John Entwistle always said he did not play the bass. He insisted he played the bass guitar. The difference was not merely semantic. The man nicknamed “The Ox” established a treble-rich sound unlike most anyone in his era or since (per Entwistle’s own description: “Full treble, full volume”). And I would suggest, nowhere is it featured more prominently (that is, on a recording..live it couldn’t be missed) than on ‘The Real Me’ from 1973’s rock opera Quadrophenia – at least that’s the opinion of my friend and bass-obsessive drummer, Lil’ Zuck (whose second choice, to my slight surprise, is ‘Getting In Tune’).
Here Entwistle’s matchless tone instantly bursts forward right in the opening measure – along with Pete Townshend’s slashing guitar chords and the unmistakable drum-storm of Keith Moon – and barely lets up throughout the tune, essentially playing incredible lead fills while on bass (sorry, bass guitar). According to a 1996 interview with Entwistle, his bass part for ‘The Real Me’ was recorded on the very first take, and he claimed he was just joking around when he played the part, but the band loved it and ended up using it in the final version. Imagine, his “joking around” only became one of rock music’s most iconic bass performances ever (oops, there I go again, bass guitar performances!).
As Roger Daltrey cries out closing the song, “Can you see the real me, preacher? Preacher! / Can you see the real me, preacher? / Can you see, can you see, can you see, Whoa! / Can you see the real me, doctor? / Can you see the real me, mother? / Can you see the real me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me-me”
Well, if we’re talking about one of rock’s undisputed greatest-ever bass guitarists – even 16 years after your death, Ox, yeah we can still see you-you-you-you-you just fine.
He was also known as “Thunderfingers”