It was 2006, and I had just started to discover my love of live music. There were a number of local bands around Adelaide who had my attention, and my part-time job working for an independent music store only enhanced the passion I had for music, and the admiration I had for musicians. I gradually promoted myself from the poorly dressed girl who stood in a dark corner and could barely see the band (but hey, I still enjoyed the music), to the girl who was chatting with security pre-show and being let inside the barriers, sneaking backstage and having tequila shots bought for me, courtesy of EMI record company of course. Ignorantly, I was still shocked the day I was first referred to as a groupie. I remember it clearly, because I honestly didn't know whether to accept it as a compliment, respond to it as an insult, or shake it off as simply an observation. And this is where today's Lylabird feature article resides, in the exploration of what the term "groupie" has come to mean and why.
So what is a groupie? Pamela Des Barre, a famous groupie herself, proclaimed in one of her books ("Let's Spend the Night Together") that Mary Magdalene herself was the first groupie. Extreme perhaps, but it depends on what a groupie can actually be defined as. Here are a few definitions I have come across, from only the best and most reliable sources of course:
"A groupie is generally considered an avid, often female, fan of a band or musical performer. The term derives from the female attaching herself to a group, the band. While the band is the group, the female is the groupie. Naturally, not all fans are groupies, and not all groupies are females. Further, there are now groupies of sports teams or players, actors, and oddly enough, high profile criminals." ('WiseGeek'er, Tricia Ellis-Christensen)
From just these three definitions, it's pretty safe to assume that the boundaries of the term are not clearly set, and have both positive and negative connotations. And for this fact alone, I am forced to divide groupies and groupie behaviour into two separate entities... The Good Groupie and The Bad Groupie.
It's not the first time such a distinction has been made, and like almost any collection of humans with common interests and/or backgrounds etc, it only takes a few bad ones to make the whole damn lot look rotten. Like Priests. I'm not going to divulge into the behaviours that set the two apart, because they are usually situational and have levels of appropriateness in different contexts. Rather, I will leave this part to you. I'm sure you can think to a moment of Bad Groupie Behaviour (BGB), or at least concoct one for yourself. Even good groupies have BGB slip-ups.
The point I want to make here is simply that the term groupie shouldn't be viewed exclusively as derogative. In fact, good groupies were once, and still are, held in such high regard that they are often a source of inspiration. A Muse, as such. Songs such as "Ruby Tuesday" by The Rolling Stones, "Stay" by Pink Floyd, "Plaster Caster" by Kiss, "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson and "Livin' Lovin' Maid" by Led Zeppelin were all written about influential groupies. Perhaps some displaying BGB. But they were influential nonetheless.
They've also gone by the name "Road Wives", in the cases where they have gone on tour with the band: think Penny Lane of Almost Famous (who Cameron Crowe created based on a number of real women he met on the road). But here's the analytical part that you may or may not agree with. The bad vibes we feel when we hear the term 'groupie'- is it simply the evolution of feelings of long-standing jealousy? I mean, who wouldn't be jealous of the likes of Pamela Des Barres, Patti Boyd, Bebe Buell, Marianne Faithfull, Sable Starr and Lori Lightning to some extent? From my research, they all just loved the music, and it just so happened to be during a time when rock music was at the forefront of liberation- socially, musically and sexually. Or perhaps, on the other hand, it is these women and the loose morals they displayed at the time who give all groupies a bad name? Could these two categories cover all the naysayers and wannabes?
I am quite sure I've covered this topic sufficiently for the time being- if you have something to say on the matter please feel free to comment!