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Who I Am

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  8,111 ratings  ·  1,015 reviews
From the voice of a generation: The most highly anticipated autobiography of the year, and the story of a man who... is a Londoner and a Mod.... wanted The Who to be called The Hair.... loved The Everly Brothers, but not that "drawling dope" Elvis.... wanted to be a sculptor, a journalist, a dancer and a graphic designer.... became a musician, composer, librettist, fiction ...more
Hardcover, 538 pages
Published October 8th 2012 by Harper
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  8,111 ratings  ·  1,015 reviews

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Nov 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to love this book. I love the Who, and I'm a huge fan of Townshend's solo work up until sometime in the early 90s. Empty Glass and Chinese Eyes are just stellar albums...and Quadrophenia was for years my most often played album. I read Keith Richards' autobio, and loved it, and I'm a much bigger Who fan, so I was sure I'd be in love with this book too...but no. It's way too self-indulgent, self-important, and frustrating in the author's inability to make prose readable or make an ...more
Sep 15, 2013 rated it liked it
I just don't know what to make of this. Is my tepid feeling for the book about the book or about or Townshend?

The band, as the first pages says, is Roger's thing, but everything that follows says that it's Pete's thing. Pete is not just writing music he's making personnel decisions; he's negotiating with managers, lawyers, signing rights. He's well into Quadrophenia before any mention of input from the band is mentioned. After this and more, it's amazing that on p. 346, Townsend says "Roger was
Tony Nielsen
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As a long time Who fan I've been looking forward to Pete Townsend's frank appraisal of life with the Who and beyond. I first saw them live in Auckland, New Zealand in the late sixties, and for many years kept a small piece of Keith Moon's drum kit which I souvenired after he demolished it at the concert's finale. Keith Richard's "Life" has pretty much been accepted as the bnenchmark for rock musician's memoirs in recent times. In my view Townsend at least matches it, if not eclipses it. Certainl ...more
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Read in the interest of fairness after Roger’s book. It’s double the length of Roger’s efforts, and is thorough and fair, as I’d expect Pete to be. He comes across these days as more humble and aware of others than he ever was in his younger years, and clearly has deep respect for Roger. He writes more kindly about John Entwhistle than Roger does too. Again, there are some laugh aloud moments and he writes well. His frustration about the Lighthouse project is clear, and I did skim read bits of t ...more
Tania Donald
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As a long-time admirer of Pete Townshend's songwriting and musicianship, both as part of The Who and as a solo artist, I was a bit nervous about reading this book. It can be very disillusioning to discover that people we look up to as inspirations are, in fact, real people, and may not correspond at all with the lofty ideals we build about them in our own minds and dreams.
Let me say that on finishing Who I Am, my admiration for Pete Townshend both as an artist and as a person has only deepened.
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I must admit, I'm really waffling on whether Pete gets two or three stars. I confess that I'm a sucker for a rock book. I tend to leap into them without coming up for air until the last page is turned. This book was no different, but I can't say that it was the scintillating prose that kept me enthralled. Maybe my expectations were too great. In his work with The Who and his earlier solo efforts, Pete was often a songwriter nonpareil. His various interviews not only showed him to be an entertain ...more
Brett C
Jun 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs
This is an interesting autobiography by one of the most talented musicians of our time. I was captivated by his early years and his taking to 'auto-destruction art' he learned while in art school. This involved destroying their instruments and equipment at the end of a concert which The Who perfected. This form of art has been mimicked by Jimi Hendrix, The Clash, Nine Inch Nails, and Nirvana.

Overall a good book about the man, where he came from, his shitty times, his good times, and how he manag
Nov 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Without a doubt The Who was a major band in their time and place. Also Pete Townshend surrounded himself with great eccentric figures - Keith Moon, Kit Lambert, Nic Cohn, Chris Stamp, John Entwistle,and the first Who manager and visionary Pete Meaden. How I would love to hear stories about these guys from Townsend, but what we get instead is (very) basic tales of insecurity, doubt, "woo me being a star," etc from the mouth and brains of Pete Townsend.

There is nothing wrong with that, for he is
Nov 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Much of what I read was much the same as the tales of my other pop heroes. I did learn about his great love for and understanding of the technical chores and challanges of recording. Also to be discovered
is Pete's need to use 'big words' that chased me to seek the assistance of Webster sometimes three times on one page. Yes, I do feel mixed. I am both annoyed and challenged to better my own went to the thesaurus too often Pete.

It seems somehow appropriate to draw p
Deborah Stevenson
Jun 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
Painful read. Thought I would never get thru it! Was very highly reviewed which led me to choosing it for my book club. Not a Who fan and found he went on endlessly about recording each and every album with details I am sure even fans would find too much.
In one breath he talked of no money, in the next bought a new house or a new boat.
He came across as extremely flawed, self-absorbed, & immature.
Would not recommend!
Mar 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: my generation
Shelves: nonfiction, music, memoir
Every year is the same
And I feel it again
I'm a loser, no chance to win
Leaves start falling
Comedown is calling
Loneliness starts sinking in
But I'm one...

-I'm One

Goodbye all you punks
Stay young and stay high
Hand me my chequebook
And I'll crawl out to die

-They Are All In Love

The Beatles Were Over With Herman's Hermits

Pete Townshend has long been my favorite personality in rock music, aside from all the obvious credentials, for being the best interview in the business, Exhibit A being the concert/d
Oct 20, 2012 rated it liked it
The Who was my favorite band when I was a teenager. When I began to make the transition from records and tapes to CDs, the first longbox I bought was "Quadrophenia."

I started reading "Who I Am" in the middle, because I think Pete was most compelling when he was in his late 30s. From 1980 to 1982, he released two solo albums and the Who released two albums. None are great ("Empty Glass" and "Face Dances" come close), but all are interesting. The book adds meaning to the some of the songs from thi
David Grapka
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I have been a fan of Pete Townsend and the Who ever since I rode my 3 speed bike 28 miles to the BIg N in Jamestown, NY to buy the "Who Sell Out" record. I told my mom I was going to do that and I don't think she believed me. She came to get me and picked me up on the road in Dry Brook. Pulled over, put my bike in the trunk and didn't yell at me at all!

Anyway, I got this book for Christmas and just finished all 507 pages. I learned a lot about Mr. Townsend, his enormous vocabulary, and about th
John Cooper
Jun 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Pete Townshend is a seeker — a type of person I know very well. Seekers are sensitive, spiritually curious, emotional, and mostly gentle. They tend also to be self-involved, overly serious, and self-indulgent, and can be thoughtless to others to the point of cruelty. Townshend is at peace with his faults and details them quite openly in his admirably candid memoir. Often I read with a bit of disappointed horror — really, Pete? — but I found it possible to forgive him precisely because he describ ...more
JwW White
Dec 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: biography
How is it possible for the lead guitarist and songwriter of one of the world's iconic rock bands to make a memoir so utterly boring? As someone who grew up listening to The Who, watching their "farewell" concert dozens of times on videotape (to my parent’s chagrin), seeing them on the "reunion" tour of the late 80s, having read and reread a book about the band, and having listened to Townshend’s “Chinese Eyes” album repeatedly, I was blown away at how vacuous and boring this book is.

Townshend s
Bill Keithler
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this memoir, at least for a while. It moves quickly and , as a fan of the Who, captivated my interest quickly. Townsend knows how to write (this was not ghosted). In fact, he has written numerous short stories, worked as an editor at Faber and authored columns for British music magazines. While numerous major figures in the rock and roll galaxy move in and out of the discussions in the book, this is not a tell-all. Townsend's focus is on himself and he is unsparing in his descr ...more
Dave Schwensen
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Pete Townshend’s memoir is exactly as titled: Who ‘I’ Am. In other words, it’s all about Pete. That’s fine – and what a memoir is normally about. But Townshend has never been a major solo icon (sorry fan club members). Yes, he’s had solo success as a writer and artist, but is known best as a member of The Who. His greatest triumphs – Tommy, Woodstock, Quadrophenia and sold-out tours were as part of a group. A very famous group that is recognizable for the “sound” they created together, sold mill ...more
Dec 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: music, finished-2013
There is always a risk when reading a memoir of a famous person you like that after you read the memoir you won't like them as much. That happened to me after reading both Ginger Rogers and Olivia De Havilland's memoirs. I've always adored their movies so I was sad to find out they were assholes. Pete's memoir has caused a similar issue with me. He's not as horrible as Ginger or Olivia but he's still not such a great human being. Oh, I still love his songwriting and his guitar playing but as a f ...more
Tom Schulte
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Long in coming, this is a rocker autobiography well worth waiting for. (And, waiting for me to get around to it.) In this audiobook, having Pete narrate it himself makes it more personal and adds dimension as he frequently chuckles or sighs in a way adding nuance to key passages.

So, this is not a Who memoir, but a Townshend memoir. Whole Who and even solo albums can be dispensed with by a sentence or two. There is none of the detailed session notes and track-by-track minutiae that often comes w
Deidre Dalton
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I finished reading "Who I Am" by Pete Townshend last night. It was a good book from start to finish and very well-written by the author. I've always admired Pete Townshend as a composer, musician and vivid story-teller. He also has a wry sense of humor, which is just as enjoyable as his other talents.

There are three passages in his autobiography which made me laugh out loud in particular. The first was when Pete and Roger Daltrey (lead singer of The Who and an accomplished actor as well) were at
Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2012
I was so excited to read this book, especially after seeing a number of interviews with Pete about it. In the interviews, he spoke about trying to get his mother to talk to him about his childhood for years and how he finally succeeded while writing this book. He was so candid and his answers so heartfelt, and I expected more of the same from the book. I was a little disappointed. At a number of points in the book, the topic seemed to change in the middle of a section, leaving story threads hang ...more
Anita George
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Donna Thomas
Jul 14, 2013 rated it liked it
After waiting for this book for decades, it could probably only be a disappointment. That said, there were some particular issues:

A surprisingly flat prose authorial voice. It turns out that being able to create phrases that are deeply affecting, in fact world-changing, when sung and arranged to music does not mean that you will create equally stirring verbiage sans music. I can hardly hold this against Mr. Townshend. He's brilliant at multiple things; it just turns out that autobiographical wri
David Wallis
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Townshend's writing is friendly and accessible; I felt like a new friend who he was walking through his life, warts and all. He has the humility of a recovering person (a certain peace, serenity) mixed with bat-shit escapades, out of control ego AND insecurities, drugs/alcohol, black emotions. He never really crows about his 'victories', is tortured about balancing his work with his family, which includes the members of The Who.

You will feel you really know the man. Pete has always been at t
Jun 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
I listened to Pete Townshend read his autobiography on my MP3. I think if I had been reading this I would not have finished it. It is more of a chronology of barely related facts. He does not go into depth about his personal life. However the book is just a clue into his self centered personality. He never gets into his friendships or love lives. The people in his life are merely mentioned. Most disturbing was his lack of emotion over the deaths of Keith Moon and John Entwistle. They are merely ...more
Fred Klein
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
This autobiography is a lot like Pete Townshend's career. The part about his childhood is ok, the part about The Who is fun and interesting, and, otherwise, his discussion of his adherence to Meher Baba (he never fully explains *WHY*), his dreadful rock operas, and his solo career is self-indulgent, excessive, and boring.

I couldn't finish this. I think this is best left to the most obsessed fans of Pete Townshend, but I think even those who are into The Who will find this pretty boring.
Jackie "the Librarian"
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
Townsend is a fascinating man, but he was more interested in talking about the cars, boats, and studios he had built than in his music and personal life. I get that, I don't like talking about myself much either. But I really wanted an in-depth, comprehensive accounting of Mr. Townsend's life, and I didn't truly get that here. ...more
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I found Townshend’s autobiography disappointingly boring. It doesn’t help either that the author also often sounds like a broken record: a workaholic, trying to do right by his wife and children…oops falls in love with another women and neglects wife and children…gets back on the wagon, falls off, gets back on the wagon… and so on. And after years of therapy, I would expect him to have a little more insight into himself. He goes a long way to show the sexual abuse suffered as a child and how tha ...more
Gus Sanchez
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bios-and-memoirs
Pete Townshend has led a seemingly contradictory life. Eloquent and empathetic one moment, crass and insensitive the next. A spiritual soul that nearly succumbed to the pleasures of the flesh. A doting family man whose extramarital affairs inevitably destroyed his marriage.

A brilliant guitar. A gifted songwriter. A lousy bandmate. A pretentious asshole. All of the above.

I wondered for a while what it would take for Pete to finally publish his memoirs. As rock stars go, Pete Townshend has staked
Phil Ford
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
As I am getting ready to go see "The Who" on their "Movin' On" tour in a week, there is particular relevance to reading this now. Also, Pete Townshend and The Who has meant a lot me, since picking up the Who's Missing cassette back in 1984, when I was a teen, and delving full on into this band as my first and favorite classic rock band. Naturally I went on to enjoy my own era of music, but when you are young, you fall into some categories, and I was quite deliberate how I would approach listenin ...more
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Huntsville-Madiso...: Staff Pick - Who I Am by Pete Townshend 1 8 Nov 28, 2014 06:26PM  

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Pete Townshend (born Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend), is an award-winning English rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer, and writer.

Townshend made his name as the guitarist and principal songwriter for rock band The Who. His career with them spans more than 40 years, during which time the band grew to be considered one of the greatest and most influential rock bands of all time, in additi

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