As more rock stars from the sixties reach their sixties or even their seventies, many of them are releasing autobiographies covering their careers and, with the case of Pete Townshend’s Who I Am, their private lives as well.
Townshend is best known as the guitar smashing, windmilling, songwriter for The Who. Initially he does a good job giving his take on the band’s storied career. There have been plenty of books written about The Who and Townshend has been more than willing to grant interviews over the years, but this is the first time he has told his side of the story from the beginning up almost until the present. Townshend spends a lot of time on his childhood and The Who’s early days as well as the making of Tommy and The Who’s follow-up project Lifehouse, which was never completed but did result in the album Who’s Next.
Later on the book feels rushed. I wasn’t happy with Townshend’s quick discussion of later works such as The Who By Numbers or his solo album Empty Glass. I also grew tired of reading about his constant affairs, including an attempt to woo actress Theresa Russell in the late seventies. This philandering continued for years and he and his wife Karen did finally divorce, but I would have preferred to read more about The Who and Townshend’s solo work and less about his penchant for cheating. Ultimately, Who I Am does read like an honest, at times perhaps too honest, life story but even at 500 plus pages he can’t adequately cover his childhood and his almost fifty year career in music with and without The Who. It would have been nice if he had written a longer biography and released it in two or three volumes. At the same time he has been working on Who I Am since the mid nineties, so I suppose Who fans should just be thankful that he finally put it out.