I’ll be the first to admit that I was predisposed to loving I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie, Pamela Des Barres’s memoir about her life as a GTO (part music act, part groupie-group), her sometimes acting career, her various odd jobs that kept her close to the LA music scene, and most importantly, her fascinating relationships with an unbelievable number of rock legends. Confession: when it comes to menfolk, I tend to crush on a particular type – namely, musicians and bartenders. (My taste in women is a bit more diverse; according to one of my buddies, when it comes to the ladies, I’m interested in… “yes.”) Anyway, I’m aware this renders me a Big Fat Cliché. What can I say? They bring me my two most absolute favorite things in life, music and alcohol.
So although I can appreciate why some might find Pamela De Barres’ tales of rockstar lust to be silly or constraining at best, unfeminist and desperate at worst… well, hell, I get it, girl!
The memoir was first published in 1987 and was re-released in 2005 with updates about her life in the interim and a new forward by Dave Navarro. So I guess this makes me about 25 years too late to the party (I was barely even born yet!), but no matter. I still want to be best friends with Miss P. I found her so charming and so relatable, and was surprised how invested I was by the time I reached the end of the book.
She apparently was an avid journal writer during her years of groupie glory, and her diary entries from that time are included throughout the book. She shares them in unedited form, and the self-deprecating commentary from her present self was perfectly tuned: sharp but sympathetic (who wouldn’t cringe at some of the things they thought or wrote from a decade ago?), without being cloying. I was cracking up at her memories of her sexual awakening in her early teens, courtesy of Mick Jagger (before she met him in person):
I started writing porno things in my diary for the first time: “Someday I will touch and feel him, I know it. Mick, my dear, dear PENIS!” I brazenly created in pink and red oil colors my concept of what his balls might look like. I turned it in to Mr. Gifford as a modern-art project and got an A.
Oh, to be 14 again.
Another reason I loved her: rather than competing with the many other beautiful, intriguing women who surrounded her, she valued her female friendships and looked up to certain women as role models and mentors. She reflects upon meeting Gail Zappa (as in, the wife of Frank Zappa, who himself became a lifelong supporter of and friend to Pamela) for the first time:
The whole setup instantly changed my mind about domesticity: You could be a rebel, a profound thinker, and a rock and roll maniac and still eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, have a baby, and drink a nice cup of tea with your friends.
That could be the motto for this blog right there!
As cool as her life was irrespective of her love affairs, though, the reason the public was interested enough in her musing to make this book a best-seller is obvious. It is epitomized in what has to be my favorite moment of the book, the point where I almost had to stop reading, collect myself, and keep from shrieking, “This was actually someone’s life!”
As he finally got dressed to leave, he roamed around my little room, littered with pictures of Mick, Jimmy, and Noel, lit a cigarette, picked up his black cowboy hat, and said, “Do you really like all this long ha’r and everthang?” I assured him it was sexy and fashionable; he shook his head like he couldn’t figure it, smoothed his pompadour, kissed me on the forehead, and put on his ten-gallon tipping it gallantly.
The “he” in this case is none other than Waylon Jennings! For real??? Yeah, no big deal, ha. “Mick” is the very sexy young Mick Jagger (the Stones, of course), “Jimmy” would be none other than Mr. Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin… I die…), and “Noel” is Noel Redding (as in, the bassist with the Jimmy Hendrix Experience). And to be clear, she was dating (or something resembling dating) these four legends at the time – as opposed to being just another of their “new town, new one-off” lays. Indeed, this book was about so much more than just spilling the crazy details of various rock stars’ respective sex lives; the part I found most interesting, at least, was reading about the ways these rock legends tried to court Pamela, their intimate moments together, and the tumult of her inability to keep herself from falling desperately for men who would inevitably break her heart.
There’s so much more to this book than I can cover in a quick review. Suffice to say, I loved it enough to order another one of the other books she has since written: Let’s Spend the Night Together: Backstage Secrets of Rock Muses and Supergroupies. Um, among a few other books. Got to get that super saver shipping, right?
Ah well… my addiction to reading is probably the healthiest addiction I have.
Addendum: So apparently Zooey Deschanel starred in the TV movie version of this book a few years back. Ughhhhhhhh. (She actually comes across like a pretty cool person in interviews, but every character I’ve seen her play makes me want to, like, slap a bunny rabbit or something.)