The Ox: The Authorized Biography of The Who’s John Entwistle…. by Paul Rees

When I see the word “authorized” I get really skeptical that they will not tell the complete story. This one proved me wrong. John’s son Christopher had said that this book was going to be warts and all. He was correct in that. I was super excited to read this. In the past year, I re-read Pete Townshend’s autobiography, Roger Daltrey’s autobiography, and re-read Keith Moon’s biography by Tony Fletcher and to top it off the Kenney Jones biography.

John actually wrote 4 chapters himself in 1990 when he wanted to write his own book. He soon grew tired of it and just stored it away. Rees did manage to incorporate some of what he wrote that included stories about him and Moon I never heard. John Entwistle is the least written about of the four. Any info on him is nice and a lot of this was new to me. Rees goes over the highlights and you don’t get dragged down at any point. The only thing I didn’t like was…like Daltrey’s autobiography it’s short…only 320 pages long.

The book goes through the history of the Who that Who fans know but with a lot of anecdotes. I found out more about John’s life than I ever knew. You see where he developed his black humor and he was probably the best pure musician in that band. I would recommend this book to any rock music fan. You get some funny stories also…

One about the Who opening up for the Beatles and listening to them through monitors in the dressing room rolling on the floor laughing hearing The Beatles sing obscene words to their songs “I Want To Hold Your ****”…A Hard Day’s ****. because the screaming was so loud and they couldn’t be heard out front.

Why I looked forward to this book…


John was a bass hero of mine growing up. I started off learning trying to learn the riffs he did by slowing Who albums with my finger so the riffs would be slower…but they were still fast. Most bass players fill in the empty space but with the Who, there wasn’t much empty space because of Moon’s playing. He played what amounted to lead bass and it worked well…his harmonics made up for the lack of other instruments.

Keith Altham (journalist): John was an enigma. That he was the best bass guitarist of his generation is not in dispute, but because of the peculiar demands placed upon him by The Who he wasn’t a bass player in the accepted sense of the term because he didn’t play bass like anyone else, any more than Keith Moon played the drums like anyone else or, for that matter, Pete Townshend the guitar. “His playing was so dextrous and inventive that he was often indistinguishable from a second guitar.”

Lemmy: “He’s the best player in Rock and Roll ever…no contest”

John Entwistle: “I just wanted to play louder than anyone else …

Bill Wyman: John was the Jimi Hendrix of bass players

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

50 thoughts on “The Ox: The Authorized Biography of The Who’s John Entwistle…. by Paul Rees”

  1. Yes. He was a phenomenal musician and an elegant man. To me, he played bass like the great R&B bass players. I loved looking at his hands. They were huge, his fingers long. He was very urbane with them, his gestures. In the end he disappointed me. To die like that, from an overdose and in bed with a stripper at the age of 57. I’m not judging him. I just think it’s sad and wasteful. He knew better.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I knew he played some brass instruments but he played French Horn on Tommy and a lot of records…he did a lot of arranging also.
      It was sad at the end. He was as stubborn as ever. He found a way of life in the 70s and stuck to it. He got worse as he went on. What I was happy about was to find out he was a great father.
      Yea his bass playing was about as good as you can get. He could play anything.

      Paul McCartney once saw him playing something really fast and Paul told him…John that is all good but can you play country music? John then ripped off this fast difficult bluegrass song and Paul said something (I’ll clean it up) to the affect of “show off”

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Paul’s strength is being melodic but John was something from a different planet. I twisted my fingers trying to learn those songs but I did at one time learn “The Real Me” … I faked some others.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. This sounds cool. I hate to say this, I’m friggin’ lazy when it comes to reading books. In part that’s because my job requires me to do a lot of reading, so I don’t feel like doing more of it when I’m off! Still, it’s a lame excuse, and given I call myself a big music fan, I’m sure I’m missing out big time!

    As for John Entwistle, at least I was fortunate to see him once with Messrs. Daltrey and Townshend, with Zak Starkey on drums. It was at Madison Square Garden about six months prior to his death.

    What this man played was unreal. And he did it all, seemingly completely detached, while Townshend launched into one windmill after the other and Daltrey kept spinning his microphone and throwing it up into the air. These guys were something else on that stage that night!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I got to see him once in 1989 and yes he was incredible…they all were.

      I’m lazy also Christian…I “read” the audible version most of the time. I have a 45 minute commute one way back and forth to work and that is a lot of time I have every day and I listen to books.

      I didn’t think I would like it but I love it. I look forward to going to work now!

      I live next to a guy that got to see the Who in 1970 with Moon. Can you imagine the power they had then?

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Great review I need to get this book sooner than later now Max.
    I prefer authorized books over book as they come from the horses mouth so to speak.

    Just finished reading Rudy Sarzo book and I have on preorder Rob Halford book which is coming in Sept.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The only reason I said that Deke…. and it was truer earlier than now since Keith Richard’s book…is because I’ve seen people gloss over events they didn’t like.

      It’s a quick read and I’ve read so many books on the Who that when I find something new I’m happy.

      Cool dude. Halford’s book would be interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s good and we know a lot of the story but if you liked Roger’s book then you will like this one. It completes the puzzle so to speak. You sure know John more… good and bad but other than the rock star vices (drugs and women) that we know about he was a good person…his ex wife even said that lol.

      You also learn some about Alison his ex-wife and son which was interesting.


  4. VEry good bassist, that’s for sure.
    It’s kind of a coin toss when it comes to bios. Unauthorized ones have the ‘dirt’, but you never know how much is accurate. Authorized ones are usually factual, but not uncommonly leave out a lot of relevant facts too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think since Keith Richard’s book that the rock authorized books have gotten better. They tend to leave in warts and all now…why? because it sells lol.

      Leaving out things is what I am afraid of…this was pretty balanced across the board. He wasn’t a saint but not a bad guy either…a great musician though that played French Horn and other brass on Who records…best musician of the band.


    1. A music store owner helped him and told him where to buy the wood. He came a long way from that to having hundreds of guitars.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I had the great pleasure of seeing Entwhistle play in a small Marin County club a long time ago. He made those complicated bass riffs look so easy. (I only ever learned “Boris the Spider,” but that’s the furthest thing from complicated.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Boris is fun though! I saw him in 89 with The Who and it was an experience.
      I did learn Behind Blue Eyes and I worked and worked and learned The Real Me but our drummer couldn’t do it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was just reading about him decorating his home with Alison. He had a huge, stuffed tarantula! LOL!

    I think he may have suffered a bit as his father wasn’t around much and he was an only child. I can relate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He had such a dark sense of humor but seemed like a great guy. He was good to people…He found a lifestyle in the 70s and stuck to it…he absolutely would not change.


  7. Thanks for the lesson on John E. Never knew much about him other than he was good on bass. Seeing the video and how he played and elevated the instrument was interesting. I see that the Isle of Wight in 1970 had half again as many people that Woodstock had. Impressive!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes he was my hero learning bass. I physically don’t see how he played what he played…he was that good.
      The Isle of Wight is one of my time machine concerts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. After the 1970 one they didn’t have one until the 2000’s I believe. Of course this year was cancelled…along with the world.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m all for protesting…that is the right of everyone… but not this.

        They interviewed one of the protesters and he said this was not in the plan at all. He said these people without jobs (covid) came down and started to go wild. They were peacefully protesting until they came.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Max, I’ve been reading the same thing. Peaceful protestors being infiltrated by violent agitators. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I know the answer isn’t destroying property.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. it’s a mess…the damn world is a mess right now. Yea the violence is hurting them. They need to separate themselves from that somehow

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Entwistle really was one of the greatest rock bass guitar players. I needed those two videos, thanks, Max. Helped my mood. I may get the book sometime, though while I love autobiographies, I’m not the greatest fan of biographies. First hand accounts are better – though of course John Entwistle didn’t exacctly stick around long enough to write it…

    I’ve read the Daltrey and Townshend ones. I enjoyed Roger’s one but I’m afraid while I’m a fan of Pete’s playing and music, his book just pissed me off as he was whining so much… that said, I had the same reaction to Clapton’s autobiography and one by Marianne Faithfull…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I dont’ know if you are a fan of The Band but Robbie Robertson has a really good one. He knows how to tell a story.

      Tony Fetcher’s book on Moon is over 500 pages and I wish it were 1000. I just cannot get enough of him. Whenever someone of age tells me they saw the Who…the first question I ask…with Moon?
      My neighbor saw them in Memphis in 70 or 71. I’ve drilled him about that concert.

      The only thing about autobiographies…are they leaving something out that they don’t like? John started but only got 4 chapters but that is in there.

      The best ones I’ve read recently are Keith Richards, Gregg Allman (I became a fan while reading it), and Robbie Robertson.

      Townsend can whine…I totally agree with that.


      1. Keith Richards’ autobiography is great – very down to earth, very real. That said, I tried to re-read it recently (I re-reads things a lot) and got a bit bored.

        I like some of The Band’s output.

        I saw The Who live three times. Once at Wembley Arena and twice at The Rainbow. All with Moon. Brilliant drummer.

        “someone of age” – hahaha! Not heard that before!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. LOL…yea someone of age is older than me! I could have seen him if someone would have taken me at 8 years old. They came to Murfreesboro TN in 1975 I believe. That was the last time Moon was in the area.

        I re-read a lot also. I’ll just open a book I’ve read and start from there.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I think we had a short conversation about the Ox and Squire. I’m a huge OO fan . I have an idea for a new CB take. “Solo’s I Love”. With John where do you start? I love his opening on ‘The Real Me’. Enjoyed the clips. Love that era of the Who. Where I came on board. ‘Live At Leeds’ record. Good take Max. I will pick this up. I feel a connection with these guys. Such a part of my music history. PS I could liten to John and Moon do their thing all day long.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I think of the term rock star…I think of Keith Moon. The man lived 3 life times in 32 years. John was something special. My fingers would always cramp trying to do The Real Me.
      Oh the solos…John did one live on the song 5:15 that is mind-boggling. His skills never diminished…he would do this solo right before he died. It’s on youtube.
      Live At Leeds…it doesn’t get better live than that….for pure rock and roll.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read a bio on Oliver Reed. Moon and him raised some hell.
        Yeah, you said it on your take, the members of the Who were about their sound. Bruce was another of the early bass men that got me. You’re coming at it from the musician side so you know the deal. My ears just perk up. I just liked John’s style. Balanced the band.
        ‘Live At Leeds’ is one of the best. I agree with you. After that you kind of lean a certain way.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oliver Reed…I must read something on him. I’ve watched a few of his movies. He had a quote on Moon ““I knew the path to the bar,” “but not to the bizarre. Keith showed me the way to insanity.”… That is pretty strong lol.

        Jack Bruce was awesome. His bass playing is rock/jazz and a big inluence…I know Clapton is what people talk about but man that bass is everywhere and on the mark.
        Something about WW2 Britain…I don’t know what was in the water but some great musicians born from that period.
        Speaking of live albums…I do like At Fillmore East also with the Allman Brothers.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. All good stuff Max. Yeah I think Moon was even off the rails for Oliver but he loved it.
        When I listen to the live cut of ‘Crossroads, it’s Jack’s playing that grabs me. Awesome.
        Little Feat and the Allmans are sounding better and better to me. ‘Fillmore’ is a smorg of good music.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Fillmore…it’s hard to believe any band could be THAT in sync with each other. Litte Feat yea man…the tops.

        Liked by 1 person

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