COLUMN SEVENTY-EIGHT, NOVEMBER 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
LATE THE HERO:
JOHN ENTWISTLE's RIGOR MORTIS SETS IN
What I feel inside I can't explain.
That John Entwistle should die in his late fifties is totally
unthinkable. He was the
indestructible one. He was the
rock. He was the island.
He was the fulcrum on which it all hinged. (Mick Farren)
It's just too much to take.
Who's next? (Literally.)
John was the best.
He made My Generation, along with the other lads, one of the greatest
records of all time. (Peter Noone)
Learned how to play bass playing along with Happy
Jack. Gulp... (Rick Harper)
For all bass players everywhere, it was Big Johnny
Twinkle who opened the gate and let the horses out of the barn ...for good.
I think John was the pivotal member of the most
exciting rock band to emerge on the British music scene in the Sixties. (Brian
Now, as Chris Butler reminds us, there is a Zen
expression that the way to go through life successfully is to "move like a
cow? "or, in this case, an ox. Forever
surrounded, at least on stage, by the testosterone-soaked circus which were
Messrs. Townshend, Daltrey and especially Moon, it could often be too criminally
easy to overlook The Man, The Myth, dare I say The Ox---which was, and forever
shall be, John A. Entwistle. In
more ways than one he was the George
Harrison of The Who, I suppose, yet Entwistle never ever took a musical back
seat to his more prolific (or at least pushier) bandmates, employing his mighty
four strings to not so much play songs as attack them, deftly bulldozing his
basic bottom-heavy end up to an indisputable place of sheer sonic equality
within the critical Who picking order.
In that process John became, it's been said, the
Hendrix of the bass guitar. Well,
yes, all that I guess you could say, but so
much more as well. For one, the
man's abundant compositional skills remain nothing to be sneezed over.
Sure, we all know and love My Wife,
Boris The Spider, and my own personal favorite slice of backyard
blue-balling, Ox-style: Someone's Coming.
These, along with the brace of less immediately recognizable Entwistle
gems, always served to deflate with a wry, macabre smirk---just as Moon that
Loon would off record---any and most every lofty pretense emanating from that
Townshend corner of the band's equation.
Prime example? Without Uncle
Ernie or Cousin Kevin, Tommy would
play as just another Jesus Christ: Pinball
Star, now wouldn't he? Suffice
to add as well, any singer/songwriter
waging the Rock Star Wars out there today need never look any further than
Entwistle's Who By Numbers
masterpiece, Success Story, whenever
grappling with the beauty, the splendor, the wonder bread that is R-O-C-K in the
"I am your fairy manager," our anti-hero
devilishly declares therein. "You
shall play Carnegie Hall."
Then again, outside of The Who's stadium-approved confines, John's grim tales took on even more devious hues and cries. In fact, I for one would wager far more people perished within the verses filling Entwistle's solo albums than anywheres this side of a vintage Johnny Cash long-player. To whit, Teddy Ted End Greenstreet (prophetically?) passes in his sleep, the titanic trysters
had to build
his own first bass guitar
of Love Is A
Heart Attack, you guessed it, succumb to a joint carnal coronary upon
'setting their pacemakers to a boogie beat," and sweet young dolly-dancers
quickly become the death of the party as they innocently begin to Do The Dangle
(well there's a brand new dance with a
brand new angle; it's the very last waltz and it's called The Dangle. You tie a
rope round your neck and stand on a chair, and you kick it away and you're
dancing on air!).
My, but we can perhaps only imagine just what these
three selections alone could have become if only they'd first surfaced in the
prime of the MTV age.
did I mention, too, the limey-poor young Entwistle was forced to build
his very first bass guitar from scratch? John
was probably rock and roll's very first---and probably last-?French hornist
as well, plus his octave-bounding voice never feared soar from the operatic
heights of (the Rolling Stones Rock And
Roll Circus rendition especially) A
Quick One While He's Away deep down to the menacing, arachniphobic rumble
of the aforementioned Boris.
The guy was also one skilled artist and particularly
caricaturist to boot (again, check out the utterly underrated Who
By Numbers for starters), and was even reportedly eight chapters into
producing his too-long-awaited autobiography (like all bassmen, from B. Wyman to
D. D. Ramone it seems, John was his band's resident archivist/historian) when,
alas, Ted End came knocking on his Vegas hotel-room door smack dab upon the eve
of the latest Who Redux Tour. Damn!
Of course Pete and naturally Roger will carry on
without either end of their original rhythm section now left standing (?John
would've wanted it that way," as the Press Release goes), but The Who
without the Loon, and now The Ox, isn't a matter I'll care to turn either
ear towards anymore I fear. For
wasn't it Moon biographer Tony Fletcher, for one, who pointed out the gnawing
chasms separating a Good Band from "A TRULY GREAT Band?
Or, in the words of no less an expert on the subject
as Crawdaddy founder/publisher Paul
Williams, "Great rock groups are miracles of human chemistry.
Without the solidity and musical instincts and unique personality of John
Alec, we would not have had the outrageous creativity and genius and maximum
rock and roll of Keith and Peter and Roger ...or The Who at all.
So we must thank him for making modern music as we know it possible."
Yes. Thank You, John. And remember: You only die once in a lifetime.
In his songs The Ox spent a lot of time playfully---and not so playfully---mapping types of hells, but that's just to say that beyond question his real place is in Heaven. (Jeremy Gluck)
RIP John Entwistle, I hope you are dancing somewhere with Peg Leg Peggy right now. (Scott McCaughey) ##
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