September 25, 2020

’66 Beat Instrumental Interview with John and Keith

A brief interview with John & Keith. John discusses playing horns, Keith is asked about being "flash"

THANKS to the "little floppy mouth" of John Entwistle, the Who have been able to take another step forward in the march towards better sounds on record. "If you have a tiny mouth," John explained recently, "you’re suitable for the French horn, if it’s medium-sized then you can play trumpet and trombone. With a big mouth you can play a tuba and because I’ve got a small but floppy mouth I can play the lot".


Surely though, it takes more than a floppy mouth to achieve any kind of proficiency on the afore-mentioned instruments. John admitted that he had, in fact, taken lessons from quite an early age. "My dad played the trumpet and my mum played the piano", he told me. "I did go to piano lessons but couldn’t really get along with them. I learned to play the piano by ear really. When I stopped going to the lessons I made a sort of deal with my mum. I told her that I’d keep up my piano playing as long as I could also take trumpet lessons from my dad.


"Pretty soon I was playing trumpet in the school orchestra. There were only two trumpeters in the band, and then another one wanted to join, so I was put on French horn. I found it a bit hard at first. With the trumpet it’s a case of putting down your stops and hitting a note right off. On the French horn you have to feel your note before you can hit it. If you don’t hit it dead-on you get a dreadful sound. You have to hear the note in your head before you play it."


The practical part of John Entwistle’s brass career came after school when he joined a trad jazz band. "Pete was on banjo in the same outfit", said John. "Years later, when we recorded our first LP and wanted a bit of a different sound, Pete told our manager, Kit Lambert, that I could play trumpet. He thought Pete was joking at first but then said he’d give it a try. I showed him I could play the trumpet and in the end we used French horn."




During the TV promotion spots for "I’m A Boy" it was necessary for John to borrow a huge tuba for his build-up passage. "I felt a fool with it", he told me. "It was so big I could have climbed inside the bell. The mouthpiece came over my nose as well as my mouth. I christened it ‘Gladys’." I asked why he used tuba on the TV spots although it was French horn on the record. "I used tuba on the rough recording of ‘Boy’," he said, "but when we came to do the proper session we couldn’t get hold of one. I tried to do that piece on the bass but it didn’t really work out so I used the French horn. By the time we came to go on TV I’d tracked ‘Gladys’ down."




The Who are at present working on a new LP. I asked whether we’d be hearing John and "Gladys" again. "I’ll be using her on some tracks", he replied, "but I’m going to play French horn, euphonium and flugelhorn on this LP. We’ll probably re-record ‘I’m A Boy’, and there’s this one I’ve written called ‘Whisky Man’, that’ll sound good with French horn."


After getting brass facts from John I talked to Keith Moon about his new extra-large style drum kit. I asked why he’d changed; was it because he felt that he had exhausted the possibilities of the single drum kit? He laughed at the question as I half expected him to. "It wasn’t for that reason", he said, "the stuff I do is simple, I admit it. All I needed was some more power to go with this simplicity. Now I get a much bigger sound, when I use the two bass drums they sound like thunder. I do basic foot drum work on one pedal, on the other I try to play slightly in advance of the beat or slightly behind it. I don’t use my hi-hat anymore. Whereas before I was doing the straightforward, snare and cymbal work, now I use all my drums, especially my extra tomtoms."




Had anyone told him that he was being flash? "Yes", he said, "some people have, but I honestly don’t worry about it. The session men I’ve met have never passed any comments on my kit or my drumming and they know what’s what. I think they usually reserve their contempt for the small groups who get ‘big time’ and think they are really very big. We were playing a club up in Manchester a while back and Eric Delaney came in. He was very friendly and we had a long chat about drums and drumming."


I asked Keith whether he felt that he’d lost any of his previous style by moving from one kit to the equivalent of two. "I don’t think so", he replied, "the old one-kit style is probably in there somewhere." Finally, I asked him why he thought people regarded him as having that "something different". "I don’t know", he replied, "I honestly don’t know." Keith Moon is a modest chap.