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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May 2003, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Visiting Entwistle's treasure trove
By Darryl Chamberlain
BBC News Online entertainment staff

John Entwistle
Entwistle died in July last year
Nearly 200 guitars belonging to The Who's late bassist John Entwistle are up for auction in London, along with several other unusual items.

At first sight it looks like a sad end to a rock star's career - scores of guitars, gold discs, outfits, and other memorabilia from a lengthy career, all set out waiting to be sold.

But then you see the poster for an early show as The Detours at The White Hart in Acton, west London ("girls two shillings before 8pm"), just a few miles from Sotheby's saleroom in West Kensington, and it's clear how far The Who's John Entwistle came in his career.

What is laid out at Sotheby's is the bulk of Entwistle's collection. But the word "collection" doesn't do it justice, because The Who's bassist wasn't just a world-class rock star, he was a pretty canny collector too.

Poster for an early Who gig (as the Detours)
Entwistle's mother kept the posters - the other Who members threw theirs away
There are 180 guitars in the sale, dating from the 1960s to the 1990s.

"It's an unprecedented sale," says Sotheby's specialist Stephen Maycock.

"Eric Clapton sold 100 guitars in 1999, and we've now got almost double that here."

The guitar collection is heaven for rock enthusiasts. "It's a just a shame Entwistle isn't here now to share these with us," says Mr Maycock.

"He loved tacky, ugly 60s guitars - he loved having them around him. And he'd always be buying and selling them to go up a grade."

Smashed basses

Sat at the centre of the collection is Frankenstein, the Fender Precision bass guitar used from 1967 and built from five smashed basses - in Entwistle's own words, "two hours with a Phillips screwdriver and a soldering iron and I was screaming 'It's alive, it's alive!'"

John Entwistle auction
Guitar heaven at Sotheby's
"He was always looking for a different sound, the perfect sound," explains Mr Maycock.

"The earlier guitars were very easy to put together - the complicated bit is the wiring."

It is valued at up to 7,000 - which Mr Maycock admits is a "very conservative" estimate.

Frankenstein was retired after 1979's Quadrophenia, as Entwistle concentrated on newer, more advanced guitars.

For those immune to the appeal of guitars, Enwistle's artwork stands out, featuring studies of himself, the other members of The Who, and other stars of the time - the 1960s and 1970s as seen through his eyes.

A self-portrait shows him in bright red flares, smoking a cigarette and looking glum - or moody - while another shows him as "Sir Henry Entwistle (The Silent Night)".

'Sherlock Townshend'

Pete Townshend appears as "Sherlock Townshend", while other sketches feature Jimi Hendrix, Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones.

The clothes are all here - an entire tour wardrobe is valued at 2,000-3,000, and skinny-fit tour jackets from when these were younger men are also on sale.

Generations, ink/felt pens
The Who, as seen by Entwistle
Another part of Entwistle's huge collection glares out over the clothes and the guitars - 29 fibreglass casts of fish he had caught over the years, which were taken back to his home in Gloucestershire, for display in his house, his recording studio, and in his bar.

Three surreal lamps made using baby sharks and driftwood are on sale, valued at up to 600, while divers' helmets and a ship's wheel also feature.

It is probably the most diverse rock auction since Elton John sold off much of his belongings in 1988.

A barracuda cast
One of Entwistle's catches
But here there is a lingering sadness surrounding this sale. His flight case - containing five guitars - was with him when he died in July 2002. It is valued at 8,000- 10,000.

In notes on his guitar collection he wanted to publish one day, Entwistle wrote: "I've been a collector of something or other all my life. It's a human characteristic to collect, to hoard, to desire to have the 'whole set'.

"Keith Moon used to collect nuts... they were attracted to him like a magnet.

"It was the same with me and guitars - only they were the magnets."

He continued: "I remember in my teens the long, late-night discussions with Pete Townshend on which guitars we were going to buy when we were rich and famous.

"Well, at least we got famous."

Who star's guitars on sale
13 May 03 |  Entertainment


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