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 on the pay-box counter. I looked at the stack, and then at Lambert; and as my feet swam around in my shoes, I had a horrible feeling what Lambert was going to say next. The place was absolutely deserted except for a huge bouncer who was leaning against the wall with his arms folded, and 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 who went there were beatniks looking for a bit of Jazz and really out-of-touch geezers who couldn't tell the difference between a Vespa GS and a Harley. 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 a 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 the five shillings admission. The last one in the 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 up to pay his admission, John Gee, the manager of the Marquee leaned over and said, "Five shillings, please."
"No," the bloke said questioningly, "Two and six with this card, innit?" John Gee looked at Lambert who turned and gave me a dissatisfied glance as if I had just cost him the price of half an admission on the very 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. Any anyone else 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; "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 coat 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 I could ever believe in, yet half knowing 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 everyone but nobody seemed too interested in making a detour down to the Marquee.
Presently, two Mod girls happened along. I hand them two cards. One of the girls stopped like she was in the mood for a joke and cried, "Maximum R&B? The 'Ooo? 'Ere, look at this, Kaff: Tuesdays 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 if you want to get in with the concession card."
Kaff, the other girl, looked at me and asked: "Are you their manager?"
I hesitated and had the answer in a flash. "Sort of -- associate, really."
I had 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." The two girls hurried off down Wardour Street.
The rain was running inside my collar and down my back, but I might as well have been on some 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 concession cards. Because nobody, no group anywhere, had anything like these. So arty, so cool, they were unbelievable. 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 lot of guys who would give their right arm to stand here in the pissing rain handing out these concession cards for a band like The Who. My payment was the edge I felt when I told people that I knew the four in the band and their managers, Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert. And as for associate, I wondered if I'd have the bottle to face Lambert when I got back down to the Marquee.
I eventually passed the invitation cards, and returned to the club. There was no sign of Gaish, or his brother Lee, on the street. Obviously the crafty sods had got rid of their concession cards double quick, and were now drying themselves off inside the Marquee. I could hear The Who from the door, that awful, stomach-churning, echo telling me the place is empty.
I walked toward the admission point where the bouncer stood talking to Kit Lambert. He continued chatting with Kit while 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, realized it was me, and said, "Oh, that's okay. He's one of my--"
"ASSOCIATES!" I practically spit out the word as I ignored the bouncer and walked passed Kit. Lambert looked at me in surprise, then a knowing smile grew on his face. The bouncer had accepted my cool, and thankfully Kit Lambert was blessed with a sussed sense of humor if nothing else. I was sure he was about to tell the bouncer that 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 recognized 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.
Instead of saying something like, "Got a job in the office for me, Kit?" The bottle I had five minutes earlier had totally deserted me. "They didn't take too long to get rid of," I said, almost mumbling. "What didn't take too long to get rid of?" Lambert's train of thought was completely somewhere else. "The concession cards, Kit. You sent me up to Oxford Street."
"Yes, yes. Of course I did."
"Well, how much do I get? You know, for handing out the cards?"
Lambert's expression turned to one of uncertainty, "Well, actually I haven't discussed that part of it yet with Chris. There's not too many here 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, not knowing whether he was conning me. "Did two girls come in, Kit?"
He held a cup of cappuccino in one hand and a saucer in the other with an 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 his jibe, "Did you let them in?"
"Of course not. They paid like everybody else."
His eyes twinkled like those of a young boy enjoying a good tease. "Only joking!" he laughed, and continued, "Yes, I let them in for free. I like your sense of humor. Very Irish, Jack."
I looked back at Lambert. There was something about him I couldn't resist 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 percent. Stamp had style, and I liked him too, but Kit Lambert seemed to understand me and my complexes. Stamp was too busy watching skirt. But Kit was intense. I was aware of his 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...
© Irish Jack Lyons