Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Who I Am: A Memoir Hardcover – October 8, 2012
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
“Intensely intimate…candid to the point of self-laceration…[Townshend’s] tone is less lofty than anyone would have expected, just as this book is more honest than any fan would have hoped.” (Rolling Stone (Four 1/2 Stars!))
“Mr. Townshend’s self-portrait is raw and unsparing...as intimate and as painful as a therapy session, while chronicling the history of the band as it took shape in the Mod scene in 1960s London and became the very embodiment of adolescent rebellion and loud, anarchic rock ‘n’ roll.” (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times)
“Unusually frank and moving…[Who I Am] isn’t one of those rock memoirs that puts the what before the why. His past is a puzzle Mr. Townshend is sweating to decipher.” (The Guardian (UK))
About the Author
Pete Townshend is the legendary lead guitarist and principal songwriter for The Who, one of the most influential rock-and-roll bands of all time. He is one of Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. He resides in West London, where he was raised.
Top customer reviews
A good editor might also have encouraged Townshend to write less about his endless love affairs, and more about his creative work.
But Townshend also seems to have chosen to omit information. We know, for instance, that the Psychoderelict project was a commercial failure, after which Atlantic declined to continue as his record company. But you won't find any mention of that in the autobiography. An uninformed reader might even finish the book imagining that this album was a success. Many similar bits of information about his solo career have likewise been omitted.
This could have been an interesting book, because Townshend is a singularly interesting character. One of the most innovative people in rock, he created a unique stage presence, immersed himself in each new development in digital music synthesis, and even created a musical form that had never really existed before: The "rock opera." He wrote highly memorable riffs and melodies in addition to totally idiosyncratic lyrics that somehow became hits, even though they were peculiar and in some cases incomprehensible. Seldom has such a nonconformist acquired such a mass audience.
Good fortune seems to have played its part. He hooked up with band members who were an ideal mix (and was smart enough to dump the drummer who preceded Moon). He was discovered by managers who were savvy and resourceful. He happened to start playing at the very beginning of the most fertile period in British rock, when pirate radio stations broke the BBC monopoly and brought fresh sounds to British kids who were creating the mod fashion sense and lifestyle. He was smart enough to capitalize on this, while other bands didn't fully appreciate its importance.
Of course good fortune was by no means the whole story; he had a great talent, not only for songwriting but for publicity. But the book is frustrating in that he doesn't seem very self-aware about that talent. He remarks that it is odd that so many songs he wrote were about lost individuals searching for identity, when it seems obvious that he was, in various ways, writing about himself. From "Substitute" to "I'm a Boy" to "Tommy" to the Face in "Quadrophenia," almost every song during the first 10 years of his output was a case study of an alienated and tormented male figure. How much clearer does it have to be?
The book shows clearly just how alienated and tormented Townshend is, even though he doesn't seem to see himself that way. Even in his later years, he was still vulnerable to anxiety attacks that would strike unexpectedly, and severe emotional distress whenever he felt rejected by a woman. For many years he drank heavily in an effort to cope with these mood swings. This does not seem to be the life of a contented person. His happiest times, he says, were in solitude, "noodling" on a piano keyboard, or roaming the English cost, recording sound effects for Quadrophenia. Then he would return to the social scene and be smitten all over again with some beautiful woman, who would create emotional complications that he seemed to find almost impossible to resolve. Often, the love affairs would involve cheating and deception.
Anyone familiar with Townshend's work may find some interest in this personal material, although it is repetitive, as neurotic behavior usually tends to be. But if you're looking for specific details regarding the production of some of his most memorable work, you may not find them here.
A good editor could have helped a lot to correct these flaws.
The same "shallow" or abbreviated treatment of other important aspects of Townsend's life are equally abbreviated. The deaths of Keith Moon and John Entwhistle are very short and not treated with much introspection.
These are the obvious examples. They span the book, being especially irksome in the time spanning the beginning of The Who through to the book's end. Townshend's frequently acknowledges the "help" of his editor who cut the book roughly in half, from an estimated 1000 pages to 500. Both the editor and the publisher have done little favor to Townshend's and The Who's fans, whether they are fan club types or fan's with a desire to follow the thought of their favorite musician and creative spirit.
The abbreviated treatment of Townsend's story does no good for either Townshend or his fans.