I was just re-reading a book by Patti Boyd, one-time wife of both George Harrison and Eric Clapton (not simultaneously, but nearly), and the topic of groupies came up in my mind. Not to say that Pattie was a groupie at all – she was a woman who was attracted to musicians and they in turn found her irresistible. Precisely because she was not a groupie was what brought the difference to mind.
Now, I truly understand the attraction to musicians, having married one myself. (At this point, Mr. Helix would assert that he is not a musician – he is a drummer.) A lot of women find them fascinating and good company, just as some women are drawn particularly towards athletes, or perhaps doctors. I didn’t specifically look for a musician to marry, but it was one of the factors that made him attractive in the very beginning. So for some women, musicians are a “type” that they go for when looking for a mate.
Since musicians are a creative bunch, there are those who are drawn to them because of the artistic temperament or colorful lives they lead. Years ago, when I went to visit England, I didn’t end up going to Stratford-Upon-Avon, or other likely places for an English Literature major to want to visit. Instead, I went to Liverpool, Birmingham and London, the places where my musical idols came from. Like one does when studying literature or art, I tend to look at the work from various perspectives, and from the context of the life of the one who writes and performs the work. I want to know what makes the musician/artist tick, and understanding their world sometimes brings a new appreciation or understanding of the music. In this case, some women are attracted on an artistic appreciation level.
But groupies, some who seem to just want to sleep with musicians and then are reasonably content to watch them pick up and go to the next stop on the tour, always confused me. Maybe it is the middle class prude voice in my head, placed there by my mother, which suddenly says, “But good girls don’t do things like that!” which blocks my understanding. Look, there are people who just like a good roll in the hay, and there is nothing wrong with that. (Although, judging from some of the groupie tell-all books I’ve read, there is nothing guaranteeing that a roll in the back of the tour bus is going to be all that satisfying!) Perhaps it is the short-term but intimate contact that they crave, beyond just appreciating the music and performances (ahem, the on-stage variety) like a fan. They want to know how they tick, but in a much more personal way, and are not bothered that the relationship won’t turn into something more permanent.
I had a correspondence with a famous drummer, who will remain nameless because I promised that I wouldn’t share what he said under his name, but we spoke of many things, including groupies. I asked if he could explain the groupie scene to me, and he said that he would never say a bad word against them, because when touring, away from home and all comforts, it was very nice indeed to have girls willing to cuddle (his word). He wasn’t about to tell me who did what with whom, but overall, his opinion from the musician point of view was not surprising. What WAS surprising to little old sheltered me was the part when he said that there were some girls who were interested in only one member of the group, and that they were put out when they realized that they were expected to “comfort” more than one, or perhaps all of the group. What the WHAT?
I mean, we’ve all heard salacious stories of what goes on with groups on the tour bus or backstage or what have you. Even I’ve heard horrible tales of fish and an extremely self-esteem deficient young lady and depraved rock stars who would do anything for a laugh. And I know that groupies have been known to perform favors for even the stage crew or drivers or security just to get a crack at their favorites. This always made my skin crawl, and it was no less crawly when I immediately pictured my drummer penpal and his bandmates passing some girl around, however willing the girl. What could possibly be in it for her? You have to service some other dudes just to get the privilege, and I should put that in quotes really, to service your favorite?
I guess in the division between girlfriend or groupie, I fall squarely on the girlfriend (now wife) side. Good luck to the girls that perform the valued services they do for the musicians out on the road for long stretches, but I still just don’t get what’s in it for them.