Book Review: Who I Am by Pete Townshend

5 STARS. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Today’s Daily Post wants to hear about the blog post I was most nervous to publish. I don’t have a particular post in that category, but always feel discomfort when I let a post reveal something deeply true about me.  I’ll post it anyway – in between the cat pictures –  because I so respect blogs and conversations that go beyond the superficial.  And because, when I make a list of important attributes, honesty is always at the top.

Which brings me to Pete Townshend’s memoir, Who I Am. This book mesmerized me and a big part of that was Townshend’s honesty. What separates this from the tawdry “tell alls” of so many celebrities? (Hmm I notice I have strong opinions of such celebrity books without ever having read one. Okay. Disclosure made. Reader beware.) Well. Everything, really. Townshend doesn’t gossip or confide. He shares secrets and bares soul.  I have so much respect for his willingness to make himself look bad in the interest of telling it like it was. Reading this book, I learned not just about Townshend. I also gained insights into topics as varied as myself, addiction, and the collective unconscious.

A few scattershot reactions:

  • Ironic that he had to end his marriage to get into a monogamous relationship.
  • Amazing how similar addictive mindsets can be from person to person, substance to substance.
  • The most fun part of the book are the chapters about the early days of the British rock scene, centered around an art school an Ealing.  One of those times when so much talent and energy magically converged. (I was lucky enough to live through such a time in Los Angeles in the late 1970s.)  Ealing in the early 60s had the Stones and Kinks in clubs, John Marshall developing his amplifiers, John McLaughlin as a local salesman! And of course school chums Daltrey, Townshend, and Entwistle happening to form a band.

You don’t have to be a Townshend or Who fanatic to enjoy this book. I loved classic rock back in its day but don’t listen to it now.  I always liked the Who’s attitude and enjoy their music but they were never one of my bands and I only saw them once (and that time, mainly because the Clash were on the same bill). I never got into Townshend’s solo work.

Book jacket publicity writing usually makes me twitch, but this time I agree with the cover blurb, which reads in part: “With eloquence, fierce intelligence, and brutal honesty, Pete Townshend has written a deeply personal book that also stands as a primary source for popular music’s greatest epoch. Readers will be confronted by a man laying bare who he is, an artist who has asked for nearly sixty years: Who are you?”

Okay, I might need to debate the greatest epoch part, but otherwise that description is spot on.

P.S. Also, he’s funny and there are laugh-out-loud lines throughout.

 

Dearest Blog, I Once Was Cool!

Dearest Blog,

I have neglected you of recent. Although I miss you, I cannot say why I’ve gone silent nor when it will end.

It was no fun to contemplate life without this big doofus.

Certainly, I have my reasons. First, I went away for a week of family reunions. By the time I got home, my special buddy, the enormous former kitten Leo, had gone missing, and the next 2.5 days I was in a terrible funk until I found him.

Next, I came down with a cold. It’s on the wane, thanks for asking. I’ve also found myself low on energy vis a vis the government shutdown. My day job paycheck is on furlough as I am a “non-essential” employee; and although it looks like eventually the lost pay will return to me, I don’t know when or how much. The cold and my furlough ennui are probably related. (My very personal response to this week’s Writing Challenge.)

Besides which, I found a tick! On me! Eeeewwww. Which led to hours with medicos, and an antiviral shot.

Meanwhile, I’ve been immersed in my first sit-down re-read of my newly completed fantasy-mystery novel FRAMES. At this stage, I don’t allow myself to make changes, I try to keep a more global perspective and  make notes in margins about what needs to change. The goal is to read the whole book in as few sittings as possible.

Also meanwhile, I confess I’ve been struggling to limit the amount of time I spend reading Pete Townshend’s memoir: it’s kept me hooked through 400 pages so far.

More for the Strange World files. Now the visionary rebel Fela has become a Broadway musical.

More for the Strange World files. Now the visionary rebel Fela has become a Broadway musical.

Then, yesterday, when I thought I would finish my re-reading and reading, instead I got sucked into my son’s impromptu project to organize my record collection. He has recently laid long-term claim to my albums, but sought help organizing them. Alphabetical has never worked for me when it comes to browsing. So we spent many hours sorting into initial piles like R-&-B-rock-intersection or New-York-junkie-music. Some of the sorting stymied me. I mean where do you put Ike & Tina Turner? Sun Ra? Richard Thompson? Should the Blasters LPs stand alongside X because of historical context and abiding friendship, or next to David Lindley, another lover of roots guitar? Guess that’s how alphabetical listings got started…

It was great fun to give my son a few albums immediately. Turns out the 20 y.o.s are getting back into Joy Division, and I still don’t like ’em, so now my son is the proud owner of their first LP. (Mint condition, unlike the LPs I did like.) At one point I was rewarded when he said with bemusement, “Mom, it’s hard to say this but you used to be really cool.” Which reminded me of how I came to write SCAR JEWELRY.