The Who Tour.
In early January 1968 with great fanfare in the press, entrepreneur Ken Brodziak in association with Harry M. Miller Attractions announced the forthcoming `Big Show’ Tour. The line-up was formidable and consisted of Paul Jones, former lead singer with Manfred Mann, The Small Faces and sensational rock powerhouse The Who. For you trivia buffs an interesting clause in the Who’s contract stated that the promoter had the option of guitar smashing or no guitar smashing. Both were the same price. The promoters opted for guitar smashing, a decision which would later bounce back and bite them on the arse. Because of a fortuitous meeting with Ken Brodziak, The Questions were hired to back Paul Jones and at the same time be the support act on the tour. I remember feeling mindless with excitement at the time. Within the space of two years I had come from being an unknown singer fronting a garage band, to sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in the business. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me and it almost didn’t.
A flotilla of motor scooters followed the tour bus on its journey from the airport to the hotel. The riders were called Mods and the Who were their heroes. We were in Adelaide. Keith Moon sat behind an enormous drum kit with two bass drums, the first time I had seen this. During their performance, the Who’s roadie replaced a bass drum skin. Flemming assures me it was during `Substitute’. I can’t remember. Replacing a bass drum skin required undoing several wing nuts, removing the hoop which encircled the skin itself, replacing the damaged skin with a fresh one, re-attaching the skin to the hoop and re-screwing the wing nuts until it was secure again. No fuss, no big deal, no interruption to the show. Not a beat lost. This was 1968. Pete Townsend’s athleticism during a performance is legendary. The entire tour he was simply awesome night after night. I was ten feet away every night in the wings, watching, my mind not believing what my eyes saw. I witnessed a poetry and synchronicity I never thought possible.
`Shakin’ All Over’ was a mind blower and preceded `My Generation their familiar closing song. During the performance his gyrations brought the guitar down onto his hip which broke the guitar’s neck away from its body. He put the guitar on the floor and grabbed one of the Small Faces’ Gibson guitars nestled in a music stand nearby. From the wings, the colour draining from their already pasty faces, they watched the clock tick down towards `My Generation.’ the Who’s finale and the song which has seen the destruction of many guitars. Bill Flemming and David Brown, manager of the Faces, retrieved the remnants of Pete Townsend’s Stratocaster and took it upstairs. They put the neck back on, screwed the back plate on, re-strung the guitar, tuned it and handed it back to Townsend in time for `My Generation’, thereby saving the Faces’ Gibson from certain death and restoring some semblance of colour to their cheeks. The unfortunate thing was that Flemming and Brown had applied too much torque to the screws on the back plate, and when it came time to bounce the guitar off the floor and smash it into the drum kit, it would not break. This guitar, which was broken and put back together time and time again for the next show, absolutely refused to break. Townsend completely lost his block and really did smash it. Into 6 or 7 pieces. He threw the pieces into the audience in disgust which means some lucky people own parts of Pete Townsend’s guitar, a collectors item I wouldn’t mind owning myself.
Paul Jones’ manager was a very dour ex- boxer from the North of England. Bill Flemming recalls that Les Young asked him to take some photographs of The Questions during the show. He agreed, and using Les’ very expensive camera, walked around Melbourne’s Festival Hall flashing away from all kinds of interesting angles, impressing the shit out of us with his imaginative choice of locations and his obvious photographic prowess. When Les got the pictures back, well after they’d left Australia, he found this man had taken photos of a coat hook, a toilet, a piece of rope, a hat on a stand and a sports bag. A very unusual and quirky sense of subject matter to say the least. Years later I asked myself, could it be that this man may have contributed to the mystery of why Paul Jones’ career never reached the dizzy heights it deserved. This is only my opinion of course. He was and still is a terrific singer. A pioneer of British blues and R&B, Paul Jones was an interesting character, tertiary educated and possessing a great musical pedigree. His set included the perennials Pretty Flamingo, Doo Wah Diddy Diddy and Mighty Quinn, all UK chart toppers from the Manfred Mann days. But I will never forget his great renditions of Sons and Lovers, I’ve Been a Bad, Bad Boy and Little Red Book. I would watch from the wings every performance as he paid homage to soulful melody.
The Small Faces.
They were so thin and diminutive but loud and aggressive and there was a touch of the larrikin in all of them from their winkle picker boots to their mod hair cuts. And boy could they play. Apart from the Who I had never experienced such power on stage as they swaggered and pouted and provoked. To me they seemed like little demons, daring anyone to argue with what was unfolding on stage. They were shaking the very foundations of conservatism and delighted in the fear and loathing they created. And of course the kids loved it. It didn’t take long before the tour created controversy. During the second Sydney show at the Sydney Stadium, the revolving stage broke down and refused to move. This meant that half the audience only saw the performers’ backs. A lot of fans were very pissed off. Things got worse when a disgruntled fan pushed his way to the front of the stage and began abusing Steve Marriot verbally whilst flicking small objects into his face. Marriot replied with some very spicy language and threatened to sort him out. Things hadn’t improved by the time the Who hit the stage (the stage still refused to budge), and Townshend and Daltrey added a few expletives of their own, all this very audible to the fans and police who were on duty to prevent the fans mobbing the stage. It was front page news the following day. The incident prompted NSW Premier Sir Robin Askin to call on Police Commissioner Allan to investigate and stop pop filth. Askin was quoted as saying: `We must observe certain standards of decency, especially when young, impressionable girls of 12 and 13 are present. Pop singers have no special license to swear. If the facts are as reported, there will have to be a tightening-up against these pop groups.’
At last, we were playing the Sydney Stadium, ‘The Tin Shed’, the only Sydney venue with the capacity to cater for thousands of punters under one roof. The promoters had allocated the Questions a 10 minute spot as the opening act. I was 22 years young with stars in my eyes. It was a miracle. I was sharing the stage with some of my heroes. Some of the biggest names in the business. As a fan I had seen several great shows in the iconic venue, including The Beatles in 1964. Now it was my turn. With a sense of history and a massive dose of adrenalin, I stood guitar in hand on the hallowed stage as it slowly revolved. We went through our set and I felt we were doing well. I had reached a very poignant moment during a ballad and from the corner of my eye I noticed a young woman rushing down the aisle to the edge of the stage. Oh boy! My first fan coming to greet me. Slowly the stage turned and before me stood the young thing, all red hair and freckles, dressed in a Union Jack tee-shirt and blue jeans. She leaned back, arching her spine and unleashed the biggest, greenest spitball you have ever seen. With unerring accuracy the mighty mucous missile landed right between my eyes. `Fuck off you ugly bastard. We want The Who!’, she shrieked above the din. The malignant moist monstrosity meandered to the tip of my nose as the lights dimmed, as the tender ballad came to an end; as I finished my debut performance at the Sydney Stadium. Its funny the things you remember. The moments that change your life. From many, many important moments during a long career I chose this little vignette because it represents the absurdity that is this business. I love the absurd and I love the business. One minute you are king of the roost and the next you are a feather duster. Looking back, I think this might have been the occasion, contrary to popular belief, when I learned not to take myself too seriously. Oh....by the way. If you are attending one of my shows and happen to spot an overweight middle-aged red head moving menacingly towards the stage, please alert Security. Or send her to my dressing room.
The Flight - Flightus Interruptus.
It was one of those searingly hot Adelaide mornings. Heatwaves shimmered and danced beneath a steel blue sky. So blue it almost hurt the eyes. I felt miserable. Not because of the sweltering heat, but because of a hangover that threatened to crush my skull. It should have been a wonderful day. Why wouldn’t it be? I was touring with the hottest overses line-up to visit Australia in years. I was fronting The Questions, one of the best bands in the land and was about to return home to Sydney to form Doug Parkinson in Focus; the band of my dreams. It was 1968 and we were support act on a bill that boasted The Who, The Small Faces and Paul Jones, former vocalist with Manfred Man. The Questions opened the show, with yours truly enjoying 10 minutes of fame followed by Jones, The Small Faces and The Who headlining. Billed as ‘The greatest of the big shows since the Beatles and The Rolling Stones’, The Who, The Small Faces and Jones were to perform in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide over a period of 10 days before heading to New Zealand. The tour was organized to support the release of the album The Who Sell Out, which had been released in late 1967. It should have been a hit but media (who considered the ‘Orrible Oo’ to be a dangerous and corrupting influence) hostility, conflicts with the promoters over sound quality and several other incidents involving band members and overzealous ‘fans’ turned the Big Show into a disaster. It was reported that then Australian prime minister John Gorton sent Pete Townshend a telegram advising him and the band not to return to Australia, with Townshend reportedly responding to the correspondence swearing he never would. A promise he kept until 2009.
The night before the flight to Melbourne we had played to a capacity audience that had literally gone berserk. This was due in part to the strong migrant population who had settled in Adelaide. The show set a new level of power, volume and style not seen before in Australia. It was the last leg of the tour before the show moved on to New Zealand. What better way to finish than to celebrate. Up till now the tourists had behaved impeccably (well almost) and played brilliantly. Unfortunately, mainstream Australia still viewed them with fear and suspicion. Long hair, success and a brash attitude had put the fear of God into conservative Australia. My hangover was the result of a small celebration after the show. The touring party occupied the entire floor of the hotel. By now the tourists were calling The Questions `matey’, and we were invited to join in the fun. The promoters in their wisdom, had virtually sealed off the environment. I witnessed things that night that would influence my life forever. Beautiful women and a seemingly endless supply of alcohol and marijuana set the scene. I saw Keith Moon consume a bottle of cognac in a couple of swallows; blink, shudder and carry on a conversation as if nothing extraordinary had occurred. Incredibly, he remained coherent and animated for at least 20 minutes. I overheard conversations about the recent Who tour of America. Pete Townsend raving about Vanilla Fudge, the new big thing in the U.S., and my latest musical passion. Emerging technology, skill, commitment, stamina and their plans for the future. It was heady stuff for a young bloke like me listening in on their conversation. My personal highlight of the evening however, was the room service trolley race between Moon and Steve Marriot in the hotel corridor. The race was a fiercely contested affair with the two contestants running a gauntlet between a loud and very involved audience. It ended with a monumental collision at the finish line. Moon and Marriot, both flat out on the floor and both claiming victory, were rewarded with the ultimate accolade. Annointed with warm beer and the odd stinky ash tray, they called the race a dead heat. This turned out to be a judicious call, as I noticed a couple of blokes already had their dicks out, about to award the ultimate, ultimate accolade. I ordered 6 large bottles of Southwark Premiun beer. My ultimate contribution on $30 per gig, but by the time they arrived the party was over. I returned to my room, stashed them in my bag and hit the sack.
Wake up call two hours later. Hotel foyer. Too early. Too hot. Hot as Hades already. Tour manager Ron Blackmore calls us to attention. Issues instructions. Hard, cruel stuff like... `you lot stand there and don’t move!’. No-one moves. No-one moves unless they absolutely have to move.’ We obey Ron’s instructions. No-one moves because they are too ill to move. Onto the bus to the airport. A large bag of weed is passed around and smoked within the twinkling of an eye. My God! How do they keep going? We boarded the aircraft from mobile stairs at the rear. A flight attendant took our boarding passes and watching the motley crew shuffle past, looked like she wanted to take a holiday. `Good morning’, Paul Jones mumbled pleasantly. `What’s good about it?’, she snarled. That’s when I knew it would be a miserable day.
A collective groan of relief was heard as the touring party settled into their seats for the hour and a half flight to Melbourne. I had a window seat and as the aircraft accelerated, I saw rabbits diving into burrows hidden in the grass along the runway. Was I finally experiencing alcoholic hallucinations? Please God get me to Melbourne in one piece and I promise never to drink again. We pulled a gut wrenching turn over the Great Australian Bight. Funny. I had already allocated that name to a beautiful dancer in Melbourne. Alongside me sat Ray Burton, Questions guitarist who would later co- write `I am Woman’ with Helen Reddy. Ray was a very good looking man. That morning he looked like something the cat dragged in. Behind his groovy shades he had race-course eyes. One each way. And they looked like they were about to bleed. Suddenly, the call attendant signs started pinging. I turned to see our flight attendant remonstrating with the tourists. The boys were demanding some `hair of the dog’ to ease the pain. Impossible she said. Perhaps after tea and coffee were served. The trolley was at the head of the cue and I reflected it was not moving at the same speed as the night before. By the time the boys received their medicine it could be 1969. Moon and Marriot rolled up their in-flight magazines and began playfully tapping each other on the head. `Where’s the fucking drinks?’ Around me passengers were becoming a little nervous. Behind, an old lady began whimpering. To this day I believe it was a bout of incontinence and not fear which made her moan `Stop. I’ve had enough. Make it stop!’ Who knows? Ms flight attendant returned with a hard glint in her eye. `Sit down and behave!’ Her impeccable, beautiful mask was disintegrating before my eyes. What I saw was the face some unfortunate bastard saw every night after a hard day in the air. The wonderfully professional Ron Blackmore intervened and restored calm. The trolley had moved a painful yard or two. It was obvious to me they were stalling for time. I reached into my hand luggage and fished out a warm bottle of Southwark Premium. Any port in a storm. Ray pulled out his Swiss Army knife and off came the top. I took a couple of deep pulls and passed the bottle to Ray. I knew then I had made a friend for life. As we settled back into our seats a little more comfortably, a shadow fell upon our aisle. `Hello mateys. Got anymore of that?’ The dreaded Moon. `Of course!’ I replied, and handed over two more of the same. It was the first time he had spoken to me personally and I wanted to please. The Moon lurched back to his seat clutching the precious fluid, muttering to himself in his peculiar guttural slur. A sudden silence descended like a fog as the passengers around us realized a new factor had been added to the equation. The two bottles were passed around and consumed in the blink of an eye. Moon re-appeared for more. I kept one and parted company with the remaining two. By now, there was a new ambience in the rear cabin. Fear! Pure and simple. Out came the magazines. Slap, slap, pop! The boys were feeling human again as the old dear behind me changed gears from whimpers to wails. A couple of suits stood in protest but quickly sat down realizing they were outnumbered. Who knew with these weirdos? Maybe they carried concealed weapons? Perhaps they had black belts in Origami? The passengers forward of us had turned in their seats. Some stood. I felt like a goldfish in a bowl as the entire plane turned to view the disturbance at the rear. The fasten seat belt sign pinged loud and clear. Very loud. Very clear. As if by magic `you know who’ appeared. Gone was the last vestige of composure and restraint. Her face was a picture of loathing and hatred. At the same time the captain strode purposefully down the aisle. This was when I knew for certain it was going to be a miserable day.
I must say he was cool. Strong, calm and assured. He had obviously passed his `terrorist on board’ certificate and initiated a course of action designed to defuse this kind of situation. All the same I was quite shocked to hear him say…. `Listen up you bastards. When we land, you will all remain seated! After we clear the aircraft, then, and only then, will you be allowed to disembark. This is a first for me. Your behaviour is reprehensible. There is a reception committee waiting your arrival!’ Behind, stood Ms flight attendant, arms crossed over her breasts, elegantly leaning back as the trolley magically gained momentum down the aisle. We landed in Melbourne and remained in our seats. Passengers filed past us eager to get the hell off the ‘plane. Every one had a look to kill. Safe and on the ground, their hatred was obvious to us all. The dear old thing staggered past me on the arm of Ms flight attendant murmuring `animal bastards’ and other expletives long lost in Australian folklore. The captain came to collect us. We followed him in single file and waited meekly at the top of the stairs. I looked out a window to see two lines of police stretching from the aircraft to the terminal 500 metres away. This gauntlet would not be as much fun as last night’s. As an alleged hooligan, I felt that justice metered out by 40 plus police on duty on double time on a Sunday constituted a major threat to life as I knew it. The press had a field day. At last; something newsworthy on a dull Sunday. Live crosses to air, cameras flashing, step by step descriptions of the shameful procession of drunken louts who had threatened the very lives of innocent passengers. I could see the headlines! `Terror at 30,000 feet!’, `Rock ‘n Roll thugs hi-jack flight!’ `Australian aviation safety record intact, due only to skill of captain and courage of flight attendant.’ Etc. etc. Mr. Airport Manager met us at the terminal, accompanied by a senior Commonwealth police officer. I remember he was wearing shorts, an Hawaiian shirt and thongs. A film of sand covered hi ankles. They had dragged the poor bastard off the beach on his day off. He had a dazed look on his face. I’m sure his left eye twitched a couple of times as he tried desperately to appear assertive and controlled. So much for a quiet career in airport administration. We were herded into a quarantine area and held incommunicado for several hours. There were a lot of angry people that day. Most of the anger was due to fear and ignorance. Australia was changing. The world was changing! It was a new golden age called the 60’s. The airline refused to carry us to our final destinations as we constituted a threat to passenger safety. After frantic negotiation between Ron Blackmore and various authorities, we were allowed to board our flights. The Brits to New Zealand, where they slagged Australia unmercifully in the Kiwi press, and the Questions back to Sydney.
About to board the flight to Sydney, a timid voice enquired. `Excuse me Mr. Parkinson, but could we have an autograph or two? ‘ It was one of the crew from Australia’s first terror flight. `Of course. Look I’m sorry, but The Who and the Faces have gone. Do you still want mine?’ `Ooh yes please.’ Tell me it’s not a crazy world. The Who and the Small Faces vowed never to tour Australia again but Townsend and Daltrey returned in 2009.
The Flight – Another perspective.
Questions drummer Bill Flemming was sitting within the phalanx of the touring party. A block of seats had been dedicated to the personnel associated with the tour. Flemming and Paul Jones were sitting one row in front of me. Flemming remembers us being parched and waiting for the drink trolley to come along. DP passed the bottles around but they didn’t get to Flemming and Jones. Jones was reading a book as he was not one to engage in the usual group behavior preferring the company of Daltrey and Faces’ drummer Kenny Jones, in his opinion the sanest of the touring party. When the flight attendant realized the bottles were being passed around, she decided to bypass the group and passed by Jones and Flemming who were just minding their own business. Jones stood up, complained and asked what was going on. He had had his head in his book and was unaware of what was going on behind his back within the main group. The flight attendant became aggressive and nasty. It was then that the Who’s roadie, who had long blonde curly hair, tucked into a black hat and who looked like a demented goblin, stood up and said `That’s it! Where’s the door. I’m getting off.’ And that’s when the situation spiraled out of control. Also on the flight was theatrical agent Harry Wren. Flemming recalls that Wren utterly bucketed us to anyone who would listen upon his arrival at Melbourne and was responsible for much of the bad press we received. He said our behaviour was unacceptable and beat it up into a story from what was a fairly unremarkable incident by today’s standards. We landed in Melbourne and were arrested by the police and detained, but the plane itself was headed for Sydney and carried the stage equipment belonging to the Who and the Faces. From Sydney the equipment and the Brits were headed for New Zealand to complete the tour. Flemming pleaded with the police and airport authorities to allow him to accompany the equipment to Sydney, where he could sort out what gear was to remain in Sydney and what was to be sent to New Zealand. Flemming stayed on the flight while the rest of us were held in Melbourne.