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John Entwistle interview

(c) 1994 by Alan McKendree amck@mcc.com, 701-B Carolyn Ave. Austin, TX
78705. Permission is hereby given to reproduce this interview provided
that it is unedited except for length, and is accompanied by this

Interview with John Entwistle, September 7, 1994, during the "Daltrey
Sings Townshend" tour.

I'll start off with some general questions about the current tour,
your impressions of it.  Are you enjoying it?

I am, finally, yeah.  I've worked out what volume to play at so I
don't drown the orchestra out.  I'm getting used to playing with the
orchestra now.  There's a lot of musicians up there; it's very easy to
get carried away and go off into what The Who used to be.  With 30
pieces in the orchestra [60 at some shows] it's tricky.  I've got a
volume I can work at now quite safely [where] we sort of cut the
orchestra out but I can boost it when the orchestra's not playing.

So your problem was learning to tone down when the orchestra was


About how long did it take you to modulate that?

Started getting it about the fourth concert.  It was OK most of the
time but sometimes the orchestra'd get drowned out.

I guess it's better that the alternative where they'd be drowning you

That's true.

What did you think about going into this tour, knowing that there
would be so many additional musicians onstage?  Were you nervous?

Well, before the Carnegie Hall thing ["Daltrey Sings Townshend"
concerts, Feb. 23-24, 1994] I was kind of nervous, you know, I didn't
have that much rehearsal time.  The thing that worried me the most was
I was less rehearsed than the rest of the band.  I mean, they actually
took it that I'd know the stuff anyway, but the main problem is
learning the slightly different arrangements all the time.  I felt
meself drifting off into the way The Who used to play it.  It was kind
of a nightmare.

Of course, that would be fine with me, to hear it the way The Who play
it.  How much rehearsal did you have for this tour?

I finally got about four days. [laughs]

Doesn't sound like a lot.  Are there any good and bad moments that
leap to mind concerning this tour?

Not really...the first concert in Denver was kind of choosy.  First
time we'd played in somewhere as big.  We were kind of underpowered
for a little while there, kind of scary.  Denver was in Red Rocks, a
hard place to play anyway.

I've never been; it's supposed to be very beautiful, though.

Oh, it's beautiful, yeah, but the audience goes straight up a rough
cliff face.  It's a very strange sound.

I'm not getting much on the itinerary coming up.  What do you think's
going to be your last date?

I really don't know.  The itinerary changes from day to day.  They
juggle it around so we don't have too far to travel but we're getting
extra gigs coming in because people are hearing about it and realizing
that it is a Who show.  And it is rock and roll.  People's idea of it
I think was Roger standing with an acoustic guitar in front of a
60-piece orchestra.

Have you been reading the reviews?

I get shown the good ones.

I was impressed by how good they were.  Time after time they'd say,
"If you had any doubts about this show, you should have been there."

Most of the reviews are good.  A lot of them have a little dig but
they usually haven't even seen the shows, they're written before the
show, [on] what they expect the show's going to be like.

Do you pay much attention to them?  After a career in "show business,"
how much do the reviews affect you?

No I don't, not really.  There are a lot of cannibals out there who
like bringing people down so they feel better theirselves.

And they can't have a completely favorable review, there has to be
something to quibble about?

Oh, yeah.  There has to be something.

Have you heard anything about going to Australia?

I think so, yeah, probably next year.

So this might reform and go out on a second leg?

Yeah, yeah.  There's intentions for Australia, the Far East, Japan,
hopefully back to America.

I'd like to put in a plug for the southern U.S.

It's kind of difficult to decide where to cross over America to get to
the West Coast, you either go down, or you go along the middle, or you
go up to Canada and go through there.  At the moment we're zig-zagging
all over the place, like a table-tennis ball in a wind tunnel.  The
Gumball Tour.  The big problem was, we had to get the orchestras on
the same day as we want to do the gig, and also, because of my hand
getting cut we had to put it back a month, which kind of messed our
scheduling up.

I wanted to ask you about that, because at one point they were saying
the tour had to be postponed because you'd hurt your hand.

We put the tour off for a month, but I could have worked two weeks
into that month, but I didn't want to take the chance, because it was
a split between my fingers, and I'd had my fingers bound together, and
I didn't want to play too soon because I didn't want to open it up and
have to start again.

So it was just a cut in the skin?

It was a half-inch cut from a brandy glass I was trying to save
falling off the table.  It was a cheap brandy glass and it shattered,
from my enthusiasm, at the part where the stalk joins the bowl, and
cut through between my second and third fingers.  I put plastic
stitches on it but at the time it separated and started bleeding again
so I had to bind my fingers together.  It took awhile to get better.

How do you spend your spare time on the tour (except for doing

Spare time is usually eating, watching TV . . . in the case of Florida
I'll probably go fishing, deep-sea fishing.  Most of the time we're
travelling; once we get to a town--if we have the evening off we go
out to dinner or something.  The next day we have to go to sound check
at like 4:00 and work with the orchestra.  We don't get much of the
rest of the day.

Have you been playing in clubs much after the shows, or do you have
any desire to do that?

I played in a little blues club in Chicago, fell out with a bunch of
blues guys, played a couple of songs.  I've been to the China Club
lately, when we're in New York a few days I hope to do some jamming
there, a couple of nights at the China Club.  It depends on where I
end up after the shows.  Usually if I like the look of the bass
equipment I'll get up there and play if I'm in the mood.  I need a few
drinks before I get up and play.  Grabbing hold of someone else's bass
and playing with someone else's equipment is scary unless you're drunk

Let me turn to some of your previous projects.  Could you talk a
little about "905" and the story of the science-fiction opera you were
working on at the time?  Is that still going on?

Yeah, I got lucky 'cause I can actually sort of write the music down
and if I don't like the sound of the music when I play it, I don't
bother to demo it, so there aren't that many demos that are unused
hanging around here; the best of that project was "905," and "Had
Enough" is on manuscript paper at the moment, hasn't ever been demoed.

Was it ever going to fit into the "Lifehouse" project?

Parts of it could have, yeah.  I'd have to change the words slightly.
It was along the same lines.

What was the general plot, in a few sentences?

Pete's plot [for "Lifehouse"] was music being banned; mine was called
"Factory of Birth," and it was a world without women which is very
scary.  The hero at the end realizes that there are women around, but
they're not being used for birth.

What ever happened with your band The Best?

We did a tour of Japan; I formed a band with Jeff Baxter, and Zak
[Starkey] was in the band for a while, and The Best really jammed into

Do you think that might come back, be resurrected at any point?

Yeah, there's always a possibility of it.  The Best was never supposed
to be a set band, there were supposed to be a couple of set members
and then the rest would change.  We had another tour planned of
America, had lots of dates lined up, but we just couldn't get the
people we wanted at the right time.  So it kind of fell through for
that one year, and now I'm onto this thing.  There's a possibility it
could come back again.

Is your own book on The Who still in the works?

Yeah, I still carry on, I've just finished a chapter on the Herman's
Hermits tour.

There's a line in "Success Story":  "Take two hundred and seventy-six."
How many takes _did_ it typically take?  Did you ever get a song the
first take through?  How grueling was it?

A lot of them were usually the second.  You'll remember that most of
the time we were learning the song, and by the time we got to the
first take we were still ironing out little teasy problems and we
still hadn't arrived at the part we were intending to play.  "The Real
Me" was first take.  I was actually messing around just taking the
Mickey out of the song, you know, playing all over it, the bass part
not thinking it was being recorded or it wasn't important.  We did it
a few more times, but the first one still worked out for being the

It sounds like it would have a live-performance feel to it.

It kind of was, I was just sitting on top of the cabinet.

What do you think were the characteristics of a really good Who

I guess any time we all got exactly what we wanted out of our sound
and our instruments, and we thought the parts were real inventive.  A
lot of really good sessions were around our second album, we had a lot
of fun doing that album.  And _Tommy_ and _Quadrophenia_ were fun too.

I'd think they'd be so technically demanding.

Well, in _Quadrophenia_ we had a chance to hear the material.  And
also with _Who's Next_.  A lot of times with The Who we'd hear the
demo, we'd go "OK, let's do that one."  It was like "learn it and play
it at the same time."

Were you dissatisfied with the mix on "Who's Next"?  Are there plans
to remix it?

Yeah, I wasn't very happy with my bass sound.  I was changing from
Precision to Gibson Thunderbird round about that time.  There seemed
to be a sound that was "John Lite," that was too close to a normal
bass sound for me.  It was difficult for me to adapt, I'm always
trying to get my sound onto record, but it seems the only time it ever
got onto record was on live albums, like "Live at Leeds."

Are you planning on getting involved with the MCA reissue of the

I may promote it, and say "yes" or "no" at the end of it, but I really
haven't got time to be involved, with all the projects I'm doing.

What are those projects?  Are you putting together any solo work?

I'm got some art shows to do; an initial series of ten cartoons, which
we're lithographing, a limited edition of each one of the different
rock stars: The Who, some of the Stones, Elton John, Rod Stewart.
It'll be a numbered limited edition that's probably coming up early
next year.  And then I've got the book.  Also, there's plans for a
"best of" solo album/CD; going back over the five [solo albums] with
three new songs which I've already recorded.  So there's a whole bunch
of stuff, at the same time as carrying on touring with this band.

What are the three new songs you've recorded?

I recorded them with a band called The Rock, and they're three of the
four songs that I wrote for the album.  I plan on redoing parts of
them and maybe replacing some of the vocals.  One's called "Last
Song," one called "Life After Love," and I haven't decided what the
other one's going to be yet.

That sounds wonderful.  Just yesterday on the radio they said here
that there were rumors of a possible Who venture coming up with Pete
-- whether it was an album or a tour wasn't really clear--what's that

Uh, sounds like a rumor.  I haven't spoken to Pete in quite a while,
I've heard nothing of any other Who project at all.

What did you think of the box set?

I like a lot of it.  I must admit I play the video more than I do the
box set because, I mean, there's a lot of stuff on the box set that's
great--some of the remixes I wasn't sure of, but it's a really good
_set_--but I think some of the mixes should have been left alone.  I
think there's enough other material, the rare live stuff, that
counteracts that.

Are there any songs that were changed that you would have left alone?

Some of the "Live at Leeds" stuff.  It no longer sounded like "Live at

There's talk of issuing the entire Leeds concert as a separate CD.

That is one I'd like to actually sit in on the mixes with.  I wouldn't
want it to be wrecked again.  It's the one album I got my bass sound
onto round about that time, I was really pleased with my bass sound.
It was on the left-hand side so bass players could turn over to the
left and hear me playing lead, guitar players could turn over to the
right and hear Pete. The new mix doesn't sound anything like it.  It's
kind of a disappointment and a very sore point as far as I'm concerned
because if "Live at Leeds" is going to be remixed then I want to be

Well, I hope you are.  I hope they do it and I certainly hope you're
there.  You were doing a "trade show" in Germany earlier this year.
How many of those do you do?

I usually just do a couple.  Frankfurt and the NAMM show in Anaheim
and that's it.

I noticed in '89 you had amps behind you that said something like
Acoustic Sound System?

Acoustic [Sound] Services--A.S.S.  They're a company in England.  They
make all those cabinets.  They make those specially, a rig for me.

I was wondering if it was your own line of amps or cabinets.

No, they're sold commercially, but they're a very small company in
South End in England.  They used to make stuff like TurboSound by JBL.
It's just that their cabinets give you a very directional, perfect
sound. The bottom end is very tight, top end's very smooth.  I haven't
found any other cabinets like them that last that long.  I use exactly
the same speakers that I use in those cabinets in other cabinets and
they blow to smithereens.

If I were the company I'd be very happy to have that sort of

Well I've done this tour, I've done a club tour, done a tour of sheds,
done a couple of stadium tours with The Who with them, and I haven't
blown one speaker yet.

You mentioned there's a second leg coming up possibly for this tour.
Is the tour making money?  What do you think about doing a solo tour
later on?

Solo tours always cost a fortune, unless you get some backup from the
record company, I've done two or three solo tours now and I've lost on
an average about 40 or 50 grand on each one, and that's just been
doing clubs.  If I went any higher than that like playing sheds like
this, I mean . . . there's no huge amounts of money being made on this
tour.  The tour's being done to keep The Who's music going and to
prepare for what may happen in the future.

As far as keeping The Who's music going, in '89 you were playing for
some people who had never seen you before, and I'm sure the same is
true now.  What would you say to people who are just learning about
The Who as to which music they should listen to or concentrate on?

I couldn't start to tell people what music they should listen to.

Is there anything that you play currently that you specifically like
to point to and say "I really like this song" or "I'm really proud of
what I do here, listen to this."?

I think "The Real Me," "Baba O'Riley," "Won't Get Fooled Again," and a
lot of _Quadrophenia_.  [John is speaking here of the studio versions,
as he doesn't play "Baba O'Riley" on the current tour].

I was really glad to hear that you're doing _Quadrophenia_ songs on
this tour.

We added "The Real Me" after about the fourth or fifth show.  It
needed to be there.

I think of that as one of your real showpieces.

The main confusion on this tour has been actually to what the tour
was.  Now people are realizing that it's good loud rock and roll with
a big magnificent-sounding orchestra behind it, people are starting to
ask for tickets and say "Well, why aren't you playing our town?"

Have you read many or any books on The Who and if so, which ones did
you like?

Well, I didn't like any of 'em.

So you'd recommend yours when it comes out.

Uh, yeah, 'cause I was there.  I've never spoke to anyone who wrote
any of the major books.  Richard Barnes, yeah, but ...

Not Dave Marsh?

They'd really have to talk to everyone in the band to find out what
really happened, and I'm writing my book from my point of view, as
being a member of the band.  Mine isn't a serious book with a lot of
dates and sort of looking back on albums and rehearing them with a lot
of hindsight.  I'm basically writing the funny stories, the silly
things that happened to us.  I'm actually putting dialogue in it,
because you can't really tell stories about The Who without putting in
what people said, or what you remember them saying.  That way I can
give myself all the best laugh lines.

Do you have any idea of when it might come out?

The Who's roadie, Bob Pridden, who's been with them like 29 years,
he's on my back all the time because he did a lot of the research for
it.  He's forcing me to try and write every day, but I can't.  I have
get into a book-writing head or a songwriting head or a playing head.
I'm probably going to take some time in Ireland for a couple of months
so I'm going to try and finish the first book then.  It's going to
turn out to be a trilogy, there's too much to put in one book.  The
first book goes up to '67.  I was going to take it up to Woodstock but
that's too far.

That's sort of awe-inspiring to imagine--not just one book but a

Well, I don't want to make them big fat lengthy books; more like a
series of capsulated chapters, going from one period to another.

Are there any authors or musicians that inspire you now, that you read
for pleasure?

I've read the James Herriot books, _All Creatures Great and Small_;
I've read those, and I like the way they're written, they're very
amusing, very light reading.  I figured he's up to five or six books,
so I'll split mine into three.

Anything else?

I used to read horror story anthologies most of the time.  I stopped
that when I was about 23.

Some musicians have talked about a band having an obligation to its
audience.  Do you think that's true?  How do you see your relationship
and your interaction with your audience?

With The Who, we actually got to meet most of our early audiences,
then we kind of lost contact.  I try to meet as many fans as possible,
time permitting.  When I did my solo tours, we would travel by bus and
I'd keep the bus around for like 45 minutes and sign autographs in the
bus, 2 or 3 people at a time, but that's pretty impossible when you're
playing bigger places.  I'm one of those people that unless I'm in
mortal danger I'll sign autographs until nothing more's being passed
in front of me. I have a lot of trouble, especially at NAMM shows.  I
tend to upset a few people because if I happen to stand still and pose
for a photograph or start signing autographs I'm stuck in one place
for like half an hour.

So who would get upset about that?

Well, when I have to say, "No, I've got to run, I'm supposed to be at
another booth, blah blah blah."  I have to actually refuse autographs,
which I don't like doing.  Most of the time at a NAMM show I run up
the aisle or walk too fast, so people go, "Was it or wasn't it?  Maybe

I have a couple of trivia questions concerning the adverts in "The Who
Sell Out."  In the Rotosound Strings ad, is it "Hold your _group_
together, or hold your _groove_ together"?

It's actually "Hold your group together with Rotosound strings," like
you're tying the band up.

So it's "Group"?


Good.  And then on the Radio London ad, is it "The AM Sound" or "The
IN Sound"?

I would say "The IN Sound," at that time; AM and FM didn't exist at
that time, it was all AM.

In that case it would certainly have to be "the AM sound."

Thank you for your time, John, and best wishes.

(c) 1994 by Alan McKendree amck@mcc.com, 701-B Carolyn Ave. Austin, TX
78705. Permission is hereby given to reproduce this interview provided
that it is unedited except for length, and is accompanied by this