As critic John Swenson astutely observed in the 1979 edition of The Rolling Stone Record Guide, bassist John Entwistle “had the misfortune to be a good songwriter in a group (The Who) with a great one.” Here are five standout tunes from the pen of John Entwistle.
“Heaven and Hell” – The Who recorded this Entwistle track in 1970 for BBC radio, and subsequently released it as a B-side of “Summertime Blues,” a live cut from The Who Live at Leeds. “Heaven and Hell” was a mainstay of the band’s live set for some time; The Who opened their Woodstock set with the song.
“Success Story” – John Entwistle’s acerbic humor and storytelling skills come together perfectly for this superb track included on 1975’s The Who by Numbers. An amusing music video clip made for the song would be included in the motion picture documentary The Kids Are Alright, released in 1979.
“Cell Number 7” – The four members of The Who found themselves in a Montreal, Canada jail cell in 1973; Entwistle wrote this witty reminiscence of the experience for 1975’s Mad Dog, his fourth solo album. The rock and roll revival-style cut features a spirited female backing chorus as well.
“Trick of the Light” – Entwistle set aside his trademark sardonic humor and focused instead on themes of insecurity and self-doubt for this excellent deep cut from 1978’s Who Are You. The roaring guitar sound on this track is actually Entwistle’s thunderous eight-string bass guitar. “Trick of the Light” was released in the U.S. as a Who single, with another Entwistle track, “905” as the flip.
“Too Late the Hero” – A 1981 album made with guitarist Joe Walsh, the bassist’s fifth solo album Too Late the Hero came in for critical dubbing. But this uncharacteristically emotional ballad nonetheless ranks among Entwistle’s most forthright songs. “Too Late the Hero” bubbled under on the U.S. singles charts, reaching #101; it fared a bit better in the UK, where it reached #76.
With a background in marketing and advertising, Bill Kopp got his professional start writing for Trouser Press. After a stint as Editor-in-chief for a national music magazine, Bill launched Musoscribe in 2009, and has published new content every business day since then (and every single day since 2018). The 4500-plus interviews, essays, and reviews on Musoscribe reflect Bill's keen interest in American musical forms, most notably rock, jazz, and soul. His work features a special emphasis on reissues and vinyl. Bill's work also appears in many other outlets both online and in print. He regularly hosts lecture/discussions on artists and albums of historical importance (including monthly events Music to Your Ears and Music Movie Mondays), and is a frequent guest on music-focused radio programs and podcasts. In Spring 2023 he taught a history of Rock 'n' Roll at UNC Asheville's College for Seniors. He also researches and authors liner notes for album reissues -- more than 30 to date -- and co-produced a reissue of jazz legend Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's final album. His first book, Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2018, and in paperback in 2019. His second book, Disturbing the Peace: 415 Records and the Rise of New Wave, was published in 2021 by HoZac Books. His third book, What's the Big Idea: Great Concept Albums will be published in 2024. Read even more about him here.