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Who I Am

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  6,791 Ratings  ·  900 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 (first published January 1st 2012)
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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
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
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.
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
Mar 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: my generation
Shelves: music, nonfiction, 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/docu
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
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!
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
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
Julie Barrett
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
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.
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 thousands of times, loving the "Chinese Eyes" album, seeing them on the "reunion" tour of the late 80s, reading books about the band, etc., I was blown away at how vacuous and boring this book is.

Townsend spends copious amounts of time examining his "spiritual journey" which, in the end
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
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.
Ti Emme Rock
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Pur essendo una fan degli Who, ho trovato questa lettura poco scorrevole. Nonostante si tratti di un'autobiografia, si sofferma davvero poco sui fatti che hanno segnato, nel bene e nel male, la sua vita. Sembra una lista infinita di fatti raccontati scrupolosamente in ordine cronologico. Manca di brio e di forza (quella che troviamo nelle canzoni della band!). In alcune parti sembra quasi giustificarsi, in altre traspare la sua insofferenza verso le persone (noi), che da anni finanziamo le sue b ...more
Nov 14, 2012 rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book.

I'm a big Who fan, and Pete Townshend has regularly proved himself to be one of the most erudite and thoughtful rock 'n' rollers out there. If this memoir were half as interesting as his interviews, I thought it might be as enlightening (and as much fun) as Keith Richards' "Life."

What a disappointment.

It's not that Townshend can't write -- he obviously can. And he's properly introspective for a memoir. But there's little joy in his storytelling, little soul in h
Jun 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Who I Am is a comprehensive memoir starting with his earliest childhood memories of a troubled but still loving family life and how Pete's art school education heavily influenced early Who music and style and the direction of the band.

He also talks about his battles with alcohol, drugs, relationships, fidelity, and his own sexuality, but the main focus is on his creative process. He is honest and open about his desires for ever-increasing financial payouts, recording studios, mansions and yachts
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
Well, this was a disappointment. In the best of his songs, Townshend can convey in a few lines the heart's turmoil, some essence of our striving and our failing. Unfortunately, he appears to have no interest in storytelling. This book reads like a diary - this happened, then this happened, and then this happened. We never get any real sense of what it was like to play in one of the greatest rock bands, what Keith, John and Roger were really like, what it is like for him to play guitar or to writ ...more
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Pete has always been one to spill out all of his thoughts and feelings at any given moment in his career. This book is definitely no exception. Townshend comes clean about his faults, his drug use and drinking, his affairs, his fights both with the Who and other people he meets, and even his arrests, most notably for possession of child pornography in 2000.

For what it's worth, I believe Townshend's explanation, which is basically that he was trying both to find out more about incidents that took
Heidi Peterson
Aug 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Would have liked to rate it a 2.5. Raw. Visceral. Honest. A tortured creative soul. The beginning and end of the book were better written. The middle of the book unraveled like knotted yarn--a big mush of thoughts. His childhood was awful; it is comparable to a former Alcatraz prisoner's childhood (whom I met on an Alcatraz tour and bought his biography). The amazing thing is all the creative projects Pete accomplished as I only knew about the Who. I also never heard about his horrific accident ...more
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
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
Steve Coscia
Oct 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Well written and fairly detailed memoir. Townshend comes clean and shares more details about his personal hardships and flaws than of his musical genius (in my opinion). Is he too humble? Does he seek forgiveness? Perhaps this book is a cathartic exercise. Still, as a big fan, I enjoyed reading every word. This book is a page turner.

Good descriptions of behind-the-scenes managerial and financial transactions. It is fun when 1960s/1970s rock stars peel back the curtain and reveal what was really
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Huntsville-Madiso...: Staff Pick - Who I Am by Pete Townshend 1 6 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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