We here at the editorial board raise a glass to John Entwistle, bass guitarist of The Who, who died on the 26th June in his sleep in a Las Vegas hotel from an apparent heart attack on the eve of an American tour, aged 57.


As a young Mod Boy, circa 1964, I witnessed Pete Townsend on lead guitar, Roger Daltrey on vocals, John Entwistle on bass guitar and the late Keith Moon on drums (soon after they had changed their name from The High Numbers to The Who) at the Club Noreik in Tottenham and at the Cooks Ferry Inn in Edmonton. Along with the Small Faces, they were the darlings of the Mod scene. In those days, they were billed as the loudest band in the world. At the Club Noreik they certainly lived up to their hype; they were loud with a capital L. It would be many years before they stumbled into second place in the 'Tales From The Woods' decibel stakes, removed from first place by Link Wray. (This extremely noisy native American has not mellowed with the passage of time. If this 73-year-old guitar hoodlum stepped on to any stage anywhere in the world he would guarantee to make you deaf for a week.)


Speaking from a purely personal point of view, I feel Townsend rated alongside Ray Davies in the “finger on the pulse” ratings, articulating the angst and anger of youth with tracks like ‘I'm A Boy’, ‘Substitute’, ‘I Can't Explain’ and, of course, ‘My Generation’. By the latter part of the Sixties I found them, to say the least, tiresome and pretentious, moving into rock opera territory (Tommy). They may have gained a worldwide audience but certainly lost me.


John Entwistle was born on the 10th October 1944 in Chiswick, West London to a piano playing mother and trumpet-playing father. By the time he was seven years old his father was teaching him scales on the trumpet whilst his mother paid for professional piano lessons. When approaching his teens, John was playing saxophone in the Acton Grammar School Orchestra. In his later teens he was recruited into the Middlesex Youth Orchestra playing the French horn. Out of school hours found the young John playing in a traditional jazz band, the Confederates, at a gig at Cy Laurie’s Jazz Club in Great Windmill Street, Piccadilly. There he met a young banjo player of the same age as himself who had taken the bandstand with another trad band as John arrived - the boy was, of course, Pete Townsend.


Entwistle was a great Rock'n'Roll fan; he loved Duane Eddy and the sounds he created, likewise developing a passion for the still quite recent electrified bass guitar. Soon Townsend and Entwistle were playing in Rock'n'Roll bands with particular emphasis on the songs of two of their heroes; Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran. By 1962 Entwistle was recruited into the Detours, an outfit run by another West London boy; Roger Daltrey. Soon, John had persuaded Daltrey to bring in Townsend on lead guitar. Two years later, in 1964, Keith Moon was drafted in on drums. After a period as the High Numbers they were persuaded by their then manager, Kit Lambert, to change their name to The Who and the rest, as they say, is history.


Pete Townsend was, of course, the dominant songwriter of The Who although Entwistle did contribute a number of compositions to The Who’s repertoire including ‘Boris The Spider’, ‘My Wife’, ‘Someone's Coming’ and ‘Doctor Doctor’. His major contribution, however, was as a musician; not only was he one of the finest bass guitarists in rock but also his horn playing can be heard on the band's rock opera Tommy. His ability as an arranger too, was very much to the forefront during this period. Outside of The Who he recorded a string of solo albums including ‘Smash Your Head Against The Wall’, ‘Wistle Rymes’, ‘Rigor Mortis Set In’, ‘Mad Dog’ and ‘Too Late The Hero’.


He also toured with his own outfit Ox (incidentally also his nickname) and a box set of his solo output ‘Thunderfingers’ was released on Rhino Records in 1996. Among his lesser-known talents was that of an artist; he drew the ‘join the dots’, for ‘The Who By Numbers’ album. An exhibition of his work was due to open at Grammy’s Art Of Music gallery in Las Vegas on the day of his death.