As the mousiest of teenage mice with a penchant for rock’n'roll, my ultimate romance novels were those written by women who spent time with some of my favourite musicians.
Ever since Pamela des Barres’ classic ‘I’m With the Band’ was released in 1987, there have been several tell-all autobiographies — ranging from the sublimely spunky to the cringe-inducingly awful.
These women did a lot more than just sleep with famous dudes (ahem, Marianne Faithfull, ahem!) and they have great stories to tell.
Here are some of my fave “groupie books”.
Pamela Des Barres: I’m With the Band
Growing up infatuated with rock’n’roll records and her favourite Beatle Paul McCartney, supergroupie Pamela Des Barres decided as a young girl that she had to be closer to the people who made the music that excited her so much. And so she did. In rock’n’roll history, Miss Pamela is a legend, having been the arm candy for such rockstars as Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page and husband Michael Des Barres. While such an honestly-written autobiography which spends so much time detailing her many relationships could easily make you think of Pamela as a bit of a promiscuous bimbo, her writing style and true affection for the men in her past make I’m With the Band more of a reminder to go after what you want in life, and to never have any regrets.
Marianne Faithfull: Memories, Dreams and Reflections
A follow-up to Faithfull’s 1994 autobiography ‘Faithfull’, ‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections’ reads more like a memoir. In a free-ﬂowing style Marianne regales tales of the past, of friends and loved ones, her childhood, her battle with breast cancer and several near-death experiences. Yes, Marianne has had quite a life.. Faithfull already revealed quite a lot about her riveting life, but not hindered by the chronological order of events, this second memoir shows her on top form. Her self-deprecating humor and engaging anecdotes about Allen Ginsberg, dinners with Daniel Day Lewis and the unimaginable, decadent feast at Caroline Blackwood’s deathbed make you wonder if life does get better as you get older.
Caroline Sullivan: Bye Bye Baby: My Tragic Love Affair With the Bay City Rollers
So exactly what was tragic about it? Probably the fact that before she caught sight of the Rollers’ singer Les McKeown, Guardian columnist Sullivan led the life of any self-respecting Led Zep-loving Jersey teen. From age 17 onwards, she spent four summers chasing after the Rollers; Sullivan dropped out of high school, moved to Manhattan, camped out in hotel lobbies and eventually slept with an unnamed Roller.
‘Bye Bye Baby’ is a trip down memory lane, even for those who weren’t around for those tartan-clad Scots; it’s about loving something with careless abandon, a tale of how everyone is able to lose their mind sometimes.
Pattie Boyd: Wonderful Tonight
Having been married to both George Harrison and Eric Clapton at the height of their success, and acquiring fame of her own by modeling for titles such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Pattie Boyd’s autobiography Wonderful Today teaches us that things are not always as they seem. Dining with the ‘in’ crowd and going to all the best hot spots in 1960s swinging London might seem utterly glamorous, but at the same time Pattie was having to face the facts and come to terms that her marriage to George was on the verge of breaking down, while later her marriage to Eric was riddled with drug and alcohol addictions. Wonderful Today is an inspiring memoir that reminds us once again that beauty is not just skin deep.
Pamela Des Barres: Let’s Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies
Since the success of ‘I’m With the Band’, Miss Pamela has been on a one-woman crusade to reclaim the word “groupie”. In the ’60s and ’70s, the word had little to no negative connotations, and when you read the stories of the women included in this book, you understand why. They were independent women rockstars chased after because they were, simply put, rather fabulous. Women featured in ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ were long-time girlfriends of some of the biggest names in rock — girls wanted to be them and rockstars wanted to bed them. While the later entries don’t have that same magic, mostly because the tales become a little less romantic (30 guys in one night doesn’t quite compare to dancing the night away at Max’s Kansas City while Warhol looks on), it’s interesting to read about a male-dominated world from an all-girl perspective.
Vanina Röling is the owner of film blog Sound Turned Low and the gorgeous, soon to be resurrected Bright Red Cardigans Over Printed Dresses.
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