Who I Am – Pete Townshend
One benefit of the Summer holidays is the opportunity to catch up on reading books that had been sat on your bedside table gathering dust.
After having read & thoroughly enjoyed Keith Richards’ autobiography last year, I had been looking forward to delving into the life of Pete Townshend.
Musically & chronologically Keith & Pete trod similar paths. That’s pretty much where the similarity ends though. Indeed, the more you explore the music side, you become aware of the massive differences. Even though they are both guitarists who creatively led their respective bands, both with a founding love of R&B, & at the vanguard of British domination of the pop world. Their approach to music is very different. Keith is very much the model rock n roller, whereas through the pages of his autobiography, it becomes clear how much more art school was a core influence for Townshend.
From the early pop art that influenced both artwork (A Quick One, The Who Sell Out) & songwriting (Substitute), right through to the rock opera approach (Tommy, Quadrophenia), the art school graduate is clear to see.
What is also clear is how alone Townshend felt. Never seemingly happy, even at the height of their success. Whilst, also feeling isolated in the creative pressure to deliver for The Who.
Townshend is at pains to point out, how during the early years of The Who, he was a well behaved husband, who ignored the variety of goodies available to a 60’s pop star. Indeed, when later on, he slips into what is obvious he regards as the bad habits of sex, drugs, & rock n roll, he is an uncomfortable participant in his own story.
The book gives a very strong sense of his songwriting process. A fascinating insight into the creation of classics like My Generation, Tommy, Quadrophenia & even how Live at Leeds came to fruition.
Who I Am is at times painful & lonely, as you feel the authors despair. Nonetheless, a captivating account of one of his generations finest songwriters, & a true insiders look at one of the original supergroups.