John Entwistle was a big man, and he was much stronger than he looked. He looked plenty strong. But his size and power held one of the kindest hearts in rock.
Unfortunately, in a scrap, nobody cared about how kind his heart was. All that mattered was John was big.
And that meant he was strong.
And that meant he had to be taken out early.
The mood had been deteriorating all night. It just got uglier and meaner as the set dragged on.
As the Who ended “My Generation”, the instruments started to be sacrificed. Normally, this was where the band would indulge in an orgy of “auto-destruction” and then leave the stage.
But not tonight.
Tonight, the audience charged the stage.
John ended up buried under bodies, knocked down and beaten unconscious. Something hard hit him over the head as he slid into darkness.
He would find out later it was his own bass, ripped off his shoulders and used as a bludgeon.
And when John woke up, he could not hear. Every sound vanished behind a maddening wall of hissing static.
He lay there for a few moments, realising he was in a hotel room and his three bandmates were arguing at the foot of his bed.
Probably deciding whether or not to drag his ass to a doctor.
Figuring they’d wake him if they decided to, and figuring that since he couldn’t hear, their arguing wouldn’t bother him, John drifted back off to sleep.
When John woke again, he was in a hospital room. And the dull roar that was blocking the sound was still there. Turning his head, he saw an envelope propped against the water pitcher, with “John” in Pete’s formal scrawl across it.
He opened it, chuckling to find the letter inside was in Keith’s blocky teenage printing:
“Both tried to write this, but Roger writes worse than a doctor and Pete’s was so full of big words and self-blame that I figured you wouldn’t mind a bit of bait and switch.
“You’re going to be okay. Docs say your ear inside is all swollen from a bass to the head. Once it goes down you’ll hear okay again.
“Pete blames himself and Roger’s all ‘Oy! Must’ve been a hell of a hit to take the big man down!’ He looks like a bandit with his two black eyes. Pete’s left arm dislocated, but all is well now. Me? I’m fine. Fat lip, wrenched leg, wrenched arm – I’m fine.
“See you when we get back. We’re going to see if we can’t straighten Towser out.
“Yeah, see you in a few years,” John chuckled as he folded the note. “Gonna take this side of forever to get that man to stop blaming himself.”
Movement caught his eye, and he saw a frightened teenager slide into his room. “Hello?” The boy jerked and his mouth moved wildly.
John smiled. “I can’t hear, kid. You’ll have to write it down.”
And the boy dissolved into tears.
John watched him for a second. “You’re the one who clocked me, aren’t you?”
The boy’s wild nod told John everything.
Slowly, John got out of bed and tugged the boy to sit on it with him. “It’s not forever. I’ll get it back.” The boy looked at him hopefully, and he smiled and nodded, swallowing against the vertigo that motion caused.
“Came to apologise?” The boy nodded. “Feel real bad, don’t you?”
Another miserable nod.
“Go home, kid. Keep your nose clean and stay out of bar fights, and we’ll be even. Deal?”
The boy smiled and shook his hand, nodding all the while.
John watched him leave, feeling all was starting to be right with the world again.
And four hours later, when Keith blew into his room like a miniature whirlwind, John’s smile was huge and delighted.
It sounded very far away and he couldn’t yet make out any words – but he definitely could hear Keith’s excited voice.
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