A Final Conversation With The Who's John Entwistle

Just six days before his death, legendary Who bassist John Entwistle said he was feeling like "an 18-year-old in a 57-year-old body." The artist, who was found dead yesterday (June 27) in Las Vegas of

Just six days before his death, legendary Who bassist John Entwistle said he was feeling like "an 18-year-old in a 57-year-old body." The artist was found dead yesterday (June 27) in Las Vegas of an apparent heart attack, a day before the Who was to begin an extensive North American tour. On June 21, during what would be one of his final interviews, Entwistle gave Billboard numerous reasons why he had been feeling youthful, chief among them the natural highs generated by the iconic British rock act's recent reunion.

Since Entwistle -- who also released several albums leading the bands Ox and the John Entwistle Band -- guitarist/vocalist Pete Townshend, and vocalist Roger Daltrey reteamed in 2000 for the latest in a string of reunion tours, the Who surprised many by remaining together and subsequently playing a number of benefit shows.

But the reunion also brought Entwistle a surprise or two as well. In the interview, he spoke of surprising even himself with his playing. He said that one of the brightest highlights of being together again with his bandmates was "getting to the solo part in [the Who classic] '5:15' and being able to play a solo that even I didn't know how I played. One of those nights will keep you satisfied for a week, but there were a few of those nights per week."

Professionally, he said the best night of the past two years occurred last fall, when the Who delivered what many deem the highlight of the Concert for New York. After the band's four-song set brought down the house, Entwistle hurried from Madison Square Garden across town to B.B. King's Blues Club & Grill in Manhattan's Times Square to play another benefit concert, one he personally began organizing for the families of the victims of Sept. 11 just one day after the terrorist attacks.

"The audience was fightin' mad. They were sad, but they were fightin' mad and we played some war songs; we just happened to choose the right ones," Entwistle said of the band's performance at the Concert for New York, where the group ferociously delivered "Behind Blue Eyes," "Who Are You," "Baba O'Riley," and "Won't Get Fooled Again."

"You can be sad only just so much and then you start gettin' angry, so we appealed to that," he added.

Going into the Concert for New York, Entwistle said he and his bandmates were determined to deliver the set of their lives. They had been disappointed with their performance at Live Aid, the 1985 concert for famine relief in Africa (also the last time the band had played before a national TV audience) and they were determined to erase the memory of that set.

"We knew that the last time we played to that many people we messed up and we were determined to come over with everything we got -- and we gave it everything we got. And it worked," he said. "We had a really good soundcheck. We had our own monitor board onstage. I think we were the only band with a monitor board onstage and we insisted on it, so that nothing would get changed. So we knew that we were going to go onstage with exactly the same sound that we had at soundcheck and it sounded good."

That performance seemed to ignite new interest in the band and fuel anticipation for the summer tour. "I think that won over even more fans," he said. "People realized, 'Wow, this band sounds pretty good; I wonder what their old stuff's like.'" Entwistle took the stage at B.B. King's that night at 11:30 p.m. and played until 1:15 a.m. "I arranged to do that [show] on the 12th of September," he said. "I think we got in touch with B.B. King's on the 13th and it was all arranged on the 14th, three days after it all happened."

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