Written by JD posted by Shellie
I’m With the Band – Confessions of a Groupie, by Pamela Des Barres
Pages 320; paperback
Chicago Review Press, updated edition 2005
This is an autobiography by Pamela Des Barres who was one of the original “super groupies” that rose to fame in the mid-to-late 1960s, and was a member of the infamous GTOs. She writes unabashedly about her life and exploits from her time in high school and on through the years when she became more and more involved with the rock music scene and some of the most famous rock stars. It’s a candid book which recounts her adventures and sexual exploits. As she says “this is a story of a young girl stepping into the brave new world of the free-loving, freewheeling ‘60s – an era where anything could happen and it always did”. It primarily covers the period from 1962 through to 1974, though in four short sections at the end of the book she fills in some details of what has happened since then.
First of all, full disclosure time – I’m a total music nut who loves a lot of the music from the mid-60s onwards, and I spend a lot of time listening to music and reading about it. She was involved with some of my favorite groups of all time, so I was bound to be fascinated by this book. What is more, this was a time before paparazzi and concerns over privacy and security, so getting direct access to the stars was relatively easy. In here you’ll read about the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Who, the Doors, Frank Zappa, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Byrds and many more. She was also striving to become an actress for much of the time, so through the book you’ll also encounter several movie stars.
All of that being said, I didn’t actually enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It was certainly extremely interesting to get some insights into many of the famous and not-quite-so-famous musicians of the time and she writes engagingly about events, her life, her thoughts and her desires. I think the main problem for me was that so many of the people in here just don’t come across as very likeable, and I was often struggling to understand what the attraction was and why she felt such a strong bond with people who acted like jerks and treated her so badly. Famous - yes; fun to be with - sometimes; likeable and trustworthy – heck no. Not being able to understand many of her motivations and actions, I was having a bit of a hard time relating to her story.
But I’m glad I read it. She’s certainly an interesting person, and I particularly enjoyed finding out more about Keith Moon, Frank Zappa and Marlon Brando – three individuals who stood out in a book that is full of colorful people. If you like rock music from that era and want to find out more about the scene and some of the people who frequented it, I’d recommend this book. I’d rate it three stars.
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