The Who guitarist-songwriter Pete Townshend at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto November 21, 2012. (Dave Abel/QMI Agency)
Leave it to The Who's master wordsmith Pete Townshend to best sum up his 67 years on the planet so far, as explained in his new meticulously detailed autobiography, Who I Am.
"The fun was agony and the agony was fun," says the British songwriter-guitarist, seated opposite an elaborate-looking tea service in a hotel suite this week where a black piano gleamed in an adjoining room.
"I found it difficult to try to make (the book) feel like the kind of life that people think I should have had as a rock star. And even if I talk about having sex with groupies, it was never great and it was rare."
Townshend, who was married to his now ex-wife from 1968 until 2009, producing three children, smiles remembering a recent interview.
"There was a German journalist the other day who said (does German accent), 'I have read Rod Stewart's book and he is very happy and he is rich, he has still got his hair, he is married to a beautiful blonde, he has had sex with many, many blondes and one or two of them beautiful German girls. And then I read your book and you are unhappy. You are a manic depressive. Why?'
"This is a tough book to read," admits Townshend. "It's truthful. And it's tough times, and what people want to read about is Rod Stewart and blondes and having fun."
Among the experiences that Townshend, the eldest son of three boys born to a saxophonist father and singer mother, sheds light on in his 500-plus page tome are:
- abuse as a young boy while in the custody of his unstable grandmother;
- early insecurity with women and later-life dalliances with some men;
- being a workaholic and loner who often felt outside the band's hard-living crazy clique of drummer Keith 'Moon The Loon' and bassist John Entwistle, who died in 1978 and 2002, respectively, of a drug overdose and a cocaine-induced heart attack;
- having manic depressive mood swings and hearing voices, seeing visions;
- his own struggles with booze and drugs.
Then there was the life-changing 2003 child pornography incident in which Townshend was arraigned and interviewed after using his credit card to access one such foreign site online, as "research," he said to prove that British banks were allowing the practice.
Instead of fighting the case, an exhausted Townshend -- who had his 11 computers and 5,000 videotapes examined over four months -- pled out and was cautioned.
"It was probably rather inept," he says now. "I had to accept the awful mantle of being a low-level, but none the less a sex offender, for (five years) ... On the other hand, the good side of it all, was that I did a learn a bit of f---ing humility ... When I came to write the book, I looked at myself very closely and realized that actually I got myself into this s---, nobody else."
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