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All he wanted was to play rock loud and hard
By Gavin Martin Mirror Music Critic
For music fans the saddest aspect of The Who bassist
John Entwistle's death is that it comes while he was
still performing at the peak of his awesome powers.
At recent performances The Who were proving that their
most famous lyric, "I hope I die before I get old",
was a lie.
The series of shows they played earlier this year for
The Teenage Cancer Trust showed their reputation as
the most combustible force in rock history remained
At the centre of it all was The Man they called
Thunderfingers the essential anchor as all around him
raged and exploded.
I sat close to the stage when he played The Albert
Hall for the last time in February this year.
Immaculate from the tip of his pointy snakeskin boots
to his silver hair, Entwistle was the epitome of the
gentleman rock star. But his prowess on the bass
guitar was what truly amazed.
He often played it as a lead rather than rhythm
instrument giving The Who their unique sound, his
sheer presence made him sound like a force of nature
than a mere musician.
I'll treasure the memory of watching him nonchalantly
flicking sweat from his finger tips after providing
the exhilarating bass run on Anyway Anyhow Anywhere.
At one point Pete Townshend fluffed his guitar part -
Entwistle simply performed a death-defying rescue
By the end of the song Townshend was on his knees
doing the "We're not worthy' salute. I and many others
felt like following suit.
Entwistle came from the first generation of British
rock stars, he was born during The Blitz and grew up
in the era of the ration book. For him music was a
vital lifeforce, a way out of post-war drudgery.
All he ever wanted to do was play rock'n'roll "hard
and loud". No one played it harder or louder.
His part in shaping classic Who recordings like
Substitute, I Can See For Miles and Pinball Wizard
wasn't always acknowledged.
For years nobody noticed John was there, Townshend
But gradually Entwistle's contributions to The Who
songbook - the brilliant Heaven and Hell, his
sarcastic look at rock celebrity Success Story -
confirmed his writing talent.
Music was his passion. When The Who were off the road
he put together his own band, often incurring
financial loss for the privilege of playing to the
He once told a journalist: "I never would've been able
to walk on stage if I didn't think I was the best bass
player in England."
His death comes at a cruel time for his bandmates. He,
Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend have been friends,
and sparring partners since their teens and newcomer
Zak, son of Ringo Starr, was living a dream playing
drums in his favourite band.
Sadly, without Entwistle, the US tour - due to begin
yesterday - and plans for the group to record their
first album in 20 years will now surely be scrapped.
The only consolation is the 30 years of bass playing
brilliance Entwistle has left behind.
-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!
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