Who I Am

[Amazon Link]

Another book in my quest to understand the roots of creative genius. And also another failure at that quest. It's probably time to give up on this idea of seeking insights from celebrity memoirs. (Previous tries: Jimmy Webb; Bruce Springsteen; Donald Fagen; Eric Clapton; Tina Fey; Steve Martin; Bob Dylan.)

Pete Townshend's book is longer and probably more literate than most. It's full of introspection, but the takeaways are not that insightful.

But does it hit all the major themes of rock-god autobiographies?

Drugs? Check. A lot of cognac, but also cocaine, pot, prescription drugs, heroin, LSD, …

Sex? Check. Mostly fumbling, some unconsummated, mostly at the expense of long-suffering wife Karen. Surprising: Theresa Russell!

Psychological problems? Oh heck yes.

Weird religious beliefs? Have you ever heard of Meher Baba? Pete is is most devoted disciple. Did that keep him out of trouble? No. But maybe he'd have been in even worse shape without.

Some random observations:

  • He's admitted to the Daltrey/Entwistle band on page 46. His memory of the "audition" is Roger asking "Can you play E? Can you play B? Can you play 'Man of Mystery' by the Shadows? "Hava Nagila"? OK, then. See you for practice at Harry's."

    From such inauspicious beginnings…

  • Keith Moon gets into the band on page 67, replacing the "too old" Doug Sandom. Hey, Sandom may have been old and boring, but you know what? Unlike Moon, he's still alive.

  • It's funny how Townshend's musings about his music differ from my fanboy impressions. I liked the Who OK, but when Who's Next came out in 1971, I thought it was a masterpiece. Still do, in fact. Turned me into a lifelong fan. Mr. Townshend seems to view it as a thrown-together hackwork to appease contractual obligations after the collapse of his ambitious Lifehouse project.

  • On page 377, he refers to song he's written "for my friend, Harvey Weinstein." Wince. Wonder if he'd like to have that one back.

  • On page 107, he recalls in 1966 listening to "the Beach Boys' stereo masterpiece, Pet Sounds". I like Pet Sounds too, but it wasn't released in a stereo mix until 1997.

  • As an example of the book's introspection without insight: on pages 438-9, he mentions going to a couple sessions of couples counselling with long-suffering wife Karen. Upshot? "The first session was all right, but the second was less successful." Pete, could you have made that anecdote any less interesting? If you're not going to go into specifics, why are you telling us this at all?

Anyway, I'm glad Pete didn't die before he got old.

URLs du Jour


  • Proverbs 15:25 is … a little weird:

    25 The Lord tears down the house of the proud,
        but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place.

    Taken literally, the Lord is sort of a vigilante vandal/handyman, dispensing destruction/aid as appropriate. I think we have to look for a more metaphorical interpretation here.

  • At NR, Jonah Goldberg observes: Trumpism Is a Psychology, Not an Ideology.

    Intellectuals and ideologically committed journalists on the left and right have a natural tendency to see events through the prism of ideas. Trump presents an insurmountable challenge to such approaches because, by his own admission, he doesn’t consult any serious and coherent body of ideas for his decisions. He trusts his instincts.

    Trump has said countless times that he thinks his gut is a better guide than the brains of his advisers. He routinely argues that the presidents and policymakers who came before him were all fools and weaklings. That’s narcissism, not ideology, talking.

    Insightful, and … oh yeah, we're in a heap of trouble.

  • Concerned about the assault on the Second Amendment by Progressives? You should be. But as A. Barton Hinkle points out at Reason: Some Progressives Targeting the First Amendment, Too.

    Many progressives have long believed America would be a much better place without the Second Amendment. These days, some of them seem to think we'd also be better off without the First.

    That might sound like an exaggeration. But it's hard to square the First Amendment with a recent proposal in The New Republic: "Ban Facebook Before Elections." And yes, the headline accurately represents the text:

    "If fake news truly poses a crisis for democracy," writes Jeet Heer, "then it calls for a radical response. Instead of merely requiring greater transparency of social media and empowering the courts to ban users and websites... perhaps governments should outright ban Facebook and other platforms ahead of elections.

    Fun! But as Hinkle points out, the principle that bans Facebook under certain circumstances can equally be exteded to The New Republic, National Review, or even The New York Times.

    But Progressives aren't really interested in principles these days, only the power to make people behave the way they want.

  • AEI's James Pethokoukis explains it for you: Why populists of the left and right are soulmates on trade. (We've previously noted the fact that Trump's anti-free trade positions taken during the campaign were similar to Bernie Sanders', and Pethokoukis provides additional examples.)

    Why the common ground? Well, because populists gonna populist, whether they are on the Bernie Bro left or the “drain the swamp” right, although each side may be loathe to admit how much they have in common. But in reality, it’s quite a bit. Both are deeply suspicious of capitalism as a positive force in bringing about a peaceful and prosperous society. Both rhetorically champion “the people” against “the elite” or “the establishment.” And both tend to ignore possible constraints on their actions, which is one reason they dislike markets. (This tends to be true of populists everywhere.) As presidential candidates, Sanders and Trump had the two most implausible economic plans, with both assuming super-fast economic growth to make their numbers work. When you’re a populist politician with big dreams of Medicare for all or mega-tax cuts for all, it’s a real drag to have to worry about debt-to-GDP ratios or what bond investors might think.

    At least back in the good old days of Smoot-Hawley, Congress had to pass actual legislation to screw up the American economy. Today, the President can do that all by his lonesome.

  • And Michael Ramirez comments pictorially:

    Punishing steel exporters by the numbers

    That's regrettably clipped, so please click through.