Our next pick in The 2020 PopCult Gift Guide is the biography of John Entwistle, the original bass player for The Who. This is perfect for any fan of The Who, any bass player, or anybody who just enjoys a good life story.

The Ox: The Authorized Biography of The Who’s John Entwistle
by Paul Rees
Hachette Books
ISBN-13: 978-0306922855

The Who are, of course, one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Their concept album TOMMY defined the Rock Opera genre, and their greatest hits include some of the most recognizable songs of our times.

Of the four men who made up the band, Pete Townshend, the flamboyant guitarist and main songwriter and Roger Daltry, the lead singer and face of the band have both written autobiographies. The short, tragic life of drummer Keith Moon has been detailed in several books, some of which have been optioned for the big screen. The band as a whole have had their history told in the pages of more than a few books.

But John Entwistle, the late bass player for the band who many consider to be the glue that held The Who together, remained a bit of an enigma, until now. Paul Rees, with the participation and support of Entwistle’s family and friends, plus access to Entwistle’s partially-completed autobiography, has crafted an in-depth look at the life of a complex and troubled man who made amazing music while living life as large as possible to soothe some deep wounds.

We see many sides of John Entwistle, the sickly wartime child of a broken marriage, the geeky fan of Mad Magazine, the immaculate musican, the heavy drinker who never seemed to get drunk, the collector, the control freak who had to stand in the background and ultimately a man who succumbed to his demons, albeit on a much more leisurely schedule than his bandmate, Moon.

Rees tells the story in a very British voice, completely appropriate here, and allows Entwistle to speak directly through large excerpts of his unfinished autobiograhy. This is enhanced with interviews of family members, friends and fellow musicians to create a oral history of the life of John Entwistle. It’s warts-and-all, as we see Entwistle at his most romantic and generous, but also at his most excessive and spiteful.

If I have any real criticism of the book, it’s that it’s too short. The Ox: The Authorized Biography of The Who’s John Entwistle clocks in at over 300 pages, but you get the impression that there was enough material here for a book more than twice as long. Commercial considerations require the book to be kept to a manageable size, and the brisk presentation employed by Rees keeps the story of Entwistle’s life moving at an engrossing, almost breakneck, pace, but I could see myself readily buying a subsequent volume, or volumes, that cover each period of Entwistle’s life in greater detail.

The Ox: The Authorized Biography of The Who’s John Entwistle is a remarkable oral history of the life of one of the most overlooked, yet essential, elements in some of the greatest rock music ever recorded. You can order it from any bookseller using the ISBN code above, or just get it from Amazon.