Thursday the 18th [May 18, 2000] started like any other day except for the fact that I was getting ready to fly to England. Why? To begin shooting a documentary on my friend, business partner and of course the bass guitarist of the millennium....John Entwistle.
How did this come about you ask? Well, it began with an e-mail from Justin Kreutzmann. Justin is a film maker with several impressive credits. He mailed me about doing a piece on the John Entwistle Band. I didn't think the timing was right for a JEB piece but the more I thought about it the idea of a piece about John and his history kept popping into my mind. Eventually Justin sent me his demo reel and full length pieces he had done on bands like the Grateful Dead, The Black Crowes and others. I forwarded the tapes to John while Justin and I began brainstorming about a video project. One thing lead to another and eventually we found an investor who agreed to finance the initial UK shoot.
So here I am packing for another trip to rock and roll wonderland. I was picked up at 8:30 for my usual 11:10 flight from Kennedy in NYC. When I arrived at Kennedy I found out that the flight was delayed because of weather so I headed for the Virgin lounge for a bite to eat and some virtual reality games. Finally....we boarded and I was asleep before we hit 10,000 feet. I slept most of the way and woke up in England 2 hours later than I was supposed to.. The plan was for me to meet Justin who was flying in from San Francisco. His flight arrived almost the same time as mine in the same terminal. It would have been perfect if my plane wasn't late. Oh well the best laid plans.... So Justin and I meet in person for the first time and then into the car for the journey to John's. We talked about the project and started to form a schedule to follow for the next 4 days.
When we got to John's, he and Lisa were waiting with the dogs (Scarlet and Marlene). Hugs and kisses were followed by the exchange of presents. Over the years it has become tradition for me to bring an animated toy from the gift shop at Cracker Barrel. It began a few years ago with John purchasing a sunflower in a pot that blinks its eyes and sings You Are My Sunshine. After a couple of months on the bus with this thing we were all ready to murder the little bastard. It is triggered by movement and scared everyone that passed it. And after the fright you had to listen to the thing sing THE WHOLE SONG......!!! Believe it or not the toy made it back to England with John at the end of the tour and it was waiting to greet us when we walked into the bar sort of like a Chucky doll. So what was the animated gift this trip? Billy The Big Mouth Bass. It's a mounted fish that sings Take Me To The River and Don't Worry Be Happy. The tail flaps and the head turns as the mouth moves perfectly with the lyrics. I also brought the dogs some talking collars. You can record a digital message on the collar and play it back. I can't wait to hear what gets recorded on these things.
We walked out to John's studio to say hello to Bobby Pridden who was in the middle of mixing a new album for Pete Townshend. It sounded great as Bobby's work always does.
More hugs and after that we all went into the bar to examine "the new rig" for the up coming Who tour. John fired it up! Wow its sounds like a whole band all by itself. No matter how may times I hear it (and I have heard it plenty, on stage and off) it always sounds new and fresh to me. He has a one of a kind sound. No mistake...that's Entwistle. He has added some new components including Ashdowne amps that look as cool as they sound. After a quick dazzling display of bass wizardry we headed back to the kitchen.
Enter stage left....some friends. Sonia, John, Nicki and Gary.....oh boy, here comes a party. Then Bobby Pridden and his son Ben. John made "Billy" sing for everyone that entered the room and we wound up having a blast as we always do. John started telling stories and I kept thinking "save that one for the video...no no save that one too....." John has added some speakers and power to all of the TVs in the house so every room has its own mini theater....did I say mini? Everything looks and sounds great and as many of you know already he has about every video or DVD that was ever made. Each system has every kind of player made, video, DVD, DAT, MINI DISK, CD and whatever else Sony makes. Oh wait a minute...no turntable or 8 track????
As I have said before "in the States I am an early riser." My day is from 8am to about 12 or 1am unless we are touring. In England and especially at John's I keep the same schedule but since it's 5 hours later here than in NY I wind up being on John's schedule which is more like 12pm to 6am. Sometimes things just work out like that. Justin and I are looking forward to starting tomorrow and John has already had a lot to offer as far as the project goes.
The video gear has arrived from the hire company in London so now it's official.....we're starting a video tomorrow. We started looking at some of the archival footage that we brought from the states including the very first notes I ever played with John Entwistle. How cool it is to look back at our friendship and musical collaboration over the years. Nicki asked me about how we (John and I) met. As we watched the video I told her the old NAMM story about how we were introduced and I asked him to jam. As we watched that performance she said "this is so cool" and I looked at the screen and said "at this point he doesn't even know my name." Man, we have come a long way in 13 years. Justin and I continued to watch old footage of The Who and the JEB until it was time to turn in. I am looking forward to this project.
Day 2: We spent most of the day doing pick up shoots of the house and grounds. The 2 most important shots for today are both in John's bar. We are doing "the rig" section first and then some impromptu conversation. We started off by having John show us his new rig setup. The thing really sings and poor Justin has to sit right in front of the speakers while filming John playing. OK, so much for his left ear. At least he still has one good one...for the time being. John played his ass off. His bass was ripping Justin's head off but Justin didn't seem to mind. I am sure the shots are great to match the demonstration that JE was putting forth. Things were falling off of the piano including a glass of red wine. The wine made a large red stain on the oriental carpet which was mostly white. John said we should pour white wine on it and scrape it up with a spoon while it was wet. But we were so into the shoot that we didn't. After a while Lisa came in and poured some salt on it because it had dried. Guess what....it didn't work. Was John upset? No! He said we should make an outline of a body with tape to make it look like a crime scene. So we did! I got some white tape from the studio and created an outline with the wine stain near the head.... The next shot was John and I talking about the rig and his preparations for the upcoming tour. The conversation reconfirmed that the only thing John gets nervous about before a tour is his equipment. I have decided not to go into too much detail about the subject matter except to say that as always John's quick wit and dark sense of humor is in full view. After that shot was finished we moved over to the bar to continue talking. Instead of doing it interview style we decided to take the fly on the wall approach and just let the camera run while we partied and talked. I am hoping we will capture the life that John lives outside of his career. I have known John for 13 years but somehow the stories still seem fresh as he tells them again. We shot for hours and captured some rare moments. As I said I won't go into detail but I doubt that many of the stories from this nights shoot have ever been heard before. At least they have never been recorded.
Day 3: We wanted to get some shots of John working in his art cottage. Justin and I went over to the cottage to set up and found that all the camera lights would make it uncomfortably hot, which might get in the way of John working or telling stories. We are trying to capture a relaxed atmosphere and the heat would have interfered. Justin tore down that setup and moved into the dinning room in the main house. John often does art work on the huge formal table so it seemed to make sense to shoot this section in there. John fiddled with a drawing of Hendrix. We talked about art, rock & roll, touring, marriage, career and singing Al Jolson songs while standing on a table. The range of conversation was wide and we wound up shooting in there for the better part of 3 hours. Once again I heard stories that I have heard a million times but they were just as intriguing as the first time I heard them. We asked John about Mrs. Gibbs because we were planning on interviewing her the following day. I know.....who is Mrs. Gibbs? I am NOT telling. I am hoping to turn Mrs. Gibbs into a rock icon or at least a trivial pursuit question.
Day 4: 10:30 time to go interview Mrs. Gibbs. I know I said I wasn't going to tell you about her and I am not. I am sure that there is some clever person out there that can expose my secret. All I will say about Mrs. G is that her interview was all I had hoped it would be. She was perfect and a great addition to the story. You'll see...
Next it was time to set up at Queenie's (John's Mother). I have known Queenie almost as long as I have known John and she is interesting, intelligent and very funny. Her view of John's career is unique and I think we captured that during her interview. She told us a lot of stories that I had never heard. I was listening to a mother talk about her child. It sounded like any mother talking about their offspring. The only difference is that her son is one of the greatest musicians in the world. She also talked about the fans and said she trades letters with several of them. She seems to enjoy doing it.
After we finished at Queenie's house Justin went to set up in John's studio where Bobby Pridden was mixing a new Pete Townshend album. We did some cutaways of Bobby mixing. The PT album was recorded live. When we started Bobby's interview we talked about that fact that this would be the 4th live album in a row that was mixed at John's studio. It started with Left for Live then Sadler's Wells, Blues to the Bush and now Pete's new one. We talked about how John and Keith were the ones that brought Bobby into The Who. They took him out for a drink at a local pub, Bobby bought a round and that got him the job. Bobby and John both said separately it was most likely the last round he ever bought.
Now it's time to finish with John. He said he wanted to do his last interview for this piece while sitting behind the wheel of his new Rolls with the drop top down. He looks cool behind the wheel even if he doesn't know how to drive.
When John was done we finished the shoot with Lisa outside. She talked about life with John, hopes and dreams and the fact that she felt safe in the house while John was touring. Why shouldn't she...with 10 dogs roaming the property and a security system that will drive you deaf and the same time you are being devoured by the hounds of the Entwistles. After all the interviews were over we all went out to dinner. Justin, Queenie, Gary, Nicki, Sonia, Chris, Leah, Lisa, John and me.
Towards the end of the night I grabbed one of the photocopies of Jimi Hendrix. It was one of the ones John was working on during the interview in the dining room the night before. He makes these photocopies to test out different colors. I got his pen box and started adding my own colors to the black and white line drawing. John saw this and started coaching me. It's not as easy as you might think. When I was done John said I should sign it. I said "But I only colored it in." So he took the picture and wrote "Drawing by John Entwistle" and I wrote "Color by Steve Luongo." I will have it mounted and hang it in my studio. Jimi is wearing a red and blue jacket with gold trim and he's playing a sea-foam green Stratocaster.
As always everyone drifts home at different times. This is truly my second family...I will miss them when I leave tomorrow. I stayed with John and Lisa until about 3am and then I went back to my cottage. When I got back to the cottage Justin was finishing his packing and I still had mine to do. Justin said he would wake me to say goodbye. His flight to San Francisco leaves at 11:30am. Mine is at 6:30pm.
Day 5: Justin woke me at 8am and we said goodbye. Gary woke me at 8:30am to get the keys to the land cruiser so he could haul the video gear back to the hire company in London....thanks Gary. Sonia woke me at 11am to ask if I wanted to have lunch. Gary woke me at 11:30am to tell me he was on his way back from London. I figured I should get up. No one else called.... Gary and Sonia both stopped by later to say goodbye and have a cup of tea. We chatted for a while and then they left, I finished packing and went to the main house to wait for my car. Bobby was there and we said goodbye although I will see him in NY on the 6th of June. I went upstairs and said goodbye to John and Lisa. I hate that part. My car arrived, I hopped in and it was off to Heathrow. The drive though check in is a breeze. After the lady comes to the car to check you in they drive you right up to the lounge. A quick lunch and time to board. I called Laurie from the plane to say I was on my way home. As I finish this journal I am sitting in seat 1H. It has been a great trip. I believe we will edit the footage into an entertaining documentary and add to the legacy of John Entwistle. The bassist of the millennium......and my friend!
Thanks for reading, Steve Luongo
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