I’m a little late to this, but Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney, NPR) writes about The Who and their documentary Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who (“It’s not a great film, by any means, but it does feature fascinating interviews with the two surviving original members, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey,” she says, and I agree). But the real point of her post is, how much do you need to know about your favorite bands, and does it necessarily improve your love/appreciation of them the more you know? See that post for more.
In the case of The Who, I’ve never read one book about them, instead schooling myself solely on their records and the great rockumentary The Kids Are Alright. You don’t need much more than that. Listen to Live at Leeds and ye shall know The Truth.
On the other hand, I read No One Here Gets Out Alive, the Jim Morrison bio, in high school and it opened up a whole world of other shit in addition to The Doors’ actual music (Huxley, Blake, Nietzsche, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Journey to the End of the Night by Celine, 50’s and 60’s jazz, Oscar Wilde, and more).
(Whether the book is any good, or even factual, is neither here nor there; it did what it did.)
The Doors and The Who came to me around the same time, and it’s obvious now that the mythology eventually gave way to the actual quality of the music, and that’s why I still listen to The Who today as much as I do. Not that I don’t still enjoy The Doors, but it’s clearly of two different levels. That’s not to take away from the pivotal very first moment when I heard the song “Not to Touch the Earth” on a Doors Greatest Hits cassette and was completely blown away, frightened and fascinated, and had to know more. Before all else, the music came first.
I could go on here, thinking about Cobain and Heavier Than Heaven, or Hammer of the Gods, the Led Zeppelin epic, but it’s a never-ending and indefinite conversation that I am having with myself. So I’ll stop now.