Sex and the Rock Star
who does it where to whom and with what
Passes Dave Sinclair. Poses Chris Garnham.
Is it true that rock stars pick up sex as casually as you or I might buy a Big Mac? How do musicians go about meeting groupies? How do groupies gain access to the dressing rooms of the stars? And how big is Andy Summers' donger? One Two Testing, never a magazine to dodge the vital issues concerning all aspects of music and the musician, brings you the answers.
The phenomenon of the groupie came to prominence in the 1960s, and is well enough established to merit a diplomatically-worded entry in the Concise Oxford Dictionary: "Girl who follows touring pop groups". By all accounts many of the musicians of the 1960s, and the girls who serviced them, established behaviour patterns that stretch the meaning of the word "follows" in this context to new extremes.
Few stars, if any, were able to match the sexual proclivities of Jimi Hendrix. Curtis Knight, a long-time friend of Hendrix's, reported him as saying that often he would be, "Falling asleep from some all-night orgy and I would hear a gentle knock on my door. I'd stagger to the door naked and peep out, and there would be some sexy cute little thing standing there, and she would ask if she could come in, and most of time I'd say yes. But sometimes they would be waiting in bed for me when I didn't feel like being bothered, and I'd just get the roadies to throw them out."
Keith Moon was regularly involved in scenes that would have caused Bacchus himself to blush, as Oliver Reed recalled talking on the Michael Aspel Show about his days on location with The Who during the filming of "Tommy". Moon phoned Reed late at night asking him to come across to the drummer's hotel room. "His voice sounded all muffled," said Reed adding, to the acute embarrassment of Aspel and co, "I assumed he had a pillow over his face." When Reed arrived, he found Moon in a state of some abandon, accompanied by no less than six "naked models". As it turned out Moon had only called to enlist Reed's aid in alerting a commissionaire on the ground floor to the fact that a telephone was ringing unanswered. This the couple did by hurling the television set out of the window. What clever boys.
Sixties groupies became minor celebrities in their own rights. Devon Wilson, Jenny Fabian and Suzy Creamcheese were names briefly illuminated in the reflected glow of their superstar conquests. A bit like the bands themselves, they got established on the big-name circuit. Perhaps most notorious were the Plaster Casters of Chicago, two rather plain girls whose gimmick was to make plaster cast moulds of rock stars' penises. Their opening line, "Hi, we're here to make a plaster cast of your rig", was a gambit few celebrities seemed able to resist. For the record, Hendrix's rig was the biggest of their considerable collection. It is not known whether they ever added a likeness of Andy Summers' equipment to their roster. At that time, of course, he was pretty small (in terms of prestige), though if we're to believe Jenny Fabian's account in her book "Groupie" he has always been pretty big in other respects, with the bonus of having genitals described as "perfectly formed". But more of that later.
The tradition of stage-door sex has thrived to the present day. Recent revelations put paid to any ideas that even the wholesome Duran Duran are above the casual carnal exploits so prevalent in the rock world. John Taylor's romance with his sweetheart from student days, Roberta Earl-Price, terminated abruptly when he admitted to her that he'd slept with many girls while on tour – most of them described as 'topless models". It's reported that Midge Ure has trouble remembering whether he even slept with a particular girl, let along being aware of their names, while Hazel O'Connor, proving that the fun is not confined entirely to the boys, also recalls in interviews the times when she slept with a different man every night of the week.
Heavy Metal bands, the standard-bearers of so many stereotypical rock'n'roll practices, continue to uphold standards of gross behaviour towards the opposite sex. Wrathchild's Lance Perkins explained to Sounds' reporter Garry Johnson that: "I like my women two at a time – that's how I had it last night. I prefer it that way." Fellow Wrathchild member Bob Martin, no doubt anxious to convey the seriousness of his friend's elegantly-stated preferences, helpfully added: "And we can back this up with names and addresses."
Motley Crue, the appropriately-named American rockers, have certain clearly-stated rules for women who want to travel on their tour bus. They must be prepared to go topless, and "give oral relief" to any member of the band or their entourage who demand it.
And of course cranky old Ted Nugent still has an unmistakeable savoir faire in defining the role of women in his rock'n'roll life. When asked why he was only stopping in London for one gig last February he replied: "You seen the women in London lately?! One day is all we'll need to service everything! You know, the last time I played Hammersmith Odeon I looked out there in the front row and I thought the pig season had opened!! No, I wanna be serious Dave, your women over here are... really pigs!"
This not-so-gay banter, while clearly reflecting a cavalier attitude towards women as disposable uni-purpose sex objects, nevertheless indicates the willingness of certain women to seek out famous musicians for the purposes of sexual activity. Why should this be so?
The big rock stars exist in a dislocated amoral world where emotional reality is often suspended for long periods, if not indefinitely. The would-be groupie is attracted, like the moth to the flame, by the neon-glare delights of fast living in a fantasy world. The illusory quality of life in the upper echelons of the rock business, powered by the forces of money, ego, drugs and adrenalin provides a stimulation and excitement that many people find irresistible.
Groupies start as fans. Fans want to get close to their idols, and sex is both the passport to this dream, and the fulfilment; how much closer can you get? And ultimately many groupies harbour the secret hope that one day they will make more than a fleeting impression on the star who takes them to bed, and will end up settling down or even marrying one of them. This happens occasionally, but only a tiny percentage of the runners at the start of the race ever get to that finishing line.
In the glittering seamy world of the big star, musicians rarely go looking for girls. The ball – if you'll pardon the expression – is placed firmly in the groupie's court. How do they make contact with their targets?
How does the moth find its way through the chink of a fractionally-opened window? To connect with a rock star takes boldness. First thing is to get to the gig. Easy enough. Then to get backstage. Identifying and chatting to a roadie is one step; a commissionaire or bouncer may be reasonably easily persuaded to part with a backstage pass or grant access to the privileged areas. Some groups send their roadies, armed with a few backstage passes, out into the audience as talent scouts. The Rolling Stones have their infamous Gold passes issued to close personal friends and the very elite of the visiting escort agencies' representatives only. Once inside the dressing room, or at the gig or wherever, it is again down to how bold the girl can be.
Simon Kinnersley describes a typical encounter with Midge Ure: "The tall, leggy brunette walked straight through the crowd of people and introduced herself to Midge Ure. Within minutes she was sitting on his knee, stroking his chest and nuzzling his neck with her lips. Every now and then she wriggled her way a little further up his leg. Meanwhile Midge, not the least bit surprised by the girl's behaviour, just carried on talking to his friends."
Groupies tend to wear a distinctive uniform, and this helps to identify them as persona grata backstage. Stiletto heels, skin-tight pants or leather microskirts, skimpy brightly-coloured T shirts, no bra, strikingly blonde or black hair, and heavily mascaraed eyes would give you a reasonable identikit image. The look, as with any uniform, clarifies the identity and reinforces the role. Generally it's a matter of luck, looks, timing and neck how well they get on. With perseverance, most things, it would seem, are possible.
Along with chart placings and ticket sales, the amount of attention paid to a band by groupies is actually quite a reliable if crude barometer of their success. Mick Jagger once complained that in their early days the kind of groupies the Stones attracted were: "Great ugly ones, dreadful Northern ones with long black hair, plastic boots and macs... Ugh. It used to be so terribly sordid (laughs) – still is really... Thankfully, the girls are much prettier now than they were then."
Below a certain level of success the roles are reversed completely, and bands have to look for the groupies. While it is evidently a myth to suppose that any band playing the local hall or club is necessarily going to attract the attention of hordes of willing women, there is no doubt that playing in a band is a better-than-average starting point for picking up girls or boys with more than a passing interest in the musical fraternity.
To a much smaller extent the same forces are at work. The energy, the excitement, and the aura of nervy animation that surrounds any situation where a group of individuals place themselves on display to an audience of recipient onlookers, is bound to generate a flow of interest, some of it almost certainly sexual, towards the players involved. The trick here is for the group to identify the possible candidates and show an interest. A free badge, tape or T-shirt and an invitation to join the band afterwards confers a feeling of privilege on the person concerned, and the invitation is that much harder to decline.
Just by being in a group you are marketing yourself as a focus of attention, and it is only one step further to carry that to an individual level. A guitarist I know frequently identifies the woman he'd-most-like-to in an audience, and then dedicates a song about ladies' underwear to her. You may laugh, but I've seen the trouble that boy gets into!
Once contact has been made with the prospective groupie, the musician, however small-time he may be in reality, has to use his position as the lever for encouraging compliance with his dishonourable intentions. One of the weirdest bass players I know – we'll call him Nigel – is forever bedding the most glamorous women who turn up to his gigs. His particular trick is to indulge in shameless name-dropping. I've seen him do it. "We're going into the studio next week," he'll comment airily, adding, in in a cultivated tone of nonchalant distraction, "We've got Midge Ure to do the production." "Hey" comes the reply bang on cue, "I'd really like to meet Midge Ure."
"Well, that's no problem" says the dreadful Nigel, casually slipping his arm round the girl's waist. "Come back to my place after the gig and we'll discuss it a bit more." At this moment you can practically see the girl thinking "Is it worth bonking this idiot if it means I get to meet Midge Ure?"
At this point Nigel, drawing the girl closer to him in a transparently mock-conspiratorial gesture, announces that he's doing a session for David Sylvian the following week, stressing as an afterthought that this is a matter of some secrecy. The girl melts into his greedy embrace and once again Nigel has successfully harnessed the glamour attached to his industry.
Other lines of chat also tend to follow the favours-for-favours syndrome. Billy, a rather ordinary-looking bloke who plays in a modestly successful synth-pop band, is forever accosting young girls in the audience and asking if they know of any good singers who'd like to get "into a Human League-type situation". The girls more often than not end up going back to his flat after the gig for an 'audition'.
Playing gigs at coastal towns and holiday resorts is a classic place for meeting willing women. You, the band, are away from home; they, the punters are in town for two weeks with the sole intention of letting their hair down. The situation is understood on both sides and although it's not included in the contract, a free and frank exchange with a variety of sexual partners is virtually guaranteed for those with the stamina.
Promiscuity on the scale described in this feature is, as you may imagine, not without its attendant drawbacks. Casual sex may be the currency of backstage relationships, but the number of bankrupt music-business marriages is testament to the price exacted in other areas. Further, Billy Bremner, formerly with Dave Edmunds' Rockpile and now a solo artist, once commented that he didn't know a single famous musician who hadn't come back from being on the road at some time with "a dose", and he wasn't talking about flu. Ah, the pain and the pleasure.
Now, I don't know if you're still interested to hear about Andy Summers' wanger, but if you've got this far I may as well tell you what a photographer friend once disclosed to me: it's frightening, about half-way down to his knees... But then he has got quite short legs.
Feature by David Sinclair
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