History, Mystery, Music and Pop…

Random thoughts on books and events.

Toppermost Queen

Here is your author’s list on the great Toppermost site. Regular readers already know my affection for Queen. Here’s my thoughts. At least today.

Queen toppermost 10

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the insane beauty of the banjo

An old blog which I think is ok.

History, Mystery, Music and Pop...

I hate self-indulgence, but I need to explain from where my beloved Washburn B9 banjo comes. Due to a set of circumstances I don’t need to relate here, students and some staff at the institute where I teach chipped in and bought it for me. I still can’t express the gratitude I have for them doing that. I had played a tenor banjo some years back, and the B9 is a 5-string. So, a new instrument. (I also think the tenor was tuned like a guitar… ok, I cheated.)

As you’ll see from my profile pic, I play mandolin (that’s a solidbody I’m holding). I also play guitar and bass. The beauty of the mandolin is its symmetry. Not just horizontally, but vertically, everything works. You play a chord shape or scale on one set of strings, you can play it on another. What I quickly discovered on the banjo…

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Ain’t misbehavin’

This standard, performed here by Linda Taylor, with your author on solid body mandolin, was written by Fats Waller in 1929. The mandolin is my trusty jbovier els. I think it’s set to the middle position (both pickups on). I don’t know what amp it’s going through. The strings are jazzmando flat wounds, the pick is a jazzmando pick. It’s about my favourite instrument (along with my banjo and Telecaster).

Mandolin is a great instrument. I’ve been playing for five or six years. It’s a gorgeous instrument for theory. I have used the FFcP technique developed by Ted Eschliman (from whom I also bought the mandolin in this video).

From here, I can go a couple of ways… I can describe rock mandolin, or I can look at the idea of solid bodies. I might return to these at some point. I could look at the track itself. A real balance of melancholy and triumph, with perfectly judged lyrics. Instead, listen to the track. My imperfections heighten the extremely good vocals by Linda. Many of my students ( all of whom are magnificent musicians) were in the audience. I usually teach history, so few of them have heard me play. Needless to say, Linda has a big future ahead of her.

I place it here as a record of performance.

Hope you enjoy.

Andrew Hickey: The Beach Boys on CD (Vol 1 and 2); Monkee Music

Don’t mistake my doing three books at once as some kind of copout: Hickey is one of the best writers on pop music around.  And, they are books that in a sense I shouldn’t be reviewing. In my review of Georg Purvis’s Queen: The Complete Works, i stated that there are very few groups that really warrant a complete rundown of each piece of recorded work. Hickey has managed to do two (actually three, but I’ll get to the Kinks at another point, maybe). The Beach Boys are an Important Band. The Monkees less so.

I’ll state at this point that I have a strange ambivalence to the Beach Boys: strange in that I acknowledge that they have produced undoubtedly great songs: ‘Good Vibrations’, ‘God Only Knows’, ‘I get Around’; ‘Surf City’, their cover of ‘Sloop John B’, et cetera. They have one of the best vocal blends of the rock era: rivalled only by The Band, Simon and Garfunkel and the Beatles (Queen come later). The story (which Hickey wisely doesn’t retell) is one of great tragedy: A Shakespearean tale of mental illness, drug addiction, greatness, betrayal, cruelty and poignancy. The mix of doo-wop, surf music and just pure pop was pretty unique, leading to undoubtedly great singles like ‘Good Vibrations’: a symphony that on paper, shouldn’t work. But in practice, works sublimely.

And yet… a lot of The Beach Boys leaves me cold. The Great Masterpiece, Pet Sounds, is to me, a disconnected, overproduced mess, with a LOT of filler. I know, I’m wrong. But subjectively, that’s what I feel. After Brian Wilson’s withdrawal from the band, my unease is a bit more explicable, really. One of the triumphs of Hickey’s book is that a disinterested, uninterested, non-fan like myself can find it unputdownable.

Like his earlier book, it’s full of little details that the serious listener can find – coughs, salivates, laughter, instrument spills. I never knew the introduction of ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ was a guitar, but when you listen again, it certainly is. He has listened again and again to every track, finding every nuance he can, making a compelling read.

This amazingly keeps up in the second volume, which includes (in Hickey’s estimation), some of the worst drivel ever committed to vinyl. It also contains some of the best. As the band disintegrates, reintegrates, and disintegrates, we get the story of all the recordings. Poor Old Mike Love’s solo album is trashed. I can’t wait for Volume 3, which will have the story of Kokomo (and which will hopefully explain to me why Hickey doesn’t like Terry Melcher, who’s been the villain of nearly all his books). He calls him an ‘incompetent buffoon’ in his Beatles book and continues that theme here. In my (Limited) view, he was competent, if not great, with the Byrds. I know Hickey will expand.

The second volume is harder to justify. One of Bruce Johnston’s solo albums ends every article with ‘Nice Vocals’ or a slight variant: this highlights the bland nature of the album. The later career of the Beach Boys doesn’t really warrant this attention. But Hickey makes it compelling. A first rate read for both books.

This leads me to the Monkees. The story is well known. A manufactured band (much like Glee is not a real choir), they struggled with credibility, clashing with particularly Don Kirshner, but nearly every producer they had. The secret ingredient of course was talent. Two exceptionally talented songwriters, two very good ones, one exceptional vocalist (Mickey Dolenz), and three very good ones. Hickey pays Davy Jones the ultimate compliment, though. Hickey is not enamoured of Jones’ voice, but he states he is never less than professional.

For those of us who grew up on the reruns of the tv show, the Monkees were an extremely good pop band with catchy tunes. Hickey takes us through everything, and at their best, they were astoundingly good, and amazingly experimental: Moog synthesisers (Dolenz bought one of the first ones); tape loops; freak outs; atonal music. The peripatetic intelligence of Mike Nesmith is appreciated, as is the multi-talented Peter Tork.

Read these books. Hickey deserves to be as lauded as people like Elijah Wald and Ted Gioia, as Charles Shaar Murray and Robert Palmer. He is deeply insightful and hilariously funny. Dean Torrance is described as being unable to carry a tune, if that tune was in a bucket, which was in a bucket with special holders and he was being helped by a couple of professional bucket carriers. That’s just one example of his wit.

Hurry up Andrew and finish your next book: I can’t wait.

Andrew Hickey: The Beatles in Mono

This is one of the finest books on the Beatles I have read. In it, Andrew Hickey, has, with wit and insight, examined the Beatles’ re-releases and remastered songs. This means of course you don’t get a book as comprehensive as McDonald’s Revolution in the Head, but it has strengths that McDonald’s essential book lacks.

One of the things Hickey does is explain exactly why Ringo Starr is one of the great drummers. As he points out, the reason that the Beatles’ odd metrical songs work is due to the nuanced, subtle and skilled playing of Ringo. He is less complimentary on Ringo’s singing.

Hickey has an almost unrivaled knowledge of the recordings. He has a keen ear, and points out slips and errors that many have missed. For example, ‘Hey Jude’ should have been banned from airplay. Hickey tells you why, and, not just that, when you’ve heard it, you will never not hear it. I would add that the first voice in this incident, who he doesn’t identify, sounds to me like Eric Clapton, who was at some of the sessions (and who was conceivably part of the ‘na-na-na’ chorus). But I don’t know for sure.

Hickey also painstakingly points out the quiet genius of George Martin. More than anyone else, Martin was able to take the often vague arrangement ideas of Lennon or McCartney and actualise them. Hickey falls on the side of the pro-Spector side for Let It Be, explaining the tracks were substandard. Listening to Lennon’s bass on the song ‘Let it Be’, which I’d never done, demonstrates this amply.

Hickey is not blind to the faults of the Beatles. He dislikes every one of the Carl Perkins covers, and is not afraid to disparage a Lennon/McCartney composition. He praises though, where deserved, and will tell you why, say, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ is great.

The book originated from a blog, but has, apparently, been substantially revised from its original form. Nonetheless, it has some of the best qualities of a good blog – discursive, entertaining, witty. But, some minor typos and literals aside, it is a proper book. If you are a Beatles fan, or a fan of pop music, it is an essential purchase.

You can get it here

Listening to the noise

It has, by any measure, been an extraordinary week in Australian politics. We have seen an old Prime Minister restored to his position – to his supporters, the ‘king across the waters’ was returned. We have seen one of the most unjustly reviled politicians removed, swiftly, violently and finally. We have seen an outpouring of grief, of respect, of major hypocrisy, especially by the Australian press, many of whom worked tirelessly to promote hate and mistrust.

There are of course, at least a dozen post-mortems as to why Ms Gillard was unsuccessful as PM.. Of course, she had a fairly remarkable record of achievement. No major legislation introduced by her government was rejected. In a minority government, this is an achievement indeed. She was aided by some luck. At any time, she was one heart attack or car crash from a crucial bye-election. She was able to introduce reforms to education and the national disability insurance scheme. She prevailed over an economy which is, we are continually reminded, the envy of the world.

So, what happened? Why was Mr Rudd able to win, fairly convincingly, a ballot of people, who only six months ago, called him all manner of names and cast the most severe aspersions on his character? Ms Gillard herself ultimately did not win the acceptance of the Australian people. The manner of her assumption of the role was not appreciated. Her enemies painted her as ruthless, as amoral, as a megalomaniac. Her tough public demeanor did not do much to dispel this image.

Her sex was continually abused. Radical enemies questioned just how qualified she was to make decisions affecting families, as she has not had children. She was a bitch, a witch, a harpy. Her partner,Tim Mathieson, must be gay. She had a big bottom, skinny legs and, horror of horrors, red hair. Cases she had worked on as a lawyer were exhumed and questions of her integrity were brought in. A few months back, sick of the innuendo, the smears, the continual questioning, she made one of the great speeches given in the Australian house of representatives. This speech drew some of the most stupid commentary ever written in Australia, but was rightly lauded overseas. Nonetheless, she remained widely disliked in Australia.

I suggest that she made one fundamental error. Not removing Mr Rudd. That was an error of the factions who demanded it. Not bringing in a carbon price, though it could have been better handled. Not calling a leadership spill in March. Even the PR faux pas (posing with knitting needles) weren’t enough, I think, to bring her down. Look at Bob Hawke, or John Howard. Both men had their share of mistakes. In fact, even that she was a woman wasn’t the major factor. As she said, her being a woman didn’t explain everything, but nor did it explain nothing.

Where I humbly suggest she went wrong is in what she listened to. She seemed to engage the loudest noises: the right-wing press, the vacuous factions who owed her, and who she owed. As anyone who has been in leadership positions can tell you, there is no shortage of people who will tell you what they think. The loudest and most persistent are often though the minority. Underneath this noise, there’s further data. When the two are the same, you’re fine. But they rarely are. A good leader listens. Not to the noise. But to the gaps. For that is where the truth lies.

the insane beauty of the banjo

I hate self-indulgence, but I need to explain from where my beloved Washburn B9 banjo comes. Due to a set of circumstances I don’t need to relate here, students and some staff at the institute where I teach chipped in and bought it for me. I still can’t express the gratitude I have for them doing that. I had played a tenor banjo some years back, and the B9 is a 5-string. So, a new instrument. (I also think the tenor was tuned like a guitar… ok, I cheated.)

As you’ll see from my profile pic, I play mandolin (that’s a solidbody I’m holding). I also play guitar and bass. The beauty of the mandolin is its symmetry. Not just horizontally, but vertically, everything works. You play a chord shape or scale on one set of strings, you can play it on another. What I quickly discovered on the banjo is that certain chords are very easy. You can play open strings, and there’s a ‘G’. Lay your finger across the strings as a barre, and G#, A, et cetera. So far, so good. A first position C chord makes a bit of sense, as does a D chord. Em is easy. F#, Fmaj, F7, G7: all make some sense. Stick a capo on, avoid that fifth string… all good.

Scales… Oh, my goodness… They make no sense from a guitar or mandolin point of view. As a result, you can find some really interesting melodies. But the beautiful chaos of the banjo. Playing a D or a G scale, getting to that 2nd string – 1 fret, then change up. (of course, you don’t have to, but the option is there.) You can jump up and down strings. Start on the bottom string and finish on the top string (geographically speaking). On mandolin or guitar, you can, but generally the strings near the top are lower in pitch, and the strings at the bottom are higher. Banjo has that drone string.

It is a beautiful instrument: beautiful in its asymmetry. Objectively, it should be an ugly instrument: a circle with a line sticking out of it. A harsh tone, and very little dynamic range. A mongrel beast, part drum, part guitar, with few of the skills of either needed – seemingly designed by a committee of Marxist functionalists. But, its beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder… it’s real and tangible, and you may need to work to find it. Whether you play Scruggs, Reno, Fleck, Clawhammer, or your own hybrid style, enjoy it.

Moore, Roger, Bond on Bond

This handsomely presented book gives some new and personal insights of the James Bond film phenomenon by one of the important figures of the series: Roger Moore – the self-effacing, charming actor who played Bond more than anyone else. Roger Moore’s critical stocks have not remained high (though he stars in one of the finest of the Bonds – The Spy Who Loved Me) but his love and affection for the series remains high. And, for the record, I think he made a fine Bond; necessarily different to Sean Connery – who made the role an icon – and less brutal than his successors.

The book is filled with little anecdotes, and a firm sense of fun and enjoyment. Given the choice between praising his co-stars or slamming them, he always praises them. Taking the advice of mothers everywhere, if he doesn’t have anything nice to say about someone, he doesn’t say it (To pick two figures at random, Grace Jones gets sparse mention, for example. Lois Maxwell gets a page of praise.)

He has spoken to all James Bonds: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. He ignores the believed-to-be-a-flop-but-wasn’t-actually Casino Royale with Woody Allen and David Niven (and about half the world, and directed by the other half). He talks about Never Say Never Again, the competition film, produced by that intriguing character Kevin McClory, with affection. Sean Connery starred in it, and wrote it.

There is a chapter on the cars, on the girls, the gadgets and the style. There are some lovely candid shots, and a beautiful and full layout of posters, publicity shots et cetera. Driven by the natural charm of Sir Roger and with ‘ghostly assistance’ by Gareth Owen, this is a book worth revisiting, particularly if you are a Bond aficionado.

Elvis and the Band

1971: noone could quite believe it: not his father, not his now-unemployed band; not any of the hangers-on. Not Priscilla, who was quite relieved, really. But Elvis, sick of the exploitation, the mistrust, and, really, sick of not being in control, sacked Tom Parker. It was the Memphis sessions. Chips Moman had told him he was fat and lazy. A man had a choice. Accept it. Or change. The Colonel was comfortable and wanted Elvis comfortable to ensure his own continued comfort. So the break came.

Parker tried fighting; but as Elvis’s attorneys dug into Parker’s past, they found stories that Parker didn’t want told. Once they realised that 1) he didn’t have a US passport; 2) he didn’t have a US passport because he wasn’t eligible for one 3) he wasn’t eligible for one because he was illegal immigrant and 4) he was an illegal immigrant for allegedly terrible reasons, the case was theirs. A large, punitive settlement was put in place, but more importantly, the spell had broken. A nearly twenty year business and personal relationship was shattered permanently.

All Elvis wanted, really, was to sing great songs: not just songs for the charts, and really, not just crowd-pleasing rubbish. The music he grew up on, gospel; country; blues; folk: he had combined it and that’s what he wanted to sing. Some said (particularly the PR team Parker put together) that he had invented rock and roll. Elvis knew that this was nonsense. He had just taken his music, and with Scotty and Bill, mixed it all around somehow, and … changed the world. He had changed the world! Parker – how he hated the name now – had squandered it.

Elvis started, very quietly, looking for new management. So many crooks, so many wannabe Parkers. He found a secretary he could trust, and this woman – a Memphis girl – made some very discreet phonecalls. Eventually, the search was narrowed to two potentials: Allan Klein and Albert Grossman. A couple of private investigators, some lawyer searches and the deal was done. Klein was too dodgy, too mercenary. His dealings with the Rolling Stones, in which, through the rapier of a contract, had seen him get the Jagger/Richards catalogue, legally, had turned Elvis off. Grossman had issues, but he had managed one of Elvis’s favourite songwriters; one of his favourite young singers; and several other acts. He also seemed to like good, American music.

Once the cunning Grossman got wind of the contract of a lifetime, he went for it with all the skill and salesmanship he could muster. The first thing to go was the movies: Grossman agreed that Elvis needed to get back to his roots. He got Elvis back to basics: cut his hair, got him dressing more plainly. Now, to put a product out. Grossman knew an album and a tour was essential. Elvis considered calling the TCBs, but Grossman talked him out of it: it was time for a new Elvis – the TCBs could stay together, and tour. Grossman would even let them use Elvis in promotional material. But he had a better idea for Elvis and a band.

Elvis needed a very special group of musicians: and Grossman had them on his books. They’d started as the backing for Ronnie Hawkins, an Arkansas boy who’d gone to Canada and made good. They moved solo for a bit, when Bob Dylan picked them up. After Dylan had his motorbike accident – (how jealous Elvis was at the time: how he’d yearned to find some excuse to stop) – they all retreated to a house up in Woodstock in New York. Elvis had heard of “Music from Big Pink” and the second album, known as the Brown Album, but he’d not heard them. Grossman gave them to him and Elvis took them home.

He was blown away. Harmonies cascaded around each other. The keyboard swirled and whirled. The bass was melodic and solid. The drums; the drums. The piano reminded Elvis of his own playing. Elvis heard a guitarist every bit as good as James Burton and Scotty Moore and Hank Garland. But it was the voices that sold him. ‘Take a load off Fanny/Take a load for free/Take a load off Fanny/ and… and… and.. put the load right on right on me.’. How did you write a song like that? Or ‘Jawbone’? or ‘Unfaithful Servant’? or ‘King Harvest (has surely come).’ It was new, it was different, yet it was familiar. Elvis could smell the streets of Memphis; the sweat of the church his parents took him to as a boy; the dust of the seemingly endless roads between tiny gigs throughout the South West. The inside cover of the album had their families. A sprawling picture of wives, children, parents. This impressed Elvis. They hadn’t dropped out. They weren’t hippies. It was as if these boys – Canadians! – had somehow squeezed the sponge that was Elvis’s musical memory, and with the juice had delivered a pungent, rich and delicious musical cocktail.

The key to the albums was ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’. Elvis played it over and over. The voice: not the one which did ‘Unfaithful Servant’ (though it was warm, full, surprising and open) not the one singing ‘Whispering Pines’ (which was like an angel) but the one who took the lead in ‘The Weight’. It sounded like it was right from the South, and the words, meaningful by themselves, seemed to carry the whole history of the South. He rang Grossman.

Grossman knew the Hawks would consider Elvis. And the Band (as they were known) did not consider anyone. Eric Clapton was summarily rejected by the band with two keyboard players with the curt ‘we already have a guitarist’. John Simon, who had played tuba on ‘Rag Mama Rag’ and had produced the albums had been rejected. Elvis though was Elvis. Grossman was sure he could wrangle it.

It was a brief meeting, which turned into a long jam session, which turned into a new version of the Band. They didn’t need a lead singer: but Elvis was not just a lead singer – he was the ultimate lead singer. All of them had idolised him as kids… emotionally, this was bigger than Dylan. None of them had been folkies – not in the sense of not knowing traditional songs (which they all knew), but in the sense that they were rock and rollers. Elvis was their guide, their idol, their model.

Elvis took to Rick and Levon immediately. Garth seemed distant at first, but was full of life and fun, once he was drawn out, or drew himself out. Richard was … quieter, perhaps. A funny man, an outgoing man, but with a melancholy. Robbie was very shy, very quiet. He might have been rude, but Elvis doubted it. He apparently didn’t like performing, and was a shrewd businessman.

Between them, there were 25 instruments. Elvis thought he’d play rhythm acoustic. Levon moved from drums to mandolin. Levon was from Arkansas, and the voice was explained. Just like that. Richard moved to drums from piano – Elvis thought he looked awkward but the beat was solid. Garth played keyboard, accordion, piano, sax. Robbie only played guitar, but the songs were superb and, ultimately, the guitar playing was sublime. Rick played bass, fiddle, guitar. All with no effort.

Over the evening, the deal was hammered out. Elvis would only get publishing for any songs he wrote. This was a significant change from Parker, who wouldn’t let Elvis record a song unless he got a credit.

The concert would have the original Band play for the first half, and then Elvis would sing the second half. Elvis made sure he didn’t fight hard for more concessions: he wanted this gig. He had more money than he could spend – this was about his soul, not his body. The final number was ‘Dixie’, sung by Levon, which segued into ‘American Trilogy’, sung by Elvis. It was magnificent. The music lifted them, and no audience would resist.

Elvis watched the interactions closely. For the first time since 1956, he felt right. He felt alive. And he felt he could change the world. Again.

Who I Am: Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend is one of the very few rock stars who can talk about making art without seeming ridiculous or pretentious. A highly literate and deeply intelligent man, Townshend’s compositions are among the most important of the rock genre, and the twentieth and twenty-first century. The Who, renowned for their destructive and energetic stage shows, set the template for many acts after, including Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Sex Pistols. The Clash, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Plus many others. Shaped by Townshend’s angry, funny, poignant and fun songs, and acerbic and loud guitar, led by the Wagnerian vocals of Roger Daltrey, and driven by the powerful rhythm section of John Entwhistle and Keith Moon, the Who were vital, important, and most of all, great.

Townshend asks the right question in this book. There are seemingly many Townshends: the arrogant, drunken, stoned rock star; the little boy starved for affection; the insecure artist; the family man; the alcoholic; the spiritual searcher, and follower of Meher Baba; and many others. Townshend tries to reconcile all of these. As other reviewers have said, Townshend is most critical of himself. A portrait of a damaged, yet vital man appears.

Townshend did not have a normal childhood. My reading of his childhood is of a man who has examined it many times, resolved some of it, but not really fully come to terms with it. There is an emotional distance. His parents’ troubled marriage (both are alcoholics, and that’s just the start) see him sent to his grandmother’s home. His grandmother is emotionally distant and (I think unintentionally) psychologically abusive. He does poorly at school, though makes some useful friends. Like many ne’er-do-wells of the time, (Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood), he goes to art school. He also learns harmonica, but soon realises the guitar is his instrument.

Art school turns his head around, and he eventually joins The Who, who become the High Numbers, who then become the Who again. Like nearly every rock biography, except Dylan’s Chronicles, there is not a lot of new information. What is new, though, is Townshend’s examination of his life. He has bled publicly for years, but this book it seems to me, is Townshend trying to distance himself, yet look closer. Townshend’s life was chaotic. Constant struggles with alcohol and drugs (was it Billy Connolly who once quipped that Pete Townshend was trying to quit God and get back to hard drugs?) leads to all kinds of personal problems. His first wife, Karen, comes across as a saint: Pete himself comes across as an arrogant, selfish drunk.

I found the chapters on his work with Faber fascinating. I had no idea he commissioned one of my favourite rock books: Charles Shaar Murray’s Crosstown Traffic. (I must check the acknowledgments again). He gained the respect of the literary elite in Britain – Ted Hughes, poet laureate, in particular. Yet he cannot get close to many, and his often self-destructive behaviour distances him from many.

As to the Who, he clearly is very proud – and with good reason. Distance has probably dimmed the grief he feels for the early death of Keith Moon: Townshend admits that Moon could be ‘a bit of a twat sometimes’. Roger Daltrey, sometimes friend, sometimes foe, comes across extremely well in Townshend’s eyes. The years have cemented a deep connection to the two, I suspect.

Keith Richards’ Life does not have the depth of analysis. Eric Clapton’s autobiography was light, and ultimately unrevealing. We are still waiting for McCartney’s, and Jagger’s memory and lack of enthusiasm for the project saw him return a large advance and along with it any chance of his view of things. Ray Davies’ is apparently excellent. Townshend tells us little about his times, but, with a bit of digging, plenty of his life. Whereas Richards plays up to his ‘rogue’ image, Townshend tries to explain his. Richards tends not to praise anyone. Townshend tends to seem more tolerant. (Townshend indeed gives the opposite view to Mick Jagger’s physical prowess to RIchards’ own description.)

So, who is Pete Townshend? As he states himself, most of his fans would claim to know him, but he ‘wasn’t quite real’. He also acknowledges (in a conversation he remembers with Eddie Vedder) that the public elect you to be a rock star, whether you want it or not. Townshend struggles with his public image and private man throughout the book. In his last chapter, he summarises himself, and quotes from the letter he wrote his eight-year-old self. He acknowledges his strengths and his weaknesses. I was most touched by this touching book by the appendix, in which he opens a fan letter from 1967. He concludes that although now he can recognise the love inherent in the letter, had he recognised it in 1967, his life would have been vastly different.

Fame, wealth, creativity and talent have come at a price to Pete Townshend. His rock star lifestyle has led him to make some bad choices. As a fan, I can’t claim to know the real Pete Townshend, but I can claim to have some insight with this book. He seems, at the end of the book, to be in a good place. I thank him for the Who, and I hope he can continue to find some peace and contentment. Most memoirs diminish the writer. This one enhances him, despite, or most likely because of, its tough and brutal approach on its subject.