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John Entwistle’s Gear: 1967–1968

Frankenstein is alive; Sunn, Solid-State, and Sound City amps

Bass guitars

  • Vox Sidewinder IV V272 bass in a burgundy-grain finish (as seen on Smothers Brothers show, September 1967)
  • Fender Bass VI.
  • Fender Jazz bass (used first American tour, July/August 1967)
    • A 1966 or 67 model, Fiesta(?) Red, on both body and headstock, bound rosewood fretboard with block fret markers.
  • Fender Precision Bass, in black (used August to at least October 1967)
  • Custom “Axe” Jazz bass (used at least 19–22 Nov. 1967)
  • Custom-made “Spider” bass
  • 1966 Fender Precision Bass (slab) in Olympic White, with maple neck
  • Fender Precision Bass, sunburst with rosewood fretboard (1968).
  • “Frankenstein”

    1965 sunburst (refinished in the mid-’70s to Fiesta Red/salmon pink) “Frankenstein” Fender Precision Bass with maple neck.

    The “Frankenstein” Precision bass (refinished)

    Click to view larger version: The “Frankenstein” 1965 Precision bass (refinished), with new pickguard.

    • Assembled from various basses, including the chrome pickup cover from a Fender Jazz Bass; the neck pickups and circuitry from two of John’s three “dead” slab basses.
    • Serial no. 13081, stamped on neckplate.
    • Used beginning 1967.

      JE: I put this together in San Francisco on a day off part way through a Who tour. It’s the remains of five smashed basses hence the name ‘Frankenstein’. In the mid 70’s it was retired from stage work so I had it refinished from sunburst into its present pink colour. I used this baby from 1967 onwards through ‘Tommy’ and all the tours up to ‘Quadrophenia’...The neck, pickups and circuitry are from a ‘dead’ slab bass, the tailpiece from a Jazz bass, the pickguard from a black P bass and the machine heads from 2 white P basses...Two hours with a Phillips screwdriver and a soldering iron and I was ranting around my hotel room screaming “It’s alive, it’s alive!”

      Quote from April 1994 Bassist interview
      Which sound was responsible for that amazing sound on Won’t Get Fooled Again?

      “That was Frankenstein, which I made from dead parts. I had a day off in San Francisco once and spent it screwing a bass together from five smashed Precisions including a couple of slab ones of which they only made about 20. I took the pickup and scratch plate from one of the slab Precisions, the neck from another, machineheads from a Jazz Bass, the body off a sunburst Precision and the tailpiece from another. The slab Precisions were like white, squared-off Telecasters, with a split pickup, a maple neck, black scratch plate and what looked like blue veins coming through the white paintwork. I don’t know what they used on them but those basses had a sound of their own, really raunchy with more of a growl than a regular Precision. I have about 35 Precisions, all with different colours and from different eras, but I always go back to Frankenstein.

      “I used Frankenstein through Hiwatts for the whole of ‘Tommy’, ‘Live At Leeds’ and ‘Who’s Next’ but by ‘Quadrophenia’ and Who By Numbers I was playing Gibson Thunderbirds. I felt I was getting stuck in a rut, using all the treble.

    • Sold in Sotheby’s May 2003 auction: estimated £5,000–£7,000; sold for £62,400.

Amplification

  • Two Marshall 1959 JTM100 Super Lead amplifiers into Marshall 1960A (angled front) and 1960B (straight front) or 1982A (angled front) and 1982B (straight front) speaker cabinets.
  • One (with another Marshall amp) or two Marshall 1967 Major Lead (The “Pig”) 200-watt amps into Marshall cabinets (as above).
  • U.S. Thomas Organ (Vox) V1143 Super Beatle solid-state amps and cabs (U.S./Canada tours only).
    • Used on North American tours and acquired through Vox deal signed in States by Chris Stamp.
  • Fender Showman amps and cabs (1967 U.S./Canada tours only; likely borrowed from Herman’s Hermits).
  • Two Sunn 100S amplifiers or, in 1968, two Sunn 200S amplifiers, with two or four Sunn 200S 2x15 cabinets (U.S./Canada tours only)
    • First known use 23 August 1967, Flint, Michigan, possibly purchased 15 or 16 August 1967 in Nashville.
    • Additional amps purchased from Manny’s Music in New York on or about 27 Nov., 1967, and first used on 29 Nov., 1967, at Union Catholic High School Gymnasium in Scotch Plains, New Jersey.
    • Some Sunn gear was abandoned at Canadian customs in July 1968.
  • Two modified Sound City L100 amps with four Sound City or Marshall 4x12s (UK/Europe tours only).

Vox U.S. Thomas Organ V1143 Super Beatle amp, owned by Brad Rodgers

Brad Rodgers owns the following Vox U.S. Thomas Organ V1143 Super Beatle. It was reportedly left with Murray the K following their shows in spring 1967. Vox Beatle amplifier model V1143, serial no. 1290020, and Vox Beatle Speaker Cabinet, model V4141, serial no. 195274. Images courtesy whocollection.com.

Click to view larger version. Super Beatle – front
Click to view larger version. Super Beatle – rear 1
Click to view larger version. Super Beatle – rear 2
Click to view larger version. Super Beatle – cabinet rear

Selected quotes

All quotes and references are copyright their original owners and are included for reference only.

From July 1967 Beat Instrumental article:

Sounds I Like – By Britain’s top Bassmen

John Entwistle

I’m using a Fender Telecaster bass on stage although I have a six-string and also a Precision, which I have modified—It’s finished in fur. Amps are two Sound City 10 watt units with 16x12″ speakers by Marshall. I like a “twang” sound, like [Duane] Eddy has but more bassy of course, with lots of bass and treble. I buy Rotosound wire-wound string for the twang I was talking about and I like a load of speakers in my set-up rather than a few large ones. I’ve been through the lot, 15″, 18″ but I found that they just flapped. It’s taken me six years to get the sound I want. It was four years before I could afford the gear that would give it to me. Now I think other groups are catching on the sound I use. I might be using reverb in the future.

From Guitar Player, October 1967

Excerpts from an interview with John Entwistle and Pete Townshend conducted June 18, 1967, in San Francisco, just prior to the Who’s appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival.

GP: What is your amp volume setting on a ratio of ten?

Entwhistle [sic]: Five or six, full treble. I use two amps: full treble and full base. The cabinets are split, so the treble comes out on top of the amp. I set my guitar about two-thirds on, and then at the end I turn it full up.

GP: What about amps?

Entwhistle: Sound City, they’re an English amp. We both use sixteen twelve-inch speakers and two two-hundred watt amps. That way we get a nice even sound.

Townsend [sic]: We use Vox in the States . . . Super Beatles, four altogether.

GP: Picks and strings?

Entwhistle: We both use Herco heavy-gauge nylon picks. And I use Roto-Sound heavy-gauge wirewound strings; they’re only available in England.

Difference in gear from UK to North America

The reason for the difference in gear in the 1967 U.S./Canadian shows was that the group could not afford the cost of importing their full gear and, instead, hired or borrowed gear once arriving in the U.S. Because of their financial straits, Chris Stamp, the Who’s manager, signed the group to an exclusive agreement with Vox to use their gear in the States.

On the first 1967 U.S. tours, including the March/April 1967 “Murray the K – Music in the Fifth Dimension” shows in New York, and the Monterey Pop festival in June, the Who used rented U.S. Thomas Organ (VOX) ‘Super Beatle’ 120w solid amplifiers and 4x12 (w/two horns) cabinets. The inferior quality of the gear is evident in the Monterey Pop show, where Jimi Hendrix, who had “learned” his gear setup from The Who, was able to bring his Marshall 4x12s and 100-watt amps, to great effect.

Following the use of the Super Beatles, for some dates in August 1967, John (and Pete) are seen with Fender Showman amps. It is likely these were borrowed from the Herman’s Hermits. Then, Pete and John began using two Sunn 100S 60-watt amplifiers (featuring KT88 valves) powering two or four JBL-loaded 2x15 cabinets. The first documented use of Sunn amps by John is 23 August 1967.

Mark “Hoss” Amans, roadie for the Blues Magoos, has written that he purchased Sunn amplifiers and Coliseum PA in Tualatin, Oregon, on 14 July 1967, as the tour stopped in Portland. Because the Herman’s Hermits were sponsored by Fender and had matching amps, and the Who were sponsored by Vox and had matching Super Beatles, he thought it appropriate that the Blues Magoos also have a matching backline. So as the tour rolled on, it is possible the Who used some of these Sunn amps. The Who and Hermits did use the Sunn Coliseum PA for the tour.

Excerpted from Mark “Hoss” Amans book, Where The Action Was:

When we were in Calgary, the Blues Magoos didn’t have matching equipment on stage. Hermans Hermits were sponsored by Fender, and they had all large Fender-dual showman amplifiers. The Who were sponsored by Vox, and had six Super Beatle Vox amplifiers. This was an amplifier I was well familiar with, because when I was with the Raiders, we were sponsored by Vox, as well. I knew Con and Norm Sundholm, because Norm used to play bass with the Kingsmen, and his brother Con started an amplifier company called Sunn, out of Tualatin, OR, just south of Portland.

So when we got to Portland, OR, to play the second gig of the tour, I called up Norm at the plant and told him my situation with the Blues Magoos. Here we were in the beginning of our tour, and I needed amplifiers and PA, bad. The Who, and The Herman Hermits didn’t even carry a PA with them, and in those days, we always carried our own equipment. We very rarely relied on the house to supply amps or PA systems. Keep in mind that this was long before the huge rental systems came into play.

So I took Mike Esposito with me and went to the Sunn factory. We went inside and told them exactly what we needed, and the guys really came through for us and sponsored The Blues Magoos with all Sunn equipment. We had all of the amplifiers for all of the instruments that we needed, and I told them that I wanted a Sunn Coliseum PA system which was customized with two horns on top of each speaker cabinet and two bottoms to a side. So that’s four horns to a side, and two bottoms to a side. And to this day, I still love that system.

I got back to The Coliseum with all of the gear in plenty of time to start the show. Even though though The Blues Magoos were better known at the time than The Who, the guys volunteered to open the show, and they let The Who play second, and The Hermits headlined. So I set up all of the Sunn amplifiers and PA, brand new, right out of the cardboard box. Looked very impressive.

The tour manager, Ed McAdams, used to handle a lot of the Dick Clark tours, and he knew me well. He put me in charge of all three of the road crews, because of my past experience. So unloading the truck, we had all of the Super Beatle amps, all of the Fenders, and all of the new Sunn gear from Portland. Also, all three groups used the Sunn Coliseum PA system, and they all liked it a lot. So I had to teach other roadies and cross-train them on all of the gear on stage. I was also in charge of the stage set up, all of the lighting, the sounds, and backstage security.

In the middle of the tour, The Who had to break away on a couple of off days and go to Tennessee to record a song called “I Can See For Miles”. They had damaged their amplifiers so bad because on their ending song called “My Generation”, they would kick the drum kits over, jam the guitars into the speaker cabinets of the Vox Super Beatle amps, knock the amps over, and break the guitars and throw them into the audience.

They also played so loud that one night I was I was watching standing off on stage left next to Peter Townsend [sic], and I looked down behind him between him and the amps and I saw a brass screw coming out of the deck. The vibrations from the amps were so strong that it loosened the screw and came all the way out of the stage and fell over.

They asked us if they could use our Sunn amps to record the song, “I Can See For Miles”, and The Blues Magoos said, “Sure, go ahead.” So I can say my Sunn amps are the amps that are on that song.

When the tour was over, they left all of their broken gear with the Blues Magoos, and we put it in the garage of our band house. They didn’t want to take it back to England with them. During the tour I had called Warren T. Hampton at Vox, who was the artist relations manager, and told him these guys were destroying their equipment. He didn’t know exactly what to say and I described to him how they were jamming their guitar necks into the grill cloths and speakers and kicking over the amps.

Bob Pridden has indicated the group purchased additional Sunn gear, including a Sunn PA, from Manny’s in New York, likely following the 25 Nov., 1967, Village Theatre date in New York, and prior to the 29 Nov., 1967, date in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. As a part of their use, the Who also provided endorsement for the Sunn gear.

They would continue to use the Sunn gear until 15 July 1968, when they abandoned their gear at Canadian customs in Toronto after Pete and Roger had their passports stolen in Cleveland the night before, and were unable (or unwilling) to satisfy a $20,000 customs bond.

Beginning on or about 20 July 1968, they began using their Sound City gear in North America, with first known date at The Dome, Virginia Beach, Virginia, 20 July 1968, though John would continue to use Sunn as well for the remainder of 1968 tours.

Ca. May 1967, with Fender Bass VI.

Ca. May 1967, with Fender Bass VI.

Ca. 1967, with two modified Sound City L100 amps

6 May 1967, Stockholdm, Sweden, with two modified Sound City L100 amps and two 1982B (extra tall) Marshall 4x12s (tops) and 1982A (straight-front) Marshall 4x12s (bottoms). Bass is the 1966 slab Fender Precision Bass.

Ca. 1967, backstage with the custom “Boris the Spider” bass.

Ca. 1967, backstage with the custom “Boris the Spider” bass.

Ca. March/April 1967, Murray The K shows, with Vox U.S. Thomas Organ V1143 Super Beatles. (Photo: SoundCityChris)

Click to view larger version. Ca. March/April 1967, Murray The K shows, with Vox U.S. Thomas Organ V1143 Super Beatles.

Ca. July 1967, U.S. tour with U.S. Thomas Organ (Vox) V1141 Super Beatle solid-state amps and cabs.

19 July 1967, Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S. tour with Pete and John using U.S. Thomas Organ (Vox) V1143 Super Beatle solid-state amps and cabs. Bass is 1966 or 1967 Fender Jazz with block fret markers.

Ca. July 1967, U.S. tour with U.S. Thomas Organ (Vox) V1141 Super Beatle solid-state amps and cabs.

19 July 1967, Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S. tour with 1966 or 1967 Fender Jazz with block fret markers, and U.S. Thomas Organ (Vox) V1143 Super Beatle solid-state amps and cabs.

13 Aug. 1967, Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C., with 1966 or 1967 Fender Jazz with block fret markers, and U.S. Thomas Organ (Vox) V1143 Super Beatle solid-state amps and cabs.

13 Aug. 1967, Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C., with with 1966 or 1967 Fender Jazz with block fret markers, and U.S. Thomas Organ (Vox) V1143 Super Beatle solid-state amps and cabs.

Ca. 1967, in the U.S., with one Sunn 100S amplifier and two Sunn 200S 2x15 cabinets.

23 Aug., 1967, Atwood Stadium, Flint, Michigan, John’s and Pete’s first known use of Sunn amplifiers. One Sunn 100S amplifier and two Sunn 200S 2x15 cabinets. Herman’s Hermits’ Fender gear set up behind John.

25 Aug. 1967, Kiel Opera House, St. Louis, Mo., with Fender Showman amps with 2x15 cabinets. Photo courtesy Paula Wills, stlbook.com.

25 Aug. 1967, Kiel Opera House, St. Louis, Mo., with Fender Showman amps with 2x15 cabinets, likely borrowed from the Herman’s Hermits. Photo courtesy Paula Wills, stlbook.com.

Ca. early 1967, with black Fender Precision, two modified Sound City L100 amps stacked, and two 1982B (extra tall) Marshall 4x12s.

Ca. October 1967, Saville Theatre, with black Fender Precision, two modified Sound City L100 amps stacked, and two 1982B (extra tall) Marshall 4x12s.

Ca. 1967, in the U.S., with two Sunn 100S amplifiers and Sunn 200S 2x15 cabinets. Bass is custom “Axe” bass.

19 Nov. 1967, Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, with two Sunn 100S or 200S amplifiers and Sunn 200S 2x15 cabinets. Bass is custom “Axe” bass. Courtesy Mark Herman.

Ca. 1967, in the U.S., with two Sunn 100S amplifiers and Sunn 200S 2x15 cabinets. Bass is custom “Axe” bass.

18 Nov. 1967, Cow Palace, San Francisco, with custom “Axe” bass.

Ca. 1967, with two modified Sound City L100 amps and four Sound City 4x12 cabs.

Ca. 1967, with two modified Sound City L100 amps and four Sound City 4x12s. Bass is the 1966 slab Fender Precision Bass.

August 1968, at the Singer Bowl, New York, with two Sunn 100S amplifiers and two Sunn 200S 2x15 cabinets. Bass is Sunburst Fender Precision Bass with rosewood fretboard.

2 Aug. 1968, at the Singer Bowl, New York, with two Sunn 100S amplifiers and two Sunn 200S 2x15 cabinets. Bass is sunburst Fender Precision Bass with rosewood fretboard.

6 Aug. 1968, Music Hall, Boston, closeup of John’s two stacked Sunn 200S amplifiers, with unknown pedal or splitter on stage.

6 Aug., 1968, Music Hall, Boston, closeup of John’s two stacked Sunn 200S amplifiers, with unknown pedal or splitter on stage.

10 August 1968, Jaguar Club, St. Charles, Ill. (Photo: Rick Giles)

Click to view larger version. 10 August 1968, Jaguar Club, St. Charles, Ill. Bass is sunburst Fender Precision Bass with rosewood fretboard. (Photo: Rick Giles)
For more, see The Who at the Jaguar, 10 August 1968.

10 August 1968, Jaguar Club, St. Charles, Ill., stage-side view, post-show (Photo: Rick Giles)

Click to view larger version. 10 August 1968, Jaguar Club, St. Charles, Ill., stage-side view, post-show. (Photo: Rick Giles)
For more, see The Who at the Jaguar, 10 August 1968.

Ca. 1968, in the U.S., four Sunn 200S 2x15 cabinets stacked vertically.

17 Aug., 1968, at Phoenix, Arizona, four Sunn 200S 2x15 cabinets stacked vertically, driven by two Sunn 200S amplifiers. Unknown pedal or splitter at far left of stack. Bass is sunburst Fender Precision Bass with rosewood fretboard.

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