John Entwistle, the bassist for the Who, passed away yesterday at 57, of a heart attack. Far too young for someone of his talents and experience. I've been a huge fan of the Who for several years, and I'm going to miss "The Ox" and his astounding feats on the bass. Compared to the other three members of the band, Entwistle was the rock, the one who kept the band together while Roger Daltrey screamed, Pete Townshend windmilled, and Keith Moon beat the crap out of his drum kit. I'm too young to have seen the Who live when Keith Moon was still alive, but I did have the privilege of seeing them three times in the past six years with Zak Starkey. Twice they performed Quadrophenia and Entwistle's bass solos on "5:15" were jaw-droppingly amazing. I've never seen or heard anyone play the bass like that. (John Myung, bassist for Dream Theater, comes close, but their music is such a different style from the Who's that it doesn't really compare well.) Fingers all over the fretboard, strumming faster than I would have thought possible for anyone, let alone someone his age. Two years ago I saw the Who live at Madison Square Garden, on their greatest hits tour. Everything they played that night was a gem. Entwistle didn't get too many solo opportunities, but he was rock solid. Even though they'd been touring for months, in their mid-50s these guys were still capable of taking the stage by storm and clobbering the audience with music. I wasn't going to see them on tour this summer, mostly because I didn't think I could find anyone to go with me at $100 a ticket. Now I'll probably never see them again, certainly not with one of the greatest bassists ever.
In addition to his playing skills, John Entwistle provided the Who with some of my favorite songs. "My Wife" and "Boris the Spider" are two of his album tracks, and "Heaven and Hell" is a great B-side that they used as a concert opener in the 1970s. He was a talent that will not be equaled anytime soon, certainly not by any members of the punk-metal crap bands out there now. Requiesicat in pacem.