It's easy to write off famous groupies off as clichés. Pop culture tends to paint them as airheaded or sex-crazed with little care to capture the actual experiences of women who lived the life. Decades after the sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll lifestyle that fueled the music scene of the '60s, '70s, and '80s, notable rock groupies like Chris O'Dell and Pamela Des Barres are sharing the real stories of how they served as mistresses and muses to some of the most beloved bands of all time. Though they can't compete with the conquests of rock's biggest groupie, they shed new light on the entire lifestyle
The words of O'Dell and Des Barres go beyond the simple question of, "Why do groupies do what they do?" By telling these stories in their own words, they reclaim the narratives about them. Though the wildest groupie stories may have a hint of truth, first-hand accounts show how these women are more than stereotypes.
Groupies Had Front Row Seats To Music History
Chris O'Dell's role as both a personal assistant and a close friend of rock legends like The Beatles meant she was present for some of the most important moments in rock history. She witnessed the moment when George Harrison confessed to Ringo Starr that he was in love with Ringo's wife. As O'Dell tells it:
When George finally told Ringo that he was in love with Maureen, Ringo's response was, "Well, better you than someone else." And you know, I think that sort of ... it's like OK at least it's not somebody that we don't know.[...] It's all in the family. And I think that's kind of the way it was at that point.
It was freezing cold. I mean that I remember more than anything - how cold it was up there. But also, it was just so exciting to think originally the idea was that they were doing it so that everybody in the whole West End of London could hear the music, and in fact, the amps weren't that big. So, the people on Saville Row could hear it, and it was fun to watch them looking up trying to figure out what was that?
Jimmy Page Asked One Groupie's Mom For Permission To Date Her
Sex was a big part of the music scene, but some were seeking deeper relationships, too. According to Lori Mattix, her relationship with Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page was more than just a fling:
I was underage and couldn’t travel with him. So I would stay in the room and wait for Jimmy. At that point, I was 15 and totally in love with this man. I put him on a pedestal. It became so serious that Jimmy asked my mom for permission to be with me.
Page and Mattix saw one another for some time until she caught him sleeping with Bebe Buell:
I didn’t know [Buell] would steal my man. I had a key to Jimmy’s suite, walked in, and saw them in bed together. I looked at him and said, “What did you do to me?” I never trusted him again. He was like a god to me and instantly destroyed this whole image I had of him. [...] That was an awful night. I don’t even like thinking about it. My relationship with Jimmy ended, and my heart was shattered. It was hard for me to trust again. He will always be one of the great loves of my life.
On At Least One Occasion, A Groupie Got To Rescue A Rockstar
Bebe Buell, Liv Tyler's mother, hooked up with Steven Tyler when he called her from a hotel, unable to get himself out. They were already friends, so Buell was happy to help him out. According to Buell:
[Steven Tyler] was in New York for some basketball game, and I was at my friend Liz Derringer’s apartment. She was married to Rick Derringer, and I used to sleep there when Todd [Rundgren] was on the road. At 3 o’clock in the morning, Steven calls and says, “Bebe, come get me. I’m at the Pierre hotel, and I can’t walk. And I’m the only white person in the room.” I said, “You can handle that.” He said, “No, you don’t understand, they can do a lot more drugs than I can.” So I went up there, knocked on the door, and it was a room full of seven-foot-tall men. Steven really could not walk, and I had just taken this fireman training class, because Todd was worried if we ever had a fire how I would get out of our townhouse. I threw Steven over my shoulder and took him to Liz’s, and we threw him in the bathtub. Finally, he woke up and Liz said, 'go sleep in our room.' I always joke that I think my daughter was conceived in Liz and Rick’s bed.
It Wasn't Always A Party Around The Bands
Being around famous rock stars wasn't always pleasant. According to Chris O'Dell, many of the musicians she knew during her time as a personal assistant and tour manager were less than kind to one another and the various people who hung around backstage.
Eric Clapton, in particular, was a tough hang when sober, and O'Dell said he struck her as "very lonely and very empty." She had even more insight into the Fab Four:
I think there was [a nasty side] to all four of them. Some of it was that Liverpool way, that sarcasm, and part of it was that they discovered that they could say anything they damn well wanted and they could get away with it. And people didn't know how to respond.