Who Are You?


After listening to all seventeen hours and fifty-six minutes of Pete Townshend’s autobiography I felt as though I deserved some kind of merit badge. Or a cookie. A reward was definitely in order because, man, this was one long-ass listen (the hardcover weighs in at 544 pages).

I’m not sure what kind of fan of The Who you have to be to enjoy this tome. Maybe they have to be, to you a potential reader, the kind of band that makes up the core of who you are. One of the bands you use to define who you are and what music means to you. I am not that fan. In fact, I only had a cursory knowledge of The Who going into this one, which was a selection by my Rock & Roll Bookclub. And after wading through this, I’d still say I only have a cursory knowledge of The Who.

Now, it wasn’t all boring and more boring. Pete Townshend reads the book and he’s a pretty charming guy. His self-deprecating laughter throughout the audio book is pretty great. But dude needed some serious editing. Pete, who started working on this autobio in 1996, should have taken a lesson from Patti Smith’s dreamy and wonderful Just Kids or Kristin Hersh’s Rat Girl. Those books, by woman rock stars, zoom in on one specific period of time and explain their life at that point. They are magical, beautiful books.

Pete’s book covers every single thing that ever happened to him ever and it’s not interesting. It suffers from too much. Too much wanking on about Marshall amps and tour schedules and his failed Lifehouse concept record/opera/play thing. I didn’t care at all.

When I finished the book I joked on twitter that the book should have been called Here are All Houses and Boats I Bought by Pete Townshend. Author Caryn Rose came back with Here’s How My Wardrobe Changed Based on Who I Was Sleeping With. This was a game I could have played all day long:

  • The Stuff I Crammed into the Many Studios I Built
  • Mentions of Famous People I Knew Who Died But Without Any of the Messy Feelings I Might Have Had About Those Deaths
  • The Who Reunite Again (Though it Probably Feels Like We Never Broke Up to You, the Reader

This one was kind of a drag. It felt a little generic rockstar 101 to me. Aside from the child porn scandal of 2003, I felt as though you could have slid any rockstar of that era — Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, etc. — into this and not much would have changed. We don’t much of Pete in this autobiography and entirely too much of his creative process and the guitars he used and the names of people he met along the way.

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