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Stardom In Acton
on 7 February 2013
I was looking forward to this. Pete Townshend has always seemed the most intelligent, the most academic and the most intellectual of that wonderful cohort of Sixties Rockers. His application of Pop Art to Pop Music was inspired, his ambition to see popular music as something way more than just a 3 minute single or a collection of unrelated, disparate tracks collected together to form an "album", proved that rock wasn't just the preserve of the boorish, ignorant and drug addled, though it was that too. He was a visiting editor at Faber & Faber in the mid 80's, he's written some wonderful songs, operettas; he's stood for the redemptive and positive force of rock. He's led a wild, obsessive, creative, destructive, fascinating life ... and he's succeeded in writing an extremely boring and amateurish book about it.
Despite all that he's created, all he's seen, lived through, won, lost, done, spent, used & used up ... he cannot, by the evidence of this book, tell its story. And therein lies the problem ... he is just not a raconteur. His written insight doesn't go much beyond "what do you expect from a rock star", his attempts at humour are risible and he says nothing about the creative processes that have defined his work: composition and recording. His intended Magnum Opus, the Lifehouse Project, itself the subject of one half of a book (Won't Get Fooled Again: The Who From Lifehouse to Quadrophenia by Richie Unterberger) is dismissed in a couple of pages. He doesn't seem to have researched his subject deeply enough (except 2 obvious lifts from Dave Marsh's Before I Get Old), which is odd, considering the subject in question is his life. The style is reminiscent of those facile 30p paperback biogs by George Tremlett you used to get in the 1970's.
Pete played The Goldhawk, Monterey, Woodstock, Madison Square, The Rock n Roll Circus ... from this book, you get no sense of his having done so ... he might just as well have written about walking down to the newsagent to pick up a Sunday paper and 20 Rothmans.
Story telling is about making the mundane magical ... not the other way round, but if this book succeeds at anything, it succeeds at that.