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The Who's Pete Townshend Tells His Story

'Who I Am' details an iconic guitarist's life

  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    Who Are They?

    Rock immortality was still a few albums away when The Who posed on these London train tracks in 1965. From left to right, they are lead singer Roger Daltrey, drummer Keith Moon, bass player John Entwistle and guitarist Pete Townshend.

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  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    The Papa of the Power Chord

    Townshend breaks out his "windmill" guitar stroke during a 1966 appearance on Danish TV. The idea for the move came to Townshend as he watched Keith Richards "limber up [for a show] by swinging his arm like a windmill."

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  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    When Guitar Gods Gather

    Jimi Hendrix cradles his Rickenbacker on a first meeting with The Who in 1967. "He was a mesmerising performer," writes Townshend. "He was a shaman, and it looked as if glittering coloured light emanated from the ends of his long, elegant fingers as he played."

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  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    Take That!

    Townshend smashes his Fender Stratocaster during a 1967 concert. "It's possible our audiences didn't understand the significance of auto-destruction," he writes. "But they certainly seemed to experience emotional release when we broke up our gear at the end of a show."

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  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    Man on Fire!

    Townshend stands bathed in smoke after Keith Moon set off theatrical gunpowder inside his bass drum on The Smothers Brothers Show on Sept. 15, 1967. Says Townshend: "My hair caught fire and my hearing was never the same."

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  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    Magic in Their Eyes

    Townshend and bride Karen Astley snuggle close on their wedding day in 1968. (His fear that she had "deceived" him inspired "I Can See for Miles" the year before.) "Keith Moon was well-behaved at the ceremony," reports Townshend. 

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  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    This'll Wake 'Em Up!

    Townshend rocks his famous white boiler-suit in the early-morning hours of Day 2 at Woodstock. Singer Roger Daltrey's "long, curly hair looked like golden fire," Townshend recalls, "his sweat an angelic sheen that evoked an Old Master painting."

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  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    Studio Freak

    Seated before a console steel guitar and a Marshall amplifier head, Townshend adjusts a recording level in his home studio in Twickenham in 1969. "Sometimes the entire house would vibrate with sound when I was recording."

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  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    The Pete & Roger Show

    The Who strike classic rock-band poses at Kings Hall in Manchester during the 1973 live tour of Quadrophenia, their sixth studio album. But snags with the quadrophonic PA system yielded "some of the most shameful performances in our career on stage."

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  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    The Guitarist Unplugged

    "This was the first-ever solo performance I did," says Townshend of his 1974 show at London's Roundhouse, a charity event he headlined. "I was surprised by how well I was able to hold the attention of the audience without amplification, and pleased I sang well enough to get by."

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  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    An Amazing Journey

    The film version of Tommy starred Tina Turner, Eric Clapton and a very high-heeled Elton John (far right). "The contrast between Roger and me was dramatic," says Townshend. "He looked beautiful, tanned, healthy, alive, alert and fit. I was shattered, bleary and hung over."

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  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    Tragedy Strikes

    The wheels were coming off the magic bus by the time The Who tried to record Who Are You in 1978: Keith Moon's drug and alcohol abuse had made "his drumming ... so uneven that recording was almost impossible." Moon (far left) died of an overdose on Sept. 7, 1978.

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  • Slideshow: Pete Townshend
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    The Who +1

    The Who soldiered on for another four years without Keith Moon. In 1979 they added drummer Kenney Jones (far left) of The Small Faces, then made a farewell tour of England, the United States and Canada in 1982. "The Who had gone down," reflects Townshend, "but not in flames."

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    "Let's get together / Before we get much older" took on unexpected poignance when Roger Daltrey sang "Baba O'Riley" at the London Olympics in 2012. He and Townshend, his bandmate of 50 years, belted out a medley of classic Who tracks to close the games.

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