Fishing lines: He sure could play a mean bass
Sunday 18 May 2003
Optimists say that when you die, you go to a place where you are surrounded by everything you wanted in life. If that's true (and I have no inside knowledge one way or the other), then John Entwistle should be surrounded by predatory fish at this very moment.
Not a lot of people know this, but Entwistle, least frenetic member of The Who, liked fishing. No, change that. He was passionate about it. The Who's singer, Roger Daltrey, in a eulogy to the former bass player, said: "If John had had it his way, we would probably have been on the road 365 days a year. No, make that 351, as he would have still wanted to have his two weeks' fishing."
Entwistle, awarded the accolade of Greatest Bass Player of the Millennium, had one small edge over the rest of us. He had money. This not only allowed him to go big-game fishing in exotic places such as the Bahamas and Hawaii (I'm told the Florida Keys was his favourite), but also gave him the chance to remind himself of those more restful days.
In his vast house at Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucester-shire, Entwistle built himself a pub he called the Barracuda Inne. Well, you could put a few bottles of sangria in your front room and do the same. But Entwistle had a bit more space than you or I, and he filled it with fish.
Whenever he caught a shark, tuna, marlin or sailfish, he had a life-size, glass-fibre model made and shipped from Florida to Stow, where he displayed it on the wall or hanging from the ceiling. When he died last year, more than 100 of these fish decorated not just the Inne but also the billiard room, bathrooms and bedrooms. (Not one of the models was of a guitar fish, a shark-like member of the skate family. I can't explain why.)
I move in slightly less rarefied circles, and never got an invite. But I've seen photographs. The Barracuda Inne is, or was, an extra-ordinary sight, like being inside a vast aquarium where everything was predatory (a bit like life, I guess).
All good things, alas, come to an end. Entwistle died aged 57 on the eve of The Who's 2002 tour of America. The family, who tolerated rather than adored his angling passion, emptied the tank. And at Sotheby's in London this week, Entwistle's shoals of fish, along with his vast array of guitars, were sold at auction.
The hammerhead sharks, wahoo, roosterfish and barracuda unsurprisingly were less coveted than those guitars, one of which sold for £95,200. (The whole sale raised £1,093, 372.)
Displaying an 8ft hammerhead or a 10ft marlin would probably mean evicting one or two members of the family. Still, the downside would surely be outweighed by the benefits: wonderful talking point, no inane chattering, scares annoying children, cheap to feed. And it carries a small part of John Entwistle's soul.
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