John Entwistle, the legendary bassist for The Who, passed away on this day 10 years ago. Perhaps the greatest and most influential of all rock bassists, Entwistle innovated or popularized a variety of playing styles and was one of the first to really feature bass leads prominently in songs.
In addition to creating bass lines that could sound just as good on an electric guitar, Entwistle innovated tapping techniques on the bass that allowed him to at times use all four fingers simultaneously and create “chords” with the bass. Simply put, Entwistle was the first bassist to make you really stand up and notice the instrument in rock & roll.
Here’s 5 of the best works of Entwistle’s career with The Who, beginning with a song he wrote entirely himself.
“Boris The Spider”
“Boris the Spider” was a horror rock song before those really existed. Written entirely by Entwistle himself, the song achieved huge popularity among die-hard fans and was a live staple of The Who (watch a live version here). This is believed to be Entwistle’s first official composition for The Who.
“Won’t Get Fooled Again”
Besides those familiar keyboard notes and Roger Daltrey’s legendary scream, the most striking aspect of The Who’s classic “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is Entwistle’s complex yet cohesive bass line. This is one of the songs that proved Entwistle’s incredible instincts on bass, knowing when to scale back and when to unleash a monster riff. You can also watch a live clip of the song to see just how great he was on stage.
The bass line for “My Generation” shows Entwistle’s dynamic skill and place as an essential component of The Who’s music. Half the song is two driving notes, and they are punctuated by bass solos where the rest of the band drops out. Entwistle basically invented this aspect of rock music. And of course, it’s even better to see live.
This instrumental track is another great example of how Entwistle transcended bass, bringing it out of the background and making it more than just a simple rhythm instrument. There are fleeting moments in “Sparks” where the bass alone can raise the hairs on the back of your neck. (See it live here.)
“The Real Me”
Another awesome example of Entwistle stealing the show. Townshend’s guitar riff is catchy for sure, but the opening bass line is by far the most recognizable aspect of “The Real Me.” And in the middle, when you’d expect guitar leads to come in, instead you get booming bass riffs. Amazing. The prominence of the bass in this song made it a live favorite of The Who.
What other bass lines from John Entwistle do you like? Tell us your favorite cuts in the comments.