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Customer Review

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can you see the real me? Townsend Bares All, 12 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Pete Townshend: Who I Am (Hardcover)
Here's the problem with most of the reviews that you'll read here on Amazon: most people writing them are, unsurprisingly, Who fans. This means they're measuring this book (an Pete's behaviour and stories) against their own projected image and thoughts on him. He is, after all, just another bloke and the result is the sound of hundreds of Pete projections crashing from their respective pedestals.

Objectively, this appears to be a clear, well written book. It's honest and surprisingly self-deprecating. Pete is clearly a man who has battled and continues to battle his demons. Demons from his childhood. Demons in the form of mental illness and compulsive behaviour. Demons in trying to find order in the chaos of his life and the excess and premature deaths of those in his circle. Demons in searching for that 'ultimate' project that would somehow, somewhere capture the visions, sounds and ideas he has in his head. All the major events of his life from a troubled childhood, through the formation of The Who, their rise to greatness and eventual self-destruct are all described in satisfying detail. If I had to level a criticism I would say I wanted to know more about the inter-band dynamics and characters. What were John, Keith and Roger like? I felt by the end of the book that I knew Pete reasonably well - or as well as you can from a book - but that the other band members felt like shadows, cardboard cut-outs and distant from the action. But it may just have been me. The writing is direct and very factual. Sometimes slightly too much so and some more humour would be welcome. Overall, I would say it was a solid, honest and interesting ride with a man not ashamed to open himself up and let everyone see him, warts n' all. Thanks Pete.

From a personal point of view, as a Who fan, Pete fell slightly from the pedestal I'd put him on. That's neither a good or bad thing. It's just the truth and often a consequence of reading an autobiography. A bit like watching the behind-the-scenes extras on a DVD. Once you know how the magic is done it can often make you appreciate something more - even if some of the mystical magic is taken off. Pete comes over as troubled most of time, spinning the plates of his various projects, band commitments and family life often at the expense of his health. Usually it ends with Pete falling off the wagon and into drugs of some description and/or emotionally 'lashing out'. This cyclical process that despite being now in his mid-60's he has yet to break. Maybe he never will. That's not a criticism of the man, more of an observation. It also seemed odd to me that someone who is clearly so intelligent can (still) be a follower of Meher Baba and be so superstitious in his outlook in some respects. Deciding things on the flip of a coin, assigning meaning to random events, buying placebos, seeing 'signs' in the nothingness etc - A child-like belief in destiny and the after-life or spirit at odds with his clear intellect (labelling it 'spiritual'). I can only suppose that this child-like longing may be related to his unconventional and sometimes harrowing childhood - it may be responsible for some of his wonderful and moving music. He comes over as a man in combat with the various aspects of his personality; on the one hand with high morals and prepared to go to extraordinary lengths in loyalty to friends, then on the other happy to cheat on his wife, feeding the self-loathing aspect of his pysche. But, most of all, he comes over as someone very honest, searching for something that I hope he finds one day.

I'm now off to listen to Quadrophenia extremely loud!....:)
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 21 Nov 2012 17:17:17 GMT
I think this is a brilliant review. You have targeted exactly the weaknesses I felt were in the book with your comments about the relationships with other people. Spot on.

Posted on 16 Jan 2013 12:28:22 GMT
Chris M. says:
Great review. I'm about halfway through and completely agree with the idea that this book is all about Pete (fair enough I s'pose) with his band members appearing almost as extras in a film. That said, he throws in some amazing bombshells from tiem to time, like when he spent 30,000 bucks on guitars in the early '70s - God knows what that is in today's money. Even more surprising as around that time he is still claiming he and the band were broke!

Posted on 8 Apr 2013 13:28:46 BDT
D. Robinson says:
I agree with most of the above, and the Pete portrayed in the book seems different from the one whose songwriting I looked up tp in the mid-60s - Dave

Posted on 28 Jul 2015 12:43:27 BDT
MAC says:
The most revealing bit I've read so far (and I'm only a hundred or so pages in) is the bit about Mick Jagger's appendage, long and plump apparently.
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