When women make waves, always expect something powerful to happen. Along with that, also expect the knee-jerk barking dog-like refrain from the threatened to react. In Western culture, especially here in the US, there are few things more terrifying than a woman with sexual-agency. This net is vast, ranging from sex workers to pop stars to a random lady just living her best life in a short skirt and killer heels. After all, posting real live violence on social media is a-okay, but don’t you dare, you red-cheeked harlot, even think about sharing an image of an unharmed female breast. Think about the children! It’s apparently better to have them traumatized than curious. Lenny Bruce called out this hypocrisy in our culture back in the 1960s and I’m bringing it up again, but with the aim to celebrate the scarlet ladies, the red-blooded rebels, and, of course, the groupies!
Groupies are one of the most maligned and misunderstood creatures, but why? Male rock stars have gotten to, quite literally, spread their seed far and wide for decades and be championed for doing so. Some a little too much! It’s the classic chauvinistic trip that has been beautifully deconstructed, right down to all kinds of post-modern feminists reclaiming words like “slut” to give them power, as opposed to rob them of it. When weapons become transmuted into tools of empowerment, then you know some righteous alchemy has been exercised.
Cue up the Muses Podcast. In an age where everyone and their mom have a podcast (and I’m one to talk since I too am a dyed in the wool podcastin’ fool!), discovering the Muses has been a revelation. Hosted by the charming Chanty and Lynx, two whip smart dolls from the Great White North, Muses is a podcast that celebrates and explores the lives of the women of rock & roll: the creators, the wives, the lovers, and, of course, the groupies. The two approach their subjects with pure love, admiration, but also objectivity. In other words, they are able to temper the stars in their eyes and hearts with an awareness of the darker aspects of these women’s lives. It is this duality that really seals the deal on why their show is so great. Plus, their conversations and interviews often reveal what I have always long suspected, which is that in the world of rock & roll, the muses end up being a lot more fun and interesting than their musical conquests. If it’s a math equation, then it would read something like Pamela Des Barres > Jimmy Page. (No offense to any of you Zep heads out there, but Miss Pam seems a helluva lot more engaging and cool than Aleister Crowley’s least fun acolyte.)
I was lucky enough to get to interview the titular Muses via e-mail and find out more about their journey as groupies, podcasters, and bohemian bon vivants.
What was your introduction to the world of rock & roll as a kid?
Lynx: Rock n Roll was always a big thing in my house thanks to my father. He would play me music
by artists such as The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood
Mac, etc and tell me stories about seeing them live and what it was like back then. It was always
fascinating to me and I grew up strongly believing I was born in the wrong generation because of it!
Chanty: Luckily my parents had great taste in music. My mom was into T-Rex and the Talking Heads,
my dad loved Tom Petty and Supertramp. Growing up, we had stacks of CD’s by the radio in the
kitchen, and we’d often have dance parties there with my mom and play music trivia with my dad. My
older brother was always playing the guitar as well, so he was my own personal jukebox.
Do you remember when the word “Groupie” first entered your lexicon?
L: I was probably around 11 years old. By then music was my world and I began doing my own research on artists I loved. I would find photos of my favourite rockstars with these incredible women by their side and soon found myself more interested in researching them then the musicians themselves.
C: I think it was when I read I’m With The Band by Pamela Des Barres and I thought- “Hey, I’m that too!” It was a good thing.
What was your initial impression of groupies?
L: That they were spectacular! I remember seeing the Baron Wolman series very early in my groupie research and just being completely mesmerized by their beauty, fashion and joie de vivre. I knew they must have been incredible women to be a part of that scene in the first place and the more I learned the more amazing they became.
C: My initial impression of Groupies is that they were fun, free and loved music maybe more than anyone else. I came to realize that depending on who you talked to, the G-word was a BAD word.
Speaking of the ladies, who were some of the figures in the world of groupiedom that made the strongest impressions on you, then and now?
L: Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg were the first 2 muses I became fascinated with in my early teens. I had no idea of the impressive careers they had, I just knew if Mick and Keith loved them they must have been something special. Then I discovered their fascinating backstories and careers and they just blew my mind. Also, their strong bond really made an impact on me and how important it is to find that sisterhood.
C: When I moved out of my hometown to a small liberal-arts community for University, I met these girls who went out to music shows every night. It was a Dorothy in Oz moment when my life turned into technicolour. These girls were eclectic before the term “hipster” was being used, they painted their faces and they were the first ones on the dance floor. As I learned about Groupies of the past, I came to realize that there were so many other supporters of music who lit up the room and got everyone dancing, among other talents. And as always, Pamela Des Barres in my Queen. There would be no podcast without her.
L: Another woman who inspires me daily is Pleasant Gehman. She has so much going on at all times, is so much fun and truly one of the best storytellers of our time. She’s also lived her entire life doing things she is passionate about and that’s exactly the way I want to spend my life. What an inspiration!
L: Obviously the woman who has influenced me most is Pamela Des Barres. Her book I’m with the Band was written so honestly and with so much heart, it’s impossible not to fall in love with her while reading. She inspired me to keep journals, which I am so grateful to have to look back on and ever since she entered my life 8 years ago she’s changed it for the better in unmeasurable ways. She’s always full of encouragement and support, brings such light and joy wherever she goes and she’s given me an incredible community of sisters (we call each other dolls) that I never thought I’d have. Miss P is a true saint in my books!
A quality that struck me so much about your show is how you both, and rightfully so, place these women as the real deal when it comes to sex-positive feminists. I remember seeing interviews with Miss Pamela Des Barres when I was a kid on all kinds of awful chat shows and finding her so colorful and compelling and extremely far from the victim narrative that the mainstream tends to paint over these women’s stories. What are the qualities you admire the most and have taken personal inspiration from with the groupies?
C: Dorothy Carvello was the first woman who worked in A&R, Chris O’Dell was the first woman who worked as a Tour Manager. Pattie Boyd is a fashion icon who is still emulated to this day. Some of these women have PhD’s. Not only are these women stunningly gorgeous, they are intelligent, motivated and fearless.
L: You really nailed it there for me. I’ve always admired these women’s fearlessness to be themselves, especially in an era where a lot of the time they were criticized for it. I also admire their creativeness, honesty, and passion for life, adventure and music.
You have alluded to also being a groupie on past episodes, which is amazing. What was that journey like, going from music lover to musician lovers?
C: My very first love and boyfriend was the guitarist in my brother’s band. In a way it just happened, and in a way it was always meant to be. After him, I was in a community where I’d put myself in a situation to meet musicians touring from all around the country and I felt a personal sense of duty to show some of them as much of a good time as they’d shown me. I’ve only had my heart broken once and I don’t regret it. I’m still very good friends with most of my past musician lovers and five years later, I’m still hearing music they’ve written that was inspired by me. It’s like a gift that keeps on giving. It was also extremely romantic, and now with experience and wisdom, I realize it was never meant to last- and that’s ok! We’ll live on in the music, and that’s even better.
L: A very natural one. There have been men I’ve dated that I didn’t even know were musicians until after we got together. There’s just a natural draw there that we’ve discussed with other muses and groupies. It just sorta happens, the muse and the musician attract!
One of the continual themes that come up throughout the show is how being a groupie, while it can be the wild, physical and sexual ride that many envision, is also much more than just that. Tales of legit friendships with managers and roadies, as well as even making the musicians’ clothes come up a lot. What do you think is something that would surprise an uninformed listener the most about these women?
C: They’ll all smarter and more talented than they’ve ever been given credit for. There’s a reason why people, like the roadies and crew wanted them around. It’s like a family and everyone is important and has their role.
L: That a lot of these women have life stories that are way more interesting and layered then the men they happened to have relationships with. We’ve all heard the cliche rock n roll life story, but there’s nothing cliche about these women!
On the show, you have interviewed so many amazing women, including the incredible and vivaciously witchy Renaissance woman Pleasant Gehman, as well as the wondrously bawdy 1980s groupie, Rita Rae Roxx. Who are some of the figures that in this world that you would love to talk to but haven’t had the chance just yet?
C: Yoko Ono, Priscilla Presley, Pattie Boyd, Dana Petty, Bebe Buell. Angela Bowie, May Pang and Olivia Harrison.
L: There’s so many, which is exciting considering we’ve talked to so many amazing women already! I’d love the opportunity to speak with Patti Smith, Yoko Ono, Marianne Faithfull, Bebe Buell… and MANY more.
On a more lascivious note, who are some of your dream musicians (living or dead) that you would love to become a groupie for?
C: I am currently a Groupie for Simeon Dallas Hammond, a singer-songwriter from the UK. I listen to all her records and wear all her merch! I’m also loving Dent May and Harry Styles’ new albums. I’ll always be a Groupie for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and maybe in another dimension I can get my hands on Elvis.
L: Well I’m a huge fan of the NYC Max’s/CBGB scene and would have loved to party with all the bands of that era! Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Stiv Bators, Richard Hell, David Byrne…anyone have a time machine?
In Sarah Jacobson’s brilliant 1997 independent film, Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore, there’s a great female punk rock character that has a male groupie. How common are male groupies and have you heard or seen any really standout stories about them?
C: Nancy Wilson of HEART explained this phenomenon quite well. When asked if she had Groupies, she said “No. There was never an equivalent that I’ve ever seen… male Groupies around Heart shows”. She said that the girls were ever present, always willing to get their thrills with some guy who’s about to leave town, and next time hopefully when he comes through. But the guy fans tended to be super shy with shaking hands, sometimes giving her a lover letter. She said for her, it was kind of the opposite. The guys were shy and romantic and not as hardcore as the girls.
L: Male groupies are everywhere and are usually way more excited about meeting their idols then women are. Groupie isn’t a sexual term, it was originally meant to describe fans who would often hang out with the bands. Some of the most famous male groupies took their love of music and the musicians behind it and turned that passion into successful careers. Danny Fields, Rodney Bingenheimer, Michael Alago, Cameron Crowe…. The list goes on!
(Also Heather, you have awesome taste in film! Never met anyone who knows about that movie!)
If you were teaching a class on the history of modern musical groupies and other muses, which books and films would you make an essential part of your syllabus?
C: Women Who Rock Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyonce. Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl by Evelyn McDonnell, I’m With the Band by Pamela Des Barres, Anything for a Hit by Dorothy Carvello, How Rock n Roll Celebrates and Idolizes Abusive Rock Stars an essay by Roxana Shirazi, and we would look at the art from Lucretia Tye Jasmin’s Groupie Feminism series.
L: Books: I’m With the Band & Let’s Spend the Night Together – Pamela Des Barres, Please Kill Me – Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain, Anything for a Hit– Dorothy Carvello, Just Kids – Patti Smith
Films: Almost Famous, This is Spinal Tap, Rock n Roll High School, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Wayne’s World.
What are some subjects that move you outside of music and muses?
C: I’m currently setting up a homestead in a 100 year old farm house after fixing up a 1972 airstream land yacht trailer. I also recently completed a yoga teacher training course for the Brain Injured community and I love brushing my hair.
L: Film and literature are my other 2 great passions which I could go on about forever and often do, especially in our Patreon episodes!
What is the long term goal with the show? Where would you like to take it within the next five years?
L: My long term goal has always been to continue having fun, connecting with incredible women and sharing as many stories as long as possible. The good news is there’s a never ending well of fascinating women out there and people are finally paying attention. In regards to the show itself, we are taking steps to incorporate more video and we’re looking into doing live shows, whether in person or online so we can continue to connect with our listeners and share these stories in as many ways as possible.
C: I think after we interview Yoko Ono and Priscilla Presley we might just teach that course on Modern Musical Groupies and Other Muses!
Huge thanks to both Chanty and Lynx for taking the time to answer my questions. For access to episodes and more information, visit their website at musespod.com.