“My life’s in jeopardy, murdered in cold blood is what I’m gonna be, I ain’t been home since Friday night and now my wife is comin’ after me…” Aptly dubbed “The Ox” and “Thunderfingers” – the late, truly great John Alec Entwistle shattered the concept of rock bass as a solely supportive instrument by cranking the treble tone way beyond its intended function whilst creating breathtaking counter melodies within the context of Pete Townshend’s compositions, which were quite tuneful to begin with. Yet John’s bass mastery always provided the traditional bottom and harmonic foundation which served as the launching pad for The Who’s countless artistic accomplishments. Entwistle’s musical modus operandi was not hard to decipher for an educated bassist– The Ox lived and died (no pun intended) by the pentatonic scale. With expeditious dexterity and his considerable use of volume which rivaled Jimi Hendrix, John was also an early proponent of string tapping and harmonics. In addition to his patented three-finger plucking technique and deft use of a plectrum, John’s historic collaboration with Rotosound to develop round-wound strings revolutionized the sound of the electric bass.
Most folks, myself included, cite Live at Leeds and Quadrophenia as John’s masterworks – however his bass playing on The Who’s less acclaimed studio albums: By Numbers, Who Are You, Face Dances, and It’s Hard are equally spectacular. And consider the fact that he was the only bassist who could negotiate the percussive onslaught of Keith Moon.
John’s solo break on “My Generation” is, to my ears, the best rock bass solo ever committed to tape with regard to execution, timbre, and melody.