A fantastic tale of supergroupie lust, love
We come upon Valentine’s Day with the spirit of love in our hearts. Some say that it’s a day created by the greeting card companies to sell more product. While that may or may not be true, it doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a time of year to celebrate the love one person has for another. Or even the love that one has for many. A good love story is simply a good love story.
If you’ve ever read the book “I’m With the Band” by supergroupie Pamela Des Barres, then you’ve had the chance to check out quite a few good ones.
It is a common misconception that during the 1960s and 1970s this lover of the rock stars (pop stars, as she called them), went from rock idol to rock idol with reckless abandon, doing what the so-called “groupies” are said to be put on earth to do.
Ms. Des Barres – Miller at the time – was just a hopeless romantic like so many others.
While it is true that her first crush, initially misdiagnosed as “love,” was Sir Paul McCartney long before he became a “Sir,” her first tangible crush successfully bagged was your average Joe, or Bob in her case. They were your typical high school sweethearts who snuck kisses here and there when they could. Bob was originally a “bad boy” from New York, and unfortunately for both of them, he was ultimately summoned back east while Pamela was left behind in Los Angeles.
Once she realized that all was not going to be gardens and white picket fences with Bobby, she realized that something new and exciting was happening practically in her own back yard. When another cool cat at school introduced her to his rock ‘n’ roll uncle, Captain Beefheart, Pamela was never the same.
From there she heard Frank Zappa and was mesmerized by what he was doing and what he got away with. Realizing that all of this hip new stuff was bred right there in her hometown, she dove in head first.
It seemed that the epicenter of all of this hot new action was on Sunset Boulevard, so that is where she went. Once she arrived, she met many other kindred spirits in search of something new and exciting. It just happened that some of those cool new people were in up and coming bands like Iron Butterfly, Love, The Doors, etc.
Completely mesmerized by the energy of the people and the music they were creating, she was but putty in the hands of a budding new singer named Jim Morrison. This is where it all really began.
Jim already had a lady-friend who was none too fond of the time her man was spending with this sweet young thing, so Pamela cut it off short, though she never forgot that “beautiful young man with the face of a god.”
Now that she had already been introduced to all of these people through the social circle she’d fallen into completely by happenstance, it seemed only natural to meet up with Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, and David Crosby for a fun night out on the town. While she was crashing at Frank Zappa’s guest house, a friend introduced Pamela to her neighbor who was a struggling actor named Don Johnson. This blossomed into the “real deal” as far as love is concerned.
The two young souls, blind with love, eventually shacked up together and began a life together. Mr. Johnson, apparently bored with the relationship, ended up cheating with a co-star’s 14-year-old daughter, Melanie, so that love was soon lost.
Desperate to fill a void, she went to a Jimi Hendrix concert with some friends who were hanging out afterward. Backstage, she took one look at bassist Noel Redding and was again head over heels in love. Of course, he lived in England so that didn’t work too well.
On a trip to Chicago, she was turned on to a new band called Led Zeppelin that she’d never heard of, but with Pamela being a sucker for the Englishmen, she was definitely game for another try at British love. Almost immediately she and Jimmy Page were inseparable, spending every waking moment together (and most moments when they weren’t awake).
After a whirlwind romance, Mr. Page became disinterested, as he was wont to do, and stopped calling. Distraught, Pamela swore off men forever. That was until The Who came to town.
One conversation with Keith Moon and she was “Jimmy Paged” all over again. Mr. Moon proved to be way over the top for her more reserved personality at times. With him sensing the quandary, he chose to bow out as well.
After brief flings with Mick Jagger, Ray Davies of the Kinks, and Waylon Jennings, she took a break from actively looking.
As fate would have it, love found her when she wasn’t looking at all. A country boy-turned-model asked her to come back home to North Carolina with him for a weekend. She accepted since she was supposed to appear in a low-budget film in New York anyway. While her mountain man model was doing his family thing, she trekked up to New York City to begin shooting her role. In the film, the script called for a British rock star-type character.
Michael Des Barres, from a brand new English glam-punk band Silverhead, happened to stagger into the bar the filmmakers were in. He was summarily cast in the roll and Pamela once again fell for the Brit, and then that was that.
The couple moved back to Los Angeles together, leaving the country boy model back in the woods, and soon after married. Their marriage produced a son and a lifetime of love and anecdotes.
Though they did eventually divorce, both have successful careers and Des Barres writes that they still love each other dearly and are always looking out for one another.
After all of that living, supergroupie Pamela did, in fact, find her true love.
“I’m With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie” by Pamela Des Barres and forward by Dave Navarro is available through Amazon.com.