Brilliantine Mortality

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Footnotes The Search for HMS Sussex / Irish Jack

Fan reviews of BSP gigs can be found on the main site


Irish Jack

Curiosity had got the better of the 62-year-old gentleman from Cork as he approached the half-a-dozen English tourists gathered in his local pub on what was an Irish bank holiday, on Monday, June 6, 2005. Wondering whether they might be joining him to see The Las perform at the Savoy Theatre, the silver-haired sage enquired what the tourists' plans for the evening were. Declaring their band of choice to be British Sea Power, who were also performing in Cork later that night, it transpired that a couple of the tourists - some of British Sea Power's most loyal followers - and their new found friend had something in common: seeing BSP at the Isle of Wight rock festival in 2004.

Intrigued to know what this former bus conductor in the autumn of his life was doing at a rock festival on an island off England's south coast, the tourists invited the affable gentleman to pull up a seat at their table, little knowing that the fascinating story of Irish Jack was about to be told. It soon emerged that the British Sea Power fans' new found drinking partner was none other than Irish Jack Lyons - so christened by Kit Lambert, one time manager of The Who - during a night of madness in 1962.

A reunion with his now personal friend Pete Townsend, who was performing at the festival with The Who, had taken Jack to the Isle of Wight. This friendly Irishman, it turned out, was quite possibly rock music's first celebrity fan - Godfather to the likes of Dagenham Dave, the Bromley Contingent and Steve Strange. In fact, Irish Jack was the West London based Mod and more latterly co-author of The Who Concert File once 'knighted' by Keith Moon and, according to Pete Townsend, the inspiration for the film Quadrophenia.

Following The Las concert, Irish Jack took up his comrades' invitation and that night attended his second British Sea Power performance, where he engaged in some conversation with Martin Noble and Yan, causing Yan to ad-lib a few words from My Generation during Rock in A and Noble to briefly perform an impression of Townsend's trademark windmill-style of guitar play. In the space of just a few magical surreal seconds, the very separate worlds of early 1960s The Who and British Sea Power in the Third Millennium had overlapped.

As long as touring continues to bring me into occasional contact with such amazing characters as Irish Jack, I am not going to hang my boots up. On June 6, 2005, British Sea Power gave their best performance that I have seen in well over twelve months. However, the night will be remembered for a chance meeting in a Cork pub with one of rock music's true legends and a man whose story I can only marvel at with a respectful envy.

Sarah Nicholls

Read more about the Cork show and the Ireland tour

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