Monday, January 14, 2008

Groupie Lit

Had I been of age in the 60s or 70s, I most surely would have been something hopelessly earnest: a CND campaigner or a Redstocking, something of that sort. But I've always yearned to be a rocker chick It Girl, preferably in London between 1962 and 1967, when life appears to have been heavenly, at least for those of the rocker chick It Girl ilk. Since this transfiguration seems unlikely, historically and temperamentally, I satisfy my yearnings by reading, of course (movies, too, but it always comes back to books) (why not music? because the music is always there, but it's accessing the life that transfixes me).

Some recent reads:

Pattie Boyd, Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me
The ultimate Swinging Sixties It Girl, Boyd was married to Harrison (oh my god is he dreamy, but he sounds, ultimately, like quite the asshole) and Clapton (does very little for me) (she is the subject [object?] of Harrison's "Something" and Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight"--can you imagine?!). Her memoir is completely delightful, in that deadpan kind of way where remarkable things just keep happening: So then I finished school and moved to London and started working for Elizabeth Arden and someone suggested I model so I became a model and then I was asked to be in a Beatles movie and George asked me out to dinner and I became his girlfriend and we had to hide from fans and we got married and went to India and Eric fell in love with me and we were all tormented, etc. I mean, why doesn't such interesting drama happen so effortlessly to me? Really, a lot of it was quite grim as George became a tortured Indian mystic and Eric was a hopeless drug addict and alcoholic, but the book is endless entertaining, not just for the stars, but also for the social milieu, and for the reminder of how close colonialism was to the 60s--just a single generation, at least for the Boyds. Highly recommended.

Pamela Des Barres, Let's Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies
Pamela Des Barres, former GTO and ultimate groupie, is all about reclaiming the idea of the groupie as not a rockstar-loving sex fiend, but a powerful muse figure who is all about the music. It pretty much works in her first book, I'm With the Band, which is quite excellent, in a similar vein to Wonderful Tonight, but here she tries to expand the argument in a series of interviews with other famous (or infamous, or, alas, not really so famous as she and they think they are) groupies. Cynthia Plaster Caster is here, and hers is an interesting story that nicely twists the Miss Pamela thing, but eventually the book devolves into a series of sad sex tales which, while titillating and gossipy, hardly elevate the groupie, but rather make her look quite pathetic and victimized, even as Des Barres vehemently attempts to claim the opposite. I skimmed the last third, only so that, when I wrote this post, I could be certain I hadn't missed some last-page revelation. I hadn't. Skip this one.

Michelle Tea, The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America
Not a groupie book at all, except that I was quite surprised, after reading Boyd and Des Barres, to open Tea and find her, on the first page, hanging outside the Orpheum waiting for the INXS bus to arrive, then watching the other girls throw themselves at the band, half-wishing she was like them, but also proud not to be. Anyway, this memoir is outstandingly great, and I am so embarassed that I've never read Tea before, just read about her. It's got class, sex, punks, prostitution, alienation, feminism, Boston, Cape Cod, Tucson, endless paragraphs, italicized and Capitalized dialogue, the late 80s and early 90s, emotional intensity and intellectual distance, really it is just fabulous, and perhaps the opposite of Wonderful Tonight in tone, even as they mine the same generic ore?? Read it!


Anonymous said...


i hate to admit that i read yr blog, because kate palmer sent the url in an e-mail a long time ago.

but, i miss babysitting for the girls.

and i hope you are doing well.

listen to the latest pj harvey album.


Cathy B said...

Hi Becca! I did come of age in the 60's and 70's and it was one crazy, magical time. We all wanted to be It girls—secretly. Will definitely read the Patti Boyd.