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12-07-2012, 08:36 AM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Originally Posted by
Anyone reading or read the Pete Townshend memoir? A couple of observations -
(i) it's amazing how little he has to say about the construction of particular songs and how much he has to say about the construction of albums as a whole, and with the technical production of collections of songs. I suppose he left the details of working out the songs to his bandmates, which explains why his solo stuff is pretty weak. He's certainly no Paul McCartney.
(ii) He had this concept of himself as a person divided between his family life and his life as a self-obsessed drunk musician. When you read his own account of his life, it becomes pretty clear that his felt pull to his family was pretty much a vanity.
(iii) I've never ready an autobiography where the author makes himself out to seem like such an awful person. Clearly his honesty is his strength.
I haven't picked up the Townshend book yet, but as a massive Who fan, I most certainly will at some point. But from what I know of the man and how the book was developed, I think I can respond to your points.
i)Post Tommy, Townshend was more concerned with making albums that work as concepts or at least have a prevailing theme as opposed to just writing stand-alone songs. Who's Next was supposed to be a concepual piece called Lifehouse, Quadrophenia is another rock opera, majority of the tracks on The Who By Numbers all have a common theme, etc. Even in his solo career, he's presented pieces like The Iron Man and Psychoderelict which are also conceptual. So, it makes sense to me that he would talk about the bigger picture (meaning albums) as opposed to smaller pieces (meaning songs). The book was also scaled down from the original manuscript which was well over a thousand pages, so I'm sure a lot of things had to be glazed over in order to reduce it's size to about half.
As far as letting the rest of the Who work out the details of the individual songs, while there's no denying that the rest of the band's ability as individual musicians and their combined chemistry made them bigger and better than Pete could ever be on his own, he was clearly the mastermind behind everything. Part of Pete's writing process was to present very elaborate demos with fully realized songs to the band when they were about to work on new material. If you ever get the chance tp hear any of these, you'd be surprised at how complete they sound, as if they were outtakes of the band in the studio as opposed to Pete working on his own. These demos were released in the 80's and 90's under the titles of Scoop, Another Scoop, and Scoop 3 and spawned a lot of discussion amongst Who fans as to whether the rest of the band influenced Townshend's playing on these demos or whether Pete's playing on the demos influenced the rest of the band! I mean, if you're not a die-hard fan, these collections may not be of interest. But they are still an interesting look into the man's writing process.
That he's no Paul McCartney goes without saying, but let's face it, most artists have a certain amount of good years in them and after that, their work just begins to pale in comparison to to their prime. Hell, even a good portion of McCartney's post Beatles career is not very good! I'd argue that Pete lost his touch even before the Who broke up. It could just be the absence of Keith Moon, but I'm not a huge fan of those last two Who albums (Face Dances, and It's Hard). Still, that's an impressive 14 year run.
ii)He's most definitely torn between what he sees has his purpose in life and his duty (artist) and the trappings of a normal man (family). His work ethic is tremendous, he's extrememly dedicated to his trade, and feels totally compelled to create. There's undoubtedly a part of him that views his family as a diversion that has been keeping him from what he believes he's on this planet to do, but I have no doubt that he genuinely loves and is devoted to them.
iii)His honesty has always been a strength in most cases, but he's also said things that he's regretted because of whatever emotional state he was in at that particular time. Sure, these were honest feelings at the time, but his emotions skewed the reality of a lot of situations and he's had to make corrections over the years. But, he has always been consistent on how awful both he and his bandmates are as people. There are very few saints in this world, but I also don't think most people would be able to point out their own shortcomings like he does. And I'm not talking about superficial things like leaving the toilet seat up, I'm talking about being frank about the dark thoughts that we're all prone to have from time to time and those occasions where we actually carry them out.
For what it's worth, I've heard that the audiobook version of the memoir is amazing. Pete reads his own words, provides almost spot on impressions of others dialogue, and really gets the mood of certain stories across whether it be comedic or dramatic. If you wind up liking the book a lot, you might wanna check that out too.
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