Tales From Topographic Oceans – One Man’s Story

Yes boring the hell out of people in 1974
Please God, not another bass solo …

We often witness feats of incredible human endurance.

People ride the Tour de France, climb the north face of the Eiger or do triathlons all of the time.  And we applaud those people. 

But what about the everyday heroes who don’t make the headlines? 

We went in search of people who have endured the unendurable without resorting to tedious amounts of exercise.

And we found one.  Here is the remarkable story of Simon Entwhistle, an otherwise ordinary man from Redditch who pulled off a feat that few could ever match.

Going for the one

It was back in the ‘70s.  It started out as a drunken bet, to be honest.  Me and my mate were talking about prog rock and he reckoned that nobody could ever listen to Yes without being stoned beyond the call of duty.  He challenged me and that was that.  I had my mission.

I started with five-minute bursts and worked up slowly to the main event but within the space of three months I felt that I was ready.

I went for it and somehow, I did it.  I actually listened to the entirety of Tales From Topographic Oceans in one sitting!  And I did it without drugs – so stick that in your crack-pipe and smoke it, Lance Armstrong!


It was touch and go for a while.  85 minutes into the first track, I was actually crying tears of boredom.  I freely admit that the very notion of another six and half hours of aimless noodling filled with me abject terror. 

But once the agony hits a certain level, things change.  Your mind just gives up and shuts off.  It’s been screaming at you to stop for 20 minutes of aimless keyboard solo and you haven’t responded.  Then it just kind of gives up and says “okay, I’m going to take a kicking here, get it over with.”

After that, the next hour or so was relatively easy.  Sure, Anderson’s constant squeaking was like fingers on a blackboard and all those meandering guitar lines weren’t doing a great deal for my mood but somehow, I coped. 


Then it all got a bit blurred.  There’s nothing more trying than a drum solo and this one seemed intent on seeing in the millennium.  To this day, I can’t tell you how I got through it.  The cat was so badly traumatised that he wouldn’t eat for a week.  I still feel guilty about that.  I was all set to throw in the towel.

That second peak of pain is the one that really gets you.  It’s like your adrenal gland is trying to throttle you.  Your body will do anything for respite.  Death is no longer an issue.

Your brain is in turmoil.  Constant questions.  Why are they doing this to me?  Why am I letting them?  Why won’t they stop?   Why have all the meaningless titles got bloody colons in them?  Why did they have to take so much acid?  Why?  Why?  Why?

Close to the edge

It’s ‘fight or flight’ at that point but I was so close to finishing.  I’d already endured four hours of it, surely, I could handle just a couple more.   A bet is a bet, after all.

It’s the guilt that keeps you going after that.  What would my father have thought if I bailed out now?  Could I ever show my face in the pub again if I failed?  How could I go through all of this without winning that fiver?

I was committed.  I was going to finish.

And finish, I did.  I don’t know how but I made it.

Would I do it again?  Hell no.  No way.  No.  Just no. 

If, like us, you feel that Simon deserves a medal for bravery, please set up one of those e-petitions that the government like to ignore.

Next week we talk to a woman from Berkshire who watched the whole of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series in extended DVD mode in a single sitting.

Have you ever performed a spectacular endurance feat without having to change your shoes? Let us know in the comments section below.