by NIKKI MCWATTERS
In 1981 I took my first rock-star lover. I was almost sixteen. He was in Australian Crawl. It wasn’t great. I didn’t feel any sudden rush or euphoria. It was just something my school-mates had dared me to do. I thought I was in charge. That I could cope. That is was just harmless, good fun.
But before long I was sleeping with a different rock star almost every weekend and I found myself day-dreaming, plotting and planning during the week, instead of concentrating on my school work. It was definitely becoming a distraction. When I wasn’t having rock and roll sex, I was salivating over Rolling Stone magazine and getting zombie eyes from watching Countdown. I was losing my self-identity and only felt beautiful or special when a musician was paying me attention. Of course, the attention paid to me was only ever fleeting and Monday mornings saw me dressed for school and back to being an anonymous drone.
Before long rock-stars were all I could think about.
And herein lies the problem. Groupies are people, generally young women, who attach themselves to celebrity in order to bolster their own diminished self esteem. For all the sultry bravado they present at back stage doors, inside there is usually a little girl who feels unloved or unimportant. The term groupie was coined in the seventies and is derived from the ‘group of musicians’ with whom these teenage girls sought intimacy. In Australia, in the eighties, there were plenty of nubile young women making themselves available to the touring bands. INXS. Cold Chisel. Simple Minds. Cheap Trick. The bands had a voracious appetite for young groupies. The old adage that boys join bands for the chicks, is not far from the truth!
It was incredibly easy to move from being a front-of-house punter to back-stage lover. Roadies were the gate-keepers and their brief was generally to let through anything young, cute and star-struck. My first backstage experience came after an Australian Crawl gig at Bombay Rock on the Gold Coast. Losing my virginity to a rock star was as easy as ordering a Big Mac at McDonalds. I just got back there and targeted the band member without a blonde on his arm! The loneliest guy. Pure semantics.
Given the high level of competition, girls were willing to do just about anything to bag themselves a rock-star for the night. Those left over ended up with the dregs…the roadies. Some girls targeted the roadies first, figuring that was an alternative route to the stars.
And the girls all loved the attention. In fact they craved attention.
Not all, but many of the young women and girls that I saw indulging in casual sex with a parade of musicians, were trying desperately to become important or special by attaching themselves like pilot fish to the most famous shark in the sea. There was a hierarchy amongst groupies. The more famous the conquest, the greater the burst of self-esteem you would feel, albeit short-lived. After my dalliance with a musician from Duran Duran, I actually felt marginally taller and more confident. Unfortunately, after being dismissed or dumped by a rock-star, or otherwise disregarded, the opposite became true and I sank into deep depressions, attempting suicide and indulging in self-harm. Girls were left with STDs, unwanted pregnancies and feelings of shame and self-loathing while their conquests moved on to the next town, the next girl without so much as a backwards glance. And then the next band would come to town and the dashing lead singer would give you a wink and a tumble and you’d be riding high on endorphins once more. Reckless girls.
Dangerously though, this swing from elation to despair is addictive. A rock and roll groupie does not earn that title by having a one off fling or relationship with a target celebrity. She earns the badge by being a repeat offender. And the more conquests, the greater the rush and it truly becomes a cycle that is difficult to break. Life and the natural maturity that comes with years is sometimes enough for a girl to see the folly of her behaviour and dust herself off, seeking affection and intimacy in more healthy ways but many young groupies carry their self-esteem problems with them into latter years. The attention-seeking behaviour just simmers away and obsession and addiction are never too far away. In the eighties drugs were rife and heightened these intense emotions. Sex, fame, drugs, addiction, adrenalin and teenage hormones are a heady mix.
Groupies and celebrities are just two sides of the same coin. The celebrities are always heads and the groupies, always the tails, quite literally. I suspect aging groupies harbour the hangover of resentment at this and spend their lives craving a little celebrity for themselves.
I wonder, perhaps, whether at the ripe old age of forty-five I wasn’t indulging in that myself when I decided to write a tell-all book and spill my inner-most thoughts onto the page. And as aging rockers that once shared my bed track me down to congratulate me, I can’t help but smile and wonder if my coin hasn’t finally come up heads. Deep down, I think groupies really just want to be famous – one way or another!
If you were a groupie for a day, who would you choose to follow? Maybe one of these people?
Nikki McWatters has had a varied career, from film and television acting to teaching to legal counselling. She lives in Queensland with her husband and children. One Way or Another: The Story of a Girl Who Loved Rock Stars is her first book.
You can follow Nikki on twitter here: or visit Nikki’s blog here. To find out more about Nikki’s book, One Way or Another: The Story of a Girl Who Loved Rock Stars, click here.