Thursday, October 16, 2008

John Entwistle 3: Rigor Mortis Sets In

It is rather telling that in the time between proper Who albums, John Entwistle had recorded and released three albums of his own. That does not suggest that he was just teeming with songs tragically stifled within the group context, because as each succeeding solo album demonstrated, he wasn’t.
He should of course be commended for keeping busy while waiting for Pete to need his services, and unlike Keith Moon, who didn’t have much else to do but drink, he put his own band together, christened Rigor Mortis in keeping with his black comedy reputation. Naturally, the American record label added his name to the cover and spine, to make it more clear to the casual consumer just who the artists were. From that sleeve, Rigor Mortis Sets In operated from the hypothesis that classic rock ‘n roll was dead, and therefore they needed to commemorate it while the body was still warm. The result was an album peppered with covers of standards soon to be familiar to anyone who watched Happy Days, surrounded by sarcastic originals performed in the same style. So if you wanted to hear what Entwistle would do with the likes of “Hound Dog”, “Lucille”, and “Mr. Bass Man”, the answer is not much.
“Gimme That Rock ‘N Roll” would be tolerable if the rest of the album didn’t sound like it. “Do The Dangle” gets its title from the dance craze described in the third verse (it involves getting a rope and kicking out a chair); the others are the Wheezy and the Strike, and are funny the first time. In the tragedy tradition is “Roller Skate Kate”, directly descended from Paul Anka’s “Donna" and loaded with sound effects and a monologue describing her demise. Following an interlude that sounds a lot like Keith Moon laughing in tune, we meet “Peg Leg Peggy” who, like the other afflicted girls in the same song, offers appeal similar to that of “Mary Ann With The Shaky Hand”. Of mild interest is “Made In Japan”, a somewhat jingoistic ditty bemoaning the lack of local manufacturing that is at least catchy. For further proof he didn’t have enough ideas, witness the whole unnecessary, near-carbon copy remake of “My Wife”. The closing “Big Black Cadillac” is a riff and a drum solo tasked with a non-story to support.
Not to sell the band short, as they were certainly competent, else he wouldn’t have hired them. There are clever moments throughout the album, but they don’t bear repeated listens. Rigor Mortis Sets In wasn’t exactly dead on arrival, but had little chance of recovery.

John Entwistle’s Rigor Mortis Rigor Mortis Sets In (1973)—2

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