- Paperback: 546 pages
- Publisher: Plexus Publishing; 1st Ed. edition (September 16, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0859650839
- ISBN-13: 978-0859650830
- Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 35 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,441,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Before I Get Old: The Story of the Who Paperback – September 16, 2003
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"A massively detailed thoughtful history of The Who."
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There are a couple of criticisms, chief among them that it seems Marsh didn't get much in the way of original interviews and relies heavily on other sources, giving it a bit of a "clip job" feel. He's also not shy about his opinions, some of which are right on target (Kit Lambert's shortcomings as a producer) and some which are way off base (his slighting of Quadrophenia). The later the story progresss throughout the band's career, the less time he spends on the narrative. In a 525 page book, you're barely out of "Tommy" by page 375.
Still, the 525 pages flies by, as the book is so well organized and the material freshly presented. Kudos especially to Marsh for his portrayal of the evolution and continuing contradictions of Townshend's thoughts.
Most of the trouble Marsh has with the subject is the emphasis on Pete Townshend's natterings about pop music. Townshend was (and is, if he gets the chance) a voluble man when it comes to music. It's certain that, if he didn't possess an ounce of musical talent, he would've become a first-rate novelist or journalist. But Marsh's own extended forays into pop culture theory bog down the reader. Fans of The Who are not stupid types. They understand where the band came from, much as Beatle fans know about that band's origins. But, history aside, it's the telling of the tale that counts. Having read Marsh's book several times over twenty years, I've come to like it less and less.
The author seems to take a subconsciously perverse delight in skewering the band's foibles, whether it's their reliance on staged ritual drama/violence for a few years longer than deemed acceptable (by Marsh), or Townshend's complexes and frustrations in getting his grandiose ideas across to the other band members. These were part of the band's core identity and they wrestled for years with the image of the angry upstart Mods and, later, bona-fide rock legends who pounded stage after stage until Moon's untimely end. Another writer would perhaps come across as sympathetic while still taking a critical view of the group's history. By the book's end (in 1982, when Kenney Jones filled in for Moon), the band are seen as nothing more than an exhausted assembly of sell-outs going through one more corporate-sponsored mega-tour. What would Marsh later make of U2, Springsteen, Oasis and a dozen reunited 60s bands? Such a disappointing book for the group that gave us The Who Sell Out, Tommy, Who's Next and Quadrophenia.
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Pete Townshend is certainly the most soulful of them. What a genius !Read more