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Guitarist: John Entwistle talks to Tony Jasper

Excerpt from October 1974 Guitarist interview with John Entwistle.

I was playing trumpet in a dance band, playing at interesting venues like Joe Lyons and social clubs. I was quite interested in the guitar in the band, but the guitarist kept breaking strings. I think he must have tuned it wrong. Anyway, I had a guitar-playing friend who had made his own amp, and he wanted me to join him in a group, playing trumpet. When we got together he was louder than me, so I thought I’d better enquire into this guitar thing! I looked at 6-strings, but I found bass was much easier — mainly because the strings are further apart. There were only two or three you could buy here in those days, Tuxedo, Star and Lucky 7, and they were all too expensive. I wanted a Fender, but they just weren’t available. I think Jet Harris was the only person who had one then.

So what did you do about that?

I had one made up, same sort of shape, but not really very good. It had a great, square-backed neck, just glued on to the body. One day I was playing it, the glue gave out and I had an instant four-string harp!

Did you have a bass that stayed together by this time?

The Detours had a new singer and he was also a bass guitarist, but he had some HP troubles. He kept the guitar hidden under his girl friend’s bed. He said I could have it if I paid off his £50 HP debt. It was a Fender Precision. I was around 16 at the time.

And The Who had started?

Yes, only we were called The High Numbers at first. We had an agent and we were quite busy — about five gigs a week around west London. I made a mistake about the Precision. I was ignorant about amps and speakers, and because evertyhing sounded rather weird I got rid of it and got a Rivoli. Later I regretted parting with the Fender, but then the group began to get very popular and I found I could afford better guitars.

You had a Rickenbacker, didn’t you?

Yes, Townshend used Rickenbacker guitars and I had a Rickenbacker bass. That was around 1963–64. But the neck went on that one. Then I bought a Gretsch bass with a neck like a tree trunk and I found I got rather tired playing it. So I bought a small Danelectro. Then I rediscovered Precisions and used them exclusively up until three years ago.

And what since then?

From about the time of the Who’s next album I used a cross between a Gibson Thunderbird and a Precision. I had it made for me with a Fender neck and the Thunderbird body, with Gibson bridge and fittings. Now I’m back to Precisions, but I’m happy with anything really, as long as it’s long-scale. I need to have the right feel when I’m on stage, and short-scale basses just don’t feel right for me.

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