Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People


I’m with the Band by Pamela Des Barres

This is an autobiography, but I’m recommending this book because Pamela Des Barres’ early life, in so many ways, plays out like a romance novel.  Ms. Des Barres is more than clear she’s in search of her rock ‘n’ roll prince charming who’ll sweep her off her feet and take her to his Beverly Hills mansion.  Or perhaps her tale leans towards women’s fiction?  Whatever category, this is a must-read for those who love music and enjoy stories about the ladies who coveted the men plastered on our teenaged walls.

First off, I love her voice.  There’s no, “I did this and went there.”  Ms. Des Barres address the readers as if we’re sitting in a circle listening to what she has to say, and as she speaks, is reliving the tale minute by minute.

Warning, there be spoilers for those who haven’t read the book.

She also shares her diary entries.  Another bonus?  We’re on a journey from the early sixties to the late seventies—a time period I wish I could have experienced.  Unfortunately, my folks got to witness the birth of rock and its evolution.  I can’t forget there are oodles of pictures, too.

The story open when Ms. Des Barres is in her early teens and He’s a Rebel is the song du jour.  She laments about her lack of popularity and bosom deficiency, which every other girl seems to be acquiring at a fast rate.  She has a boyfriend here and there, but a band rehearsing in a garage on the same street where she lives changes Ms. Des Barres’ life from that moment on:  she wants to be with the band, a part of the magical creation happening in real time, not recorded.  So her journey into groupiedom begins.

A transformation from her bouffant hairdo with the pretty, crooked bow is the first step towards change.  After being introduced to Captain Beefheart, Miss Pamela (as she’s known to everyone) stops teasing her hair and lets her blond locks cascade freely down her back.

As people change, so do their friends.  We surround ourselves with those we’re comfortable with and who share our common interests.  The same can be said for Miss Pamela.  Her Beatle-crazy buddies fade into the backdrop because the Rolling Stones have taken over her life, which the Beatle-girls frown upon.  After graduation, they want to settle down into domestic bliss.  That’s not the case for Miss Pamela.  It’s the sixties and the sexual revolution is heating up; she wants to experience what’s south of the Valley where she grew up:  Hollywood.

Off she goes into the land of movies and music, where she befriends a new set of girls who will soon carry the moniker GTOs, courtesy of one Frank Zappa.

Yes, we can’t forget Frank’s wife Gail, whom Miss Pamela likens to a fairy godmother, or as romance writers, we’d call the mentor or BFF.  Gail always champions Miss Pamela, nursing our heroine through many broken hearts and going-nowhere film rolls.  Yes, Miss Pamela will soon acquire her SAG card.  Her shirt-making business is doing well, but she longs for more—a career of her own.

The first potential prince charming we meet is Chris Hillman of the Flying Burrito Brothers.  Big problem, though.  Mr. Hillman doesn’t return her affections.  Yes, he’s attracted, and they share a tangle or two between the sheets, but he’s that sort of aloof hero who won’t let anyone get inside his head, which tears Miss Pamela apart.

Not one to sit around feeling sorry for herself, when Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin sets his sights on her, Miss Pamela succumbs to the dark lord’s charms.  The relationship doesn’t pan out as she hoped it would, though.

She’s learning rockers are not a faithful lot.

Throughout her tale, she careens from one rock god to the next, hoping each one will hold the glass slipper she desires to wear.  None do, not until she jets to New York for an acting job.  On the set, she meets Michael Des Barres.  Miss Pamela knows it’s love when she turns down an offer to canoodle with the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll because she wants Michael, who is back in England, trying to get his personal affairs together so he can move to the States.

One thing about this gal; she never gives up on love, career or friends.  Miss Pamela has determination.  She’s also wise enough to know when to walk away.  There’s a scene where Chris Hillman, the first rock star who sent her heart aflutter, asks her to join him somewhere in the mid-west because he’s having problems with his wife.  She says no.  Go Pamela.  Tempted?  Yes.  But she sticks to her guns, not content to be his dish on the side, hidden away in a roadside motel.

She also revisits her acting career, which keeps her far away from Michael just as their romance gets off the ground.  When they become engaged, she realises her heart is more into domestic bliss than acting.  The bonus?  After a child and a few years of marriage she finds her true calling:  writing.  Check out her other books:  Take Another Piece of My Heart; Let’s Spend the Night Together; and Rock Bottom.

I highly recommend this book.  As I said before, it plays out just like a romance novel, albeit a tough one.  Not only is the book a who’s who, she give us a taste of fashion, music, other groupies, a tour of Hollywood, the infamous clubs, and her journeys through England and Europe.

She’s no wishy-washy heroine either!  Underneath her groupie garb lurks a kind and caring heart.

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