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Lots about the career, but next to nothing on the man
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.