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Pete Townshend (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Pete Townshend (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

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Updated: November 29, 2012 6:05AM


By Pete Townshend

Harper, $32.50

The Who guitarist and chief composer of such classics as “My Generation” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” chronicles the triumphs and stumbles of his creative and spiritual journey.

Start me up: His parents sent him to live with a cruel grandmother, who often left him alone and victim to the drunken whims of her lovers. “Her favorite punishment was denying me food. She granted me affection only when I was silent, perfectly behaved, utterly compliant and freshly washed, which is to say, never.”

Stayin’ alive: A sex abuse victim himself, Townshend was stunned and even suicidal when police investigated him in 2003 for visiting a child porn site. All 11 computers taken from him were clean, save the photos of his toddler daughters running naked on a beach. “The grease pencil circles over their bodies made me weep.”

It’s only rock ‘n’ roll: Townshend and Keith Moon got drunk while staying at a Holiday Inn and, while strolling down a second-floor balcony, the drummer leapt over the railing into the pool. “I followed but miscalculated ... managing to just scrape into the pool, badly grazing my back and one arm. I might have broken my neck or my back. I should have known better than to emulate Keith’s antics.” The band was banned from Holiday Inns for life after Moon drove a car into a pool.

The name game: Townshend found Mick Jagger irresistible, admitting the “clearly very well-endowed” singer was the only man he ever wanted to bed. After seeing the Rolling Stones perform for the first time in 1963, Townshend became “an instant and lifelong fan. Mick was mysteriously attractive and sexually provocative, possibly the first such talisman since Elvis.”

Rockin’ my life away: Writing “Pinball Wizard” for rock opera “Tommy,” “I made a huge leap into the absurd when I decided that the hero would play pinball while still deaf, dumb and blind. It was daft, flawed and muddled, but also insolent, liberated and adventurous. ... If I had failed to deliver The Who an operatic masterpiece that would change people’s lives, I was giving them something almost as good: a hit.”

Edna Gundersen / Gannett News Service



By Ann and Nancy Wilson with Charles R. Cross

!t, $27.99

Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson — better known as the faces and voices of Heart — look back on the personal and professional struggles and triumphs that define their legacy as one of rock’s pioneering female-fronted acts.

Start me up: Ann reveals that “the first nude man” she ever saw was guitarist Roger Fisher — a colleague in one of her earlier bands, Hocus Pocus, and later in Heart — walking unabashedly around a motel room. (Roger later became Nancy’s boyfriend, while Ann had a long relationship with his older brother, Michael, Heart’s sound man, who inspired the hits “Magic Man” and “Crazy On You.”)

Stayin’ alive: Both sisters describe their challenges in trying to have children. Ann wound up adopting two babies as a single mom, while Nancy grappled with infertility for years before she and then-husband Cameron Crowe had twin sons through a surrogate in 2000. Nancy recalls in one entry that she “spent more than a hundred thousand dollars” on doctors and fertility treatments.

It’s only rock ‘n’ roll: Nancy remembers attending Elton John’s swank 33rd birthday party in West Hollywood, where John’s songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, “repeatedly pulled me into the bathroom” and offered her cocaine. “Bernie was convinced that getting me high was the key to seducing me.”

The name game: Nancy recalls meeting Eddie and Alex Van Halen at a hotel, where the brothers had a “Kamikaze-drinking contest, followed by a cocaine-snorting fest.” They also expressed interest in sleeping with both Wilsons, and “wanted us in one bed. It wasn’t the first time we had that offer, and as with every other request, we turned it down.”

Rockin’ my life away: Ann initially “hated” the Mutt Lange-penned “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You,” a No. 2 hit for Heart in 1990. Nancy: “It ended up being one of our most controversial songs, even getting banned in Ireland and a few other countries.”

Elysa Gardner / Gannett


By Neil Young

Blue Rider Press, $30

The always unpredictable folkie/rock guitar hero/grunge godfather finally reveals — sort of — the way that quirky and highly creative mind works.

Start me up: Growing up in Ontario, Young suffered from serious health problems, including polio and diphtheria. Later, he and his older brother Bob both were diagnosed with epilepsy.

Stayin’ alive: Young, 66, reveals that after some 50 years of drinking and smoking marijuana, he’s finally quit. He’s following the advice of his doctor, who recently saw “a sign of something developing in my brain.”

It’s only rock ‘n’ roll: In order to get to Woodstock, Young says he met Jimi Hendrix in a small airport and they rode to the concert in a pickup truck. But his performance with Crosby, Stills & Nash “was one of the worst-feeling gigs I can ever remember. What a monster cocaine-fueled ego trip! The music really sucked air.”

The name game: He describes Stephen Stills, whose epic guitar battles and personal rivalry with Young fueled Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, as “a genius” and “my brother.”

Jerry Shriver / Gannett


By Rod Stewart

Crown, $27

Rod the Mod lays out his journey from son of a north London plumber and would-be pro soccer player to one of rock’s most distinctive singers, renowned for his bevy of blond wives.

Start me up: In the ’70s, flush with solo success, he spent nearly $10,000 on a Lamborghini Miura, more than his new house.

It’s only rock ‘n’ roll: “The night when I opened the door to my hotel suite and found a bass player stark naked and gaffer-taped to the bed was ... well, it was pretty typical,” writes Stewart in a chapter about the Sex Police, a “loose affiliation of band members and tour crew ... whose intention was to stamp out sex on the road.” There was “a lot of sex on tour.”

The name game: Stewart and guitarist Jeff Beck have an enduring if fraught relationship, dating to the late ’60s Jeff Beck Group. The men swapped demos last year, but Stewart wasn’t keen on them and “Jeff felt he’d wasted his time. We haven’t spoke since,” Stewart writes, adding that a Christmas greeting email went unanswered. “A shame, because there’s nothing like it — Beck’s guitar and my voice.”

Marco R. della Cava / Gannett


By Cyndi Lauper
with Jancee Dunn

Atria, $26

The eccentric singer/songwriter famed for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “True Colors” wittily expounds on her hardscrabble climb to become a global pop star, outspoken feminist and champion of gay rights.

Start me up: Lauper left home and her sexually abusive stepfather at 17, flunked out of arts high school and supported herself as an IHOP waitress, topless dancer, nanny, shoe store clerk and racetrack hot walker before getting her break. Label executives initially wanted to shape her as the next Barbra Streisand. Her response: “I can’t take enough medication to stand still that long, OK?”

Stayin’ alive: Deeply depressed after a breakup and career setback, she considered killing herself. She recalls, “The only thing that always prevented me from suicide is that I never wanted a headline to read, ‘Girl who wanted to have fun just didn’t.’”

It’s only rock ‘n’ roll: The press and even Madonna’s label tried to stir a rivalry between the singers. Lauper refused the bait. “You don’t [expletive] knock another sister, ever,” she writes. “Our music wasn’t even similar.”

Edna Gundersen / Gannett



By Peter Criss
with Larry “Ratso” Sloman

Scribner, $26

Kiss’ drummer charts his course from gritty New York upbringing to the heights of global fame.

Start me up: Inspired by the kabuki-style androgyny of David Bowie, Kiss chose alter egos. Criss’ character was his wife’s black cat, Mateus, because “we were both wild, independent.” Gene Simmons (who “loved horror films”) chose the Demon, Paul Stanley was Starchild, while Ace Frehley, Spaceman, was actually convinced that extraterrestrials had colonized this planet (“He was working on a radio to communicate with them”).

It’s only rock ‘n’ roll: “We found out from day one that sex was a part of rock ‘n’ roll,” Criss writes in the book’s biggest understatement. Criss says Frehley and Stanley were intrigued by both sexes, while Simmons kept a running tally of his female conquests in Polaroid pictures, “carefully pasted into bound volumes, each dated.”

The name game: After “Alive!” put the band on the cultural map, Criss’ newfound celebrity found him befriending John Belushi. “He wanted to be a rock star. And party like one. “He would scoop [cocaine] up in his palm.”

Marco R. della Cava / Gannett

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