I’ve been fascinated with the term groupie for years, and its ever-changing definition. So many share a negative understanding of what a groupie is, collectively pointing their fingers at any young female knocking on a tour bus door in the assumption that they’re after the commonplace: sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
But a groupie was originally not born of the selfish or materialistic nature we attach them to. What happened?
What is a groupie?
Groupies! Women despise them (while sometimes wanting to be them), and men envy the rockstars who get to spend the night with them.
Groupies! We commonly (and unfairly) think of them as provocatively dressed, unintelligent, crazed-fan girls with a backstage pass who overly praise and sexually serve their rockstar god of choice. And all with selfish intentions of gaining fame, marrying for money, or simply trying to look cool.
I know, it’s a pretty extreme stereotype! [x_pullquote cite=”The Showgirl Of Rock” type=”left”]”It’s not all about sex, drugs, money, and popularity.”[/x_pullquote]
Oh, but I cannot accurately relay to you the exact number of times I myself have been called a groupie. I’ve lost track.
Simultaneously, there may very well be no number large enough to equal the amount of times I have lashed out in defense of this accusation. “I am not a groupie!”
And just like that, with a stomp of my foot, and an overly emphasized flip of my teased ‘do, I’d walk away thinking, “How dare those jerks call me a groupie!”
But, I’ll admit it: other times I have secretly asked myself, am I a groupie? What if I am? And what if there is nothing wrong with that?
Sure, I’m a music fan with a backstage pass, and I’ve made friends with the rockstars, but I’ve never gone looking for fame, money, or celebrity status through a passionate courtship with one of my music idols. So? I don’t consider myself a groupie.
The struggle has been real, folks!
For instance, I’m a literary connoisseur who also writes music and has a passion for traveling, fine dining, academia, ballet, kittens, and lounging around in my pajamas waiting for delivery pizza. But when I’m backstage with Marilyn Manson, Tommy Lee, or Sebastian Bach, I’m a rock chick hanging with my friends, enjoying their company and appreciating their talents.
Thus, in contrast of all things intellectual, quiet, and simple, I love rock and roll. I love the music.
And yet I get pegged as a groupie.
Rock and roll is a lifestyle, and I discovered long ago that while the green room sometimes gets trashed, and sex and drugs have been a part of the fun for some, it’s not just the rockstars and their often outlandish behavior that make up the scene.
Groupies have actually been a big part of it for a while. That’s not how it started out though, the term was meant to be an innocent and rather special thing.
The term groupie was coined by a British journalist in the mid 60s who called women who hung out with famous music groups: groupies.
Exactly. Innocent enough!
Famous groupies like Lori Maddox, Sable Starr, and Sweet Connie have told their tales with reference to the music being the driving force behind their reputations. They were having fun backstage and on the road with the glorious likes of David Lee Roth, Robert Plant, Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler, and Iggy Pop because the rock star’s music touched a part of them nothing else could. Groupies are simply female friends of the band.
And so? I guess I am a groupie.
Groupies are the lucky chosen ones the bands have found muses and friends in. Groupies are loyal, kind, clever, talented women who caught the rock and roll bug and ran with it.
Groupies understand the musicians, and the musicians understand the groupies! There’s a sensitive, yet wild animal running freely in each of our hearts—rock and roll is like a heavy summer fever none of us will ever be cured of, and we don’t want to be, either.
The women some rockstars pick for a night and never see again come morning? Sorry to sound so harsh, but this is the idea we think of nowadays when we hear the term groupie, and it really bums me out that I’ve been nominated by so many strangers as a candidate for representing this new-age definition.
Those eager women with their air-head charm, push-up bras, and inability to hold their liquor have given the term groupie a seriously negative connotation.
Being backstage is a time to make lifetime connections, best friends, and learn about the music. It’s not all about sex, drugs, money, and popularity.
When I met Pamela Des Barres, the world’s most famous groupie and author of I’m With The Band it was, perhaps, one of the most special moments of my life.
The character of Penny Lane in Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film Almost Famous was inspired by a number of Miss Pamela’s stories.
As an underage kid, I skipped school to tour with rock bands like Marilyn Manson and Butch Walker. I was always referred to as Penny Lane, and for good reason: I loved the music, the world of rock and roll, and I searched endlessly for creative ways to contribute to it. Crowe himself, along with select staff members at Rolling Stone magazine, confirmed it once, too.
Alas, in meeting Miss Pamela it was a sort of “passing of the torch.” She told me of her mission to redefine the term groupie and I immediately thought to myself, “Brilliant. How can I help?”
And, yet, I don’t feel it’s necessarily a matter of redefining the term; it’s more important to bring to light what the word originally meant, and should still mean.
Then again, if I should be redefining the term at all, I know just how to do so.
It’s actually quite simple: Groupies are rockstars.
Let’s not forget it this time!
Photos: Getty. Sean Hartgrove. Richard Creamer
Story: Kate Catalina