About a year ago Josh Homme said to the press, “Major labels give groupies credit cards and call them record executives.” I squirmed. I’m positive Josh wasn’t directing that statement at me. I am fairly positive Josh doesn’t think about me unless he’s talking to me. So, why squirm? Plus, I love groupies. If it weren’t for groupies our record collections would be terrible.
One evening over dinner a woman, who has been a booking agent for thirty years, got terribly distraught, “These girls today…they have no class. They’re all porned out. They aren’t like we were. I mean, we were the supermodels of rock & roll.” I giggled inside, it reminded me of that last bit in Almost Famous. While Sapphire shamefully picks at her plate she laments, “these new girls they don’t even know what it is to be a fan. Y’know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts.” Plus they eat the sirloin.
In the days of Rock Scene Magazine I thought about growing up and becoming a groupie. I loved rock stars. I quit Brownies because no one wanted to talk about David Cassidy. I don’t think it was ever a dilemma, but it also never transpired (except maybe that time I asked Gene Simmons to kiss me-story for another day). I have wrangled with the madness of Jeff Tweedy, Ryan Adams, Jesse Malin and Danny Sage, Dave Wyndorf (for a time I was his girlfriend), Karen O, Alain Johannes and Natasha Schneider, Joshua Homme and Nick Oliveri, and so on and on… I always wonder if life is irrevocable fate or if we make our own realities? Ultimately I grew up to be an A&R executive.
My job did furnish front row surveillance to groupies climbing the stairs of tour buses. I’ve seen mother/daughter teams, and twins. I have seen actresses, models and porn stars. Some of my bands share stories that would spin Jerry Springer’s head like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. I have accidently opened backstage doors that gave me a glimpse into a young boy’s wet dream. Ya’ gotta love Detroit. Climbing those stairs was de rigueur for me, but I always had my own bunk.
The more desirable commodity was having my own hotel room. I like potable water. Danny Sage from DGeneration got a kick out of knocking on my door at 8:00 a.m. Who the fuck is up at 8:00 a.m. during a tour? Danny. He’d lie down on a perfectly white bed with his smelly leather pants and muddy motorcycle boots on. It was innocent, and made me laugh. A few times I had to coerce security (that’s hard work and fast talking) to unlock Dave’s room only to find him sleeping, but like 10 minutes before set-time. And I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket. Once I let QOTSA use my room to shower. I’m the type of person who makes my bed before I check out of a hotel room. I never did that again.
In the 90s I wore leather pants, cowboy hats, boas, and great boots. Jesse told me I would win the Grammy for “The most leather wearing A&R person.” If style makes the groupie, than yeah, I’m gonna do a little squirming. Wetlands, October 9th, 1999. A line of Suits from Columbia Records marched backstage to meet Queens of the Stone Age. They didn’t look like groupies, they looked like lemmings with ties, but I think I might have. As protocol dictated I was wearing leather pants (they belonged to Dave Wyndorf, he’d thrown them at me before a Monster Magnet show in Boston) and a QOTSA baby doll t-shirt. Looking back I wish I still had those abs.
Eventually The Suits paraded out. We were closing this deal. The war had whittled down and I’d be damned if The Suits were going to win it. The president of Interscope Records wanted it done, and I wanted it done. I closed my deals. Sometime after the Wetlands show Josh and Nick laid it out, we looked at them and we looked at you. “Look how cool Debbie is.” We don’t work with Suits. I’d won. Leather pants and baby doll tee me, VP of A&R me.
Maybe you can’t look at the events of your life through one lens. Groupies follow bands. Groupies love bands. A really good groupie loves great outfits. I did too. I also put the pieces together; closed my deals, made lawyers return each others’ calls, assessed budgets, negotiated studio prices, secured recording dates, found producers/engineers, rented equipment, helped make decisions (should Dave Grohl be our drummer), edited singles, handled mixes and sequences, oversaw artwork, videos and marketing, dealt with managers and agents, checked in on tours. My life was music, conversations, business and laughter in no specific order. Josh and I are still laughing about my Olympic leap, the one that kept him from punching Jimmy Iovine in the face-story for another day. Though I carried one, my job wasn’t so simple as using an Amex card to feed musicians.
I lost my job in 2004. Napster arrived, and downsizing became the new black. As memory serves me, a dear friend went over to the dark side as Napster’s head of publishing (an oxymoron). At some point during her impressive career she dated a rock star, and had her portrait painted by Jon Bon Jovi. During the Lullabies to Paralyze tour Josh said, “Between art and commerce you leaned too far on the side of art. That might have been your undoing.” If I want to go deep, it was never about the leather pants.
Cut back to Penny Lane (I promise I will never reference this film again), “We are not Groupies. Groupies sleep with rock stars because they want to be near someone famous. We are here because of the music, we inspire the music. We are Band Aids.” I was never a groupie. However, for right or wrong my take on the job was undoubtedly unorthodox. #bandaid.
-For Deb B. with gratitude