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Pete Townshend’s Who I Am [Book Review]

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I have been a fan of The Who ever since I saw “Tommy” on Broadway when I was in high school. From there, I bought as many CDs as I could get my hands on and jumped fully in to their catalogue.

I tried reading a biography years ago, but it was “hefty” to say the least.

I had recently seen pre-orders for an upcoming memoir by one of the main architects of The Who, Pete Townshend, and I made a mental note to pick it up. I got the audio version when it was released about a month ago.

I love listening to audio memoirs when they’re narrated by the authors themselves, it’s like sitting down with someone who’s reminiscing about their lives. In this category, I highly recommend Anthony Bourdain reading his wry and witty Kitchen Confidential.

But I digress. Pete Townshend’s memoir, Who I Am, is excellent.

And again, having the author and subject reading the book is great. In fact it may even be better than reading the traditional paper book. I could see how you might not “get” some parts if you were sitting down and reading it for yourself, but on the audiobook, Townshend chuckles when recounting some experiences and is quiet and serious when remembering past traumas.

I don’t think that anyone would argue that The Who helped to break rock and roll into a new era, and Townshend and bass player John Entwistle in particular were prodigiously talented musicians, but who knew that Pete Townshend was one of the main influences on the design of the Marshall “Stack”, the now ubiquitous speaker array that many musicians use at their live shows?

The book includes cameos from such musical icons as Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, and Mick Jagger (who Townshend refers to as the only man that he’s ever wanted to…ahem…”sleep with”. The word he used was quite a bit less family friendly).

I don’t think that you have to be a Who or a classic rock fan to enjoy this book. It’s a fascinating look into how your childhood can influence your career, interpersonal dynamics when people are stuck together nearly 24/7 (during grueling international tours), and a really fascinating look into the inner workings of the music industry.

If you’re a reader, pick up the book, if you want a whole different dimension, download the audiobook.

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