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Tribute to The Ox

Discussion in 'Suggestion Box' started by RAM, Jun 28, 2002.

  1. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL

    I would not think it more appropriate to have a tribute to the one who's had a bigger impact on rock bass than just about anybody. Obviously some loved him more than others, but I think everyone in the bass...scratch that...music community appreciated his tremendous contributions!

    Can we have a tribute piece written about John Entwistle?

    Thanks for your consideration!

  2. supergreg


    Jan 20, 2002
    I was about to come here to post the same idea. I think it would be a great idea to show our love for The Ox.
  3. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    I was thinking of writing a tribute to the Ox myself. Shall I post it here?
  4. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    Here it is, my tribute to John. Hopefully, I got all the facts right, and it somehow manages to do justice to the great man. Please, let me know what you all think.
  5. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    It doesn't look very good in that attachment. Here it is, with paragraphs:

    October 9th 1944 - June 27th 2002

    "Hope I die before I get old!" Pete Townshend must regret writing those words more now than ever now - another member of the Who has left us behind.

    John Entwistle's death at the age of 57 has sent shockwaves around the music world, and the bass community in particular. Since the news broke that Entwistle suffered a heart attack in his sleep in a Las Vegas hotel on the eve of his band's latest American tour, tributes have poured in from every angle, from Bill Wyman to Bootsy Collins. Who fans, and bassists in general, have been mourning the loss of one of the true pioneers of the instrument. Perhaps Steve Luogno, drummer in Entwistle's solo project, the unsuprisingly-named John Entwistle Band, said it best when he said "We have lost a Jimi Hendrix of the bass guitar."

    John's musical career began at an early age - he was given piano lessons from the age of ten, later moving onto the trumpet. Even at a young age, his musical talent was plain to see; he won a place at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, but his family was unable to afford to send him. He played the bugle in various trad-jazz bands, before taking up the bass guitar as a teenager after hearing Duane Eddy's instrumental "The Lonely Surfer". His decision to take up the bass was partly motivated because the amplification it needed let him play louder.

    As a schoolboy, John played in various skiffle bands along with a young guitarist called Peter Townshend, and eventually joined Roger Daltrey's band, The Detours. Eventually, after several line-up changes, The Detours became The Who.

    With drummer Keith Moon added to the group, The Who began playing around the London club scene regularly, building up a loyal "mod" fan base. The Who were one of the most striking groups in London visually at that time - Townshend was famous for leaping up and down as he played, "windmilling", and destroying his guitars at the end of each gig. Keith Moon and Roger Daltrey performed with an incredible engery too, and Moon's drums were often smashed too. But John Entwistle would just stand still on the spot, playing without emotion. In a band of extroverted characters, he gained a reputation for being the dour musician; the quiet one.

    "I tried moving around to see if the fans would shout my name. They did, and when I knew that they would if I moved around, I went back to standing still." John explained later. "If we all leap about then we would all look like a bunch of idiots... When the others are smashing their instruments I'd be leaning against the amp polishing the guitar." In time, John's lack of movement would become just as striking at gigs as Townshend or Moon's antics.

    After a brief spell as The High Numbers, the Who released their first record, "My Generation", in 1965. The title track was one of the bass guitar's finest early moments - John played four bars of stunning solo bass - it sounded unlike anything anyone had ever done on the instrument, and raised the bar for years to come.

    As the group gigged almost nightly, John quickly honed his own unique style of playing - something which came about at first more through accident than design. The Who's stripped down line-up of one guitar, bass and drums meant that more emphasis was placed on the rhythm section than in the normal two-guitar setup - and Entwistle and Moon were more than up to the task. Pete Townshend was a limited lead guitarist, and was at times the group's main timekeeper. "In effect, John was a lead bass player." Pete said. John's long, breathless bass runs stood him apart from most contemporary bassists.

    "A Quick One", the Who's second album from 1966, also saw John move into songwriting. He contributed two songs to the record which showcased his macabre sense of humour - "Whiskey Man", and his first classic, "Boris The Spider." Though he wasn't as prolific as Townshend, Entwistle became the group's second writer, contributing usually two or three songs to each album.

    Despite the group's recording sucess, the four members of the band weren't friends - in fact, they openly disliked each other. Only John and Keith were friends, and were often seen together in London's most fashionable nightclubs - John would often find himself pulled unwittingly into Keith's insane schemes and pranks. Despite his dour image, John could party with the best of them - Keith, whose own alcoholic intake was legendary, was moved to remark "Once he gets going, he doesn't stop for days - I can't keep up with him!" John was christened The Ox around this time, a reference to his physical size. "He's just bigger than us... he can eat and drink much more." Pete Townshend once said. At one point in the late sixties, when both John and Keith were unhappy with The Who, they considered forming their own band with Yardbird Jimmy Page. "We'll call it Led Zeppelin" John said. "Because it'll go down like a lead balloon." Page remembered the name.

    In 1969, The Who released Tommy, (with two contributes from John, "Cousin Kevin" and "Fiddle About", both of which were branded "sick" by the BBC) which put the band firmly in the major league. It also made them all millionaires, which finally allowed John to live the sort of lifestyle he had dreamt about. Once he was able to afford it, one of his passions was collecting bass guitars - at any one time he could have up to 250 of them. This wasn't just a rich man's indulgence - John was always searching for a better tone, and tried every different bass he could get his hands on, trying to find the sound he longed for.

    Throughout the seventies, The Who settled into their position as one of the biggest bands in the world. John's bass playing remained stunning, particularly on 1973's Quadrophenia - songs like The Real Me showed he could lead the band with his unique lead bass, while songs like Drowned and 5.15 proved that he could groove as well as anyone else.

    In the late seventies, when Pete Townshend tired of taking The Who on the road, John became so frustrated he put his own band, Ox, together, and toured playing songs from his solo albums and Who material. The tour lost him money, but it didn't matter to him - as someone who lived for live performances, John was just happy to have a surrogate band to play with while The Who rested.

    In 1978, tragedy struck The Who. Keith Moon's health, and his drumming, had been deteriorating for some time after years of alcohol abuse, but it was still a shock when he died after accidentally overdosing on sleeping pills. Moon's death shook Entwistle to the core, and it took him a long time to recover - he said years later, simply, that "I lost my best friend." Still, his dry wit still managed to shine through - when he was asked if there were any plans to replace Moon, he said "We've just managed to get rid of one drummer... why would we want to get another one?"

    Nevertheless, The Who recruited Kenney Jones, and carried on into the eighties, partly motivated by John's love of touring. Despite the fact that John and Kenney managed to fit together well on the band's newer material, without Moon the band was dead as a creative force. After becoming frustrated at a lack of activity from The Who, Entwistle was glad when the group finally dissolved in 1983.

    They reformed to play again, on a regular basis - in 1985 for Live Aid, four years later to mark their 25th anniversary, in 1996 to perform the whole of Quadrophenia for the first time, in 2000 to tour again as a five-piece and again in 2002... John was happy to be back doing what he loved best - playing bass with The Who, and was looking forward to beginning his latest tour in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be.


    If John Entwistle's bass-playing career had peaked with his solo in My Generation, then he would have earned a worthy footnote in the instrument's short history. But he was never happy to just rest on his laurels, and always pushed himself, and his instrument. The results speak for themselves - the quality of John's bass playing improved with every Who album. It also defies adequate analysis - John himself was at a loss to explain his extraordinary style - whenever he was asked for advice from would-be bassists, his stock answer was to simply say "Use your imagination!"

    He was a true pioneer. As well as being of of the first bass guitarists to bring the instrument to the forefront of a song, he also opened up new avenues in terms of tone, technique, and challenged the idea of the bass guitar itself - in the seventies, he was one of the first bassists to experiment with six and eight stringed instruments. By introducing the idea of bass guitar as lead instrument, John paved the way for a whole generation of bassists.

    More so than any othe member of The Who, John loved touring. On completing his 1975 solo tour, he said "It cost me $70,000, but it was worthwhile to me... playing live is what keeps me in the business. If I'm not touring every six months, I get restless." As much as he enjoyed the fame and the champagne lifestyle that dining at rock's head table afforded him, John was a dedicated and commited musician above everything else.

    One of the things he enjoyed about touring was meeting his fans. John was always known as a humble, approachable man - totally out of step with his dour on-stage persona. Some of the last people to see him were autograph hunters who spoke of how he laughed and joked with them.
  6. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    Aside from music, John was also a talented artist - he drew the cover of The Who's 1975 album The Who By Numbers, and over the years did many portraits of his band and their peers. At the time of his death, he had went to Las Vegas ahead of the rest of the group to be present at the opening of an exhibition of his work. He had also been working on a comic novel about the band's history for many years... with bitter irony, he said in a recent interview about it "At the rate it's going, they'll have to engrave the last chapter on my headstone."

    Although the wave of grief that followed the passing of such a great and influential musician is understandable, it's probable that John would have been amused by earnest tributes like this one - "My family has always treated death as a joke." he said once, discussing his black sense of humour. It's something that often dominated his writing - as well as The Who's one time stage opener "Heaven and Hell", John called one of his solo albums John Entwistle's Rigor Mortis Sets In, and on another, Smash Your Head Against The Wall, several songs were specifically about the afterlife. However his fans choose to mark his life, and whatever the differing opinons on Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey's decision to resume the tour just two days later may be, one thing is certain - that John Entwistle left behind an immense contribution to rock music and a legacy few musicians can match. Now, more than ever, is the time to celebrate that.

    Heaven had better watch out - Moonie and the Ox are back together.

    God bless you, John. Rest in peace.
  7. Captain Awesome

    Captain Awesome

    Apr 2, 2001
    Very good, that should go on the front page of Talkbass along with a picture of John.
  8. paul

    paul Staff Member Founder Administrator

    Jul 20, 2000
    That's exactly where it's headed. Thank you Yawnsie for giving me permission to do so. Been waiting on permission to use some photos, but no luck. Will post it without for now.

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