Popular Culture 20101126: The Who, Entwistle’s Contributions

(11AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Most everyone who is aware of The Who as a major British band realize that the three instrumentalists were very good at their crafts, and some say that Keith Moon may have been the best rock and roll drummer who ever lived.  However, the bass player, John Entwistle, did much more than play bass.

John Alec Enwistle, born 19441009 and died 20029627, was one of the original members of the band.  He and Pete Townshend formed a band in the late 1950s, and he left to join Roger Daltrey’s band in the early 1960s.  He convinced Daltrey to have Townshend join, and with the admission of Keith Moon The Who were formed.

Before we start, I hope that everyone has an enjoyable and safe Thanksgiving Day.  Mine was fine, talked to two of the boys and visited with neighbors.  If you missed my Thanksgiving address Wednesday night, it is on this site.

The Who continued with this lineup from that point until Moon’s death in 1978, with only a handful of temporary substitutions during that time.  Whilst Townshend is remembered as the writer, Daltrey as the singer, Moon as the drummer, and Entwistle as the bass player, Entwistle’s contributions were far beyond just playing bass (better than any other rock an roll bassist, in the opinion of more than one critic).

As early as their first album, Entwistle was already writing material.  He contributed to the instrumental, The Ox, and was known by that name later himself.  This was a relatively minor contribution, however.

On their next album, A Quick One, he wrote and sang two songs, namely the famous Boris the Spider and Whiskey Man.  He also had vocal part on the title song as well.  If you listen carefully to Whiskey Man you can hear him play French horn, and he would play the horn on many other compositions by The Who, and most will recall the French horn part from Overture from Tommy.

Here is the original studio version of Boris

Here is a later live one

Here is the studio cut of Whiskey Man

I could not find a live version.

He also played trumpet on Cobwebs and Strange, purportedly written by Keith.

Here is an early music video of that tune.  Moon is playing tuba, badly.

We covered the song A Quick One a couple of weeks ago, so I shall not add any clips here.

On their next record, the seminal The Who Sell Out, Entwistle wrong and sang the very short Heinz Baked Beans (the visual of which finally appeared in the movie Tommy).  He also played what sounds to me to be trumpet here.

Another short one was Medac that he wrote.  Note that Clearasil was NOT picutured on the original album.

A much more serious song from that album written and sung by Entwistle was Silas Stingy.  You can here his French horn on it as well.

I could not find a live version.

On the compilation record Magic Bus, Enwistle wrote three songs and sang two of them.  He wrote and sang both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Doctor, Doctor, whilst Daltrey sang Someone’s Coming.

He does play trumpet on Someone’s Coming.

I really the mad sounding French horn at about 1:30 on Pictures of Lily.

On Tommy, Enwistle only wrote two full songs, but did a lot of backing vocals and lots of horn.  The French horn in Overture is wonderful, and the song would just not be the same without it.

Here is Cousin Kevin, lead vocals by Townshend with backing by Entwistle.

Here is Fiddle About (often erroneously called Uncle Ernie), sung by Entwistle.  There is some horn in it which I believe is trombone, played by Enwistle.

And of course, Overture.

For Who’s Next, the only thing that made it to the album was the well known My Wife.  John wrote and sang it.  The last time that the family and I went to see The Who live, Daltrey sang it.  Entwistle was looking poor at the time, and actually leaned against amplifiers during a lot of the concert.  I knew that something was wrong with him.  In under three years he would be no longer with us.  Note the horns near the end of this studio version.

Entwistle did not write anything for Quadrophenia, but had a lot of horns to play.  Here is one example, 5:15.  While you listen for the horns, pay attention the almost bell like quality of the bass.

Entwistle wrote only one song for The Who by Numbers (Daltrey sang it), Success Story.  Note the cover art in the video clip.  Entwistle drew it.

The compilation album Odds and Sods had one Entwistle song, Postcard, on it.  He also sang it and horns are everywhere.  This actually quite a nice record and contains material never before available.

For the last record produced during Keith Moon’s lifetime, Who are You?, Entwistle wrote three songs and sang two of them.  The first, Had Enough, was sung by Daltrey.  As you watch the pictures go by, note the album called Who’s Zoo.  That is a bootleg, and I actually have one.

The other two were 905 and Trick of the Light.  Here is 905.

Here is Trick of the Light.  Note that most of what sounds like Pete on guitar is really Entwistle on his eight string Alembic bass.

That takes us through 1978.  Next time I shall discuss the post Moon influence that Entwistle had, along with some of his solo material.  I hope that this has made less fanatical Who fans realize that there was much more to the band than Townshend’s songwriting.  As always, I welcome comments and other video embeds or links.

Warmest regards,


Featured at Thestarshollowgazette.com.  Crossposted at Dailykos.com


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  1. a very under recognized member of the band?

    Warmest regards,


  2. when I was a little kid.  I loved the English Horn stuff even, and Boris The Spider, the ARP sequencer stuff later on, and all that 70s stuff. Pretty innovative band- and very willing to try stuff,  which I think you need to, even if it doesn’t always work exactly as you thought it might.

    By the time I actually saw them play-  (The Clash opened) at Shea Stadium in the early 80s – they were a shadow of what they must once have been live; just going through the big stadium motions really  – esp. in contrast to a young  Joe Strummer and co, but still it was good to see them live.  

  3. the front page, ‘kit’.  I very much appreciate it.

    Warmest regards,


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