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Biblio File, Popular Music

I'm With the Band: Muses, Groupies, and the Go-To Guys


When I was a child in the 1960s and 70s, The merry musician., Digital ID 833059, New York Public LibraryThe merry musician, Digital ID 833059, New York Public LibraryI was convinced that everybody was having a good time but me... As it turns out, I was right!

This was rock's Golden Age, a hedonistic time of "sex and drugs and rock and roll" (when no one knew any better), a time that produced some of the most amazing popular music of the 20th century.

Here are a few of the best books by people who hobnobbed with rock and roll royalty — the wives and girlfriends, the groupies, and the go-to guys, those indispensable fellows (and gals) who "managed" things, without whom good times could not be had... 

Wonderful Tonight, by Pattie Boyd 

Boyd, married to George Harrison and then to Eric Clapton, inspired the songs "Wonderful Tonight," "Something," "Layla," and "Bell Bottom Blues." Although much admired, Boyd wasn't exactly treated well by those who said they loved her. This autobiography is a poignant example of just how unprepared young women were for the changes that swept the world in the 1960s and 70s. 


Faithfull, by Marianne Faithfull 

Marianne Faithfull! I've been fascinated by her for as long as I can remember. Her singing career began in 1964, with "As Tears Go By." In 1966, she became Mick Jagger's girlfriend, inspiring such Rolling Stones songs as "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and "Wild Horses." Her song, "Sister Morphine," was covered by Jagger and Richards on their Sticky Fingers album. She has been a working stage and screen actor since 1967, and continues to record and perform some of the best music around. This is an extraordinary memoir by a remarkable woman.


Backstage Passes, by Angela Bowie

Having been briefly acquainted with Bowie during my Danceteria days in the early 80s, I can safely say I'm not surprised she didn't become the rock star she wanted to be... That said, for reasons known only to the gods, she was David Bowie's perfect Muse — his best work was done while they were together. This book was published after a court-ordered gag rule expired. A good read, if taken with a grain of salt.



I'm With the Band, by Pamela Des Barres 

Miss Des Barres is one of the most famous of the wave of young women who pursued relationships with rock musicians in the 1960s and 70s. A member of Frank Zappa's GTOs (Girls Together Outrageously), she had liasons with Jimmy Page, Chris Hillman, Keith Moon, Mick Jagger, and Jim Morrison, among others. This book, written in a sincere and exuberant voice, marked the beginning of an onslaught of kiss and tell memoirs, and legitimized the term "groupie."  She really loved them all!
(Read more about Des Barres and her favorite books in Marie's blog post from last November!)


Miss O'Dell, by Chris O'Dell 

O'Dell stepped into the world of rock royalty when she took a job at the Beatles' London Apple headquarters in 1968. A trusted employee and confidant — her role often a cross between groupie and manager — she lived for a while at Friar Park with Pattie and George Harrison, and then at Hurtwood Edge with Eric Clapton. She worked for the Rolling Stones during their 1972 tour, and, after that, became Bob Dylan's tour manager. This book is the ultimate insider's look at a fascinating, vanished time. 



Up and Down with the Rolling Stones, by Tony Sanchez

"Spanish Tony" Sanchez met the Rolling Stones in swinging 60s London, and eventually ended up working for Keith Richards, first at Redlands, and then at Nellcote in the south of France during the recording of Exile on Main Street, as a bodyguard, drug-procurer, and general dogsbody. He was a friend to all of the Stones' important women: Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, and Bianca Jagger. This is the first, and the best, account by an insider about life with the Rolling Stones. 


Under Their Thumb, by Bill German

German was the ultimate fan. From 1978 to 1993, he published the Rolling Stones fanzine Beggar's Banquet, getting to know the Stones pretty well along the way. An "innocent abroad," his observations of the band are fresh and honest, especially when describing his friendships with Ron Wood and Keith Richards. A great chronicle of the Stones' New York years.



For a fabulous collection of photos from this amazing time in popular culture, check out one of my favorite blogs,


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Ron Wood. Not Woods.

Ron Wood. Not Woods.

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