“I’m with the band: Confessions of a groupie” by Pamela des Barres is my ‘book that is a memoir’. In 1960s California, in the height of the Summer of Love and free spirits, Pamela tells all of the tales on the people she met, the things she got to see and do.
She describes herself as a groupie but acknowledges that the word has been corrupted in the interim decades. I admit I read this with some trepidation and a few misgivings – a woman following some musician blokes around in order to have sex with them doesn’t seem to be a fantastically equal opportunity, even if it was 5 decades ago.
Nevertheless, I was interested to read her story – what a time to be around and involved in music, with Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones rubbing shoulders (and other parts) with ‘normal’ people! Any google search will tell you about Pamela’s relationships with lots of famous rock musicians, so I’m not going to go into those in detail.
What I found fascinating was her drive and determination – she wanted to meet the Beatles, so she did. She wanted to be in a band and so she got into the GTOs, under Frank Zappa’s wing and with lots of other strong women who were doing what they wanted to do. Sometimes these were considered to be outrageous acts – not wearing many (or any) clothes, overindulging in alcohol or drug taking, but there was nothing really shocking. From a feminist perspective, I found it to be aligned with the basic principles – she did what she wanted for reasons of her own. She loved the music and musicians – creative, handsome souls – and wanted to get close to them. She made her own clothes, paid her own way and lived her own life while recognising that she has needs to be attended to.
The other aspect I enjoyed was her inner monologue – her diaries are endearing and show her to be much less confident than she would have appeared, despite her young age. She describes her parents with such love and is generally such a positive person, it is easy to like her.
One thing which started to grate slightly towards the end was that ‘present day’ Pamela would describe the situation or story, before inserting a section from ‘past Pamela’ and her diary which repeated many of the same points in slightly different language. It may have been that I read it in minimal sittings so noticed the repetition more. Secondly, the last third of the book seemed to consist of PS, addendum and updates as it was re-released to commemorate anniversaries etc, which included obituaries and sad endings for many of the people in the book. This made it all a bit sad, really.
Nevertheless, I did enjoy it and I have had my interest in that part of history piqued – she’s written a few more books so maybe I’ll read those too!