Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pete Townshend's memoir "Who I Am"


Without a doubt The Who was a major band in their time and place.   Also Pete Townshend surrounded himself with great eccentric figures - Keith Moon, Kit Lambert,  Nic Cohn, Chris Stamp, John Entwistle,and the first Who manager and visionary Pete Meaden.  How I would love to hear stories about these guys from Townsend, but what we get instead is (very) basic tales of insecurity, doubt, "woo me being a star," etc from the mouth and brains of Pete Townshend.

There is nothing wrong with that, for he is very much the engine of The Who, but what made the band great are the characters surrounding The Who.  Through Townshend's writing I don't get a clear picture of the individuals around him.  He touches on it, but its totally reflects on his own ego or thoughts about his role in the mess of being in The Who.   On paper this sounds like an ideal book, but reading it, I find it very normal, plain, and basically not exciting. Without a doubt Townshend is a superbly talented songwriter, who in the end thinks too much about his work.  It is interesting that he admires Ray Davies of The Kinks, who I think is not only a better writer, but also a much more intense individual than Pete.

Reading this book right after the Neil Young memoir is interesting.  Both are legendary without a doubt, and both are egotistical to the max.  I think Townshend is much more of a charmer, but still he comes from a stock where he sees the world from only his pain, pleasure, and of course the doubt that is always there.   Both Neil and Pete think a lot about their role in their lives, which is perfectly normal for any man in their mid-60's.  But unlike someone like Bob Dylan or Patti Smith (both books by these artists are more superior than Pete or Neil's) are basically unique figures who rock because it is in their instinct to rock.

Pete praises John Entwistle, but I feel he doesn't give him credit for the great songs he wrote for The Who.  "Boris the Spider" is a great classic Who song, and maybe my favorite Who song after the High Numbers material "I am the Face" and "Zoot Suit" two brilliant (and early) Who songs.  And to be honest, to me, they were a great unstoppable band from The High Numbers to The Who Sell Out album.  After that, "Tommy" and so forth -not that interesting to me.   Classic rock albums yes, but essential Who... No not to me.

The book is an enjoyable read, but I wished it went further into the world with the guys he worked with as well as the Mod world.  There is material in this book, but not enough of it.
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