Friday, June 17, 2011

I'm With the Band

I just read a gossipy page-turner of a book that I think makes it the perfect beach read: I'm With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres. Des Barres was a teenager when Brit bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones were in their prime (late 60s-early 70s) and she was a huge fan. It started as a school girl crush on Paul McCartney that eventually morphed into a propensity to hang out outside of her fave rockers' houses and strutting up and down the Sunset Strip. Des Barres certainly epitomized the term "groupie", but she went from just being a young, pretty girl trying to get close to rock stars to one that had (often dramatic) relationships with the likes of Jimmy Page, Mick Jagger, and Keith Moon, just to name a few. Her bed-hopping with some of my all-time favorite rock artists really got going when Frank Zappa helped to form an all girl rock/performance art group that consisted of Des Barres and other avid groupies called the GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously). Zappa helped them put together an album and, while their career never really took off, it further enmeshed these ladies into the whole scene and helped set the stage for a number of Des Barres' future relationships.

As Des Barres and others would argue, though, the GTOs weren't just a bunch of groupies looking for fame. They truly loved the music and wanted to be a part of the lives of the (mostly) men that created it. Des Barres was some of the inspiration for the character Penny Lane from "Almost Famous" and, while they never referred to themselves as "Band-Aides", her and her friends definitely believed that they contributed to the music and were venerated and treated with a level of respect that I don't think you really find among the super fans and artists of today.

When I was in high school I was totally obsessed with the rock bands of the British invasion, Led Zeppelin in particular, and I always felt it a shame I wasn't born in a different era. This may be the full explanation of why I enjoyed this book despite some complaints regarding the writing style (it does read a bit like a 16 year-old's diary), but I feel pretty confident that if you enjoyed "Almost Famous", have an interest in this time period musically or otherwise, and/or just love celebrity gossip, you'll really dig this one.

Here are some additional books written by Des Barres and others that you may enjoy, if I'm With the Band piques your interest:

Dandelion: Memoir of a Free Spirit
Here's a memoir by Catherine James, another very famous groupie that appears in Des Barres' memoir and partied with all the big name musicians of the time

"Former Stones, Dylan Superfan Pamela Des Barres on 'Greatest Groupies'"
This is a link to an interview with Pamela Des Barres regarding her VH1 documentary that aired in December 2010 and includes a bit of info on the upcoming movie based on I'm With the Band

Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood
Laurel Canyon is the famed LA neighborhood where a number of legendary musicians hung out and resided, including Pamela Des Barres at Frank Zappa's house

Let's Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies
In this title by Des Barres, she interviews famous groupies, so they can tell their stories

Rebel Heart: An American Rock 'n' Roll Journey
This is a memoir from another very famous groupie, Bebe Buell, mother of Liv Tyler, whose famous conquests include Steven Tyler, Elvis Costello, and Rod Stewart.

Take Another Little Piece of My Heart: A Groupie Grows Up
This is Des Barres' follow-up to I'm With the Band that picks up where the other left off

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me
Not exactly a groupie, Pattie Boyd, the author of this memoir, was married to George Harrison and, later, Eric Clapton. The infamous songs "Something", "Layla", and "Wonderful Tonight" were all written for her.

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