"Hörst Stachelhaus" read the name badge.
It was January of 1990, and I was in Anaheim, California, chasing down autographs for my then-girlfriend. Elbowing my way through a sea of too-old-for-such-jet-black-hair industry folks, I was supposed to be working while at this National Association of Music Merchants convention. I managed a guitar shop, and we were looking for a new line.
Instead, I spent much of my time getting mementos from lite metal boys like Dokken's George Lynch (chemically augmented at 10 a.m. no less), Night Ranger's Jeff Watson (that other guitarist of theirs), and shred guru Joe Satriani. Autographs are awkward, especially since I wasn't getting these for myself. Yeah, the musicians were at autograph booths much of the time, but that still doesn't make wading into the throng for fame's scribble good for one's sense of integrity.
But shopping by himself, gathering no particular crowd, stood the Who's John Entwistle. The Ox was no fly-by-night chart-topper; he was the cornerstone for one of rock's cornerstone bands. His name badge was either a thin attempt at anonymity or a joke that only he got.
In the mid-80s, when the world was overtaken by Flock of Haircuts bands, my friends and I hoped against hope that the "farewell" tour of '82, which we'd all been too young to see, wouldn't really be the end.
And it hadn't been. The band rolled across the country in '89 as sort of a Who revue, complete with second guitarist, horns, and backup singers. They were good. Three of the four original members doing those incredible songs couldn't go wrong if they tried.
So here it was a few months later, and I was facing Herr Stachelhaus, who clearly did not want to be bothered. I understood, but...
"Excuse me, sir," I said. "Please, if it's not too much of a bother, would you please sign this for me?"
It was obviously a bother, and I couldn't blame him. There was a moment when he just stared at me, and I stared back, wide-eyed. He signed my paper and I thanked him, virtually prostrating myself before him with my manner.
All he did was nod without a word, and he did seem, for a moment, to understand.
I did see him again, in August of 2000 as the Who toured the U.S. just because they wanted to. No new material, no discernible reason. My wife was several months pregnant, and our unborn son jumped and kicked as the Who, pared to a five-piece, delivered a goosebump-inducing show. It was no oldies parade; it was the rock 'n' roll powerhouse I'd waited most of my life to see.
So now that Entwistle has rejoined Keith Moon (call it corny, but it's comforting somehow), that's why I thank him. Not for the scribbled autograph on ruled paper stuck in an album somewhere, but for the music.
Copyright © 2002 High Bias