Pete Townshend's memoir, Who I Am, differs from other memoirs written by rock stars because it's not just a rehashing of sex and drug issues interspersed with comments about people he's met. It's a much more introspective narrative which has the same compassionate, psychologically adroit tone that you see in his musical, Tommy. In fact, as Townshend points out, his own life has distinct similarities with those of Tommy because Townshend was abused as a boy and grew up dealing with feelings of rage and confusion.
Some of this rage comes across in the music of his band, The Who; Townshend says that he was trying to express the feelings of a generation that grew up after World War II, a time when nothing could be taken for granted anymore. Life as people knew it had been shaken to the core and everyone had to accept exactly how fragile things had become. This was the reason behind the aggressive stage performances where Townshend performed "windmills" on his guitar, a move he actually borrowed from Mr. Richards but which became one of his trademarks, besides guitar-bashing.
Townshend does have some amusing things to note about people he met in the course of his career. Of Mick Jagger, he says that he was the only man with whom Townshend would have ever considered having sex. He expresses his fascination with Jimi Hendrix's skill at the guitar, describing him as a shaman.
Townshend did avoid getting swept into the rock star drill consisting of women and drugs for a long time but eventually succumbed, and he gives us an account of his struggles with sobriety and his declining marriage to Karen Astley. He also goes into his arrest on suspicion of possessing images of child pornography and explains that he was actually starting a research program to help victims of child pornography, a subject very close to his heart because of his childhood experiences.
Overall, this is a refreshingly introspective memoir of a rock god who is nonetheless very human in his approach. Townshend really bares his soul on the page just has he does in his songs. He appears less of a performer than just another person reaching out to the reader or the audience to share what he's been through.
Townshend was born in Chiswick, London; his father was a saxophonist and his mother was a singer. Townshend went to school at Ealing Art College where he met John Entwistle and Roger Daltrey. Together, they formed a band called The Detours and later changed their name to The Who. Drummer Keith Moon was the final addition to the band which was especially popular during the mod scene of the 60s but continued make music well after that. The Who is still together today, despite the deaths of two of the original members. Townshend was rated 10 in a list of top 100 guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
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... auditioned for Roger Daltrey while sitting on a bed that hid a fugitive.
… wanted The Who to be called The Hair.
… wanted to be a sculptor, a journalist, a dancer, and a graphic designer.
… became a musician, composer, librettist, fiction writer, literary editor, sailor.
… smashed his first guitar onstage, in 1964, by accident.
… invented the Marshall stack, feedback, and the concept album.
… inspired Jimi Hendrix’s pyrotechnical stagecraft.
… is partially deaf in his left ear.
… stole his windmill guitar playing from Keith Richards.
… followed Keith Moon off a hotel balcony into a pool and nearly died.
… did too much cocaine and nearly died.
… drank too much and nearly died.
… detached from his body in an airplane, on LSD, and nearly died.
… was embroiled in a tabloid scandal that has dogged him ever since.
… planned to write his memoir when he was twenty-one.
… published this book at sixty-seven.