Classic Rock Review

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Pete Townshend Who I Am: A Memoir (2012)


Review If you read this memoir for all the events in Pete Townshend’s life, you’re missing the main thrust, the larger picture, of this book. This is not about all the many (albeit interesting and fascinating) stories Townshend lays out, but more about how these events affected him. Townshend has opened up his life-both personally and professionally-in able to (hopefully) tell us and himself just who he is. “…I both want this book to entertain, but also to convince”. Pete Townshend.

This clearly written, straightforward book (separated into three “Acts”) lays out, in a matter of fact style, everything that has made (and is still making) Townshend who he is. He is at times brutally honest in his writing. At other times he seems to be more removed from the events he talks about. You may at times agree or disagree with what he writes. But taken together, this is one of the most honest attempts to paint a picture of one’s self and the things that he’s experienced, that any artist has written. The book is always fascinating, and sometimes riveting to read, but it’s not openly self-analytical. From his beginnings through his life in music-everything is laid out as Townshend remembers it. Of course The Who and that part of his life are interesting and informative, and are naturally a large part of the book, and go some way in helping to explain who Townshend is. But all aspects of his life he writes about help fill in the gaps for a better picture of Townshend.

“This is as much a note to myself as one to you. It’s all the same thing. If in doubt, just play”. Pete Townshend.

The sixteen pages of photographs (in two sections) is helpful and adds depth and some interest to the story. No picking out highlights (or low lights), no overview of the many things Townshend writes about is needed-some will be familiar to you-others not. But taken together, this is a real attempt by Townshend to look beneath the surface, to put into some kind of perspective, all the events (both important and seemingly unimportant) that have shaped and moulded him into the person he is today. “Away from therapy I still used the technique I’d learned, writing more diary entries than usual, as well as bitterly honest letters I never sent”. “…this time I thought seriously about writing my autobiography”. Pete Towhshend.

To sum up-this book is the only way we’re going to know this much about Pete Townshend. Any closer and we’d be him.

“Enjoy life. And be careful what you pray for-remember, you will get it all”. From a letter Townshend wrote many years ago to his “eight-year-old self”, the “kid brother inside me”, saying, “The letter I wrote to my eight-year-old self is still one of the most important affirmations in my life”.

Review The story of Pete Townshend and his band The Who have been documented in dozens of books already and when news began to circulate early in 2012 that Pete was (at last) preparing this book for publication there was a mixed reaction that ranged from: “Well at last he’s gonna tell his side of the story” to: “Oh, no! How is he gonna put his foot in his mouth this time?” and there is good reason for that later response as Pete has a habit of saying such ridiculous things to the media in the past it has made many a bad situation much worse after his comments were printed.

Well, after finishing this more than 500 page document of Pete’s life it reads as an amazing journey of total entertainment and the touchy subjects (the deaths of Keith Moon and John Entwistle, Cincinnati) were handled with care and style and as Pete is still trying to tell all he is now looking back and in reflection telling his story with plenty of heart. I Thank his editors for doing their job as word warriors in keeping Pete somewhat under control here. We are not reading a 2000 page drama of Pete rambles that he just may have turned in before this was trimmed and presented in the more streamlined fashion that can be found here. This is overall insight of Pete’s life with 200 pages of story told AFTER the death of Keith Moon in 1978.

All the normal stuff already featured in all the other books already published (from Geoffrey Giuliano’s horrible: “Behind Blue Eyes” published from 1996 to a very good 600 pager: “The Life Of Pete Townshend” from Mark Wilkerson in 2008.) But, the difference found in: “Who I Am” is that so many of the stories Pete reveals here are personal memories that he didn’t blab to the press in past rants and we really do (at last) get behind those blue eyes at last to gain new insight into Pete’s life and the story of The Who.

There are two 8 page photo inserts included and most of them come from Pete’s personal files and have not been published before. The photograph of Pete and Roger at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics on 12 August 2012 proves this account of Who tales was still being worked on and pieced together at the 11th hour and we are not left hanging on as if Pete stopped documenting his story two or three years ago like plenty of other books have.

A major reason that The Who became so popular (besides the amazing music and stage show) has been the ongoing honesty of Pete Townshend and here he goes again. If you enjoy rock music and the music of The Who and Pete Townshend “Who I Am” is a perfect early Christmas gift to enjoy.
Five Stars!!!

April 19, 2013 - Posted by | Book Pete Twonshend Who I Am A memoir (2012) | , ,

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