John Entwistle Biography

John Alec Entwistle, 9 October 1944, Chiswick, London, England, d. 27 June 2002, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. As bass player (and occasional French horn player) in the Who, Entwistle provided the necessary bedrock to the band’s individual sound. His immobile features and rigid stage manner provided the foil to his colleagues’ impulsive pyrotechnics, yet paradoxically it was he who most enjoyed performing live. His stature as an important rock bass player was enhanced by his outstanding performance on the Who’s 1973 double album, Quadrophenia. The sole member to undergo formal musical tuition, having played the French horn with the Middlesex Youth Orchestra, Entwistle quickly asserted his compositional talent, although such efforts were invariably confined to b-sides and occasional album tracks. His songs included ‘Doctor Doctor’, ‘Someone’s Coming’ and ‘My Wife’, but he is generally recalled for such macabre offerings as ‘Boris The Spider’, ‘Whiskey Man’ and his two contributions to Tommy, ‘Fiddle About’ and ‘Cousin Kevin’. These performances enhanced a cult popularity and several were gathered on The Ox, titled in deference to the bass player’s nickname.

Entwistle released his first solo album, Smash Your Head Against The Wall, in 1971. It contained a new version of ‘Heaven And Hell’, a perennial in-concert favourite and the set attracted considerable attention in the USA. Whistle Rymes, a pun on his often misspelled surname, confirmed his new-found independence with what is perhaps his strongest set to date, containing within such entertaining dark tales of peeping toms, isolation, suicide and nightmares. The following album, Rigor Mortis Sets In, paid homage to 50s rock ‘n’ roll and although an ambitious tour to support its release was set up, it had to be abandoned when the whole venture proved too costly. Entwistle then compiled the Who’s archive set, Odds & Sods, before forming a new unit, Ox, but the attendant album, 1975’s Mad Dog, was poorly received. He subsequently worked as musical director on two soundtrack sets, Quadrophenia and The Kids Are Alright, before completing his 1981 release, Too Late The Hero, which featured former James Gang / Eagles guitarist, Joe Walsh.

Entwistle’s solo career was later deferred and he reunited with his former bandmates for a 1989 reunion tour. In the following decade Entwistle put together his own band with Godfrey Townsend (guitar) and Gordon Cotton (drums), touring and issuing the occasional album. He teamed up with the Who on several occasions to undertake lucrative reunion tours. In June 2002, Entwistle died from a heart attack in Las Vegas just as the band were about to embark on another US tour.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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