WWSP's "The Alternate Boot!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A R&R Dynamo!


I'm pretty conflicted about Pete Townshend's "Who I Am."  It's a book that is sometimes good, and other times not so good.  It's an easy read. Confounding too. Pete comes across as an intelligent, sensitive soul. But sometimes you think Pete is not the best guy to be telling his own story, or the story of the Who.

He lacks perspective. He's so conflicted.  And confused.  And there were all those years of alcoholism.  And those years of cocaine insanity. He's actually best on his early formative years as a child in London.  Clear-eyed.  He's a little less good on the Who years. One thinks he doesn't really understand his own accomplishments.

If you want to understand why The Who are a great and important band, listen to their string of masterful discs: Who's Next, Live at Leeds, Isle of Wight, Tommy, Quadrophrenia.  Plus don't forget the early singles: Happy Jack, My Generation, Substitute, The Kids are Alright, I Can See for Miles.  Pete channeled his angst, his anger and frustration into his music and his wind-milling stage persona.  That's the best of the man.  An artist.

And although Pete wrote most of the songs, The Who's greatness resided in the collective dynamic between Daltrey, Moon, Entwhistle and Townshend.

Townshend's self-portrait is messy and often unappealing. He's a guy pining for some kind of spiritual transcendence, so much of his work is about that topic, but you never really get a sense of what that transcendence actually means. And much of the book is wrapped up in the mind-numbingly mundane, in all kinds of trivial, empty things. Maybe that's a life, but it's not a compelling narrative, and not very interesting or enlightening for the reader.

My favorite sentence in Pete's book, is the last one: "If in doubt, just play."  That can pretty much serve as some kind of credo.  And when The Who were in their prime, they were a powerful, rock and roll dynamo!

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