Pattie Boyd baroque-style painting
Pattie Boyd baroque-style painting
David Cassidy and Jan Freeman at the premiere of Paul Bogart’s Cancel My Reservation at Radio City Music Hall in New York City; September 20th, 1972.
The figure of the groupie looms large in the discourses and social imaginary surrounding rock music; playing an integral role in the mythology of ‘sex, drugs and rock n’ roll’. Groupies can be found across a range of culture, leisure and sports activities (Forsyth and Thompson, 2007; Gauthier and Forsyth, 2000; Gmelch and San Antonio, 1998), but it is with rock music that they are most closely associated. The phenomenon of the groupie gained recognition and took shape as a social identity within the counter-culture of 1960s’ rock music, and continues to hold significant cultural currency and power. For example, films such as “Almost Famous” (2000) and “The Banger Sisters” (2002) employ and as such, reinforce the media representation of the groupie, and Hill (2013) shows how women feel the need to negotiate that same representation when expressing their fandom of metal music. There is no agreed definition as to who or what a groupie is, but a dominant representation exists in popular media/culture and academic literature of a more extreme type of female fan who seeks intimate emotional and/or sexual relations with musicians (e.g. Cline, 1992; des Barres, 1987; Fonarow, 2006; Forrest, 2010). The consolidation of the groupie identity can be found in a cover article in Rolling Stone magazine in 1969 entitled “Groupies and Other Girls”, by John Burks, Jerry Hopkins, and Paul Nelson. However, as Rhodes (2005) explains, this wasn’t the first mention or use of the term ‘groupie’. As the groupie subculture emerged, several articles about women who could be categorized as groupies were published, such as Tom Wolfe’s (1965) “The Girl of the Year” essay on Baby Jane Holzer. But in the wake of the Rolling Stone article, “alternate visions of what a groupie was (or could be) were discarded in favor of that offered by Rolling Stone and its highly sexualized and misogynistic approach to the groupie and rock culture” (Rhodes, 2005: 137). As Rhodes (2005) then carefully evidences, the Rolling Stone article, which it is important to note is written entirely by males, carried such power that any further negotiation of the groupie identity ceased. Consequently, it has provided what has been for a long time, the definitive statement of what groupies are. Warwick (2007: 170) summarizes this view of the groupie as “a kind of female fan assumed to be more interested in sex with rock stars than in their music. Groupies are understood to be ‘easy’ [i.e. sexually promiscuous], with low self-esteem, and too stupid about music to be proper fans, but also – paradoxically – predatory and exploitative of the hapless musicians whose artistry they cruelly ignore in their lust for celebrity sex”, which she argues is an unmistakably derisive and pejorative description focusing almost entirely on the sexual motivations of groupies. One of the greatest concerns, is that the label ‘groupie’ is almost exclusively applied to females and has become a term used to describe all female fans, wives and girlfriends, and even those females who work in rock music (Davies 2001). This labelling reduces the experiences of all women in rock to a singular one driven by sex, and effectively excludes them from productive participation. It is to this crucial issue that the paper turns, as it examines how the labelling of certain people as ‘groupies’ works as an othering practice that serves to support and maintain the gendered norms of rock and thus exclude women from creative production.
Beyond a surface level recognition, we know little about groupies other than that they are reduced to some kind of caricature used in a derogatory manner both by the popular media (Davies, 2001) and fans (Hill, 2013), and are “treated like a punch line to a never ending joke that only the boys are in on” (Forrest 2010: 135). However, as we prise beneath the surface we begin to see that the groupie identity sits at the intersection between the social identities of gender and marketplace role. Gender has functioned as a primary site for the analysis and interpretation of diversity in the creative industries (e.g. Dean, 2008; Nixon and Crewe, 2004; Proctor-Thomson, 2013; Sang, Dainty and Ison, 2014). This is in large part because creativity, creative work and creative identities are constructed in such a way that women are marginalized or even excluded. In the music industry women are underrepresented at all levels and in all roles (Leonard, 2015); discounted in the music press and media (Davies, 2001), and even where they have been acknowledged, their participation is represented in gendered and often highly objectified ways (Hatton and Trautner, 2011). While, as Schippers (2000) notes, rock music is a setting in which gender norms have sometimes been challenged, particularly those related to appearance such as hair length and the use of make-up, this genre of music has long been synonymous with hegemonic masculinity (e.g. Hill 2014), heteronormativity (e.g. Frith and McRobbie 1978) and homosociality (e.g. Davies 2001) which act as pillars upholding the patriarchy of rock. In the immortal words of James Brown and (his lesser known female co-writer and one-time girlfriend) Betty Jean Newsom, “it’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world”.
In working to exclude women from creative production, the ‘groupie’ identity draws not only on gender identity, but also on the dichotomy between work and non-work. The key, relevant social identity is what is called here ‘marketplace role’, which categorizes people according to the producer/consumer dualism. In the creative industries marketplace roles manifest in such dualisms as artist/audience, and musician/fan (e.g. Beauregard 2012). Like any other social identity, these categories imply subjectivities which define positions in relationships between socio-political actors, and carry with them various assumptions and statuses that serve to structure and shape experience and engagement with the creative (e.g. Bradshaw 2010; Bradshaw, McDonagh, Marshall, and Bradshaw 2005). An important assumption is that because a market requires both production and consumption in order to work, producers and consumers are co-dependent and therefore hold equal status. This assumption is underpinned by notions of consumer sovereignty (Rothenberg 1962), consumer subjectivity (Firat and Dholakia 2016) and the logic of co- creation (Vargo and Lusch 2004; Venkatesh and Meamber 2006). However, not only have producers and consumers largely been approached in academia as separate, independent, and somewhat unrelated entities, consumers have been historically viewed, particularly in the cultural and creative sectors, as secondary, subordinate figures (e.g. Beauregard 2012; Huyssen 1986). As noted in the Call for Papers for this Special Issue, much remains to be understood about how gender intersects with other identities in constructing experiences of creativity and creative work. There has been little exploration of how gender and marketplace roles intersect to frame who, and what type of work is considered to be ‘creative’ or productive and what the practices of inclusion and exclusion are. This paper puts forth the argument that groupies are othered in both categories – as women and as consumers, and that in fact it is the intertwining of the two identities that has underpinned and reinforced the groupie identity, and thus helped construct and maintain the patriarchy of rock music.
Following a deeper examination of the social identities of gender and marketplace roles in the context of rock music, this article draws on a rhetorical analysis of five published biographical accounts of groupies and rock wives in order to examine how the labelling of certain people as ‘groupies’ works as an othering practice that maintains the gendered norms of rock. Examining the cultural phenomenon of the groupie retrospectively allows the processes behind the construction and maintenance of the identity and its consequences to be explored. Three important discursive processes emerge. First, popular and music media played a significant role in stereotyping groupies right from the emergence of the term. Second, the notions of ‘credibility’ and ‘authenticity’, which are central to serious music journalism, are constructed in such a way as to stigmatize and therefore exclude, discredit and invalidate the role of women in rock, primarily by reframing ‘groupies’ as inauthentic consumers rather than proper fans. Third, the intertwining of femininity with fandom, as occurs in in the construction of the ‘groupie’, serves to magnify cultural assumptions about women as sex objects and as passive consumers of mass culture and thus reinforces the groupie identity and their exclusion from creative work in the world of rock.
This paper contributes in important ways to a growing body of literature that considers how intersectional social identities are constructed and articulated in rock music (Elafros, 2010) and the creative industries. It provides a historically and culturally embedded account of how the labelling of women as ‘groupies’ works as an othering practice to exclude women from creative work. It resonates with and builds upon other accounts in both the music and creative industries (e.g. on processes of forgetting identified by Strong (2011)), that have written women out of the history of popular culture. It expands our understanding of the role of gender in diversifying the creative by locating the groupie identity as the nexus of gender and marketplace role. Through the processes identified, and contrary to the transgressive and liberatory perspective taken by many of the original groupies, the groupie identity effectively reproduces and reinforces gendered hierarchies within the creative industries. Finally, in elucidating both the gender and marketplace politics at play in the ‘groupie’ label and the discursive processes involved in othering women, space is opened up through which alternative possibilities for understanding and enacting the role of women in rock can be imagined.
¿Qué sería de la vida sin la #música?
¿Cómo sería la música sin DavidBowie?
¿Quiénes seríamos sin la ciencia?
¿Cuándo se le ocurrió a #Maxwell unificar los campos #eléctricos y #magnéticos en un solo concepto?
¿Por qué #Einstein es el #científico con más #groupies?
¿Dónde estaríamos sin el Qué, Cómo, Quién, Cuándo, Dónde o Por qué?
Fragmento de canción de #SpaceOddity por @DavidBowie
Nos gusta narrar sobre #ciencia, #tecnología, #ingeniería, sus #historias y los #personajes que la han hecho posible.
Desarrollado por #NanoFrames con mucha lectura, poca experiencia en #podcast y mucho amor #geek.
#HappyBirthdayBowie #BowieForever #PodcastEnEspañol #Spotify #ApplePodcast #YouTube #Ivoox #Deezer #Soundcloud #Spreaker #GooglePodcasts #Patreon
#NanoFrames2D (at Brixton, South London)
Pamela Des Barres
Just another night 🍸✨
Party Doll 🍸✨💋
“I’ll be your savior, steadfast and true. I’ll come to your emotional rescue”
Ivy Jewell; Sagittarius and Rolling Stones groupie 💋🍾
AAAAAHHHH I love that they got to meet them, they’re so lucky
Genie Franklyn backstage an Electric Flag concert in Santa Barbara, CA, where the band wore costumes designed by Genie. Photo taken by Ed Caraeff on February 24th, 1968.
I recognize Sable Starr but not the other groupie. And is that Jimmy?
1978 will be MY year
Lose your dreams and you will lose your mind 🌞🌼