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Great Entwistle write up....

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by B-NoteCowboy, Jun 28, 2002.


  1. Long Live the Ox
    The Quiet One dies.

    By Kevin M. Cherry



    he news hit with all the power of a Pete Townshend power chord: John Entwistle, bassist for the Who, found dead in a Las Vegas hotel room. The news came just as the Who were about to begin another reunion tour and 25 years after the notorious Keith Moon died in his Los Angeles home.

    In many ways, Entwistle was the overlooked member of the band. He was not as outwardly hilarious as the manic Moon. He was not as quotable and intellectual as songwriter/guitarist Pete Townshend. He was not as visible as lead singer Roger Daltrey. Entwistle acknowledged this and called himself "The Quiet One."

    But it didn't matter, because to those who really paid attention, he was the musical linchpin of the group. Entwistle pioneered rock bass — mostly because he was forced to do so. Given Moon's inability to keep time, Entwistle was forced to be the rhythmic backbone. Given that the band had but one guitarist, Entwistle had to fill out the sound. He was forced to be innovative, but his talent was what allowed him to flourish.

    It's easy to assume that most readers have heard Entwistle's playing. Off the top of my head, I can name five Who songs currently being used in commercials. For most groups, this would constitute a sellout. But the Who had already sold out: In 1967, they released The Who Sell Out, a concept album answer to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. On that album, interspersed among classic Who tracks like "I Can See for Miles" were hilarious commercial jingles, mostly written by Entwistle and Moon at a local tavern. While he often played the straight man to Moon the Loon, Entwistle himself was a man of wit.

    This may be most obvious in his songwriting. Entwistle wrote the group's standard opening number for the Tommy tour, "Heaven and Hell." He wrote the darkly humorous "Boris the Spider" and sung it in a Boris Karloff-like register. He contributed the chased husband's lamenting "My Wife" to the seminal Who's Next: "My wife is coming after me/Murdered in cold blood is what I'm gonna be/Ain't been home since Friday night/And now my wife is coming after me."

    The rock opera Tommy was what (belatedly) put the Who on the rock-and-roll roadmap. Townshend's original narrative was incredibly weak, almost to the point of being incomprehensible. The album's best individual moments are Entwistle's descriptions of the abuse suffered by the deaf, dumb, and blind protagonist: "Cousin Kevin" and "Fiddle About." Without those tracks, the album seems overbearing; with them, it comes to life.

    After the success of Tommy, Townshend attempted to develop a second rock opera, entitled Lifehouse. For several reasons, it never took off. But it did result in perhaps the greatest single rock album ever made: 1971's Who's Next. Its tracks — "Baba O'Riley," "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Bargain" — are staples of classic rock radio, and deservedly so. Entwistle sparkles throughout, whether it's the first bass note in "Baba" or his ability to fill in the gaps on "The Song Is Over."

    In many ways, the next rock opera Townshend completed gave Entwistle his moment in the sun. Quadrophenia was about a teenager with "a four-faceted multiple personality disorder." The plot held together tighter than Tommy's, and the music did, too. Nowhere was this more evident than on the album's opener, "The Real Me," which was driven by Entwistle's jet-propelled bass lines. In concert, Thunderfingers, as John was known by his fans, took an extended solo on "5:15," which would always leave people — including his band mates — in awe. At the end of the solo, his sole gesture to the crowd was to arch one eyebrow ever so slightly.

    Throughout the Who's career, Entwistle's performance was predictably steady — easily the most dependable member of the band. He was there from the bass solo in "My Generation" to the thumping bass line under "Eminence Front." He bashed his way through the seminal live album Live at Leeds — as Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt has recommended, turn down the other channels and listen to the bass alone for a musical revelation — and he could simply hold down the low end under songs like "Love, Reign O'er Me."

    Despite his musical proficiency and talent for mirth-filled songwriting, Entwistle never enjoyed the solo success Townshend did. Nor did he have the theatrical options Daltrey had. He toured with several of his own bands — and with Ringo Starr's All-Star Band — since the Who broke up, but his first loyalty was always to his original mates. And for many of us, to see the band reunited as an ongoing entity in 1996, with the resurrection of Quadrophenia, was a cause for rejoicing.

    It's unsure whether Townshend and Daltrey will continue performing as the Who. They took a lot of flack for continuing after the death of Keith Moon; it took them 20 years to find a suitable replacement (Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr). Finding a suitable replacement for Entwistle may be even more difficult. It may be time to pack it in.

    John always had a sense of his own mortality. Here's how he put it in "Heaven and Hell":

    In the place up above you grow feather wings and you fly round and round, with a harp singing hymns. And down in the ground you grow horns and a tail and you carry a fork and burn away.

    With his passing, the musical world has lost a quiet genius. Say hey to Keith for us, John. If there's a rock-and-roll heaven, they now have one hell of a rhythm section.









    — .Kevin M. Cherry
     
  2. Thanks B-note,

    Very much appreciated.
     
  3. Rien

    Rien Guest

    Oct 6, 2001
    Dreamland.
    Great article.

    The writer did a wonderful job on discussing his importance to the group, for people who might not have realized it.
     
  4. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Wow Fantastic Article... uhmmm any word on cause of death yet?
     
  5. thats so sad. He was my second favorite who member and an awesome bassist.
     
  6. supergreg

    supergreg

    Jan 20, 2002
    Heart attack.
     
  7. Thank you for posting that article B-Note

    It was well written and tasteful,really made me reflect on John`s work and his accomplishments.


    R.I.P. John Entwistle
    You are missed.