123 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TOWNSHEND STANDING IN THE BRIGHT LIGHT
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...
Published on October 8, 2012 by Stuart Jefferson
69 of 81 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dreadfully Sorry
If one is interested in reading Pete Townshend's autobiography, chances are one is a huge fan of the Who, especially their music in the sixties and seventies. Of course one would also be expected to be a fan of or at least very interested in the other members of the band: Entwistle, Daltrey, and Moon. Lastly, as a fan of the Who, one is likely to have encountered the...
Published on January 1, 2013 by Paul McGrath
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123 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TOWNSHEND STANDING IN THE BRIGHT LIGHT,
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 molded 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".
52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mod MacBeth in Three Acts,
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.
69 of 81 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dreadfully Sorry,
If one is interested in reading Pete Townshend's autobiography, chances are one is a huge fan of the Who, especially their music in the sixties and seventies. Of course one would also be expected to be a fan of or at least very interested in the other members of the band: Entwistle, Daltrey, and Moon. Lastly, as a fan of the Who, one is likely to have encountered the numerous myths and legends surrounding the band and its activities over the years. The autobiography of Townshend, who was their brilliant songwriter and lyricist, would therefore seem to be holy grail for the legions of Who fans out there yearning for more. Unfortunately, this book sheds little light on anything and is in fact a dreadful slog.
The most serious problem is that he barely talks about the music at all. Sure, there are a few nice moments. "A Quick One," for example, sprung out of his feeling of abandonment when his parents unceremoniously sent him to live with his grandmother when he was six years old. The first lines of "Cut My Hair," came from some reflections he wrote concerning his quest for spirituality and his feeling that the Who was holding him back. The song, "Sensation" was written to a girl named Rosie with whom he had a brief affair after discovering that she, too, was a follower of Meher Baba. This is great stuff; exactly the kind of thing the reader is looking for.
But there is just not enough of it. Some Who fans think Quadrophenia was the Who's greatest achievement and perhaps the greatest rock and roll album of all time. But the songwriting and the musicianship are barely mentioned. Most of the discussion has to do with the state-of-the-art recording studio that was set up for it. There is quite a bit of discussion about the infamous "Lifehouse" project, but very little about the superb album which sprang from it, "Who's Next." What songs were retained? What were new? During this period Townshend produced a lovely little solo album entitled, "Who Came First?" This record is not mentioned at all.
There is barely anything about the other members of the Who. Townshend mentions that Moon could be very funny and was a good company on a long tour, but that he could also be a pain. But he provides only few examples. He makes these comments as if he was speaking with someone who was already intimately familiar with Moon. Daltrey and Entwistle get the same short shrift. One comes away from the book feeling he hasn't learned anything at all about these people.
Townshend mentions that the dynamic of the Who changed when Moon joined the band. Now, wait a second! Legend has it that a drunken, ginger-clad Moon showed up at a Who concert, shoved the Who's current drummer off-stage, thrashed away maniacally, and busted the poor guy's foot pedal. Is this true? Well, Townshend doesn't say. The Lincoln Continental in the Holiday Inn pool incident? Sure. It was Moon's birthday. The floor and he were covered in cake. There was a Lincoln Continental in the pool. They were kicked out of the Holiday Inn forever. That's it. This could have been a hilarious six or seven page essay!
What's there instead? Well, not much. He knows just about everybody in the business and all of their names are dropped here. The gentle George Harrison. The sexy Mick Jagger. The incredible Jimi Hendrix. And so on. He likes everybody. They're all brilliant or innovative or kind or handsome or all of the above. He does not have a bad word to say about anybody. Even Bruce Springsteen. He loves Bruce Springsteen's music.
He buys cars which he regularly wrecks, buys boats and houses and has recording studios just about everywhere including his town house and his house on the water and his house in the country and even in his suitcase he may have said. He's either drinking heavily or not drinking and either using drugs or not using drugs and either being faithful to his wife Karen or (mostly) not being faithful. And obsessing over it.
This is pretty much the book. For the early part it is at least tolerable, but once we get to the last third or so of his life, when he's writing short stories and working as an editor and when his few-and-far-between musical projects turned into the irrelevant non-entities known as Ironman and Psychoderelict, it becomes pretty much unbearable.
It's a bit sad. This guy, this genius, this man who moved so many of us so strongly and who seemed so emotionally and intellectually mature beyond his years, is really what he has been saying he is all along: a faker, a paper clown. Nobody really believes this is true, but this book does not prove otherwise.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The anti-sensual rockstar,
This is the second and hopefully last autobiography of a rock star that I read. The first one was Keith Richards'. I should also disclose that I don't like autobiographies or non-fiction in general. My impression is that the blueprint is always the same. The first section is from childhood until the Bill Haley movie (always the big milestone). Then hundreds of pages about band formation, first hits, first girlfriends, drugs, stardom, drugs, getting married, drugs, sex, drugs, auto-destruction, nearly death experience, clean-up, drugs, clean-up, drugs, clean-up and divorce. For closure, new girlfriend and reconstruction.
My first impression was to consider Pete's book a conventional autobiography that chronologically tells the story of his life. About halfway through the book, I realized that Pete's writing is way more deeper than my instincts prematurely judged. Pete didn't only talked about his life, he dragged me into his life. All of the sudden, against my wishes, I escorted him, side by side, in his adventures across the world.
"Who I am" is not light. Very often is depressive and dark. Unlike Keith Richards, Pete didn't invest much time talking about his sweet side. Pete is also less subtle. Often because he tries to be honest with himself, he comes through as aggressive, saying things that hurt him, his friends and us.
That was not unexpected. I know his songs well enough to have built an image not so far from what Pete portrayed himself. That is the guy from "I am the one". Self-pity, complexed, depressed, traumatic, lonely. The despicability and sublimation were a surprise. I don't see him as a Woody Allen as other Amazon reviewers pointed out. Woody Allen at least have some sense of humor. Judging from this book, Pete is uptight.
What distinguishes Pete from Jagger/Richards, Lennon/McCartney or even Dylan is that Pete was the only one that was able that consistently write about about himself, his fans and his generation in one song. From "I Can't Explain" and "My Generation", through Tommy, Lifehouse, Quadrophenia, Empty Glass, Chinese Eyes and maybe today (I stopped to follow him after White City). Always personal and universal.
But it is not only Pete, the composer. On stage, The Who was one of the most exciting bands to see. There was that sense that the four of them were giving their last drop of blood for the concert. The fans sensed truthfulness, you see the band for what they were. What is also interesting is that each member of the band represented its own persona, but you had the four personas in Pete.
There are some interesting passages. Keith Moon death, for example. He put aside only 2 or 3 pages for that (very depressing pages by the way), but he built the momentum for that climax. We knew it was coming and eventually it came. I found absolutely brilliant the way he described how he was informed of Keith death.
This is a story of a very compelling man that couldn't explain his love, was so frustrated by life that wanted to die before getting old, moved out from home, but had the washing done by his mom, looked for a big spiritual force, made millions, constantly looked for love, lost millions, looked for death, looked for life again, always giving blood. In the end, we don't want to be in the shoes of our old idols.
64 of 79 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars won't get fooled again...,
Is it possible that one of the most influential musicians of the last 50 years can take us on a 500 page journey and reveal so little of himself? Factually, this is a great resource for any Who fan and will serve as a Who timeline as to who did what with who and when.
Perhaps it is not possible for the fan as reader to be moved by a chronology on paper the way its author was able to move millions with his songwriting, voice and guitar...but it is the purpose of a memoir. Regardless, we owe Pete more than he owes us, even if this is a crummy read. I feel like I just spent the last 2 days reading a wire transfer between Pete and his accountant, Pete and his real estate agent, Pete and his yacht broker... Learned a lot, felt very little. Well, a little sad at times for poor Pete...glad he's alive to tell the tale...
If nothing else, the monotonous tone of Who I am sets the stage for how hard Pete Townsend worked. Love the music. Respect the work ethic. Pity the man.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Prickly Pear,
Never a Who fan, but love reading good rock bios (sex and drugs & rock and roll - yeah!), and I knew at the outset the Pete Townsend is one unusual dude. Obviously, he's a very accomplished musician, but the more interesting part is Pete's personality. Pete's always been a hostile dude. Early on, got kicked in the pants by life and was angry thereafter. That's the short version. The more complicated bits involve some bisexuality and public statements about knowing what it feels like to be a woman. And of course, there's the child pornography charge. Seems Pete admits he's long been comfortable with a bunch of guys, with the dominant male not being himself. That's pretty ballsy stuff, and I admire him for being so out there.
Like other reviewers have commented, Pete doesn't elaborate much about people or situations that call for closer analysis. That's very frustrating. As an early (Pink) Floyd fanatic, I would have loved a more fleshed out view of the London Underground, Syd Barrett and their club shows in general. Was aware that Townsend had made dismissive remarks about hearing The Floyd live at UFO, but here he simply states "Syd Barrett was wonderful (how - personally or musically?), and that Roger Waters was strikingly handsome." (Most actually would judge the other way around.) And perhaps, in Roger Waters he rightly detected an alpha male? More importantly for Who fans, Townshend relays very little about Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and John Entwistle. Didn't he work along side these guys for like forever? All Pete's observations are short and to the point, yet this autobiography extends beyond 500 pages. There's a lot of facts: we played here, I wrote that, had sex with him/her, took acid, drank a lot, stopped drinking, went back to drinking, etc. Also, Townshend goes on and on about various musical projects he produced that never garnered much public attention. Maybe they weren't that good? That little fact doesn't seem to matter to Pete though.
Started out this book having some admiration for Pete Townshend because he was always a punk at heart. But by the time I finished this, I was totally alienated. He never fails to mention what kind of studio equipment, boat or house he bought or what companies he started and owned and basically never stops honking his own horn. His wife Karen gets short shrift, even though he cannot write anything bad about the woman who gave him all his children and stood by his side for many years, even through his various infidelities. This is his last comment about her: "[that she was] the rightful beneficiary of a rather splendid divorce settlement . . . " Don't kill yourself.
Considering that Pete Townshend has been a writer and even worked for a major publishing company, this tome amounts to one huge disappointment.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I don't understand many of your reactions....,
I just finished reading Who I Am. I didn't read any other reviews before getting it. Frankly, I really don't understand the reactions of many of the recent reviewers (I didn't go back very far, but most recently they appear to be mostly negative).
I was not a HUGE fan of the Who. I didn't follow them closely. I loved their hits, and that's about it. Overall, a positive appreciator but not a manic fanatic. I was STANDING on my SEAT in the third row with my friends when the Who played Tommy in Cleveland in 1970, and I remember that as an excitingly transcendent experience.
This book reads to me like an honest self-appraisal. Honestly, I really don't get all the negative comments about self-absorption and drivel and bad editing..... it seems to me that there are some Who fans who have such high expectations, are so attached to what they think they DESERVE to receive from Mr. Townshend, that they can only spew negativity if they don't get exactly what they think they deserve to get from someone who has SPENT HIS ENTIRE LIFE creating art for the masses.
I believe that these particular reviewers are revealing more about themselves than they are about this book. They have built up their own idealized notions (or maybe even not-so-idealized notions) of who Pete Townshend is. Seems that since what he says about himself doesn't match what they think he should be telling them, well, then, it's garbage! He's either TOO revelatory or not revelatory enough. He can't win, can he, with that kind of unrealistic expectation?
Someone even wrote that they don't believe that any non-Who fan would enjoy this book at all. Well, I am *almost* a non-Who fan.... as I said, I really loved their hits and that's IT. And I loved reading this book. It is filled with insight.
Anyone who has NOT gone through the experience of feeling vague and unsettling "possible memories" of childhood abuse cannot possibly appreciate the need to "revisit" and talk repeatedly about such trauma... at least until it begins to be healed. They cannot possibly understand how insidious such feelings can be and how important it is to look at these feelings from all possible angles. So criticism of Pete for writing repeatedly about these memories is, in my opinion, very cruel and ignorant.
Likewise, criticism of Pete being a "namedropper." My god, people.... these people were his FRIENDS, his CIRCLE, his COMMUNITY! Of course he is going to be mentioning them frequently!!
Badly edited? Well, I'm an editor, and I don't see that at all.
Not enough detail? YOU try writing about your entire life sometime! (Really shaking my head on this one -- just what do some of you WANT from the guy???)
My "favorite" criticism is the one that says Townshend's autobiography reveals him to be "self-absorbed." This is another head-shaker. I'd like to know how it is possible to write about one's life and NOT appear to have the Self as the primary focus. Not only does Pete frequently express concern and gratitude for MANY of the people who have moved through his life, but he often tells us what these feelings were at the time, while he was living it, not just in retrospect. This is a man who has interacted with and loved many people. "Self-absorbed" is a pointless and worthless criticism. Don't pay attention to any reviewer who makes this claim!
Someone else commented that it was the same-old same-old..... rock star does too much drugs and sex and finds redemption in the end, so... BORING. Well, has it occurred to you that this happens so frequently precisely because it is an altogether understandable human pattern for so many, many reasons? And that each individual human needs to go through exactly what they go through? And that each individual human is precious and is entitled to experience what they are here to experience.... and then WRITE ABOUT IT if that's part of the experience?? It matters not one iota if it's a "predictable" pattern or not. What matters is how each individual gets through it and overcomes it. THAT'S the story that Pete tells, and I feel he tells it quite compellingly.
Quite honestly, I didn't want this book to end. I wanted Pete to keep telling me about his life. While I'm not a person who would have enjoyed being in his life during all those troubled, addicted, adulturous years, I do appreciate an honest telling of a deeply examined life. I do applaud his struggle to what appears to be a "happy ending."
I do think that he kind of rushes through his later years, spending much more time on the earlier years. If I HAD to come up with a criticism, I would say that I'd perhaps like a little more detail about the last 10 years.
But that's it. In my opinion, if you want to read a GREAT autobiography, read Who I Am. It's Pete talking honestly about Pete. Who else can possibly criticize the way in which he has done that??? It's HIS life as HE sees it. I am very grateful that he felt dedicated enough to his own life and his own processes to create a proper rendering of it in book form. And I appreciate his great vulnerability in opening himself up to what I consider to be harsh and pointless criticism. I am quite grateful to have had the opportunity to read Pete's own words about his life.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, but oddly has both too many details and too few,
I found this book sometimes engaging (especially the first half), sometimes touching, and generally worth reading. But it also left me quite puzzled, both by the lack of musical detail about some of the most powerful music in rock history and also by the inclusion of so many irrelevant and trivial details about life as a wealthy, philandering rock star.
The missing musical detail is especially pronounced when this book is compared, inevitably, to Keith Richards' richly-detailed memoir, which is so full of musical insights. Townshend builds up the story nicely through the Tommy and Woodstock years, but then fails disastrously when he reaches Who's Next, making very little effort at all to explain the process that led to what many consider to be one of the greatest rock albums.
It's really inexplicable how he could think readers wouldn't feel short-changed by the lack of musical detail and insight about how and why Who's Next came into being. Perhaps this is because that album was constructed from the ashes of another overly-ambitious project, Lifehouse, that didn't get off the ground, and Townshend's bitterness about having that project thwarted prevents him from wanting to say anything interesting about Who's Next. But that doesn't diminish the glaring gap in the book's musical narrative.
Ironically, Townshend recently told a New York Times interviewer that he wished Keith Richards had written his memoirs by himself instead of with the assistance of James Fox(11/29/2012 NYT Book Review). However, perhaps if Townshend had written his book with some more editorial assistance, he could have been convinced to provide more insights about his music and less of the "day in the life of an aging, self-absorbed rock star" trivia that makes up too much of the last third of this book. For example, on page 456, the first paragraph starts "I flew to Miami to spend a few days with [former girlfriend] Lisa to achieve closure, a desire stemming from her psychoanalysis." The next paragraph starts "I flew to Courchevel to watch [son] Joseph take his first skiing lesson. I actually chartered a plane from London to Chambery and a helicopter from there to get in and out." All this irrelevant trivia (and, yes, there's much more like it), yet next to nothing about how Who's Next was recorded and written? I finished the book puzzled by this striking imbalance between musical insight and personal trivia.
And, yet, I did feel at the end that I knew quite a bit more about Pete Townshend as a person than I did before, and he comes across as a generally good person despite (and on occasion because of) his personal flaws and struggles. He has certainly been a hard worker (maybe even to excess), an innovative musician, a caring father (though not a good husband!), a good friend to his fellow rock stars, and generous to charities. But I was expecting and hoping to have learned more detail about Townshend the musician and how that contributed to and shaped one of the most innovative rock bands.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous read...,
This review is from: Who I Am: A Memoir (Kindle Edition)
I could barely put this down...it is very well written, sometimes disturbing but so very honest. I'm sure this was, at times, not easy for Mr. Townshend to put on paper--brutally honest and at times very sad; but that being said, it is an absolutely mesmerizing read and being a long time Who fan, it was fascinating to read how my favorite songs/albums were created. Even if you are not much of a Who fan (but how could you not be!), you will find this memoir worth your while. I highly recommend it....
25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing,
This review is from: Who I Am: A Memoir (Kindle Edition)
I suspect this is who Pete Townshend really is because I can't imagine anyone would want to portray themselves as such disingenuously. I'm a bit disappointed with this book and this autobiography--it seemed a little dry for someone so eloquent and witty. I'm disappointed with the author because I find his claims of low self esteem so lame in one with such narcissism. If he ever did disclose having discovered he was sexually abused I missed it, and while I wouldn't wish that on anyone it almost seemed he was hoping to find it--look at those unfortunate study participants. I couldn't help but think the author was trying after to the fact to build a case for the event that garnered his arrest, though I really do not believe he had any prurient interest in child pornography.
His cavalier dismissal of his unfortunate wife and marriage is appalling to me-- again those early references of wanting to remain faithful seem to be added so as to soften any harsh feelings after the fact. While I wish he and Ms. Fuller the best perhaps her lifestyle and willingness to be amongst the author's entourage may guarantee her longevity--just don't buy a dog that will foreshadow having his child! One thing that interested me is his lack of insight into how his behavior toward his wife and children imitated his mother's--absent, fueled by substances and self-serving.
I feel bad having to register these criticisms--I've adored The Who and the author's music for years. But there seemed little response to Keith's death, and for this addict to refer to his dear friend John as an "alkie" seems overly hurtful. No wonder John's mom was angry. One gets the sense that the folks in the author's world have always been about serving his needs--Roger, John, Keith, his wife, now Ms. Fuller. I also got very little sense of the spiritual connection with Meher Baba, though admittedly I know little of his teachings.
All in all this book is worth reading but it saddened me. The author's life is one of achievement and one deserving admiration and honor. Who the author is, though, is as I have said, a bit disappointing.
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Who I Am LP by Pete Townshend (Paperback - October 30, 2012)