Who Are You - The Life Of Pete Townshend by Mark Ian Wilkerson

Martin Bailey mobailey at ntlworld.com
Tue Mar 18 17:24:05 CDT 2008

There's a new(ish) book about Pete out this week.

Below is the text from a review of the book scanned from Q magazine.

Also available as a PDF at: 


The Life Of Pete Townshend Mark Ian Wilkerson

****  (out of 5)

Pete Townshend is a gift. Few writers could invent a character so 
compelling, contradictory and downright contrary.

Mark Ian Wilkerson's biography throws these aspects of his hero's life into 
sharp relief. Who Are You first appeared under the title Amazing Journey in 
2005, but this updated version comes with a foreword from Pearl Jam frontman 
Eddie Vedder, a fellow Who obsessive, and crucially, some input from 
Townshend himself

The bulk of the book, though, is given over to existing material. No 
interview, review or soundbite is left unearthed; Wilkerson approaching his 
job with forensic zeal. This turns out to be both Who Are You's greatest 
strength and drawback. By punctiliously crediting each source ("as told to 
Rolling Stone's Anthony De Curtis..."), some of the prose slows to a snail's 

Put up against other Who biographies, be they Dave Marsh's Before I Get Old 
or Richard Barnes's Maximum R&B, Wilkerson's might be found wanting. It 
works, though, by finding stories within stories and casting light on 
previously darkened corners of The Who's history.

The reader's interest is also sustained by Townshend's loose, sharp tongue 
and the natural pace of The Who's story There's a grotesquely compelling 
element to some of the songwriter's exploits in the early '8os: coked out of 
his mind at a Pink Floyd conceit, Townshend declares his, very unrequited, 
love for actress Theresa Russell. Elsewhere, he gets pissed and passes out 
in Mick Jagger's Manhattan pad.

It's hard to think of another rock star so willing to own up to his foibles. 
Yet, as Who Are You repeatedly demonstrates, Townshend is just as given to 
churlishness. While bandmate Roger Daltrey remains loyal to his mate after 
Townshend's arrest for accessing child pornography, he is soon rewarded with 
onstage jibes and sneering from the guitarist. The bile is, as Townshend 
admits, often a mask for his own insecurity Yet you still wonder why Daltrey 
hasn't dished out a beating to his partner more often in their 4O-odd years 
of working together. One Townshend confidante eventually throws in the towel 
as he'd simply "had enough abuse".

Despite its occasional slowness, Who Are You? succeeds on its depth, 
enthusiasm and, yes, the rich pickings to be had from Pete Townshend just 
being Pete Townshend. There may be better written books about The Who, but 
there'll never be one quite so exhaustive.


TYPICAL QUOTE: "Most of the time, Pete's a dream to work with and some days 
he's the worst person in the world. For no reason at all, he can be a 
complete arsehole. As he gets older, it actually gets worse." Don Astley. 
Who producer
PUBLISHER: Omnibus Press, 51Q.Q5
FURTHER INFO: WWW. townshendbio.com


The Life Of Keith Moon Tony Fletcher
OMNIBUS, 1999 ****
The hard-partying exploits of The Who's troubled drummer are levelled with 
thoughtful critical insight in this excellent rock biography.

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