That Other John Born on October 9th



johnentwistleJohn Entwistle is probably the greatest bass player in rock history. I only say “probably” because there are perfectly valid arguments to be made for Paul McCartney or Jack Bruce or Flea or Geddy Lee etc. They are perfectly valid, but I don’t agree with them.  For my money, Entwistle rises to the top, and it’s kind of a damn shame that he shares a birthday with John Lennon. Obviously, Lennon is rightly heralded, but the unjustly murdered ex-Beatle sort of hogs all the bandwidth on 9 October. There isn’t a lot of space left to celebrate anyone else, much less the 4th-most-famous member of the Who.

Luckily, I’m here to remind everyone that John Entwistle comprised half of a perfect rhythm section. His interplay with Keith Moon is unparalleled. While Moon flailed about with his trademark pyrotechnics (both figurative and sometimes literal), Entwistle managed to remain in perfect lock-step with the mercurial drummer. Though Moon got the attention and the early rock and roll death, John Entwistle unleashed something equally potent, all while remaining perfectly, deceptively still. Entwistle’s bass work with the Who is very melodic; he essentially functions as a lead guitarist beneath Pete Townshend’s trademark whirlwind power chords. In this low space, this almost subconscious register, lies true counter-melody. John Entwistle explored the dimensions of the bass guitar while grounding them in solid rock conventions. In my own estimation, the bass player’s role in a group is to “hold down the fort,” so to speak. They’re kind of like the Night’s Watch on Game of Thrones. Essentially, this group of brave souls is the last line of defense between civilized society and what likes beyond. If the bass player fails, it all falls apart. As long as there’s a fair and just individual standing at the guard, we will survive another night.

Anyway, here’s “Happy Jack.”

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Photo by Jean-Luc (originally posted to Flickr as John Entwisle) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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