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on 22 September 2017
Phenomenal value, fantastic read
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on 14 June 2010
Though almost 600 pages long, this is a very incomplete biography of Who guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend. It goes into laborious detail on his musical career and touring schedule, but pretty much ignores his private life, giving almost no information that wasn't already available.

There's endless pages detailing seemingly almost every live show Townshend and the Who did, what songs he played, and copious extracts from interviews from throughout Townshend's career. Townshend has always been in the habit of talking a lot, and this bio relies heavily on his already-published words. Nothing from his first wife, though, or his current partner, or his parents, or his kids, so all we find out about Townshend the man is what he himself says. Wilkerson hasn't tried to explore any deeper. I guess he feared losing Townshend's cooperation. But it means we find nothing out about Townshend as a person.

The first half of the book is still interesting enough for Who fans - though you'd definitely have to be a pre-existing fan to find it readable. Keith Moon's death in 1978 happens half-way through the book, leaving an excessive 300 pages to go through the later part of Townshend's career: these years are given as much attention as the Who years, and it's really dull, each public appearance and concert described in pointless detail. The most newsworthy happening in the last decade for Townshend was probably his arrest in 2003; that's here, but only the stuff that was already in the papers.

Overall, this book could have done with a lot more new interviews with those close to Townshend, and less regurgitation of stuff from the media; it is also written in a style that is quite characterless. Some editing of the latter half would have saved me some tedium, as well. A decent "research tool" (as the quote from Mojo on the back described it) but this book wasn't cheap and I expected more.
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on 3 February 2011
On the plus side I found this a very easy read - I got through it on a couple of long haul flights over a few days and enjoyed it overall. However this is little more than a cut and paste job, admittedly a superior one. I longed for the author to put forward some kind of opinion of his own - particularly around the music, where he relied on contemporary reviews from often questionable sources. For example, I find Townshend's mid 80s work to be his most personal and in many ways his finest - All the Best Cowboys and White City particularly, however it's simply not given the focus it warrants and the author gives none of his own opinion, despite claiming to be a huge fan. So it's not a bad book, but I didn't feel I knew Townshend any better by the end of it. I really wanted the author to interpret often conflicting views and opinions from Townshend and give a view as to motivation etc, but he never did.
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on 22 June 2011
I have followed and watched the Who and Townshend for many years and am constantly astounded and amazed by Pete Townshend. He is filled with a mental and physical power, and his fire and aggression ,mixed with humour and dazzling intelligence, when he is on stage his energy and presence is awe inspiring and i defy anybody to take their eyes off him . Everything about him is pure Pete Townshend ,he is quite frankly a total 'one off'. From his totally distinctive physique and look; His syle of performing and playing and his creative output as a whole. He is now in his middle 60's ,but still powering away ,in fact i think he's enjoying himself more than he has in a long time. He still has the distinctive Townshend look, but he's grown into it and being a cartoonist and caricaturist ,i think he's got a fantastic face ,from the nose to those amazing blue eyes ,energy and character burst from every pore.
As i said Pete is a total 'one off' and when he was younger ,felt left out and a bit of a freak with his gangly build and big nose. Went to art school to try and impress the girls and joined a band to 'keep them coming'. Townshend adopted an aggressive ,know it all ,trendy ,arty character that evolved into a not particualy pleasant character over time, mainly as a defence mechanism, attack being the best form of defence. In the book he is described sometimes as a vicious bastard who can say really nasty hurtful things in an arguement, although he was a friendly bloke who was humourous and liked to go to the pub with Moon and Entwhistle mainly, as well as the crew .When the Who were 'up and running', it was left to Pete to write their stuff. He has always been a loner and the book tells how even today he has problems working with others, thats why his home recorded new tracks are totally complete recordings ,every instrument played and recorded by Pete himself ,much to Roger Daltry's continuing wonderment and amazement. The book goes into Townshend creative plans ,starting with 'A quick one'. Moving onto Tommy ,Quadrophenia and the total confusion of the Lifehouse concept. Townshend thinks so much ,so long and hard and combined with his ,as he sees it ,Total honesty ,he is constantly 'shooting himself in the foot 'and talking himself in loops and circles, which adds to the confusion of those around a confused man.
Pete has a lot to say and the book has a lot of what he says which can have the reader a little confused. There isnt a lot of interviews with other people ,but there are plenty of comments that have been made in reference to various episodes in Townshends amazing journey. I for one enjoyed the descriptions of the shows ,early and later ,as from time to time Townshend will ,depending on his mood still do these crazy things that other much younger men of rock wouldnt dream of. Townshend is still a force of nature.
The book is a hefty read ,but i enjoyed it, on occassions ,the eyes may glaze over when Townshend is holding forth ,i have to admit i struggled to get the long convuluted Lifehouse explanations ,although i think i've finally understand it ,i think! Townshend comes over as a truly decent caring humourous fellah ,but he does have this vicous self destructive streak which has caused himself and his family ,friends and bandmates pain and anguish over the years, but he does admit to it and feels the guilt for much of the pain hes caused others ,but at the end of the day he hasnt come out unscathed ,his problems addictions and various much publicized problms are explored. A good book ,i dont think there'll be a better one about this fellah.
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on 18 July 2009
This is a great book first and foremost, offerring a great insight into Pete Townshend - one of the foremeost writers and musicians of the pop music genre.

This book really goes beyond what most of us know about the man, it strips away the bark and gets to the heartwood of a man who's compositions and media output are in the realm of genius and may be judged in centuries to come as on a par with the classical composers.

For those into the music, there are great snippets of information on the recordings and about the songs themselves and of the pre-Who musical days and beyond.

Pete Townshend is not just a guitar player and songwriter, his work influenced by many sources of inspiration from Trad Jazz, the auto destructive art of Gustav Metzger, the spiritual works of Mehr Baba and more, show how complex the man and his music really is, he draws on many influences, his creative works do not stand still, he moves on and creates anew.

The book also explores in depth the concepts of his other projects, Tommy, Lifehouse, White City, Quadrophenia and others - it becomes clear that this boy from Acton has something, a gift that sets him apart from a lot of other people.

This book is a weighty tome about 4 inches thick but consume it, then you'll appreciate what makes Pete Townshend the multi-faceted man he is.

At the time of wrting I am working on my own Rock Opera called '30 to Hornsey Rise' which uses the London Transport Routemaster bus as the centrepiece of the work as an allegory for the journey through life. One reason I bought the book was to see how Townshend put the Tommy Rock Opera together, although I arrived at my Opera concept and executed it in a different way, it was useful to read how Tommy evolved.
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on 5 June 2013
Thanks to Pete for letting me and other readers to have a peek into his life, his ups and downs. Touching honesty from a very integre man.
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on 26 August 2010
I think the previous reviewer who gave it 1 star was being a little harsh. Yes, the book is 600 pages and yes half of that leads up to Moons death, the other less eventful years are given equal coverage. However I would say that anyone wanting a difintive guide to the 'Glory years' should not buy this and instead 'Before I get Old' By Dave Marsh. In the newest version there is an interview with Townshend but in all fairness, does the world really need more pontification from "Ol' Big Nose"? Whilst I beleive he passsionately believes in whatever he is saying at any given time, the chances are he might feel something different moments later.

The problem I feel is that there is too much research into this book and you wonder if Wilkerson can see the woods for the trees, with all the reading he has carried out does he miss the point? A good example is the fact that a couple of sessions recorded with 'Wild' Willy Barret and John Otway merit more space in the book than the Woodstock performance. Things, important things seem to be missed out.

Its a good read, but my greatest complaint is there isn't enough 'colour'. Townshend could go between the sublime and the ridiculous in a sentence, he also famously has an inability to keep his stories straight. The book is all a bit too linear, its just fact afer fact and Townshend as a fantasticly lucid, comlex, intellectual and creative human being is ignored. But theirin lies the problem, the book is already 600 pages long, how much should you devote?
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on 28 July 2009
I'm not disputeing how much hard work & research went into this book (a great deal) but my God ! Was it BORING ! To read it was an effort it was bloody hardwork. The only thing I got from it was a better understanding of "Tommy".
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