sometimes hundrum existence and---in the interests of posterity---those fourteen days have been placed on a far off plateau. And now, in this room as I type this ship's log, nothing else lies between me and that far off plateau. Nothing but an ocean called ATLANTIC.
Let me add that I arrived back home to a mound of letters, American Who fans politely requesting me to contact them during my stay there. Nearly all had provided me with telephone numbers, and nearly all arrived too late to catch my departure.
So now, fired by an unquenchable enthusiasm I am easing myself into a letter writing frame of mind. It's easy, because of course I want to tell the world (and now, some ten years after the events I am writing it for the whole of cyberspace). Back then, finding the need to write to so many Who fans I was corresponding with, I could have done with a secretary. She would have had to work for nothing, of course. Karen, my daughter, who was eighteen at the time, would have made a fine cheap secretary, but instead she elected to spend most of her spare time glued to a radio, cluttering up her mind with the latest sampling---of what I thought THEN considered to be---some of the coldest music I had ever heard. Back then, she and her boyfriend assured me I was too old to be able to tell the difference between 'rap' and 'house'. They were right. But now I can tell the difference...now that I'm ten years older! Funny how our musical values evolve, isn't it!
At the Giants Stadium in New Jersey, I was amazed at the behaviour of the audience. This was my first ever concert outside the UK and a personal dream realised in seeing The Who play before an American audience.
People were so civilised to one another, it was unbelievable. I had in the past seen some Who audiences get out of hand, but thankfully not very often. What I found amazing was seeing young girls of twenty actually stewarding. Some guy would cut loose out of the crowd and dance his way into an aisle-way. A girl steward would go up, tap the guy gently on the arm explaining that the aisle-ways had to be kept clear, and in five, ten seconds, she'd have the problem solved. The guy might put up some lightweight argument, always verbal, never physical, and that would be all. No abuse. No moronic hostility. Just a very informed suss that out here you do not fuck with Security. I soon realised that crowd behaviour Stateside is regarded almost on the same level as table-manner etiquette.
The Who's set was well manicured. Tight like an onion. They played for three-and-a-half hours, split into two set halves, incorporating some 45 songs with four or five encore numbers sizzling on the back burner.
With typical tongue-in-cheek and satire worthy of John Entwistle, The Who's arrival onstage was signatured by the preposterous theme tune to the sixties tv western 'Bonanza'. And then, amid thunderous applause and a welcome that shook the Giants Stadium to its foundations, The Detours went straight into Overture. ('How could a layabout like Pete Townshend possibly write an opera? Artists are nice people whose products live on in museums and libraries. It is against this kind of idiocy that Townshend and his opera are fighting an uphill battle.' Tony Palmer from A Freakish Parable, Observer Review). It was like something out of 1969 hearing those unmistakable opening chords. Everytime you hear those chords it's like being planted back there. When I closed my eyes in a passing moment of ecstacy, Roger was wearing his two-piece Woodstock outfit with those beautiful fringes, and looking like a lean Shoshoni warrior.
Townshend, as always, took the opening lines...CAPTAIN WALKER DIDN'T COME HOME, HIS UNBORN CHILD WILL NEVER KNOW HIM. Goose pimples reared all over me and the hero worship thing I had drowned myself in when I was a boy of nineteen, was back. 'Oh my God,' I remember saying to myself, 'Is this really all happening again? And, 'is it me for a moment? Am I really here in this warm and friendly and spectacular multitude---with an 'all areas' pass bearing enough authorised clout to get me as far as Pete's bloody wash basin if I so wish?' The answers to those self-doubt questions was an emphatic 'yes', because I must be one of the oldest groupies who ever lived.
'HIS UNBORN CHILD WILL NEVER KNOW HIM, BELIEVED TO BE MISSING WITH A NUMBER OF MEN, DON'T EXPECT TO SEE HIM AGAIN.' Townshend was wearing a suit of extraordinary street cred. Size and a half too big, as usual. He loped around the stage---twelve foot guitar lead wrapped around his legs---in the spirit of an elder statesman but the gait of a downtown dealer who'll never really look respectable. The cloth of this fabulous garment obviously cut by a practiced scissors on Madison. I later spent an entire day searching New York for a suit of similar cut and eventually acquired one---sold off the peg---in a little hovel near Times Square. The difference in price would have been enough to send a lunar probe around the earth!
'SEE ME. FEEL ME. TOUCH ME. HEAL ME.' I don't think I have ever heard Roger sing in such fine voice. Really, this was superb.
The sound was remarkably clear for such a huge arena. Some of my best memories of seeing Tommy performed gell from jammed university halls, where sweat and intensity were the order of the day. Huge video screens banked both sides of the stage and the visual images were as sharp as pins. Very watchable. Stage-side too were rows of rotating panels bearing Pop Art designs and these chopped and changed into breathtaking imagery.
At first, I have to admit, I found it somewhat unusual to see the three remaining members of The Detours accompanied onstage by twelve other musicians. But the sound that this octet-plus-seven made, more than compensated for the musical octopus my beloved Detours had become. This wasn't Maximum R&B stripped down to its core of raw energy a la The Marquee. But when Roger led the entire ensemble through the Chicago mud tracks of Bo Diddley's 'I'm A Man', it was awesome.
Jesus wept, but I haven't since swayed on my feet so far off gravity without toppling over. Rabbit Bundrick painted canvases of Jimmy Smith on tripped-out Farfisa organ. For me, this is where The Who and the Kick Horns really came into their own. When the band hit on the opening notes of 'Hey Joe', there was a roar that almost lifted the stage off the ground. The crowd's voluntary sing-along, completely without prompting from the band, left a lump in the throat. By then, my initial reservations about this new Who Ensemble had been well laid to rest.
I mingled in the crowd, feeling the warmest vibes and smiled at snatches of the American accent. I felt so strange to be among it all. One time, I found myself standing in front of a girl who was asking her friend---as if her very life depended on it---"Is he really going deaf?" I smiled. I looked around in a kind of familiarised curiosity to find myself staring into the face of a young girl with long black hair and freckles. She was amused at my awkwardness and broke into a friendly grin. "Not you," she cracked, in a kind of Southern drawl, "I meant Peter Townshend." The Americans have a quaint way of pronouncing the name. Rarely have I heard anyone Stateside use the abbreviated 'Pete' as in the Londonised mode. But when the Americans get their tongues rolling on the double syllable of 'Peter' and the nasalified 'Townshend', they give it another dimension, and it comes to the English ear as something like....Peeeturrr Taaaownnshennnd! It's so strange and novel to hear Americans pronounce it, because I've spent so long listening to the English version. The same can be said for the American version of Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle. The girl laughed with her friend, but she didn't pick up on my Irish accent. I could have been from the Bowery for all she knew.
After 'I Can See For Miles', John Entwistle got his two-song showcase, 'Trick Of The Light' and the song that should have been a single: 'Boris The Spider'. Entwistle has written to me in the past using spider embossed notepaper. Onstage, he was the best dressed gentleman---even including the crew. Tight black, fifties-trousers with legs that went on forever. On top, a very flash, dramatically cut short jacket. A wonderful piece of wardrobing. It looked good on him and dramatised his height. It was designed by Max and instantly reminded me of his sixties Welsh Dragon jacket. Except that this particular box-design was made up into an eye-catching grey and white pattern. A magnificent garment. And of course one, that only John Entwistle would have had the aplomb to wear.The height of his silver back-combed hair added another four inches to the arrangement!
It was unusual to see John not having the whole of his side of the stage to himself, as was customary during FOUR-MAN WHO years. But what really put a smile on my face was noticing how in striking contrast to Entwistle's dapper dress style, was this punk-like character ---with an even bigger nose than Townshend---stalking an area of the stage usually the territory of Entwistle, and leaning out over his guitar a la Clash dressed in Kings Road leather. He had told me in the bus on the way to the show that he went under the handle 'Boltz', but his real name was Steve Bolton. He used to play with Paul Young's Royal Family. When we had talked earlier at the Parker Meridien hotel in Manhattan, he reached for a drink and I discovered he had the longest and boniest hands I had ever encountered. And later, as I watched him work out some chords in the bandroom, he could have wrapped his fretting hand twice around the neck of the guitar.
On stage, the percussion and drums department was well catered for by Jodi Linscott, and Simon Philips bringing up the rear surrounded by a mountain of skins.
After the fantastically received 'Who Are You', Roger told the crowd the band were taking a break. With typical English humour not lost on the perceptive American ear, Roger had said it was..'Time for tea." As far as I was concerned (with typical IRISH humour certainly not lost on the perceptive American ear...) that meant it was time for anything alcohol! I edged out of the vast multitude and flashed my pass at several check-points. Upon entering the hospitality room, I found it packed with fellow drunkards. Sorry.. packed with excited chatter. Faces, older and grayer, from the past and new ones to behold. One friend I'd met through my Keith Moon tribute tapeThe Pure Beach Boy, was there: Kevin Foley. He had caught a flight from Boston. He'd first seen The Who in March 1976 at the Boston Garden - what a baptism of fire for him! Two songs into the set and dear old Moonie collapsed behind the drumkit. The show had to be rescheduled.
Jack with Kevin Foley (right) Herald Sq. Hotel 1989
Two boys who told me in excited New York accents their father was Jimmy Breslin the famous newspaper columnist. They liked my Irishness (it figured!) and slapped me hard on the back. Keith Altham was there telling his favourite This Is Your Life jokes. Bill and Jackie Curbishley who had graciously covered all my expenses. Roger's man Nobby, who was relieved to find me halfways through a Who show and still sober. Rosa the masseuse, God love her no longer with us, gave me one of her specials. Pete's girl, Nicola Joss who, as usual, looked after me well. Ann Weldon and her assistant Beth, two very nice ladies. Two more crew people whom I had never met before and succeeded in driving up the wall (well, almost!) tour manager, Rex King and his assistant, Mike 'Kiddo' Kidson. Heather Daltrey's mum and dad, Hannah and Chuck, who regaled me with their great stories. (It was Heather who had introduced me to the Breslin boys). Richard Davies came to my rescue more than once. Binky Baker, who kept me laughing everywhere we went. And my old Goldhawk mate, Barney---the ultimate in subtlety, and little Fred, the scamp. "Little" Fred is now a much taller Fred and towers over me by a foot!
The Giants Stadium dressing-rooms weren't really dressing-rooms at all, not the ones The Who had, anyway. What they were was an area of floor space curtained off a la Edgar Alan Poe, by heavy drapes. The name of each occupant, printed on a slice of white cardboard, was taped to the lush velvet for display. (I think the writing might have been in red).
Townshend and Daltrey emerged from one of the velvet marquees like Ford and Gorbachev from a summit. Who-watchers will be dismayed when I point out that I cannot exactly remember who had visited who. But something was afoot and there was tension in the air. It looked like there had been a sharp exchange of words, or opinion. John had remained in seclusion behind the screens with Max---perhaps diplomatically avoiding an unnecessary confrontation. The white card said it all...JOHN ENTWISTLE. PRIVATE.
Meanwhile, Townshend, shoulders hunched and head down, looking risque with a very unmod-like ponytail, loped across the room to his guitar-aide Alan Rogan. There was a quiet exchange between the two and then the Geordie in his usual air, chirped.."Oh, we're not doing that one, then?" There was a lot of ears tuned in as Rogan departed with a new set of instructions. At the other side of the room, Daltrey looked like he had won some kind of argument. His mood was buoyant as he limbered up, anxious to get the second half underway. Townshend crossed the floor in my direction, stopping halfway momentarily forgetting what it was he had wanted to do. As he stood and mused for a moment, our eyes met. He looked hard at the generous brandy in my hand. I had suffered his disapproving eyes in the past and KNEW that look when I saw it. Now, as if in some kind of habit-formed instinctiveness, I returned my glass to the table. I shifted my feet and toyed with the lapels of my jacket, like 'what was it I was just going to do?'
The room had thinned out big time, leaving only the stars. Roger aimed a friendly punch in my arm, the sting of his fist lingered in my bone. "Come then, Jack," he bounced, "showtime." I obeyed and followed Roger out of 'hospitality'---though I was nearly in fucking 'hospitality' from the punch. As we walked through the corridor I momentarily looked behind and was surprised to see Pete so close behind, almost breathing down my neck to be precise. I immediately began to feel guilty about something. But what had I done to incur his displeasure? Oh, the brandy was back in my hand. I stood next to him while we waited for the reintroduction fanfare. It was familiar, yet eerie being so close to him. Out there was the coliseum. Lions, tigers, chariots and 'Magic Bus'. In a moment of insanity, yet not for the first time between us (and whether Pete was a willing participant or not I can't be sure, but he certainly didn't object), we stabilised the madness of the Code Red countdown by me telling him how Maura (my wife) was getting on back home. Another person might have stared at me incredulously---but not Pete. Not Pete Townshend. The man who, anyways back in the old Goldhawk Club, would keep a record producer waiting while he shared opinion with local mods on where to get Raouel shoes---pushing tension out further than elastic holds. That was Pete.
The flight to Washington by executive Lear from New York's La Guadia was the smoothest carpet ride I have ever encountered. Was this the highlife! Silver trays of mouth-watering delicacies were the order of the day, and to tell the truth I found it a trifling embarrassing---except that deep down, I enjoyed it wholeheartedly. I attempted crab but it ended in failure. Unfortunately, my colloquial eating habits never really endeared me to crab or the like, even if it was the popular dish on a luxurious MGM Grand Class flight with a seating capacity for something like thirty-three very special passengers.
We were something like five minutes from landing, not much more. I had vacated my seat to talk to Barney. Above my head came the gentle purred announcement advising all passengers to get seated and clip into their seat belts. As I spoke, Barney interrupted with the solution to all my problems. Jesus, what possible problems could I have right then? I was in heaven. But Barney's suggestion had originality. Why not, he suggested, place a call to my wife Maura back home in Cork, not five miles from Blarney. I looked at him and considered the idea.. I looked at him and considered the idea. Jesus, a transatlantic call to my wife from the American skies somewhere between New York and Washington---now, why hadn't I thought of that? It was brilliant, of course. A humourous nod from John Entwistle confirmed its brilliance. I told Barney that the cost of the call might be prohibitive. After all, this was not BT. "Irish," he laughed, "you worry too much. Put it on the tab." I became embarrassed since by now half the tour party had become aware I was about to place a mid-air long distance call to my wife.
Entwistle flashed his eyes up to heaven when he noticed I was concerned about the cost of the call---but I have always been uneasy about abusing band privledge to the point of excess. With Barney egging me on however, and John Entwistle's silent approval, I decided to take the plunge. I got hold of a cabin steward who looked like he'd help anyone out. Having listened politely to what I wanted to do, he said "That's no problem, sir---and then, almost in the same breath patiently pointed out that in case I hadn't already noticed, all passengers were now supposed to be strapped into their seats and I was, he said nicely, the only passenger still on two feet.
In urgent conversation, I characteristically gestulated my hands to outline my intention, my plan, my extraordinary wild scheme. And what was really amazing, as I look back on it now and change a few words here and there for the benefit of my web site; ordinarily, had I been a passenger on any one of the more stuffy commercial flights, I've no doubt that I would have been told in no uncertain manner to get my butt into my seat, pronto. But this was no ordinary airline. This was Flight Taj Mahal enroute to Washington's Dulles Airport...and I was a bone fide member of the tour party. And as far as the helpful steward was concerned, I could well have been an additional member of The Who he hadn't heard about. Goodness knows, the Detours octopus had already grown to fifteen members!
The cabin steward took my home telephone number and asked me to wait while he went and enquired about the call. He smartly disappeared behind a curtain whilst I hung around next to a portable reception desk which had earlier doubled as the flight bar. I remained waiting, leaning on its top in full view of the by-now strapped in tour party Suddenly my cheeks burned with embarrassment when tour manager, Rex King, called out... "Jack. You're supposed to be strapped in. You're not still looking for drink??" His brilliantly timed quip drew a round of laughter. -And the phone call home? Well, that would have to wait another time.
I have stayed in many hotels with The Who---or because of The Who, but never I don't think I have ever stayed in anything quite so splendid as the Watergate Hotel - our next stop after New York. Palatial is a word which springs to mind. I was almost afraid to tread on its beautiful chess-patterned hallway leading to reception. The hotel staff were kind, courteous and more than efficient.
Jack with Darren Westwood (left) and Nicola Joss (right) on board Flight Taj Mahal to Washington DC 1989
Earlier when we arrived at Dulles Airport, there was a representative from the hotel waiting there to greet us. I couldn't have been standing on Washington soil longer than thirty seconds when the lady approached me with a card in her hand---for one insane moment I actually thought she was going to ask for an autograph. Instead she handed me a white envelope bearing the hotel logo embossed in the corner. She asked with a radiant smile: "Are you Irish...Jack?" I looked back at her. Her face was warm and tanned and she had curves that I'd never seen before. "Yes, I'm Irish," I replied, full of beans, "I'm from a place called Cork." "No, no," she laughed, "I don't mean are you from Ireland. I meant, is that you....Irish Jack?" She pointed to my name written on the envelope. Unwittingly I had fallen into my own trap.
I felt such a putz. I'd always laughed at the helplessness of others struggling to come to terms with the loaded question.."The Who?" "Yes, The Who!" Now it was my turn. I looked behind me and there was Pete Townshend enjoying my embarrassment and grinning from ear to ear.
Window view with a cool beer from Room 309 Watergate Hotel 1989
My first encounter with the staggeringly beautiful Watergate Hotel was of seeing a red English telephone box next to the entrance. I checked in with everyone else in the party. I went to my room and entered a shrine to comfort. From my window I could see the flags of the world. I went to the fridge and immediately took a photograph of its alcoholic abundance. I moved to the desk top, chose some very impressive Watergate Hotel stationery and started off a letter to my wife. By the fifth line I realised that my adrenalin had gone into overdrive and I could hardly write straight much less pen a sensible letter. I sat by my window and poured myself a beer. I had to do something to slow myself down. It was a bit like the old days on leapers except that this incredible rush had been brought on by the sheer excitement of watching a dream evolve right before my eyes.
A couple of hours later I found myself in the residents bar. There with me was John Entwistle, Max, and some members of the Kick Horns. I discovered that being in the company of people I knew had a stabilising effect on me and I had slowed down enough to buy some postcards from the souveneir shop. God knows what got into me but for some reason with about an hour to go before we were due to drive to the RFK Stadium, I decided to write some postcards at the bar.
Perched on a high stool with an ice cold lager before me, a dozen postcards displaying the architectural beauty of Washington's state buildings I proceeded to write almost the same message to each recipient. Next to me John Entwistle rolled his eyes up to heaven (I've known him since 1962 and his eyes keep getting nearer to that celestial abode!) when he saw the job in hand. He remarked that usually he could only manage about four cards PER TOUR. When I told him that I would be back in Cork well ahead of the cards he looked at me and pulled an amused expression. Then when I told him that in actual fact being a postman I would myself be delivering four of the cards he stared at me and threw his head back in an outburst of laughter I have rarely experienced from him.
But it was true. And I did. I did deliver four of those cards written by me there in the July heat of the Watergate Hotel residents' bar. Later on that evening at the show, I discovered somewhat to my amusement that my story about delivering four of my own postcards had done a little bit of travelling and several people referred it back to me in measures of humour and bemusement. But it was all true, and it was a defining moment for me as a mailman. I was proud to be a mailman those few days in Washington. Suffice to say that when I did eventually get back to Cork and returned to my postal duties almost immediately, I waited for those cards to arrive, and when they did show up some two or three weeks later I delivered them to friends living on my letter route in a downpour. The rain running down the back of my neck and I'm looking at my own beloved handwriting and I'm thinking of that ice cold lager with John Entwistle on a high stool at the Watergate.
Whilst in New York my friend from Boston Kevin Foley had taken me to a bar filled with the delights of a jukebox. I have long been a Prince admirer and immediately checked the numbers for his then current Batman movie theme hit. They had it. And in the next few hours I all but spun the CD into the ground. I just couldn't get the song out of my head. It also of course cued in perfectly with The Who's Batman on the Ready Steady Who E.P.
The next day, after the band's arrival in Washington, I discovered that Batman was playing in Georgetown. I made some enquiries and was told that I would not need a cab because there would be a courtesy car laid on. The black driver looked at me and said: "So you want to go to Georgetown?" I looked back at him and said, "Yes. I want to see the Batman movie." "Batman," he repeated with a kind of half a message in his voice. I got in the car and we talked about Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters. He told me I should check out some hot blues clubs in the area - almost like it might be better than going to see Batman. But I was determined to see Batman no matter what.
When I got out of the car the wave of heat hit me full square. I'd never experienced heat like it before. I walked into the concource and soon found the studio showing Batman. I was about twenty minutes late but the buzz of seeing a movie in America for the first time was unstoppable. I bought a bucket of popcorn and fruit juice. The theatre was pitch black and well filled. I groped my way to a seat and fell into it. As I sat back and took the whole expanse in. I quickly learned that American audiences seem to laugh at scenes Irish people don't - and of course vice versa. I soon found myself laughing along to stuff that I really considered not in the least funny and of course stifling some of the most humorous moments of the movie with a polite cough. I did not want to stick out like a sore thumb. I was also sweating hard.
When the movie ended and the lights came up I looked around and was surprised to find that of the full complement of patrons I was one of no more than five white customers. When I was walking out of the theatre I sensed being the subject of many looks and stares---not because I was white, but because I was the only person in the entire theatre wearing long trousers. I must have looked like I had come from another planet - and a very cold one at that.
Jack with Sean Mahoney (left) and Bernard Murphy (centre) at the Watergate Hotel residents' bar 1989
When I got back to the Watergate Hotel I found my old friend from Cork Bernard Murphy had arrived. He'd flown in from New York and I was to be his host. He was dressed in New York-lad cutting edge which would have made his Cork librarian brother Joe, wince. However, ponytails and corduroys are fine for perching on the top of college library step ladders but when you're an up and coming photographer in the Big Apple like Bernard, you dress to the letter. I stared in amazement at his bronzed knees and studied the black polished hornby shoes. Good God, next to me he looked like a schoolboy out of the Great Gatsby!
After The Who's second night at the RFK Stadium my friend Bernard took his leave and returned to New York. After the show I went partying with John Entwistle, Max and Cleveland Watkiss. We did a couple of hot clubs being driven around in a limousine that could have housed half the main street. It seemed like the night could go on forever. When we finally got back to the hotel I went to John and Max's room where we continued to party and talk about how 'Boris The Spider' should've been a single. Max was almost out of it but myself and the Ox being solid west London citizens from the 60s gladly carried on with the great debate. At some time around 7am with both the Ox and myself physically supporting each other in the middle of the room and having moved on---with glasses clinking--- to the other great debate as to why 'My Wife' hadn't also been a single...I put down my glass and said: "It's no good John. I've had it, mate. I'm going home today and I need sleep...bad." I was just out the door when his eyes lit up in that quaint expression of his and he asked: "Jack. Have you heard this unreleased album of mine?" Jesus wept!
At about 8.45 that morning I eventually returned to my room and some form of sanity------or so I thought. I walked down the hall. Found my key and stepped in. The first thing to greet me was that morning's copy of the Wall Street Journal in a courtesy plastic bag. How nice, I thought. I walked over to the bed like a zombie and was about to fall asleep when I sensed that I badly wanted to urinate. I got off the bed and moved to the bathroom. When I opened the door I stepped into three inches of water. It had spilled out from the toilet bowl and something I noticed and couldn't understand was the unusual presence of tobacco leaves. I am strictly a non-smoker. Yet here were these leaves floating in three inches of water.
I moved to the phone and ripped off the piece telling the receptionist that this was the same guy in Room 305 who had earlier complained about the bath tub not draining. I told the receptionist that the bathroom was now under three inches of water. She said she would send up some workmen and in the same tone asked me if I would like another room. I said no, because I was leaving in a few hours and privately the last thing I wanted to do now was go through the process of moving into another room as if I was starting my stay all over again. It was going to be heartbreaking enough having to step off the voyage - but my time was up and I had letters to deliver back in the emerald isle.
I returned to the bed and fell into a heap. When I next awoke it was time for me to go downstairs and check out. The water was still in the bathroom along with the mysterious leaves. I kissed the room goodbye and walked to the elevator. When the doors opened I was about to step in when suddenly I was almost sent spinning as two burly house plumbers practically charged out of it. They wore dark uniforms and had pieces of instrumentation hanging from them like they were dressed for a war. I just stood and watched as they headed for Room 305. I had the Wall Street Journal safely under my arm and had not forgotten its souveneir value.
When I arrived downstairs I went through the painful process of checking out of heaven...by now a three-inch watery heaven. The boss, Bill Curbishley had generously paid for everything. Even the eventual phone call home which length must have put a little dent in the band's gross takings. They'd been good to me...once again, The Who. So I stood there in reception, looking at the splendid chequered hall that led to the final door for me where outside stood the quaint red English telephone box. I was hanging around, trying to squeeze the last moments out of the trip of a lifetime. Jodi Linscott approached and probably reading the expression on my face guessed I was homeward bound. Perhaps the bag too next to me had been a giveaway. "So, you're off then Jack?" "Yes, unfortunately Jodi," I said, "but I don't think I will ever forget my first trip to the States."
She smiled. We hugged. Then I felt I had to tell her what a grand and splendid, palatial and staggeringly beautiful hotel.....Suddenly Jodi broke from our embrace and said, "Jack, where's all that water coming from?" I looked around and there it was coming down one of the grand pillars of the architectural hallway. "Jesus Christ," I swore, "That's coming from my room on the third floor. It's leaking down through the 2nd and 1st floors." "W--hh--aa-tt?" Jodi quickly ran to the reception desk and pointed at the water coming down the pillar. In ten seconds the Watergate reception area were on red alert. Five or six people hurried in as many directions. I stood watching this unfold in a kind of daze and was reminded of the classic line from an old John Wayne war movie...'This is not a drill! This is not a drill!'
Guests drinking in the sedate bar whose normal criteria for 'an incident' in such a grand hotel might have been the mere jamming of the elevator doors - happened along to view the spectacle. Various members of The Who's tour party chanced upon the scene and looked in amazement at the somewhat bizarre sight of a semi-circle of bright yellow parking cones which had strategically been placed ten feet from the main entrance to prevent guests from walking into the unnatural spring. Roger Daltrey returned from a shopping trip with The Who's manager Bill Curbishley, and they couldn't believe what they saw. I explained what must have happened and Bill began to look concerned fearing that there might be a' bill' of another nature attached to all of this somewhere.
I was brokenhearted to be leaving the tour party and what had been one of the most exciting weeks of my life, and I was genuinely embarrassed about my bathroom. But somehow, something told me that quite unintentionally and without any design at all, I had left behind an unforgettable marker of my week with the band.
The Who's 89 tour of America is history now and all the instrumments have been packed away, but every so often somebody mentions the flood at the unrivalled Watergate Hotel.
© Irish Jack Lyons