Remembering John Entwistle: Performing Live With The Who In 1975

Today marks 19 years since The Who founding bassist John Entwistle tragically died in his Las Vegas hotel room at the far too early age of 57. Entwistle was born on October 9, 1944 in the West London district of Chiswick. An only child, Entwistle’s parents divorced when he was young and John was known for being quiet and reserved.

John found a friend in music. He began taking piano lessons at age 7 but it did not suit him and he switched to trumpet and later french horn and played in the Middlesex Schools Symphony Orchestra. While in school, John met Who guitarist Pete Townshend and the two budding musicians formed a traditional jazz band but soon abandoned it in favor of rock ‘n’ roll, however, it was difficult to hear a horn in a rock band and Entwistle tried his hand at guitar. But due to his large fingers and affinity for the low guitar sounds of Duane Eddy, he made the fortuitous switch to the bass, later earning him the nickname Thunderfingers.

Not able to afford a bass, John made his own and soon his bass playing caught the attention of Roger Daltrey, who fronted and played guitar in a band called the Detours. Townshend would also join only to be fired by Daltrey (who actually fired everyone in the band except John). Despite the shakeups, the Detours would eventually evolve into The Who in 1964 after the final piece of the puzzle, legendary drummer Keith Moon, fell into place in 1961.

Together, Entwistle and Moon were one of the greatest rock rhythm sections of all time. But their stage presences couldn’t have been more different. Moon played in a wild flailing style on which he exerted a sort of controlled chaos. Entwistle didn’t move much at all, save for his fingers, his left hand deftly traversing the fretboard while his right thumped out rattling notes. Although Moony kept impeccable time, Entwistle was a sonic and aesthetic anchor for the band, with Daltrey and Townshend doing their own fair share of theatrics.

The Who brought their spirited stage presence to The Summit in Houston, Texas on November 20, 1975 in a famed gig that kicked off their U.S. tour that year. The show sees The Who at the height of their powers and features songs from their decade long career at that point including early hits like “I Can’t Explain” and “My Generation” as well as homages to their early influences with Bo Diddley’s “Roadrunner” and Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.”

The 25-song set also boasts entries from the band’s rock operas with a number of tunes from 1969’s Tommy (“Pinball Wizard,” “Sparks” and more) as well as a tune from 1973’s Quadrophenia in “Drowned.” The Who also delivered more current hits like “Squeeze Box” as well as older favorites like “Behind Blue Eyes” and a set-closing “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” While Entwistle had his hand in penning a number of tunes for the band, he took center stage in Houston on one of his signature songs, “Boris The Spider.” The aptly named number showcases Entwistle’s treble tone and spider-like fingers working the frets in cascading bass lines. John sang lead on the song, complete with the gruff, spooky voice on the chorus.

In honor of John Entwistle, watch The Who perform from Houston in 1975 below via the JamBase Live Video Archive:

Setlist

The Who at The Summit

  • Nov 20, 1975
  • Houston, TX
  • By Numbers
  • Substitute
  • I Can’t Explain
  • Squeeze Box
  • Baba O’Riley
  • Boris the Spider
  • Drowned
  • However Much I Booze
  • Dreaming From the Waist
  • Behind Blue Eyes
  • Amazing Journey
  • Sparks
  • The Acid Queen
  • Fiddle About
  • Pinball Wizard
  • I’m Free
  • Tommy’s Holiday Camp
  • We’re Not Gonna Take It
  • Summertime Blues  
  • My Generation
  • Join Together
  • Naked Eye
  • Road Runner  
  • Won’t Get Fooled Again
Encore
  • Magic Bus
  • My Generation Blues

Setlist info via setlist.fm.