Who I Am

Rock & Roll books, bound but ungagged

The Ties That Bind

Who I Am: A Memoir

by Pete Townshend
HarperCollins, 544 pp., $32.50

For a man who admits, "I loved the sound of my own prattling," Pete Townshend keeps his prose concise. His long-gestating autobiography Who I Am covers 67 years in barely over 500 pages. The Who's primary composer hits nearly every topic you'd want, from peak creative achievement Quadrophenia and his solo albums to addiction issues and his ambivalence with the continuation of the band. Rock's first opera, 1969's Tommy, gets lots of play, as do ongoing attempts to bring his vision to the theatre, which seems to be the medium in which he's most happy creatively. The decades-long development of his doomed multimedia concept Lifehouse becomes a recurring theme, as does his devotion to, and struggles with his faith in, Indian mystic Meher Baba. The longest thread chronicles the effects of abuse Townshend suffered as a child, effects which he claims led him to develop a White Knight syndrome (his own helpfully-footnoted words) and got him arrested for accessing child pornography, an incident on which he spends a fair amount of time. Other topics include his habit of establishing recording studios in seemingly every corner of London, his work as an editor at Faber and Faber, and his love of the water. He digs into some of his most famous songs, but overall avoids territory he's covered in the thousands of interviews he's given over the years or on the Who's website, which he often footnotes. If there's a theme, it's self absorption. He's not proud of this trait, mind you; Townshend's well aware of the ways his self-conscious artistic bubble has affected his work, family, and collaborators. Nonetheless, balanced by both his brutal honesty and his straightforward prose, Who I Am becomes part and parcel of the Who canon.

READ MORE
More Pete Townshend
Rock & Roll Books
Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend

Austin Powell, Dec. 5, 2008

More Music Reviews
Phases & Stages
Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements
'Mats 'tude – definitive

Neph Basedow, April 1, 2016

Texas Platters
Love Notes From the Bear
Austin's big brown bear of a singer-songwriter-Stratocaster, Jon Dee Graham, doodles his wife, real-life concerns, and ardor

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 12, 2016

More by Michael Toland
Levitation Live Shot: Boris/ Sunn O)))/ Sleep
Levitation Live Shot: Boris/ Sunn O)))/ Sleep
An endurance test of both appreciation and relief

May 1, 2016

Levitation Kick-Off
Levitation Kick-Off
Even after Levitation’s cancellation ... the shows went on!

April 29, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Pete Townshend, gift guide 2012, Tommy, the Who

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)