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.

John Entwistle, back in the dayBass 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.

18 thoughts on “Gen-gen-gen-generation”

  1. I am devistated. The greatest bass player in the greatest rock and roll band is gone. I have tickets to see them this year (my first WHO show). What to do? Oh well, I have decidied I am going to get off of the computer, grab a six pack and play one of my 5 vinyl copies of Live At Leeds at maximum volume………… Goodbye Ox. You will not be forgotten.

  2. :-(another band I’ll never get to see live…’tis a shame…got Live at Leeds right here next to me too…but alas, rock and roll will rise from the ashes like the phoenix…just you wait…

  3. The bass solo in “My Generation” is one of the greatest bits of instrumentation ever. I think Entwistle deserves much credit for defining the sound of the Who and of “hard rock” in general. While Pete was busy playing rhythm guitar, Entwistle created a new form of melodic bass lines, trebley and up front in the mix. I’m guessing he wasn’t the first to do this, but I can’t help but wonder how much of an influence Entwistle’s bass playing was on Paul McCartney whose bass parts were pretty boring and deservedly buried in the mix until the Revolver era (post-My Generation).

  4. Holy Shiat! They just announced they are going to CONTINUE with the tour! From Pete himself: “We are going on. First show Hollywood Bowl. Pray for us John, wherever you are.” It would be very memorable if they could somehow work it out so great bass players from all over could stand in at various points in the tour to pay homage to Jon…

  5. Do you have a link to the announcement? They shocked everyone when they decided to continue without Keith. It took almost 20 years but they found a drummer in Zach Starkey who could due Keith’s parts justice without trying to BE Keith. Now they’ll get someone to fill John’s part? I can’t imagine walking into that situation. Pray for whoever lands that gig…

  6. That’s really awful. And disrespectful. Roger’s the only one who needs the money, so I’ll blame it on him. Pete gets plenty of dough in songwriting royalities.

  7. When I was young and discovering rock, The Who were the lens through which I filtered the 80s Invasion: REM, The Clash, Blondie, Husker Du, Black Flag, etc.Now The Who is no more. Godammit.

  8. What’s somewhat interesting about the info on the petetownshend site that Jake links to three posts above is the use of the term “band,” as in “band will continue to tour.” I’m not completely convinced that Moon has ever been replaced. But it sure as hell seems to me that when you’re down to a duo, “band” isn’t exactly the sort of word that should be used.Whether it is Roger needing the money (hard to imagine that he made much from his appearance on “That 70’s Show”–at least it seems that the amount of embarassment related to that would cause any amount of green to pale), or that the remaining members would be in contractual trouble, or that the two simply want to get while the gettin’ is, if not good, than at least get-able is really beside the point. Who will pay a goodly sum of money to see what remains? Seems to me that the Page-Plant combo didn’t do particularly well given that the Deflated Zepplin has been completely exhausted. Will the Pete-Rog axis do any better?

  9. He certainly was one of those bass players that one could remember for the ability to play the instrument and not due to an altogether different persona. I think that the who was one of those bands of a quality the likes of which will never be heard for quite some time. I also believe, however, that many bass players in bands are getting the spotlight more often than in days past. Even though the bands that they happen to be in will probably never match the brilliance of the who, the upfront treble style of bass playing has been most of what I hear from new bands.

  10. actually i think he was the first to play the bass that way. what makes you think that money is an issue for these guys? Somehow it seems that they should be rich. Their music is part of our culture. Hell i would have sent them money if they asked. That man should not have been out working. I have tickets for this Wed. and im really not that happy about the tour continuning. I really want to see some grieving guys try to overcome.When Ed Vetter got sick back in 94′ ticket holders had the choice of getting a refund or holding on to their tickets with the promise of a future unscheduled performance. Move to a smaller venue. Give your real fans a close up. Give everyone else their money bacK. Give me a choice.

  11. as an old who fan, i’ll say this. i don’t know anything about this pino guy & his abilities, but in my humble opinion, mike watt is the only bass player around who could do justice to the legacy of entwistle.

  12. As a very young teen, I got to see the Who in a gear-smashing set, opening for Herman’s Hermits no less! I’ve seen “Tommy” performed in its entirety 3 times. They will always be my favorite band.One of my summer jobs in college was at Cleveland’s Agora nightclub. I didn’t have a ticket to a sold-out Who show but I got to go to the private, after-show party at the club. Keith and John were my favorite drummer/bass player ever and I was in awe to see them sitting at the bar together. As I was walking by with a tray of champagne, Keith grabbed me and pulled me over to the bar. We ended up chatting and joking it up and toasting many glasses of Remy Martin. After the party Keith, in true fashion, tried to pursuade me to “continue on” at the hotel, but I was totally intimidated (alright, scared) and declined. Never got to see Pete or Roger.I thing continuing the tour makes a lot of sense. Many of the young people I know love The Who, have never seen them live, and are dying to see this tour, even in its “abbreviated” version.

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