Story by Irish Jack
Here's a specially commissioned story about Dublin by Irish Jack.
The picture you see above is probably one of my favourite shots of Pete Townshend. Here he is shot by British photographer, Colin Jones. Townshend gives us an eclectic pose. The hair is post-Mod, carefully placing him in the 68/69 period of his work. He looks cool in the Prince of Wales check regency trousers and the arty black polo neck. Behind him on the wall are a collection of neck fractured guitars. The spoils of war. Stage war. Who war.
But look! What's that under his arm? Ah, devilment is at work here. Irish devilment, in more ways than one. These are called uillinn pipes. Uillinn means elbow in Gaelic. And these pipes are played by the compression of the elbow. I don't think that Rickenbacker make them. Usually they are hand crafted by Irish speaking story tellers.
Sometime around early 1993 I was studying this photo when I suppose I should have been doing the hoovering. As I loomed into the photo fascinated by Townshend's pose and no doubt Colin Jones's suggestion.."Pete, I want you to sit sideways on the bed..", the more I loomed into the shot the more I realised audaciousness. Yes, I thought, I hope I don't spoil the photo but it is so outrageous I will just have to go for it. "Pete, I want to put a set of uillinn pipes under your arm.." No, I didn't ask him like Jones. I just went ahead with a scissors in my shaking hand and cut through a Union Jack flag...
A friend of mine who played keyboards at the time with an Irish band from Cork called Ruby Horse, Owen Fegan, was not only an accomplished keyboard player and photographer but also a dab hand at drawing. I contacted him and when I told him what I wanted him to do he nearly spluttered out his last sip of a pint of Murphys. He could see the devilment in my face and the seriousness of my resolve to have the job done right.
At the time, Owen's father was a draughtsman with five letters after his name: MICAD - which I think stands for 'Member of the Institute of Computer Aided Draughting'. So, Owen's dad would receive letters through the post with MICAD underneath his name. For some odd reason, Mr. Fegan's postman/mailman at the time got it into his head that MICAD was actually the name of the house. It wasn't unusual to find yourself delivering to a house called "Saint Rita's" or "The Wick" only to discover that the plaque had fallen off years before. So one morning in my own capacity as a postman I was talking to this particular colleague of mine who happened to be Mr. Fegan's postman. He was busy sorting his letters as we chatted. I said, "Jim (I will spare his blushes by not mentioning his surname..) I said, "Jim, you probably know my friend Owen Fegan, he plays with Ruby Horse?" "Owen?," he looked at me with a smile, "of course I do. (he pointed to a box on his sorting frame) - "Micad." He had "MICAD" written in over the box mistaking it for the name of the house.
It took my friend Owen Fegan about a month to do the drawing. When I met him and he handed it to me it scared the shit out of me. How dare I mess with Townshend and put a set of uillinn pipes under his arm. Now that I had the drawing I discovered that I had to put some kind of text or story to it. It so happened that a couple of months away in 1993 was the Cork Folk Festival. I drafted a storyline based on the lyrical Irish way that people speak in the grandest part of Ireland, namely Donegal and the north. These people are usually the best singers in Ireland the way their accents sing like harps. I probably over-did it with the stage Irishness and for that I hope I will be forgiven. When the text to go with the image was completed I took it to the organisers of the Cork Folk Festival who laughed out loud at the imaged idea of The Who's Pete Townshend playing a set of uillinn pipes. In other words, they loved it. They paid me, not much, but the joy in my heart of knowing that the folk festival organisers had run off a thousand copies of mine and Owen Fegan's work was enough. The flip side of the A4 sheet was filled with festival events at the Lobby Bar. This is what I wrote under the picture you see above....
'Ah, shur now, 'tis an ill wind that blows between one's legs', as my old mammy used to say as she'd pour out the Indian tea and the smell of the spuds boiling behind us in the pot would fill the room with majestic perfume.
For tis many an old hour I spent back in the homeland, sitting by the roaring fire with the toes of me socks singed to brown. The wind howling up the mountain road like Satan had come for us all. And in the back room, me old Uncle Peter, sitting on the side of the bed in the half light of dusk, coaxing controlled volumes of air and melody with the help of his one working arm, through the sack of those haunting uillinn pipes. Perfecting his strokes for some upcoming tour. Or maybe the harvest dance.
Jesus, for t'was nearly the truth that my Uncle Peter could raise the Tipperary dead and resurrect half the banshees in Clonmel with the mind blowing strains of that acoustic set of pipes. Gifted he was. And you know, t'was true too what he would say after he had taken to a wee drop of bourbon.."I need to reinvent my past.."
Ah, no. Sorry. That's not the one I'm trying to think of at all, at all. That was something he had said in the making of some arty farty fillum for some fella called Bragg. No, the line I'm trying to think of had something to do with the congenital condition of Indian tea-bags. What was it now? Ah, yes. 'Tis an ill wind..." No, shur that's me mammy.
Wait on now. I seem to remember that t'was an almightyful classic statement at the time and all the foreign English music press picked it up. Was it something to do with that strange fella Augustus Owsley 111 ? Didn't Uncle Peter have an accident and drop some acid and boiled cabbage while he was visiting Haight-Ashbury? Don't you know, tis the way me socks will singe to brown before I can think of this bloody brilliant parable of his.
Whisht now, cos the old memory valves are beginning to light up at last. Shur how could I forget so soon and me with the cheeks of me windsmacked face burning red with pride upon the eloquence of it all. Yes, I have it.. Uncle Peter had granted a rare interview in the back bedroom and was remarking on the current music scene at the time when completely he lost his rag with the surface casualness of his young interviewer and burst forth with one of the most fearsome truths anybody has since uttered to the press..."Jesus, don't you know.." say's he, his eyes blazing in tortured anger and his fists clenched tight in a genius rage, "they might put God in a pill but they'll never computerize the bodhran!"
T'was the night the young writer fella had to stay over with the storm so bad. In the morning he cracked open a freshly laid breakfast egg his finger nails thick with hen shit and he shivered as he told us he had seen a ghost walking through the kitchen during the night. Uncle Peter spat some Indian tea on to the floor in an hysteric..."Yer bloody eejit," say's he, "that was me going to relieve meself in the back shed."
-They loved it. Some of my friends who read the A4 pamphlet wanted to know from where had I stolen the text. But it was obviously my own work for better or worse. 'An ill wind'? 'God in a pill'? 'Pete having an accident and dropping acid in Haight Ashbury'? 'Computerizing the bodhran'? 'Finger nails thick with hen shit'? Some of it was brash, extreme and I hope funny? At 69 I don't have the energy to write like that anymore.
So, as we left the Morrison hotel a couple of Saturdays ago on June 8th and boarded the band bus to Dublin's 02 Arena, I got talking to Who keyboardist Frank Simes. He told me had loved the Joycean parts of Dublin. He had read James Joyce's Ulysses incredibly on the first attempt, most people don't. Simes said his father had met Joyce as we continued intensely in the hospitality suite. Later after the show when we had repaired back to the Morrison, Frank introduced me to Dylan Skye Hart. Dylan expressed a love for the uillinn pipes. I told him if he gave me his e mail I would send him a little surprise. So I did. But he only got the image not the text that is here.
Of course I hadn't just stared transfixed at that image back in 1993. It had accompanied an article by writer Tony Palmer in the Observer newspaper review in May 1969, the heading : A Freakish Parable. A few para's down is this..'Artists are nice people whose products live on in libraries and museums..so how could a layabout like Pete Townshend possibly write an opera?' Tony Palmer hadn't said that. He said..'It is against this kind of idiocy that Townshend and his opera are fighting an uphill battle'.
In time, the quote 'Artists are nice people etc..' became a kind of fostered signature line of mine, for God knows it had become as precious as Owen Fegan's uillinn pipes.
- Irish Jack, June 2013
Review by Melissa Hurley
We had a great time in Dublin. Great town, great friends, good food and drink, wonderful sunny weather and another Who gig. Dublin punters that attended opening night just didn't want to take their arses off their seats and didn't know Quad. Pete and Roger had been in good form. Roger's voice was excellent and strong. One glitch was when Roger had a senior moment and forgot to sing and his backing tape belted out a recording of his voice and he looked confused. Simon played more lead than Pete and did a wonderful job too and reversed the verse to Dirty Jobs. Pete looked well and strummed away. He was windmilling and doing his usual and almost fell tits up tripping up on his guitar lead. Scott on drums is okay, Zak is really needed for the band. The six extra songs went down like a lead balloon and the crowd became alive. Pete said thanks to the crowd for letting them practise on them. Backstage was a wash. Said hello to Irish Jack. On the way home we had been on the same plane as Curbishley and Rosenberg we had a chat before the flight. Good to be home.