To his credit and the reader’s benefit, Townshend doesn’t gloss over any of the inconsistencies in his life. He also spells out how he ended up getting arrested for suspicion of downloading child pornography (Townshend was cleared of possession but did receive a caution for visiting such a site, which he has said he did as part of research having to do with credit card companies and banks turning a blind eye to child porn).
Ultimately, Who I Am may be a disappointment to hard core Who fans, since Townshend doesn’t spend a lot of time on glory stories from the Who’s heyday, and his stint as an editor at publisher Faber & Faber is not likely to serve as much of a substitute. Nor does he probe as deeply as one might hope into his love-hate relationship with Daltrey or his friendship with Moon and Entwistle.
Who I Am often reads like a somewhat unorganized (albeit colorful) diary dump. For example, on the very same page that he details a sordid story of being set up by Moon and Entwistle with a groupie who had gonorrhea, he matter-of-factly tells of marrying his long-suffering now-ex-wife Karen.
There is also an excessive amount of name-dropping. Any memoir from a famous rock star will have its fair share of big names, but mentioning that George Clooney waved to him at the Sunset Marquis seems superfluous.
In Who Are You, the band’s last great song, Townshend wrote: “I spit out like a sewer hole yet still receive your kiss. How can I measure up to anyone now after such a love as this?” After 500 pages, readers may be wondering the same thing.
Joe Flint reviewed this book for The Los Angeles Times.