What’s appealing about The Ox is that The Who’s bassist wasn’t a truly great rock star. By focusing on Entwistle...Rees is able to tell the story of The Who from the side, as it were. He look at Daltrey and Townshend from a slant, and yet without distorting the picture, including the drugs, affairs, womanizing, marriages, divorces, and the addiction to spending money ... Rees, a veteran rock reporter and journalist, makes ample use of a manuscript that Entwistle began, but never finished in which he meant to tell the inside story of his rise from anonymity to notoriety ... Entwistle’s language is refreshing. So is his point of view ... Like so many other biographies of famous musicians, The Ox offers a cautionary tale about a man who began songs and couldn‘t finish them, much as he started his autobiography and never got to the end.
As it turns out, Entwistle was just as fascinating as his more voluble bandmates. The writing here is prosaic and lacking in flourish, but suited to its subject. Entwistle was the quintessential ordinary man living an extraordinary life ... All of this is recounted by Rees in an unfussy fashion. You feel the lack of contribution from Townshend and Daltrey, and we are told about Entwistle’s legendarily vicious wit without seeing examples of it, but the amiable [manager BIll] Curbishley has a lot of insight into the character of his former ward ... Most of all, though, The Ox makes being the bassist in the Who seem like the best and the worst job in the world, which, given Entwistle’s contradictory nature, is entirely fitting.
... this biography feels desperately passe ... No one expects a woke counter-narrative running alongside every scene, but Rees’s choice of material, without proper interrogation of its context and impact, often makes this a deeply uncomfortable read ... It’s a shame when some of Entwistle’s early writings—when he’s not talking about himself—are full of colourful details on what Britain was like after the war ... What fertile ground for mining the musician’s mind. It remains untouched ... This book doesn’t quite convey how thrilling the Who’s music, and Entwistle’s urgent, virtuosic bass-playing, could be ... details stack up without comment, presented alongside remarks from people such as the Who’s former tour manager John 'Wiggy' Wolff saying Entwistle was 'very moral, very upstanding.' If we are meant to read more between the lines, it isn’t clear: in 2020, it just reads as depressing and obsolete ... If Entwistle was the last of the great rock stars, then good riddance. Let’s hope music memoirs of this nature go the same way.