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.
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.”
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.”