The very first concert I ever attended was of the classical type. I was nine or 10, and my best friend and I were being allowed to stay up late to see a famous symphony orchestra play in our hometown with our violin teacher. My mother took extra care helping me select a dress and shine my mary janes, which let me know that this was a big event.
I’ve never lost that feeling of a live music performance being a big event. Whether listening to alt country in Austin, hearing opera in Berlin, or dancing on the grass at Wolf Trap, concerts are different and special. Spectators become part of something as the band or singer or ensemble attempts to connect with the audience.
The iconic American example is, of course, an event that many of us were too young to experience: Woodstock, 1969. Fortunately, for your summer reading delectation, there is a new book out about the festival, and it may make you feel (almost) as if you were there. Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969 by Bob Spitz is so detailed that you might be forgiven for feeling mud on your feet while you read. Spitz may be our best music journalist (his books on The Beatles are important, although I confess that his bio of Julia Child is my favorite), and he gets down and dirty with many of the major players from Woodstock to craft a history that will remind you why a 45-year-old precursor to Coachella remains fixed in our cultural consciousness.
My backlist title deals with what some might deem the seamier side of concert life: Groupies! However, I defy you to read the 1987 classic I’m With The Band: Confessions of A Groupie by Pamela Des Barres and not come away giggling. This woman knew and slept with them all: Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Jim Morrison, and many, many more. She went on tour with several bands and was a member (as “Miss Pamela”) of the Girls Together Outrageously, or GTOs — a pseudo girl group packaged by Frank Zappa. While Des Barres will never give, say, rock journalist Lisa Robinson a run for the money, her book does offer a window into a subculture that fueled the 1970s rock scene, as well as a peek into the mind of a woman who retains a certain sweet stalwart nature, even after years of being used for the pleasure of others. You probably wouldn’t want to be Pamela Des Barres, but you might not mind having her as the girlfriend you could go to concerts with from time to time.
Do you have a favorite rock star bio? If so, share in the comments or tell us on our Facebook page!