October 1, 2020

’70 Record Mirror Interview with John Entwistle

Brief interview with John discussing his music, and arguments in The Who

Frustration against satisfaction is a battle so slight, yet so intense that neither side ever takes the edge. John Entwistle could be termed the straight member of the Who, yet on the outside, he supports his alternative musical interests with great zeal. A veteran of brass education, John not only plays bass for the Who, but French horn, tuba, trombone, trumpet plus instruments like piano, guitar and drums for himself. He writes and arranges many original numbers containing heavy brass lines, but there really isn’t room within the Who for such diversity.


"This group really doesn’t care about brass," he sighed, "but then there isn’t a way to perform it anyway, since we couldn’t exist without bass. If some of the arrangements I write were used, there would be no way of performing them on stage and playing is the best thing about the group. Forget about the demo track a week on my equipment at home and we hear them at rehearsals, but I usually manage only a couple of tracks per album. I got some brass in on two of three of the ‘Tommy’ tracks.


The Who are at present preparing a new LP, but not for release until they get back from their States visit in June. John has two tracks at present and there are eight more to do. The LP has no main theme about it as Tommy did.


"They are all separate tracks this time. Tommy took two years and we couldn’t begin anything like that without a rest. We want to work on changing the act, because although a lot of people want to hear Tommy yet, we don’t want to bore them by carrying on with it too long. The music will always be heavy, for we’re a loud group. That’s another reason why I’d never consider putting an orchestra behind us with some intricate arrangements – I don’t think people would be able to hear them. I play loud, Pete plays a lot of loud chords and Keith just plays his own solo behind us. It would drown out an orchestra."


The Who have managed to endure a lot longer than many bands both above and below their status. They stand as examples of how to stay together so the music is never affected by splits, replacements and arguments.


"We used to have a lot of arguments. They’d always get moved off the original subject and we’d start siding with each other in teams against the rest. In the early days when we didn’t think we’d ever make it in the States, we were considering breaking up. Each time that happened, we’d allow ourselves another year or so. Then another year or so. Then another year and so on. Now it’s much more relaxed and a lot freer. We don’t see each other socially, so everything is refreshed when we arrive at a rehearsal, a practice or a gig. A lot of groups suffer during their first year together, especially on trips to America. If they are thrown together, stuck in hotel rooms together, crowded vans and cars, they begin to irritate each other and quite often they break up without every having a chance to survive. Luckily, we had been together about three years before going, so we were able to cope more easily. When I go to the States, I just go to my hotel room, switch on the TV and cut myself off from all the high pressure. I’ve become rather good at cutting myself off from bad elements. I go out to clubs there often, but it takes some doing to get into a frame of mind for that."


Outside the Who, John continues in that sphere of music that is his personal pet. In a nine foot square room, fully sound-proofed, he has myriad recorders, microphones, amplifiers, gadgets and a complete wardrobe of instruments from French horn down. He has tapes of fully orchestrated songs he’s written and recorded by doing each instrument part over the last. He’s preparing for the future. Although he cannot foresee the end of the Who, he wants to record other groups later and perhaps produce his own solo LP. You may find a lot of musicians play well by ear, but such as John are not content to lay idle in one bracket. If you’ve played in two orchestras, know all those instruments and been reading music since you were seven, you don’t stand still…except on stage, where John is fixed rigid while Pete, Keith and Roger go professionally berserk.