I recently read autobiographies by two rock giants, Pete Townshend and Neil Young. The books make an interesting comparison, since their authors are both hugely influential.
They have a lot in common: age (more or less), creative parents, respect and scholarship for the music of both their progenitors and their peers, boats, cars, obsessiveness with the recording process and technology, and – how shall we put it – eccentricity?
Although both books tended to wander, and completely ignore any sense of chronology, both were interesting. Lots of little anecdotes, some trivial, some meaningless, some cool. Tons of name-dropping. If you were around, some great memories and reminders.
In terms, of insight, though, I’d have to give the nod to Neil Young’s book. Townshend might have shared what he saw, but Young let’s you see with his eyes. He tells you much more about why he did things, how he was thinking, and what he was feeling. His persona remains intact; the book confirms that he’s rather shy, somewhat aloof, kinda weird, and absolutely committed to whatever he happens to be doing at any given point in time. But he explains himself along the way, and manages to become a sympathetic character with a sense of humour.
Townshend? Well, I always knew he was an angry guy. His book confirmed that, but I’m really not sure I understand what makes him that way. He can see for miles, but he can’t explain.