LB Reads Pete Townsend’s Autobiography

…And, in spite of being one of the biggest Who fans you’ll ever hear from, all I can say is:

“What an asshole.”

Think about what I just said. A guy writes his life story, deliberately trying to show himself in the best light possible, glossing over this, that, and the other thing, and still comes out as a weak, back-stabbing, self-aggrandizing weasel. What does this say about him?

If Pete were with me right now, here’s what I’d say to him:

Dood, never writing a simple declarative sentence in which you say you felt bad about Keith Moon’s death but instead telling us how freeing for you his death was because now your guitar playing could “take up more room” in your performances isn’t really a way to get people to love you, y’ know?

And going on to tell us that John Entwhistle’s death meant you – and Roger Daltry – would make more money from the tour you were doing because now you’d get his share…whoa, that is not a saving grace to an otherwise bad experience, pal, sorry.

To be fair, Pete’s got a solid writing style, and I was fascinated by everything he said about the history of the Who. He definitely made me feel like I was part of the band, in on its formation and its secrets.

That, however, just made reading about his selfishness (some avowed by him, some seemingly unknown to him) even more painful. We are told over and over again about how much he loved his wife Karen, and how bad he felt whenever he cheated on her. And how much he regretted all the drinking and drug-taking he did. But feelings of guild and regret don’t change the fact that he consistently behaved in a way that hurt those who loved him.

And Pete’s biggest excuse, the “I’m an artist and I can’t help myself cuz artists are crazy” argument, well, c’mon, setting oneself up as superior to other human beings simply because you have a certain amount of talent – or for any reason, for that matter  – is a classic symptom of sociopaths everywhere. If there’s one thing my life in showbiz has taught me it’s that no one is above the normal concept of human decency.

Sorry, but I just can’t cut Pete as much slack as he thinks he deserves. Because I know the hell that can lead to. For everyone.

Bottom line:

  • Want to know about the early Who and its personality clashes and sound? Read Who I Am by Pete Townsend.
  • Want to watch an egomaniac in action, lying to himself and making himself and all those around him miserable? Read Who I Am.
But if you want to feel, really feel, the emotions behind some great music, and get to know a couple of people you might have liked – or even loved – if you’d had the chance, try these videos instead:

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.

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