Was The Who’s John Entwistle the greatest rock bassist the world has ever known?
Well, that would purely be a matter of opinion. But for those who remain unconvinced that Entwistle was a revolutionary rock bassist who set a new standard for an entire generation of four-stringers, we present to you exhibit ‘A’: The Who bassist in all his string-whacking glory.
The clip below is isolated camera-angle footage (with isolated audio) of Entwistle taken from the group’s 1979 rockumentary, The Kids Are Alright. Without the distraction of Keith Moon’s crashing drum kit and guitarist Pete Townsend’s manic guitar-playing, we can really zero in on what made Entwistle so special as a player. His playing was absolutely the foundation upon which The Who’s sound was built.
While not known for being a particularly energetic presence on stage, Entwistle’s stoic, and seemingly nonchalant, performance style belied a fierce and aggressive touch on the bass.
For anyone who’s seen the full, multi-camera version of this iconic performance, it’s obvious the focal points are singer Roger Daltry and Townsend making visual spectacles of themselves, while Entwistle stands calmly on his side of the stage, taking care of the low-end business like only he can.
As Daltry and Townsend compete for attention, the look on the bassist’s face seems to say, “No worries boys. You keep prancing around the stage like a bunch of silly nannies. I’ll just stand here and hold EVERYTHING together.”
So here he is, rocking his funky-looking Alembic Explorer, and an even funkier-looking haircut. The one, the only . . . The Ox!
Note: The video is silent at the beginning. The action gets underway at around 1:14.