Who I Am by Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend
It's about: 
Pete spills his guts on everything. Music aside it's like the dictaphone was running as he lay on the therapists couch. Plenty of detail on the the band , the music and the recording but less than I'd like on the craft of writing songs. The book is long and incredibly detailed. I got exhausted reading the catalogue of his endless multiple projects. Ever heard of less is more Pete? Having just read Shakey's auto bio I've tired of reading of rock star indulgences ..I was nearly broke, next few pages so I bought a new boat/studio/ house on the south of france etc. He doesn't see someone at a film screening it has to be the premiere, he hasn't flown to New York he has flown on Concorde, he doesn't park his car outside his son's school he parks the Merc. Still lots of interesting things- surprised how much praise he has for Daltrey as a singer, I didn't know Phil Collins volunteered to play drums after Keith died and Entwhistle a lifelong Freemason- well blow me down.
Length of read: 
Might appeal to people who enjoyed: 
Books by people battling with their tortured soul and /or manic depression and of course Who fans
One thing you've learned: 
If you want good books on the music of an artist , probably best to avoid auto biographies.


Very dull, dreary and miserable, or maybe that was me. Agree about the 'indulgences' and his droning on about some 'concept' album he made in the '80s or '90s that sold about 20 copies. Far too little about the glory days. I felt slightly uncomfortable with the attempt to excuse his well-publicised folly/crime/mistake.

He can certainly write well but given he was an editor at faber and faber you'd think it would hsave been culled more. Case of the cobblers children wear no shoes possibly.

Given all his childhood traumas and ongoing struggles he'd be a perfect candidate for that sort of thing but he certainly made a strong case for his misguided so-called white knight deeds.

I laughed when he quoted his own letter to himself as an 8 year old ,possibly as part of therapy. You have a "brilliant mind" Pete tells young Pete.

First thing, all this Meher Baba stuff, he never really explains what
it does to him and how it influences his day to day life (with
exceptions), it didn't seem to have much of a positive influence on
his womanising, materialistic tendencies, his drinking, drug taking
and terrible behaviour towards his wife and (at times) bandmates. Just
seems like a convenience to illustrate he has a spiritual side.

I don't think he understands what is good about his own songwriting
and guitar playing. He virtually misses out on whole albums, instead
comcentrating on his incessant boat buying, house buying, studio
building and pathetic drunken tales.

How he describes his possible childhood abuse is strange, does he know
more than he puts in the book? Regarding his own arrest, I thought the
decison not to go to court was curious, He would then have got the
best publicity for his cause i.e. The easy availability of paedophile
internet porn. Not saying he's guilty, but some doubt is there.

He lives in a strange world, it seems he only makes relationships with
women who are kind of groupies or he meets through fellow musicians,
even Rachel Fuller was delivered by Zak Starkey.

I think the book suffers from excessive editing, ahould have been 2
volumes probably. The Who by Numbers is an intensely personal album to
these ears, he mentions one song, the throwaway Squeezebox.

The fact that he and Roger made more money from the tour following
John's death is despicable. Did they not think of giving some of the
extra profits to his family? They ended up selling off all his
memorabilia etc (not mentioned).

His main motivation seems to be money, at one point he pleads poverty
and then in the next paragraph he is buying a house or a boat or a
Porsche or some shit.

He knows next to nothing about the real world, he's basically had
everything done for him since he was 19. I liked him more before I
read the book.

but I never liked him before the book and I don't like him after the book (Daltrey I do like though even without a book)

I would only point out again how striking it is that, on blogs like this one, figures like Townshend, Polanski and Peel are given the benefit of the doubt (or even exonerated in the manner of Galloway granting absolution to Assuange) while 'dodgy' celebs of yesteryear are fair game to be tarred and feathered, often for less grevious offences.

I thought the "forgiving your heroes thread" might be related to this point, but apparently not. If you admire someone, for whatever reason, you tend to cut them more slack - not fair, but only human.

This thread is convincing me that I was right not to be in any hurry to read it. I'm not a fan of autobiographies, anyway. So many people are poor judges of what makes them interesting to others.

... for my birthday (last October) and I haven't read it yet.

I'm especially embarrassed to admit that I got Keef's autobiography for my birthday two years ago, from the same friend, and I haven't read that yet either.

I read Danny Baker's autobiography in a matter of hours as soon as it arrived!

sitting unread is often a function of the book being a gift.

Less motivated.

did you order Danny's book yourself ?

Highly recommended.

I'm only 100 pages in, but I've already found several factual errors and some major events are skimmed over way too quickly.

Moon's arrival in The Who, for example, is covered in just one line and the Railway Hotel in Wealdstone (surely The Who's Cavern Club) gets scant mention.

It may improve as the book progresses, but I suspect not.

quite a bit on equipment/technology

way too much on rock operas, the writing thereof

if you want to do that Pete ,write a book.

what's that you say......?

about Jagger's todger, however.

"Long and plump" I think were Pete's exact words.

Strange how he launches into that little snippet of homoerotica right out of the blue. It seemed out of step with the tone of the rest of the book.

Strange how Pete dismisses the first Who single (saying Daltrey hated it, too) claiming Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere was so much better. To me they are two peas in a pod and I think I even prefer I Can't Explain.

which I thought he would

thanks for that Mojo

to get the image out of my head for days.

"Mick is the only man I've ever seriously wanted to fuck. He was wearing loose pyjama-style pants without underwear; as he leaned back I couldn't help noticing the lines of his cock laying against the inside of his leg, long and plump. Mick was very clearly well-endowed."

a Who obsessive like me texted me on Boxing Day to tell me that he had almost finished the book but, by Christ, it was depressing and heavy going. I kind of figured it would not be for me after reading excerpts in The Times. The Who have not been well served by books, far better to stick on The Kids are Alright and glory in Pete and the band that way.

had read some reviews that whined about how he didn't talk enough about his guitars - that wasn't a loss for me. I thought it was an interesting glimpse into his life, but I agree that the chronology was unbalanced and that was confusing. And even though he discussed his various creative ventures, some of them didn't make a lot of sense, i.e. what was so special about Lifehouse that he persisted for so long with it when everyone he worked with couldn't understand it or wasn't interested.
Also, his ex-wife Karen must be one of the most patient and tolerant women on the planet, to stick by him even with his serial passionate love affairs with other ladies. I also never got a clear sense of what finally made her throw in the towel.

found myself slightly disappointed after reading the book. Like others, I would have loved to read more about his songwriting and how some of his most well-known songs and albums came to be - the drunken night which inspired the last great Who song "Who Are You", for example, is largely glossed over; the catalyst for Quadrophenia was Pete running into one of the band's original fans, "Irish Jack" - not mentioned; as someone else mentioned above, "By Numbers" is possibly his most personal and self-lacerating collection of songs - other than a mention of Squeezebox and the fact that Roger chose the songs, nary a peep.
Also (and I realise that nowadays he is less keen to talk about the years when he and Roger were at loggerheads most of the time), the famous incident during Quadrophenia tour rehearsals when a drunken Pete called Roger a "fucking cunt" and hit him with his guitar, which resulted in him being laid out by one well-placed punch, was pretty much passed over.
A missed opportunity, from the viewpoint of this Who fan...

Over praises him in the book, he comes across as a saint-like figure. I'm sure also conscious that he needs him in order to keep raking in the dough from "Who" tours. Money being his greatest motivation (see above).

how in the first few chapters Pete talks about keeping his art school life and friends separate from the Roger and the band.

to get the band going , tour again etc

Daltrey was going to do a Tommy tour of Australia this year

cancelled due to poor sales

has been a bit of a dog's breakfast. Remember he toured Australia with that strange line-up including Alice Cooper and Paul Rodgers some years ago?

Then there was the unlikely Adam Faith/Leo Sayer connection leading, of course, to this, possibly the daftest, most hubristic LP sleeve in history. Anyone fancy a beefburger?

I reckon it's a mare.

Not exactly rampant, is he?

They can both earn 10 times as much together compared to being alone. Buys a lot of boats, fish etc

rodgers nice bloke, alice cooper remote, daltrey -dickhead was his view

When I met him on the last Who Aussie tour (he said casually):

 photo who.jpg

my mate is primarily a jazz pianist public school background, bit refined

not exactly daltrey's background.

on another topic

in the book Pete lambasts the cover of who's next as vulgar and the title as lame.

Then uses a pun like Who I Am for his own book. and if he blames the title on the publisher then that's pathetic.

I've always loved that sleeve. It was 5 or 6 years before punk, as well.

he acknowledges most people love it

but as I said on a related thread, although he clearly cites The Kinks and Stones as major influences, he later emphatically states that he invented the rock power chord. Er..no you didn't Pete, mate. I think we all know who that was.

I'm just up to the chapter where Pete writes about the ill-fated 1968 Australian Tour headlined by the Who and the Small Faces. Australia really was the land that time forgot back then and the groups were treated appallingly, leading Townshend to vow they would never return. He was true to his word for almost 40 years, but eventually relented in 2004 when the Who played concerts on the east coast of Australia (Daltrey had toured down under as a solo artist meanwhile).

Contained in the chapter is another shameful error, but one seen all-too frequently from UK writers. At one point Pete refers to the "Ozzie crowds" when he really means "Aussie".

This from an erstwhile Faber and Faber editor, too.

The list of unchecked schoolboy errors is mounting and I'm only 150 pages in.

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