press.
Blackmore recalled: "I talked them into letting Paul Jones [whose big solo
hit had been, ironically, I've Been A Bad Bad Boy] be the spokesman with all
the others sitting quietly behind him like a portrait painting. Paul Jones
spoke very ... well very, at the front of a wedge of suddenly angelic
musicians. He went through the spiel: 'We didn't do anything, I don't know
why we are here, but I believe we are leaving'."
Ansett had an Electra rolled out of a hangar to fly the party to Sydney,
though the only way the pilot would take the plane up was if there were two
Commonwealth Police along for the ride, and no other passengers. "The
Electra flew back to Melbourne empty except for these two cops," said
Blackmore, "and they couldn't work it all out. They'd never seen such a
well-behaved bunch of guys. Sure they were typical rock'n'roll people, a
yell and a shout, but that was about it."
At Mascot airport the beleaguered musicians walked off and on to a coach
loaded with Customs and Immigration men who processed the group on the way
to the international tarmac and a New Zealand flight. Within three minutes
of them stepping on board, the door slammed shut and their bizarre
Australian odyssey was over.
* * *
POSTCARD, the opening track on the Who's 1974 Odds & Sods album, penned by
bassist John Entwistle, mentioned "people who hurt us in Germany" and
included the verse "There's kangaroos and we're bad news in Australia/Thrown
off the plane for drinking beer/So long on the plane it drove us insane, so
long on the plane".
The Who play Wednesday and Thursday at the Sydney Entertainment Centre,
Saturday at Melbourne Vodafone Arena.
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