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on 13 June 2013
The book carries you along on an accelerated and at times superficial journey through Pete Townshend's life. Like other reviewers I could have done with more insights into the workings of the Who, especially the personal relationships and the performing. On the other hand, if you analyse a joke it usually loses its humour, so we probably just have to accept that as regards the magic of the Who, "Can't explain".

So that leaves Pete Townshend himself: "how do you think he does it? I don't know! What makes him so good?" Well, after reading the book I did feel I had some insights. The adjectives that spring to mind when thinking about this book are really not that different to the ones I would have listed when thinking about Pete Townshend before the book: self-obsessed, troubled, cruel, kind, honest, humourless, pretentious, brilliant, brave, driven. In other words, a complex mix and that is what makes both the man and the book interesting. After all, disturbing works like Quadrophenia and Tommy could never have been written by Elton John or George Michael. The book does not try and paint a gloss of niceness over everything and ploughing through the rather tedious musings on spirituality at least gives you an insight into what is driving the creative process.

I remember taking my kids to the Young Vic once and sitting a few seats along was Mr T with (I think) his son. Naturally, I had to keep looking over but I didn't have the courage to say hello during the interval or after the show. My abiding memory was of a rather serious looking family man and that was quite hard to reconcile with the high energy rock God whom I had seen on stage and on TV so many times. But I also remember thinking that he actually looked quite normal and human. Ultimately the best thing about this book is that it is about Pete Townshend the human, not Pete Townshend the rock God - that would have been a very different book.

One interesting fact that I learned was that Townshend has a PDA that he can update under the table or whilst driving, without looking. Well it's not Quadrophenia but it's impressive!

At the end Townshend says he is privileged. In a sense yes, he is lucky that he has been blessed with his immense talents, but on the other hand this is not the type of privilege that Eton schoolboys enjoy; he has worked hard for his reputation and his wealth and he has done a lot of good things (along with some bad things of course, which he does not attempt to hide). He deserves our respect and thanks for everything he has given us, including this book.
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on 24 November 2012
Quite a few comments that indicate peoples disappointment about the lack of stories concerning John, Keith and Roger. Ignoring the fact that they are mentioned frequently, this book is Pete's story and is exactly what you get. The book is well written and gives the reader an insight into the life of Pete,what made him tick, where he came from and where he is now.

I fully appreciate that everyone has differing expectations when they pick up a book of this type, but come on, complaining about the boats and houses he bought and sold. He was and still is a rock star, what did you expect him to do with the cash? Invest in a pension plan! As for the recording equipment, we wouldn't have heard Endless Wire if he never had the gear required at his disposal.

The book also lays bare Pete's battles with his demons, including the drink and drugs. He shouldn't be castigated for this, he should be applauded for having the courage to bare his soul to the masses.
As for the disparaging remarks on name dropping, again what do you expect from a rock star who lived and worked amongst his peers. I for one was more interested in how he helped his friend Eric Clapton beat his heroin addiction than conversations with the paper boy!

I'm not having a dig at reviewers who were disappointed, just trying to balance their views.

To sum up; if you want to read a well written,honest and insightfull book about Pete and his life then this is for you. I give the book 4* and not 5 for one reason only, he never mentioned the couple of Who gigs I had the pleasure of attending and if this is all I can fault the book on then it should give you an idea of how good it is.
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on 14 January 2013
As I listened to the 'Live at Leeds' album (still, in my opinion, the finest live album ever recorded) when I was 17 I used to imagine that I was Pete Townshend, a guitar god up on the stage, capable of summoning great waves of exuberance from a simple instrument. I longed to be able to express myself with such power, to conjure up emotional depths and link them to a tsunami of sound lifting a pleb like myself up and away from the turgid and mundane world. But it turns out being Pete Townshend wasn't much fun. According to this book, it took him a long time to grow up. He was a hero of mine, but no longer.
I think, in many ways with this book he destroys the myth that fans like me had of him, and perhaps that's the function of a good autobiography. My conclusion on reading it though is that the book is passable. Ironically, it's not as rewarding a read as the book he refused to be interviewed for: 'Dear Boy: The Keith Moon Story', which captures the spirit of the band without treating them too reverently. The trap that Townshend falls into is that he appears to be in awe of his own legend. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, many old rockers (I'm thinking of George Harrison) totter into their dotage thinking the world owes them a huge debt of gratitude. And I suppose I do - when I was just beginning to appreciate music he was there to help me realise what sounds could be truly life changing. Maybe there was still a part of that 17 year old still in me, longing to recapture the feeling of hearing those last few crashing cathartic seconds of 'Magic Bus' - what the book gave me was a straight retelling of a story I already mostly knew.
I'd heard that he'd delayed writing his autobiography when he read Dylan's 'Chronicles' so I guess I was expecting something a little similar to Dylan's when I read this - I was hoping for something that would push the envelope a little more, perhaps a little more eccentric, tinkering about with the chronology and fizzing with ideas. I found much of it a plod. And he clearly can't tell a joke to save his life. So many times whilst I was reading I had to stop and think: "Er...did I read an amusing anecdote just then?". It's difficult to tell as these jocular incidents he recounts don't seem to have a punchline. Disappointingly there's not much space for my favourite Pete album 'Chinese Eyes' despite a page count of over 500.
Despite what other reviewers have said here he doesn't try to brush his online escapade under the carpet, and devotes a chapter to his encounter with the police, although to be honest he does over-sell the 'injured party' line a little - I was bemused by his annoyance that he was put on the offenders register. Probably he was lucky not to be given a prison sentence. But that's heroes for you. They can't help letting you down. Thanks for the music Pete. The book: to be honest I'd rather just have the songs.
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on 5 November 2012
For fifty years or so, I have enjoyed The Who's music and admired Pete Townshend. As from today, after reading this book, the music lives on for me, but Pete as a person clatters loudly from the pedestal. What a pedantic, self-satisfied prick my hero turns out to be! She had big breasts, blonde hair and we had sex. I was feeling tired, so I got drunk. I was confused, so I swallowed an apothecary. I didn't know the meaning of life, so I joined a sect. Repeat, repeat, and repeat again. It goes on for five hundred pages, with different blondes, different bottles of Remy Martin, different chemical substances and a total lack of spiritual profundity. Oh, and he wallows in his own vomit a couple of times for good measure. Does all this tell us anything about the music, the guitarist, the song-writer? No. Pete himself is clearly very pleased with himself, consistently refering to himself as an ARTIST (for whom, presumeably, allowances should be made), but nowhere do we get any real insight into what makes him tick. The name-dropping becomes incredibly tedious after the first twenty pages or so, but rest assured: it will continue to the bitter end. Meanwhile, artistic disasters like Psychoderelict are turned into Cistine Chapels, screwing other guys wives into a heroic pastime and the buying of yet another mansion/yacht/recording studio into life-changing reactions to unexpected events. At the end of the book, I found myself truly feeling sorry for Pete: not so much because of the big bad world misunderstanding his alleged (and only superficially illuminated) taste for kiddy porn, but rather because he has apparently failed to achieve anything of any value in his entire career -and even that fact manages to escape him, witness his desire to publish 500 pages of emptiness. The last sentence in the book reads 'if in doubt, just play'. O, how I wish Pete had heeded his own advice here, or some strict editor had whittled the entire endeavour down to the eighty or so pages it, at most, deserves.
Two stars rather than one, only because Pete's descriptions of the sixties vividly illustrate the total shallowness our kids always suspected.
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on 2 August 2013
I am a sucker for rock biographies and have shelve full of them but I will not be reading this again. Without in any way trying to denigrate Pete Townshend's contribution to rock music, I am a Who fan and believe he/they were one of the greatest two or three British rock groups of their age, I could not raise any sympathy for Townshend as a human being. No wonder he fell out with most people in the band at one time or another. Some good insights into other band members I had not picked up on from other sources.If you are a rock anorak like me you will have to get it.
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on 19 January 2013
I had been looking forward to this book,for years. What a disappointment. Not nearly as revealing as other reviewers would have you believe;i have read more revealing,and entertaining details,in quite a few other books about Townshend and The Who. Also,i thought Townshend came across as a deeply dislikable person,quite self-centred,and not nearly as witty as legend would have us believe. The casual way he describes his extra marital activities border on the offensive. I noted that he did not thank Karen Townshend at the end of the book,and i thought that was appalling. I have to say,at the moment,i am having a hard time listening to The Who. I almost wish i had never read this book.
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on 11 November 2012
I found the book gripping in parts (notably his early years of fame) but became heartily sick of reading about his affairs. Apparently he was in deep turmoil about his marriage for years, yet the book includes a professional shot of an old girlfriend, complete with jokey caption. I couldn't ezcape the feeling that he was showing off about her, even now. In all the promo interviews I saw for this book, he came across as thoughtful, funny and self-deprecating. In the book itself - not so much.
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on 9 March 2014
I'm not a committed fan, there are some Who albums I've never listened to, so I probably don't form the target audience for this book, yet I found it a worthwhile read. I found the opening sections of the book dealing with his childhood the most interesting, and the latter part of the book less so. Like other reviewers, I would have liked more detail on the songwriting process and being a fan of the album Quodrophenia, more about that particular work. It's true that the space given over to his pursuit of various women is a tad dull, since this doesn't add anything to the narrative. It does seem that some of the detail of PT's childhood abuse and other details in the book, is intended to prepare the reader for the later section dealing with PT's arrest in connection with Operation Ore. He is very frank about his life which makes his defence in connection with this more credible. Two unconnected vignettes which stick in my mind concern The Rolling Stones' "Rock and Roll Circus" and his meeting with William Golding, author and Nobel laureate.
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on 8 November 2012
As a massive Who fan since the bands beginning I'm possibly a bit biased but I thought this book was a very well written piece. Pete opened up to expose all of his foibles and insecurities through his troubled childhood and subsequent rise to be one of the best songwriters of his time. An absolute must for Townshend / Who fans and a must for the people who don't understand how important your childhood is in framing your later life. Five star book!!!!
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on 16 October 2012
I'm from the generation that grew up with Pete Townsend and the Who, and if you read the music press of the late 60s and early 70s, he was really the rare voice of reason, along with John Lennon and jerry Garcia, who seemed to articulate the needs of a generation. The long years have passed, and the days of Rock demi-god status long gone. What we get instead is a measured, and very carefully edited version of his life. One gets the feeling that he has judged his words with great care, then gone over the draft with even greater care, and the result is curiously bland and inoffensive. But there are flashes of colour - the sheer wastefulness of young men with money; the serial infatuations while his long-suffering wife kept house and home; the self-destructiveness; the sharply differing characters of the Who and its supporting cast.

I think what I missed most was the Meher Baba side. There seems to have been little in the way of actual spiritual practice in Pete's early life, beyond the feeling of devotion to the Master. But was that really so?
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