It’s interesting how women’s role in rock’n’roll has pretty much always been limited to one thing: “groupies“. I never quite realized how bad it was until I started meeting/interviewing bands and I constantly was taken for a groupie by strangers who didn’t know anything about me.
It’s as if there was no other box to put a female in. Guys who were hanging outside backstage doors for hours were called “fans” or simply “autograph-collectors”. The general view on those guys was that they were dedicated, they were the real FANS.
Girls who did the same thing were…groupies? Nobody cared why you were there, how many records you had by the band, how many shows you had seen, or how many nerdy facts you knew, it was just assumed that you were there to screw some musician.
It was so damn tiresome and I always knew what people would automatically think every time I showed up at a hotel or a venue. A blonde hanging with a band – well, that was crystal clear then, could only mean one thing, right?
The funniest memory in that respect would be when my friend Bianca and I went to hang with AC/DC on their tour bus in Albany, NY many years ago. It was so unpretentious, Angus and Malcolm had just ordered pizza from Pizza Hut and Angus tried to pick up that sloppy, greasy piece of pizza to hand it over to me and Bianca. He had to get a handful of napkins to wipe off his hands. And we were, for some reason, discussing the Beatles and the bus-interior (cause they had this huge stereo in there, which was the latest technology at the time).
It was just fun, very relaxed, we were treated very friendly and nothing weird was going on. But you can imagine people’s faces when two Swedish blondes got off the AC/DC-bus wiping their mouths with napkins?! ‘Nuff said. ;)
[Me, Angus, Malcolm and Bianca with our pizzas on the bus, 1996]
I always dressed in jeans and sneakers when I went to gigs, figured that nobody would ever take me for a groupie since I was there rocking out, getting all sweaty and messed up like everybody else.
Didn’t matter. If I had a backstage pass or was seen talking to a rockstar – that was it. It was as if I had the word “Groupie” printed on my forehead.
Professionally, I was very particular about staying 100% business. Cause if you want to be taken seriously, you’ve got to act professionally, even if the people you’re dealing with, aren’t.
Cause if you cross the line and get involved with musicians, and it’s really just hurting your professional image, since it fuels the general public’s attitude towards women in rock. I worked too hard to make a name in this business to jeopardize it for some meaningless one-night-stand with a rockstar. Especially not since I know those guys better than most, as I have been around musicians most of my life. I know how all that works.
Groupies were “no-names”, for the most part. There was always some other chick in the next town that looked the same and would be used for the same thing as the one the night before – and the day before that. Nobody ever gave a fuck about them and certainly didn’t remember their names.
People remembered my name. Maybe because I didn’t screw anyone, maybe because I surprised some of those bands by actually knowing a lot more about their music than they expected me to, or maybe because it was obvious that I was dedicated to the music, not the musicians.
I don’t know, but I earned the kind of respect I would most likely not get if I had been a groupie (unless, of course, I had gone out of my way to become the next Pamela DesBarres or something).
I was rarely treated badly by people in the business, especially after a few years when my name got known by a lot of people. There were, of course, managers, record company representatives and people like that who were annoying assholes, but it was just because they were like that in general, not because it had anything to do with me, personally.
But things are SO much better now than they were in 1983. There are more women in the metal crowds now, there are women in all fields of the business and it’s no longer a big deal. I guess a female musician still have to hear that she’s “good – for a woman” and answer questions about her female rolemodels or other things that are focused more on her gender than her music and musicianship. But it’s still a whole lot better now than it used to be.
And it’s only been in more recent years really that I’ve met other females in this business that are super-professional, tough ladies and very, very good at what they do.
Two of them I met through Jon Oliva’s Pain. Anett, their tour manager, and Hanneke, the light-tech. Both very cool ladies who I think are truly inspiring. I can relate to them because they’ve both had to overcome obstacles to prove that they know their shit and earn the respect that they deserve.
I remember Hanneke yelling at some stage-guys when she was out working for Finnish rockers Lordi, and when I laughed at her “bitchiness”, she just stated that it was the only way to get people to listen to you. If you’re too nice, they’re just gonna treat you like a doormat.
Same thing with Anett. She’s definitely not letting anyone treat her like a doormat, that’s a tough lady with brains and very dedicated to the business. It’s her life, she loves and knows her rock’n’roll.
I always had to turn to guys to be able to do that. Most girls weren’t interested in music on that level. But now, I’m getting to know more and more of them, and it feels great!
There are a few more very close friends that are extremely skilled, as photographers, managers, whatever else they have chosen to do and it just puts a smile on my face to see how things have changed for the better.
Heavy metal will always be “masculine” music. It’s a macho world, for the most part. But it’s no longer an exclusive men’s club, like it used to be. It’s a music style that attracts all kinds of people, all ages, all kinds of backgrounds, men, women, workers, lawyers, young, old….
I remember how I was one out of…maybe 5 girls at Judas Priest-concerts in 1991 or the Clash of the Titans-shows (Slayer, Testament, Suicidal Tendencies, Megadeth). It was ONLY guys. NOW, you will find that things are very different. There are girls everywhere, loving the music just as much as any guy.
I’m glad that even the male-dominated world of rock has evolved. It only took almost 40 years to get there, but it shows that nothing is ever impossible! :)