Throughout his life, John Entwistle was renowned for his eclectic choice of instruments, but few of them are as celebrated - and none quite as unique - as the "Frankenstein" Precision Bass that was his main weapon of choice for the Who's stage & studio work from 1967 to 1971.
Ostensibly, Frankenstein appeared to be a 1965 three-colour sunburst Fender Precision with a maple neck (serial no. 13081), but its origins are far more arcane. Just like Mary Shelley's renegade scientist, Entwistle actually brought life to this unholy beast himself, from the remains of a number of dead basses - including two rare 1966 UK only limited edition "slab" body P-Basses - during down time on The Who's 1967 US tour.
As John explained...
I had a day off in San Francisco once and spent it screwing a bass together from five smashed Precisions including a couple of slab ones, of which they only made about 20. I took the pickup and scratch plate from one of the slab Precisions, the neck from another, machineheads from a Jazz Bass, the body off a sunburst Precision and the tailpiece from another... Two hours with a Phillips screwdriver and a soldering iron and I was running around my hotel room screaming “It’s alive! It’s alive!”
Thus Frankenstein was unleashed!
The scavenged bass was used prominently (through his awesome Hiwatt rig) for the next four years, a period during which The Who conquered Woodstock, became renowned as one of the World's most incendiary live acts and released their breakthrough rock opera "Tommy" as well as the stone-cold classics, "Who's Next" and "Live At Leeds", one of the all-time great live rock 'n' roll albums. So when you listen to John's fluid, melodic lines driving "Pinball Wizard" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" or his corrosive, snarling solo on the Leeds' live cut of "My Generation", that's Frankenstein you're hearing, in all its feral glory.
Although Entwistle retired the bass from onstage work in the mid 70's, at which point he had it refinished from sunburst to salmon pink, he remarked in a 1994 interview with Bassist magazine... “I have about 35 Precisions, all with different colors and from different eras, but I always go back to Frankenstein.”
Many of John Entwistle’s belongings and personal effects were auctioned off after his untimely passing in June 2002, including his incredible instrument collection. Frankenstein itself went under the hammer at Sotheby’s Auction House in London in May 2003, where it was expected to fetch something in the region of £5,000 to £7,000... after heated bidding, the bass eventually sold to an anonymous American buyer for a staggering £62,400 ($100,000).
Of course such a high price tag isn't so staggering when you consider that John's legacy and influence as a musician remains so strong. in 1999, Musician Magazine crowned him "Bassist of The Millennium" and, in a 2011 Rolling Stone reader's poll, holding his own against a whole new generation of amazing players, he was still voted the #1 bass player of all-time.
Quite simply, John's effortless cool, unique personality and his truly groundbreaking reinvention of the role of the bass in modern rock music make him one of a kind and, with The Bass Centre "Frankenstein", we are proud to pay tribute to an amazing musician, a genuine, gentlemen rock 'n' roller and a good & valued friend.
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Frankenstein in original sunburst finish at the Isle Of Wight Festival, August 1969
On the cover of a rare Brazilian re-issue of the classic 1970 "Live At Leeds" album
Going, going.... gone. Under the hammer at Sotheby's Auction House in May, 2003