NEW YORK – “I’m not really into black humor,” John Entwistle said with a hint of a wink, “I’m just different.” The Who‘s bassist, who more and more is getting into solo albums as the band’s future becomes a question mark, was in New York to attend the bar mitzvah of a friend and to buy equipment for his band Ox for its upcoming tour.
Entwistle is a dapper six-footer with a trim beard and an expensive hotel suite overlooking Central Park and a sly smile that lets on that he would savor the idea of going permanently solo.
The Who will tour next year, he said, and after that he’s not certain, although he’s sure that Ox will be around for a while. He’s just edited Odds and Sods for the Who and will issue his fourth solo release, Mad Dog, in January.
“Odds and Sods came about,” he said, “because we knew we had a lot of unreleased material, mainly from singles that had fallen by the wayside. We didn’t know how good much of that material was till we started seeing it on bootlegs. The task fell on me ’cause everyone else was too busy with the Tommy film or something. It could’ve been a double album, there was that much material. It’s all more or less new material. I tried to arrange it like a parallel sort of Who career – what singles we might have released and what album tracks we might have released.”
Entwistle is much more interested, it’s obvious, in his band than in the Who. “After my first solo album,” he said, “I really didn’t think of any of my songs as Who songs. I started realizing there was no real outlet for my songs because the Who were more or less based on Pete’s style of writing and Roger sang Pete’s compositions best. I’d written my music for me to sing, really; I couldn’t see Roger singing it. So I realized it was a choice – I was getting so frustrated that it was either leave the band or do a solo album.”
That resulted in Smash Your Head against the Wall, his first step alone. That, as with subsequent albums, sold well in the United States although it barely made a splash in England. “Basically,” he said wryly, “I’m best at naming albums and designing album covers. That’s one of the main reasons I do albums.
“Oh,” he added, “during one of the five or so times that the Who has broken up already – before we actually turned a profit with Tommy – Keith [Moon] and I decided we’d go off and form a band with Richard Cole, who used to be our chauffeur. I said, Okay, I’m forming this band and I’ve got everything all together. I’m gonna write all the stuff and Keith’s gonna play drums and we’re gonna be a big band – making much more money than the Who ever would make. I was gonna call the band Led Zeppelin and I had designed a cover of an R/101 Zeppelin going down in flames and I was gonna do it in black and white – very subtle. Two weeks later, Richard Cole went to work for Jimmy Page and you see where our Zeppelin went. The name came from England – in our area the local bands used to meet at the local bar after our gigs and we’d ask, “How’d you go over tonight?’ We’d say, ‘We all went down like a lead zeppelin.’ So that’s where that name came from. I was always better at naming groups and designing album covers.”
This story is from the December 5th, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone.