Pete Townshend didn’t just look back at his life, which spans from cursed to charmed, while writing his engrossing memoir, ‘Who I Am,’
He’s doing the same on a book-signing tour, which stopped Wednesday night at the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
The soldout event, which accommodated 780 Who fans, featured a 45-minute chat with moderator Wesley Stace aka John Wesley Harding and a fan Q&A.
Townshend touched on his turbulent childhood, in which he was abused by his domineering grandmother.
“I had to sit my mother down to talk about what happened to me from when I was four-and-a-half to six-and-a-half,” Townshend revealed.
Townshend looked back at his father, a saxophonist, who was often on the road when he was a child and his mum, a singer, who constantly cheated on his father. She had five abortions.
Those dark formative years inspired some of Townshend’s finest work as The Who’s driving creative force, such as the rock opera ‘Tommy.’
But it wasn’t just personal issues, which helped form Townshend. He was a product of the times. The seminal guitarist-vocalist was born in war-torn West London in 1945.
“We were seriously disenfranchised,” Townshend said. “That’s the way it was for those born between 1945 and 1950. We didn’t know what we were going to do, so the music was really vital.”
Townshend, who is just glad to be around (“since I was eleven, I’ve been waiting for bombs to blow us to bits”) told tales of drug indulgence as well as his favorite Keith Moon story. He waxed about how the late, loony Who drummer convinced a minister that he was possessed by an Indian couple.
The ups and downs of the Who were detailed. Townshend explained how easy it is to bust a Rickenbacker and how difficult it is to break a Stratocaster.
Townshend admitted that he was prone to destroying his guitar when he didn’t feel the show was good enough.
The animated legend clearly enjoyed holding court. He smiled while spinning yarns and he delivered a brief acoustic set, highlighted by versions of ‘The Acid Queen’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again.’