I'm With The Band

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I had started reading this because I thought it was an insider's view of a very chaotic, and iconic era. It didn't quite live up to that. It's definitely more of a schoolgirl diary - which it literally is, at the beginning. And while this was okay in a guilty pleasure way, it quickly got boring. There's quite a lot of name dropping and a sense that events have been made to seem more controversial or important than they really were. I was expecting a more factual report of things, and this unfortunately was just not to my taste.
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“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.

GTOsWhat 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!
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I get the whole worshipping at the altar of the rock god but this often bordered on ridiculous obsession. I was impressed by the creative means Pamela went to make her rock wet dreams come true. She really puts herself in the midst of the scene, time after time. Ruthlessly pursuing the latest shiniest hip swivelling rock star to catch her attention. I’m equally grossed out and in awe of her...or maybe just a little bit jealous!Although this book is not about the writing, it’s atrocious at times, (but also bizarrely insightful!) I also knew what I was getting into and it had all I wanted and much much more. By the end I felt so enamoured by Miss Pamela because amongst all the revelry she showed signs of insecurity and if there’s any finer example of fake it til you make it then I’ll like to know! She lives and breathes the rock star aesthetic and I kinda dig her dedication to pursuing all her wild dreams, plenty of times she happened to be there at the right place at the right time. That’s Hollywood for you. She got to experience some of the most spectacular rock star moments right at the time when rock was burgeoning into something extraordinarily exciting. Wow stuff indeed. This memoir is one for the fans of the groupies that set the tone and the scene for whatever was happening up on stage. Although this could easily be dismissed as a sexual bragfest I honestly believe that Pamela deeply cared about these musicians many she kept in contact with, actually just about ALL of them, that’s pretty darn awesome in my eyes. While she fell in and out of lust and love with many of these rock stars she was always actively on the lookout  for true and lasting love she just happened to be searching in all the wrong places always believing she would come across her real life Prince Charming...maybe just one with eyeliner and sequins! Incredible stuff and I was in complete groupie fan heaven reading this book.

 4.5 stars for the sheer enjoyment of being able to live through these exciting times through the eyes of the amazing Pamela!
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The sixties was a turbulent and exiting  period. The Vietnam war, the Kennedy assassination, the hippie flower-power movement , the cold war, the space race, the man on the moon as well as the music revolution spearheaded by rock and roll. 

This book is an autobiography of a rock and roll groupie of the period.  It was written 17 years after the events and is based on her memory, a diary kept at the time and numerous letters that she had kept.  

If you expect to find an historical account of the rise of rock and roll then you will be disappointed.  Although she met just about every significant music figure of the time, and she bedded many of them, their personalities are mostly only superficially described. Nor is there anything about the significant events of the time except a brief piece about the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco. With today’s obsession about sexual harassment in the entertainment industry it is not surprising to learn that the almost exclusively male musicians of the sixties were a lecherous lot. She describes a casting audition where the women were asked to remove their tops, the one with the biggest breasts got the job.

The book is really a self indulgent memoir of a swooning, hormonal teenage fan who never grew up. However, the legacy of the book is that it opened the floodgates for women to write frankly about their sexuality.
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