One might argue that we are now experiencing the loss of those who have built the framework of much of rock as we know it today. It wasn’t all that long ago, relatively speaking, that we were writing about the death of George Harrison, the generally underrated guitar player who was fundamental to the Beatles. And now it’s John Entwistle, who was even more elementary to the Who. The report is that he went because of a heart attack in a hotel room in Las Vegas, where he was because the Who had a now-canceled gig at the Hard Rock Hotel in that town. Age, 57. Hell of a place to go. Just a few days ago, a professional baseball player, Darryl Kile, died; he was more than a couple of decades younger than Entwistle. Heart disease, apparently. A point I make simply because no one who is reading this should imagine that health problems—fatal ones—are the concern only of those who haven’t died before they got old.
Enough of the public service announcement on the health front.
Bass players seem to be those in a band who don’t get a whole lot of attention for their bass playing: It is often for something else. Think, for example, of Entwistle’s contemporary, Sir Paul. No one (unless he or she happens to be a bass player, I suspect) has a mental representation of Paul = Bass player. Or there is the case of Sting, who has undoubtedly had a much bigger run with a public persona in which the bass is merely an ornament (yes, he can play the instrument, but it really isn’t what is the focus of his performance post-Police). I remember seeing the Faces with Ron Wood playing bass. Not surprising that he picked up a six string to join the Stones. (And in announcing their current tour, the Stones stood on stage sans bass player. Wyman is otherwise disposed.)
Some people will cite Entwistle’s “Boris the Spider.” Others, “My Wife.” But I’d suggest that they’re not it. Not close. Sure, he tended to stand stock still in concert. Some of that was undoubtedly to avoid being hit by a windmill from Townshend or a swinging mike from Daltrey. Self-defense through stillness. But really, Entwistle’s contribution was the ability to put the bottom on the music, especially after Moon passed.
Put on Quadrophenia. Crank up the bass. For those of you with a quadraphonic system: You know where to sit.