Irish Jack interview in The Irish Post
brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 18 08:08:53 CDT 2007
Irish Jack: The Who's unofficial member
Cork postman JACK LYONS has led a life that is the epitome of incongruity as part of one of the greatest British rock bands The Who. The Irishman spoke to Trevor O'Sullivan about the group's humble beginnings as a small wedding band through to the rock band's legendary exploits of debauchery and excess.
JACK Lyons, a retired Cork postman has unwittingly become part of musical history.
If the Memphis Mafia were Elvis Presley's associates and friends whose position conferred them an entrÃ©e into the King's inner sanctum, then Irish Jack has achieved an identical role with The Who.
He is revered by fans of the London rock band and is known unofficially as the fifth member of The Who - having been a part of the group's inner circle since a chance meeting in 1962.
Jack recently fulfilled a lifetime ambition when he saw the band finally play Cork and for the 63-year-old it was the fulfilment of a lifetime ambition.
He said: "In a sense it brought my history with the band full circle. They hadn't played Cork since Sunday May 8 1966. I was still living in Shepherd's Bush and didn't bother going home for the show. I could have.
"But back in '66 my mum Anna, brother Patrick and cousin Joey had dinner with Pete Townshend and our manager Kit Lambert at the InterContinental hotel before the show.
"The Marquee show last week [in Cork] was very poignant in that my family saw them for the first time and I got an official endorsement from Pete Townshend on stage."
Jack has a very close relationship with The Who's fans and knowing that Jack has such incredible access to the band's legendary parties and tours they treat him in reverential tones.
After all, it is he that can confer them with nuggets of Who wisdom they will hear from nobody else.
Jack said: "I have been a very close friend of The Who since first meeting them as The Detours in a dance hall called Boseleys in Faroe Road, West Kensington in 1962. They were a small wedding band then and had day jobs.
"I was working in the London Electricity Board (LEB) in Shepherd's Bush Green as a filing clerk. As the years went on we remained friends and they wrote a song Happy Jack about me and then the album Quadrophenia was based on my life in London as a Mod.
"Unlike, say, the Memphis Mafia, some of whom were paid minders of Elvis Presley, I was never an employee of The Who though I did manage to anger them with my antics on more than one occasion."
Jack's chance encounter with The Who has transformed his life beyond recognition.
And today he couldn't envisage a life outside the band.
He said: "It's a great question. I often wonder who I'd have been if I hadn't met The Who. Even thinking about it doing this interview I have two lives. One is my personal relationship with Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, the other is being a postman back in Cork now for the past 27 years.
"It gets a bit weird sometimes. I can sit down and have dinner with Pete and Roger knowing they have more than a million in the bank while I'm a recently retired postman.
"But there's no discomfort or embarrassment because when Roger worked in Goldhawk Road as a sheet metal fabricator, Pete started at Ealing Art College, John Entwistle worked in Bromyard Avenue Inland Revenue and Doug Sandom our original drummer was a bricklayer; I was earning a pound - more than them - in the LEB."
Jack's tales of life with The Who are now part of musical folklore. His intimacy has given him a firsthand account of the rock band's legendary tales of debauchery and excess.
He said: "I especially remember the Guildhall in Portsmouth in May '74. It was a special thank-you gig for the Polytech students who'd played extras in Tommy.
"I'd already seen some of the filming and went to the show with our old manager Chris Stamp, actor Terence's brother.
"The stage was much smaller back then and myself and Stamp with a few luminaries like Oliver Reed and Ann-Margaret who had parts in the film stood behind a Hiwatt speaker looking around it with our collective glasses of brandy in the air.
"I think The Who decided to put on a bit of a show to impress the film folk. Townshend slid 14 feet across the stage on his knees with his guitar droning feedback like a low-flying aeroplane. AnnMargaret was dumbstruck.
"Then Townshend speared the neck of his guitar into the cloth face of a Hiwatt speaker next to us and I heard Ollie Reed behind me in his classic actor voice: 'Now, that's what I call ruck 'n' rule!' It was like a line from Lear. I was so proud of The Who that night."
Another tale Jack is keen to tell is of a raucous 1973 gig.
Jack was celebrating his 30th birthday but learned that when travelling with 10 one needs to plan for the unexpected.
He said: "In November '73 I went from Cork to Newcastle for my 30th birthday, the band were doing the Odeon. It was the first time I met our new manager Bill Curbishley.
"He handed me a bottle of Southern Comfort to celebrate my 30th that night. I already had a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale in front of me and proceeded to pour the Comfort into an empty pint glass.
"I passed out at the side of the stage halfway into the third song. The roadies put me into Townshend's bath tub. Pete was not pleased with me and the planned birthday party was cancelled.
"Keith Moon promised to drive me back to London. He had a driver called Chalky who asked me if I had any luggage to go back. I said: 'No, just a small bag and a scooter.'
"Well used to Keith Moon's madness Chalky searched the hotel for the scooter. He came back into my room purple with anger. 'I've been all over this flaming hotel looking for that scooter. I've searched the car park, the side street, everywhere. So where is it, Jack?'
"'It's in behind reception, Chalky.' 'Whaaat, you put a f****** scooter in behind reception?' 'It's a toy scooter. I bought it for my two-year-old daughter in Fenwicks'."
So after a lifetime of first-hand experiences Jack Lyons is the perfect man to explain why The Who is still so relevant today.
He said: "Fitness, diligence to duty. I suppose it's the fact they've written so many great songs plus the fact they're one of the most honest bands in rock, on stage and in interviews.
"During the rise of the punk era back in the late '70s bands like the Stones and Led Zeppelin were castigated by the new brigade of Sex Pistols and Clash - yet The Who were the one band they respected.
"Both played The Who songs like I Can't Explain and Substitute. You could say that My Generation was one of the first punk songs."
Jack Lyons - The Who's unofficial fifth member
* Cited as the inspiration for the classic album Quadrophenia.
* Said by Pete Townshend to have been an influence on his past and continuing works.
* Christened Irish Jack by The Who manager Kit Lambert during a night-of madness.
* First met The Who in 1962 when the band was still known as The Detours.
* Regularly gives public reading of his stories in London and New York on the theme of growing up in '60s London and keeping abreast of "the only band that ever mattered".
* Attended close to 1,000 The Who gigs since the 1960s.
* Regularly asked to attend as a VIP guest at rock conventions.
* Famed contributor to websites run by fans of The Who.
* Collaborated on The Who: Concert File book, which was written in 1997 and available by contacting 01284702600.
-Brian in Atlanta
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