Featured Album – Smash Your Head Against the Wall – John Entwistle

Rolling Stone, June, 1971: “John Entwistle, possessor of 12 bass guitars, three trumpets, three French horns, two trombones, a melofonium, two pianos and one helluva cramped guest room in his London suburban house, has done his thing with vengeance.

The album is largely the result of frustration that Entwistle was feeling with the Who. “There simply isn’t room for another writer in the group. I’ve had a couple of songs on albums but that wasn’t enough. I was getting less and less interested in the group. I think we all were. We ran out of things to play. You can’t keep on doing Tommy and Live At Leeds. So we decided to stop work for four months and plan a new stage act.”

So who, besides the Ox, plays on this album? Well, firstly the drummer is Jerry Shirley who was at that time Humble Pie’s* drummer. Keith Moon is on the album playing Latin American percussion and doing backing vocals. Interestingly, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band members Viv Stanshall** and Neil Innes also play Latin American percussion. And Entwistle, originally a trumpet and French horn player manages to throw some of that stuff in too.

And there is a guitar player named Dave “Cyrano***” Langston who was in a band called Cyrano and the Begeracs and later became the Who’s road manager. He also co-wrote (with Roger Daltrey) a song that later wound up on The Who Sell Out called “Early Morning Cold Taxi.” The guy’s a pretty good guitarist and later wound up producing another Entwistle solo album. Other than that he seems to have faded into obscurity.

Ok, so enough about how this epic came to be. Is it a great album? Or failing that is it a good album? Is it the great “lost” Who album? I’d say no, yes, and no. Entwistle has a penchant for the odd (“Boris the Spider,” “Cousin Kevin” and “Fiddle About,” from Tommy; the philosophical (?) “Heaven and Hell,” and the flat-out rockin’. (The great horn-driven “My Wife” from Who’s Next.) And that cover?

“My face on the cover looks like the death mask of a mongol. I went to my doctor and asked him for a chest X-ray on which I could superimpose my face, hidden behind a misted-up piece of plastic – in sickly green. So he said, ‘Haha, what you need is one of a heart disease patient, I have just the thing for you.’ The fellow’s long since dead – I hope.”

Now I hope you can hear this on YouTube because here’s the problem – except for one live album, there are exactly zero Entwistle solo albums on Spotify. So I’m gonna cheat a little bit. I’ll post a couple of album tunes from YouTube then I’ll grab “live” versions of those from Spotify and post them. And then I’ll just add in a link to the whole album on YouTube and hope for the best.

First up, “My Size,” wherein the 6’0 Mr. Enwistle says:

I’m gonna bring you down to my size
One of these days I’m gonna make you fall
I’m gonna bring you down to my size
Smash your head against the wall.

Spotify link

You might know “Heaven and Hell” from a variety of Who recordings, most notably the 1995 CD release of the great Live at Leeds. A great tune that I didn’t know for many a year, the Who recorded it as a B-side and Entwistle later did it here with horns. Of the song, our morbid oddball rock philosopher said this:

“The last lyric ballot of the song: ‘Why can’t we have eternal life, And never die, Never die?’ I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of Heaven and Hell. Not obsessed that it’s true, but just obsessed that it’s sort of legend, there’s such a person as the devil.”

Spotify link

I don’t know if this is The Ox’s best solo album but it’s his first and I’m not sure how many people are even aware of it. (His discography lists seven solo albums not including the one on Spotify.) It’s a good one and I hope you get a chance to give it a spin.

*Peter Frampton – who by then had left Humble Pie – played on the follow-up to this album, Whistle Rymes. 

**Viv Stanshall is the guy at the end of Tubular Bells who calls out the various instruments.

***So nicknamed because of a rather prominent nose which is something one can say he has in common with Pete Townshend who, in his younger years, Daltrey called “a nose on a stick.”

19 thoughts on “Featured Album – Smash Your Head Against the Wall – John Entwistle

  1. I’ve only recently started listening to The Who (I’m not convinced that they were anything more than a good singles band at this stage, but that’s just my opinion obviously), so I’ve never listened to any of the solo outings. I wasn’t even aware that Entwhistle had released any. Anyhoo, this is interesting and I’m enjoying what I’m hearing so far.

    Like

    1. Yeah, seven or eight solo albums! He had his own fanbase I suppose.

      As to the Who, I think the thing more than anything that pulls them away from being a good singles band is their longer suites – “A Quick One,” “Tommy,” “Quadrophenia.” Even “Who’s Next” was intended to be a “rock opera.” But if you really want to hear some great, exciting rock, listen to “Live at Leeds.”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s a productive solo career!

        Love at Leeds has been on my list, but seems there are some expanded editions and that’s put me off. It was kinda the same with the Allman’s Fillmore – I didn’t know where to jump in. A pal suggested the original set and gave me a reissue of it. I think the deluxe expanded editions are great for fans, but not such a good entry point.

        Like

        1. Yes, back in the day, albums were a tidy 42 minutes or so, not much more than a half-hour. The CD age, of course, added in more time and more stuff, oftentimes leading to bloated reissues. (And frankly I’m not sure that when bands started issuing CD’s that many of them even knew how to fill up an hour productively.)

          So I feel your pain and as a public service I have here created a Spotify playlist of the exact songs in the exact running order of the original LP. Now you have no excuse. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

  2. That’s an interesting album to highlight, Jim. While as you know I dig The Who, I had not been aware of Entwistle‘ solo work.

    Really goes to show the man was more than just a kickass bassist! Some of these songs don’t sound that much different from The Who, which perhaps isn’t too surprising either.

    It’s a bit unfortunate that Entwistle’s solo albums aren’t available on streaming platforms. The only thing I can find on Apple Music is a 1999 live album, “Left For Live.” I’m going to check that one out.

    Like

    1. Yep, that’s the same one I posted on the write-up. So a couple of tunes from this album, some Who stuff, etc. I expected that a lot of people would not know this or any subsequent albums and so i posted this. One of them has Joe Walsh on it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not surprised John Entwistle played with other great musicians on his solo albums. I’m glad I got to see The Ox once in action together with The Who at MSG during what was his final tour with the band.

        I still remember the optical contrast Entwistle offered compared to the animated Daltrey and Townshend. He stood on that stage almost motionless, playing his killer bass lines. That man was a beast of a bassist. I think I’ll never forget that!

        Like

        1. I bet that was awesome. There’s no excuse for my not having seen the Who 8,000 times versus once. As to Entwistle, yeah one of the greatest. I think you may have seen this clip but I’ll post it here for anyone who hasn’t. Seems to freeze up occasionally but it then plays again. I think they may have shown this one at the show I went to.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Damn, I suppose there’s a reason John became a famous musician and I’m not – I’m gonna smash my friggin’ bass!😆

          If you think about it, The Who actually didn’t play much together as a band in the traditional sense. Instead, they were four guys who each did their individual thing on stage, and it somehow all fit together!

          Like

        3. Don’t feel bad. I listened to a Johnny Winter blues on the radio and wanted to go home and put my guitars on Craigslist. I’m shit!

          Agreed about how they all did their own thing but somehow it gelled. Chaos and anarchy.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Right. And importantly, they committed to that profession. I think if you go on the road and play night after night after night with a band there’s just no way you won’t improve markedly.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Man, you always say I come out of left field. This qualifies for that title.I seen your post yesterday and spent it listening to John’s music. I have three of his solo albums. Not this one. I’d heard it back when (fiends and i would swap records).
    I always liked when John would step out and do a couple numbers on the Who records (see ones you mentioned). Seen them in concert a couple time sand he used to rock out on ‘Twist and Shout’. I always liked when he would add his horns (he does that on here).
    I was and am a huge OO fan so I have a soft spot for the solo outings. Enough good music on all of them to enjoy. I thought that Entwistle would have went the route Jack Bruce went with West/Bruce/Lange. He does hook up with Walsh and his old band for ‘Too Late the Hero’
    Hats off to you Doc for taking the rood less traveled. John was a different bird but man could he play that bass thing. I might have another Entwistle day today.

    Like

    1. Yeah, I thought this one might come as a surprise to all but the most dedicated ‘OO fans. I can’t even remember what made me think of this album. But I have it in vinyl and I always dug it. It’s his debut and so, kinda special in that respect. I hope you got a chance to check out his solo that I posted on Christian’s comment. Just tremendous.

      Liked by 1 person

What would you say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.