Part two of "A Final Conversation With The Who's John Entwistle"

Part two of "A Final Conversation With The Who's John Entwistle"

Known as "the Ox," the Chiswick, England-born bassist said he was pleased that the band had returned to a five-piece after touring with a large backing band in the late '80s. "I feel much more comfortable now that we haven't got eight other people backing us," he admitted. "Now we're working under our own steam. We sound more like the Who again. And I'm very happy about that."

"It gives me a chance to show people where my playing's at, and Pete where his playing's at," he added. "We don't particularly need that many people to produce the sound we're getting. Like Pete said over the last few months, we put out such a noise with a giant thick harmonic content that it was like in a few instances, you can actually hear the brass, although they're not there. You can actually sort of hear it coming out in the harmonics."

However, he did note that the band was planning to tour with keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick and "Pete's brother [Simon] playing sort of the rhythms in some of the songs and harmonies and stuff. As a six piece, we actually impress people more than when we were a 14-piece."

Entwistle was also enjoying the success of the band's first hit album in 20 years, the new "The Ultimate Collection" (MCA/UTV), which bowed two weeks ago at No. 31 on The Billboard 200. The double-disc retrospective -- sold for $24.98 and shrink-wrapped with a bonus disc of four rarities -- was designed to be the definitive starting point for new Who fans. And that was a good thing, Entwistle said, because it seemed like more and more young people were discovering the band in the wake of the group's appearance at the Concert for New York.

He was pleased with the work done on the band's behalf by Universal Music Enterprises (UME), which set up affordable licensing pacts with the primetime CBS program "C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation" (which is using the song "Who Are You" in its promos and intro) and Nissan (which featured "Bargain" in an often-run spot). He was also quite happy that UME had created its own direct-response commercial for "The Ultimate Collection.": "I got fed up with seeing other people's albums being advertised on TV, and I'm glad ours are now."

"It's a shame there weren't a few more of my songs on it," said Entwistle, who wrote a handful of the Who's popular songs, including "Boris the Spider," "My Wife," and "Trick of the Light." "But, basically, it's a good package for the people who are just discovering us. I'm glad that there's a bunch of stuff made for people who are just now discovering us. There's a lot of 12-, 14-, 15-, 16-year olds that are just finding out who we are."

Entwistle said he was meeting a lot of these folks first-hand, as he was touring with his own band in between Who tours. "I actually do meet and greets, so I'd actually meet a lot of people sort of first-hand," he said. "I also get a lot of letters from young kids that are just discovering me, saying, "Ya know, my brother used to play all your records and I hated you. But now I've seen you live [and] you're great.'"

The Who was casually working on songs for its first studio album since 1982's "It's Hard." "We haven't actually gone down and recorded anything yet," he revealed. "We've recorded live versions [not in front of an audience] of a couple of things. But, the real writing hasn't even started yet." The band, he said, was still undecided about whether it would preview those songs this summer. "Quite honestly, if we tried to play them live, I don't know if any of us could remember them."

Though one would imagine that the band would feel the pressure of the enormous scrutiny a new Who studio album would most certainly garner, Entwistle felt otherwise. "It won't come out unless we like it, unlike the last two records. So, basically, if we feel it works great. If not we'll make a Beatle-type 'Let It Be' film about what went wrong with the sessions," he said with a laugh.

Born John Alec Entwistle on Oct. 9, 1944, the bassist was a teenager when he was asked by Daltrey to join his band, the Detours. Soon afterward, schoolmate Townshend was added to the lineup. The West London band eventually changed its name to the High Numbers and rounded out its lineup with drummer Keith Moon.

The act signed a production deal with independent producer Shel Talmy in 1964 and the following year released its debut, "My Generation" (the long awaited true-stereo reissue of which is slated for Aug. 27). The album spawned the classic title track as well as the single "I Can't Explain."

Through the '60s and '70s, the Who established itself as one of the most popular, powerful, and influential bands of all time. Inspiring heavy metal and punk, the act's shows often found Townshend destroying his guitar and Moon (who died of an overdose in 1978) laying waste to his drum kit.

Entwistle's legacy is that he seemingly held everything together, moving very little as he played his large basses without a pick, all the while watching Townshend and Moon's antics and Daltrey's mic twirling from stage left. He was the anchor in what is considered by many to be the best live band of all time.

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