Most girls my age pined to be Miss Penny Lane, Groupie Goddess.
I wanted to be a the real life Miss Pamela (I’m with the Band, is a cringe worthy account of her sexual conquests), traipsing through Laurel Canyon in the holy entourage of Mr. Zappa and the rest of the GTOs.
A very romanticized version that is.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Never forget what Sapphire in that life-changing film says: “Groupies sleep with rockstars because they want to be near someone famous. We’re here because of the music . . . . We are band-aids.”
And that’s just what I became.
It all started when my own version of the Mothers of Invention came to life with their 2008 album, Oracular Spectacular, turning me on with their ‘Electric Feel’.
I didn’t care where they played – Tennessee, San Francisco, Chicago, Montreal . . . . No Greyhound ride was too far.
Something from their music hit me smack in the guts; I was hooked.
Whether I was tiptoeing up the creaky back staircases of the House of Blues to surprise my favourite musical act in their dressing room, or taking over VIP golf carts and politely directing “back stage, please” at whatever music festival I found myself, nothing seemed impossible.
Backstage doors magically left unlocked, security guards seemed to take breaks at the most opportune moments.
I have never been treated with more kindness than what was shown from one very special tour manager. We were offered places to stay in hotels when stranded and given late night drives back to small town hostels after late night tour bus shenanigans. These guys really seemed to get that we were simply there because we “loved some silly little piece of music or some band so much that it hurt.”
Bagging rock stars does nothing for the soul; I’ve done enough blow in enough hotel rooms with enough musical men to know, you still leave feeling like sketched-out shit in the morning.
At the end of the day, this band is one amazing caring family, trying to figure it all out, ready to take in a couple of music-loving drifters who are a little confused, too.
We caught a seedy Greyhound ride to Vermont from the even seedier Brooklyn YMCA that we were calling home that magical summer, and by that time, back stage passes and generous handfuls of pot were being handed out upon our arrival.
Maybe they were intrigued, maybe they wanted to get to know the girls in the occupational specific hats following their big red tour bus (which we named the fire truck) around the country.
We drank, we smoked. . . .
We listened to good music, told stories and met their moms. Things got hazy and now it seems like more of a distant dream.
But that summer was real, more real than anything I’ve ever experienced, and I learned something. Being Penny Lane isn’t enough.
Because whether you’re building a living room for your favourite band outside their tour bus with dumpster furnishings so they can relax after a set, or waiting patiently for the crowd to die down just to tell a certain Magnetic Zero that his music is raising the vibration of the planet. . . .
Do it for the music and nothing less, because although Penny Lane is a fun fantasy to entertain, sometimes loving a band so much that all you want to do is track them down just for a joint and conversation is enough.
The real fun comes with turning that stoned conversation into something people want to read, something people haven’t heard before, a new spin on an old band.
Experience and report.
Being a rock writer is the only thing that makes sense to me: bring the people the music, document what’s going down on the front lines of music today for kids to draw inspiration from 10, 20 years down the road.
What will people remember about Pink Floyd in 200 years? What will people say about Sonic Youth next century? Who feels convicted enough to write the stories down, pass the legendary tales on? This shit is important.
Well, it’s important to me!