Music so far
sixteen tons
french period
blundering on
all that jazz
weighty eighties






The French Connection

By now Giorgio was tiring of us constantly riffling his pockets,his larder and whatever else and decided to banish us to France---- (well, Paris actually), so calling on his French connection, we were set adrift in the English channel one dark and stormy night!

We're looking at about 1965 (the winter of) and entering France to work at this time was a BIG deal.
You had to have this document called a Carnie which in fact was a precise list of every item you had with you, its value, and an assurance in the form of a bond(money deposited in London) to that value which would be forfeited to the French embassy if one decided to dispose of any of these items for financial gain.

In our case, these items consisted of ; two tatty vox AC30s, three totally abused guitars, one horrible Selmar bass amp and a Trixon drum kit and of course, the mandatory totally clapped out and illegal ex- post office Commer van.
Upon arriving in Calais in the early hours of the morning, reeking of vomit and praying for a quick death( those old ferries were totally un,landlubber friendly), you would be subjected to, at least, a two hour search by the French customs( probably ex-Gestapo in hiding), who would slowly but surely, riffle through every bloody bit of tat you had with you!

Why didn't I go to college like my parents wanted!
So, we eventually arrived in Paris at about 8,30 am after many mechanical and physical dramas to start our search for our hotel(ha ha!).

Words of wisdom: Do NOT drive in Paris in the rush hour, in fact, do NOT drive in Paris, full bloody stop!
People fled in horror as our disgusting heap of rusting metal, reeking of oil and puke crunched to a halt and green and deathly faces croaked at them, Rue Cliche, Rue Cliche?
Close to the end(of everything!) we eventually found it and,guess what! it was the Red Light district!
From Soho to the Moulan Rouge in one easy nightmare!
God, did we sleep well.

Anyway, back to the music bit. We were to play in a club called the Windmill which was bang next door to the Moulan Rouge and really quite a big venue by our standards at the time with a proper stage and curtains and dressing rooms to boot!

It was at the time, the only rock venue in the city and we were billed as Les Ingoes from the famous Marquee club in London! (but of course in French).

The Marquee was famous but we most certainly weren't and it was a great surprise and relief to find the French audiences didn't seem to mind as long as we were English and sounded and looked the part,ie, long hair, jeans and plenty of chunka chunka! Oh, by the way, French rock audiences whistle VERY loudly if they like you which, believe me is terrifying the first time it happens if you dont know!

Well, they did like us and what was to have been a short sortie abroad would take up the best part of the next two years in the life of the band.

At one of our appearances at the Windmill, we were approached by the owner of a night club in St Germaine in the Latin quarter of Paris(south bank my dear!) and he wanted us to become the resident group at the club and sock it to the Paris Sloanies and the rich and famous of the time! This would mean staying on in Paris which was a hard decision for us but faced with abject poverty on our return to the UK and the thought of those bloody French customs, we came to the conclusion that, somebody had to do it so it might as well be us!

We dutifully informed Giorgio on the phone( I think he said 'thank God') and went and got rat arsed in a suitably French sort of way.

So we left the bordello in Montmartre and relocated in the south of the city in an equally seedy dump opposite the club. The club was called the Bill bouquet which I think translates as the bucket of flowers but I may be wrong. It was very small, very dark and very expensive, with a stage area the size of your average lift surrounded by a small picket fence type thing.It had a small dance floor of about equal size and the rest of the club was taken up with small tables and leather padded chairs where the very rich and sometimes famous would come to pull and be pulled, and the fact that we were deafening them at the same time seemed not to distract them from their pleasure seeking one little bit!

In fact we became the darlings of these poor, rich but rather sweet, deaf bastards and would find ourselves be booked on many occasions to play at their private parties and do’s . Okay, what about the music, anything new?

Absolutely! French rock music was definitely not on the case and dare I say, bordering on the corny. They seemed to miss the point of it all most of the time but down in the nightclubs(like the “Bill Bucket”) the records being played were almost exclusively American soul and R&B imports by black artists from the Motown, Stax and various other labels. This was well in advance of the London club scene adopting this music and greatly influenced the band to the point that we’d soon be chunking and funking at the same time(what an appalling analogy, sorry)!

Our live sets become a pastiche of styles and musics, for example:
Mr Pitiful (Wilson Pickett), Midnight Hour (Otis Redding), Memphis Tennessee (Chuck Berry), Road Runner (Bo Diddly), Shaking’ all Over ( Johnny Kid and the Pirates) ect ect!
And I still believe that only in France, and Paris in particular, could we have gotten away with this mishmash of musical influences. The stylists in London, ie’, Mods, Rockers, Jazzers,Bluesers, R&B’ers ect , would have had nothing to do with us at this time as we would have offended each and every one of them in one way or another, but the Parisians, well, let’s just say that Paris and the way of life there was the style and we were allowed to become part of that way of life. We could, and did, develop.

Books could be written about this period of the band’s life, such was the diversity of it’s path, from cabaret in Morroco to ski resort residencies in the French alps to living in a monastery near Grenoble and a lot more besides but I must move on but must confess to one part of the band’s history that will always make me cringe with shame .
During this period we did return to the UK for a brief while and it was during this time we allowed ourselves to be told that Eddie Lynch should replaced for the good of the band as a whole and so it was that Eddie went and Jim Cregan joined. Jim was to become an important member of the band without doubt but it was the first and last time I would let anybody else influence my behaviour or loyalty to another person.

Just one more little tale before I move on, Ready Steady Go! came to Paris one fine day and broadcast the show from our old haunt, the Windmill Club. We, by then, were resident band in a club called ‘Le Bus Palladium’ which was just around the corner from the Windmill

Now , ‘Le Bus’ was something else altogether!
An old building that was originally used as the turn around point for the long gone Parisian trams, now sort of converted into a very dark and seedy music venue ( a bit like the original Round House in London but smaller).

When we first ‘moved in’, the clientele were, beatniks (hippies!), drunks and drug addicts and ladies of the night! Only in Paris!

One night, Salvador Dali turned up with his beautiful people and enjoyed himself so much that he became a regular punter and from that point all hell broke loose! You couldn’t get in for love nor money, seven nights a week, chockerblock full with the ‘nuevoarty Parisians and voyeur punters, and of coarse, the rich and famous ( I remember one night whilst shoving my way through the crowd outside to get in and play, Shawn Connery and his onterage being told in no uncertain terms to ‘shove off’ as the building was coming apart at the seams!)
Anyway, back to Ready Steady Go!

The Who were topping the bill and as we hadn’t been asked to perform on the show(which we were really pissed off about at the time!) we decided to wander up to the Windmill and generally get in everybodie’s way (as you do when your pissed off!).

Townsend was winding himself up for his self destruction ritual and told us to go away(well not in those words actually) but Moon and Enthwistle were ready for a bit of a night out in Paris after their spot so we took them down to the Palladium for our gig and Keith was introduced to a certain ‘Baron de Lemer’ who made all his dreams come true in the uppers and downers department (if you know what I mean).
They were gobsmacked by the place and the atmosphere and I think they liked us as well. Keith liked everybody in a very short space of time and wanted to join the band and of course we said yes and of course he didn’t!

We took them down to another club in the St Germaine on the south bank after the gig and me and Enthwistle downed a bottle of Pernod neat(you're supposed to mix it with water and ice as an aperitif!) and I can remember both he and I wondering how the French could drink that shit all the time! My lasting memory of that evening is of John giving Moon a good pasting for bringing the good name of the Who into disrepute by hosing down the clientele of this exclusive nightclub with a fire extinguisher

They’ve both moved on now. Happy days.

top :: home :: next >>