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Entwistle's late 70's tone.

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by slinginsix, Sep 6, 2008.

  1. slinginsix


    Jan 11, 2005
    upstate ny
    I just saw a live show on PBS from 77. John's tone is to die for I think. He's playing the Alembic, but I was wondering if anyone knows his amp choice? thanks.
  2. PhR


    Dec 13, 2005
  3. it was all about the sunn amps
  4. ChorusPedal88


    Aug 25, 2007
    Entwistles tone is just one of those impossible ones to find so I doubt you'd come close, it was processed heavily, and plus with his playing technique too that contributed to that tone.
  5. spideyjg


    Mar 19, 2006
    San Diego
    Unless you get the technique down, you can buy all the gear on earth it isn't going to help as much as the technique will.

  6. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    In 1979, John used Sunn 4x12 cabs - so that's why I bought one in. Despite the head being all solid state and rather primitive (a Sunn 'concert bass' head, as I recall) the rig sounded GREAT for big rock - I was playing a Kramer 6000B (their highest end axe at the time) and the tone was huge - like a giant metallic roar. Maybe not so good for other stuff, but I could get that rock thing GOING...

    Ah, memories...
  7. I just watched an old instructional video, he was playing with a guitar player and the gui**** asked him how to get the signature tone. John told him that "his" tone was "full on treble and full on volume." Then he went on to say he changes his strings before every show and sometimes after soundcheck (he went on a tangent about his singer using a humidifier on stage, that causes the strings to lose their tone). Funny.... I cranked up the treble on my Warwick and I didn't sound like him. :D
  8. Wasim


    Dec 10, 2004
    I saw the same show on PBS - Kilburn 1977. It was filmed for The Kids Are Alright documentary I think. It's where these brilliants videos came from too (must-see for Entwistle fans):

    Won't Get Fooled Again isolated bass

    Baba O'Riley isolated bass
  9. bottomend!


    Oct 23, 2007
    Thats what I used to think until.....

    I showed up at rehearsal one day with my "new" 1967 Hagstrom hollowbody (looks like a 335) and my "new" Vox Royal Gardsman head with two VOX 2-12 folded horn cabs.

    I plugged in, turned up... and BANG. I nailed his Live At Leeds tone 100%. Not close, not kind of... EXACTLY. I have worn out two brand new copies of the vinyl and have two versions of reissues pressings on CD. I know the tone on this record like the back of my hand ( ok, I'm a guy.. like the front of my hand... cough, cough) and this weird combination of gear got the tone! It IS possible to get his tone.
  10. KPAX

    KPAX Banned

    Mar 22, 2005
    Use brand new Rotosound roundwounds and a lot of treble ...
    I rather liked his sound in the very late 60's (Live AT Leeds and Woodstock) when he used a P-bass, a pick (a lot but not on every song) and tube HIWATT amps with 4x12 and 4x15 HIWATT cabs.
    For most of the 70's he used 300W Sunn Colliseum amps and Gibson Thunderbirds, Hybrid "Fenderbirds" and then Alembic. The Sunn heads were Colliseum Bass, Colliseum Lead, and Coliseum "880" models. He also used ALL KINDS of Sunn cabs: 4x12, 3x12, 18" front-loaded, 18" folded horn ... interestingly, he didn't use Sunn cabs with 15's.
    By the later 70's he was using flared (horn-loaded) PA type cabs - also Sunn - but I think his amps were more "component" by then. I think he had som ekind of mixing board and slave power amps. Nonetheless, it still sounded like Entwistle because live, he always dialed in a similar tone no matter what amps he used. Oddly, he used a blurry tone on the albums in the early mid 70's but live he was always trebly, grinding and Entwistley.
    You can get an Entwistle sound - anyone can. Use brand new Rotosound roundwound RS66D or RL66D, plenty of treble and cut certain mids until you sound like ... Entwistle!

  11. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    I so disagree.

    I've heard people come somewhat close but no one has ever nailed his tone consistently, to my ears. This begs the question, how alike is 'like'? To one person close is dead on, to another even closer is still very far away. If it was so easy I guarantee there would be scores of OX imitators out there putting out his sound, and for every era. There aren't.

    edited to add:

    In addition, within a given song he alters his attack for different passages, to alter his tone and musically use the harmonics he is generating with his exquisite touch. To simply play cleanly with that amount of highs at those huge SPLs requires an incredible control over your attack with pick or fingers, in itself.

    When it comes down to it, I really believe that there are many bassists whose tones are simply impossible to recreate, due to their particular combination of left and right hand attack, physionomy, callouses, etc. To credit it to merely a particular string, bass, rig or combination of these is to negate the most important factor, that being the player.
  12. KPAX

    KPAX Banned

    Mar 22, 2005
    C'mon. I don't want to get into a pissing/ego match and I do agree that no two people sound exactly the same but if you're going to talk at that extreme then nobody sounds like anybody else, which is not helpful or necessarily true. Entwistle himself changed and developed over the years - particularly his technique - but there is a common thread to his live tone.
    Setting aside the cork-sniffing nuances grasped by only the select elite few, many aspects of Entwistle's sound were the result of certain identifiable things he always utilized - brand-spanking new Rotosound roundwounds (at least for a couple decades), low action, treble, volume, certain mids cut ...
    I believe the guy was asking about bass tone, which can be closely matched.

  13. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    The bass mix for that concert is definitely bass friendly, I'm glad they finally made that whole show available.
  14. KPAX

    KPAX Banned

    Mar 22, 2005
    Speaking of The Kids Are Alright, ever notice the 60's clip of My Generation (maybe Smother's Brothers?) how Entwistle re-recorded the bass solo? The whole song is bumping along at crummy mid-60's quality and then then the bass solo comes and you hear this much more accomplished late-70's Entwistle with an incredible hi-fi Alembic/advanced-rig sound. I was always a HUGE Entwistle fan but when I saw that in my teens I thought ***? Yeah right! I love Entwistle but I always thought that was cheesy.

  15. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    I completely agree that a major part of his tone came from the Rotos, and the way he EQed his various rigs. But I really don't think anyone can just use those things and then sound like him, and in a very real and obvious way to my ears, none have, and that's in a mix, etc.

    I'm not trying to win anything here, and when we cover Who songs I use a P with fresh Rotos, and jack up the high mids, etc, and use a pick because I can't control my RH enough to sound clean and consistent with that EQ. But I really don't do his tone any justice, and compare my failure to people who take a P with any strings and roll the tone off all the way and think they've nailed Jamerson's tone. Maybe they've found a real world approximation that works for them, but it's not cork sniffing to say they really don't sound Like Jamerson much at all.

    As I said in a different way at the beginning of my post, its a matter of degree, and is more or less important to a given player based on how close he wants to get, and to how much he can perceive the distance.

    The reason Entwistle sounded so good in the first place because he was a tonal cork sniffer to the nth degree, anyway.

    I'm really not trying to split hairs here, and I'm not interested in winning anything, but this stuff mean a lot to me, and is the reason I can listen to the Ox, Family Man, Jamerson, etc, forever, because they sound so much better than the great mass of bassists, myself included of course.
  16. KPAX

    KPAX Banned

    Mar 22, 2005
    Not just anyone can play like Entwistle, but with certain variables done right, one can get the Entwistle tone. Whether you cop Entwistle (or even want to) and to what degree is another matter.
    My point to the dude is yeah, that sound can be got.
    I have a live GREEN DAY dvd (outdoor concert in Germany, Bizzarrefest 2001 I think) and the bass player cops a very cool agressive Entwistle tone/vibe. He's riffing the pentatonics and pushing ahead of the beat a bit and has that p-bass dialed in right. Heck, he's a totally different body type than Entwistle and wears his bass low but he's got that vibe going. You can probably find it on YouTube.
    Here's another example: Andy Fraser (Free) nailed the Jack Bruce tone and feel. It's funny because sometimes it seems like Fraser gets more credit than Bruce but Jack defined that style and tone.
    Yeah, Entwistle was a cork (and coke) sniffer to be sure. The older he got, the more elaborate the rigs got. But I like him just as much or more when he had a p-bass plugged into a pile of tube HIWATTs with sealed 4x12 and 4x15 cabs.

  17. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Maybe not exactly, but there's another missing point to achieving his tone, which is ridiculously low action. Playing with such low action he obtained a certain amount of "distortion" through string buzz. He also played with a feather-light touch. We all know by now playing with a hard digging technique yields a far different tone than playing lightly. I once asked Mica Wickersham about this, and she told me his basses were set up with such low action most people couldn't play one if they wanted to. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to meet The Ox on a couple of occasions. The first time I met him I had a discussion with him about his technique and he told me he doesn't dig in for volume, that he lets the "amp do all the work".

    Another thing: people talk about his treble, which was very pronounced. But, if you've ever seen him solo, and up close, you know that's only a piece of the puzzle. His low end was tight-as-heck, and thunderous! In addition, the one frequency he always dialed OUT was 1K.

    His tone is achievable, but difficult to master, as his technique is so difficult to copy. But, I wouldn't go so far as to say it's impossible...earth-shattering, ear-shattering, and ground-breaking, perhaps, but certainly achievable. You just have to have ALL the ingredients.
  18. Doesn't sound like the Alembic to me. I doubt John would be able to remove the bass track from a 13 year old (in 1978) television recording and remix it to contain a new bass solo.

    If he had overdubbed it you would still hear the 'crummy' bass underneath.

    Great sound though... Snappy.:bassist:
  20. scowboy

    scowboy Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2006
    Sacramento area
    RE: His JE's action.

    I have read several sarcastic statements over the years with him saying "if his action was any lower the strings would be on the other side of the neck".

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