The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Trophy Album

The concept of a "Trophy Album"

Last night, I scanned the cover of the debut John Entwistle solo album, "Smash Your Head Against The Wall" (re-mastered version, natch!) and then and there, I decided I had to hear it again. I went into the other room, put it in the CD player and was transfixed for the approx. 40 minutes that it takes to grind out that amusing little album. 40 minutes seemed like 3 minutes.

I knew every note, every word - yet I was still able to hear new things in it. Yes, I have a kindly nostalgia for this album, but...I am likely ready to declare it one of my all-time favorite albums, while trying to figure out if I want to pigeon-hole it any further than that. I like all of the songs on both sides; I feel like I could defend this album to a group of 'music geeks' as 'the definitive Who solo album' as well.

I had been a fan of The Who for about 3 or 4 years when "Smash Your Head" walked down the pike. I do not think that I 'knew it was coming' or anything - just pleasantly surprised when I went in to the downtown Long Beach hippie record store...and there it was, on the 'import wall'. Well, whatever else I was going to get that day is long-forgotten. And in those days, I usually only could scrape together enough money to buy ONE record - I was 12, going on 13.

Well - "Smash Your Head" penetrated deep - it told me exactly who John Entwistle was, within The Who. I was already a big fan - this was just additional 'proof' that I was on to a good thing with The Who. If you don't know it - there's still hope - there is a wonderful version available from the Sanctuary label, with plenty of illuminating bonus tracks - and I even see the LP from time to time!

Yes, there are variant versions of this album - the liner notes of the new CD issue say that he was never satisfied with the mix of the original UK Track Record LP - so when it saw the light of day in the US (on Decca - soon to become MCA, soon to become Universal), it featured some different mixes (notably on "What Are We Doing Here?" - different lead vocal!).

When this album was first issued on CD, there was a bonus track - a cover version of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" - that's on the new CD as well, along with a bunch of demos.

35+ years hence - I discuss this album with my friends that know and love it - we debate about whether or not "Pick me Up (Big Chicken)" is the definitive John Entwistle song; we compare his solo version of "Heaven & Hell" to th various versions recorded with The Who; it took me a few years, but after his 2nd album "Whistle Rhymes" - I have now finally really listened to the next few albums in his musical folder - "Rigor Mortis Sets In", "Mad Dog", "Too Late The Hero" - and, yes, I got to see The John Entwistle Band play live once - in a small nightclub (they had enough amplification to play The Rose Bowl!).

So, love it to death - his and mine! I felt bad when he died - but...hookers & drugs at The Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas - I suppose there are worse ways to die! And me? If at all possible, I will make people sit through some of this album, as it is played at my wake - whenever that is. But what cut to use? "Eternal Youth (No. 29)"?

With love,




Blogger Brian Ware said...

"Smash Your Head" and "Whistle Rhymes" were huge albums for me in high school as well. I can remember sitting at the piano banging out the chords to "Ten Little Friends". I was deep in my Alice Cooper fandom at the same time so Mr. Entwistle's dark lyric content was always appealing to me as well. "Trophy" albums? Well, for me those would have to be the first three Jack Bruce solo LPs. It's hard to describe how they transformed my perception of what pop music could sound like.

8:44 PM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

Well said, Brian.

I liked Alice Cooper, too - at the time of "Love It To Death" - but there has always been a soft spot for John Entwistle for me.

5:23 PM  

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