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Where have all the groupies gone?

October 3rd, 2008

After explaining just why Paramore’s Hayley Williams is ace, the next installment of Hell’s Belles sees Emma Edmondson pondering the disappearance of one of the staples of a rock show’s backstage: the groupie.

groupies barbie thrash hits

Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s an age-old sought after dream more weathered and decrepid than Jordan’s shrinking silicone tits. Boys in bands crave it. Girls after the boys in bands follow it. But only some truly live it. And now it seems that those few are fast becoming even fewer.

Make no doubt about it – the calibre of true rockin’ and rollin’ gals, or band aids as they’re affectionately labelled in iconic groupie flick Almost Famous, are withering faster than your, or your boyfriend’s, cock might do when thinking of Margaret Thatcher in a thong. Just imagine.

So where have all the real groupies gone? The sixties had Pamela Des Barres and her pals. A self-confessed serial rock star shagger, who even babysat Frank Zappa’s sprogs, she made a career, and found fame, by riding some of the most famous penises in rock history.

Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Keith Moon and Jim Morrison all sampled her lower loins. Hell, Ms Des Barres released an album due to her loose legs and even documented her bed hopping ways in a best selling book. That’s big dividends for little work. She wasn’t the last though.

Watch an interview with Pamela Des Barres

The seventies meant punk. And punk is Siouxsie Sioux. Now a recording artist in her own, albeit terrible, right Sioux avidly followed the Sex Pistols before cleverly taking advantage of the media coverage surrounding them and their followers to launch her own band Siouxsie and The Banshees“. And she’s still making money solo style today.

1980 onwards saw the onset of poodle permed cock rockers adopting groupies who were already celebutards. Heather Locklear and Pamela Anderson are just a couple who found true, yet fleeting, love with someone in that Mötley Crüe. And the band’s non-famous groupies were hardcore with a capital H. Don’t know why? Just read The Dirt and you’ll see.

The nineties had Courtney Love. Who, although not fully-fledged band humper as she was already a working musician, dabbled with the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan before settling on the late legend who became her husband – Kurt Cobain.

But these music loving laydees seem to have been one offs as we’re now left with a bargain bin selection of groupie girls in the noughties. Most of them seem to have rather well known rock star daddies – and that certainly doesn’t play by the (unwritten) groupie girl book. No fair laydees.

Watch a clip of some groupies talking about being groupies

Let’s look at the options. Probably most infamous of the bunch is that Croydon born fabric-wearing matchstick – Kate Moss. Counting Pete Doherty and The Kills’ Jamie Hince in her long-term relationship history Mossy is the most clichéd of all wannabe groupies, being a supermodel and all.

Other half-mast modern day band fuckers include Paris Hilton who is dating Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden, and last, but not least, that thorn in the British public’s side Peaches Geldof. The fruity-named teen recently made front-page not so jaw-dropping news by shotgun marrying the guitarist from little known schminde band Chester French. Go girl. But he’s not the first of the notches on her band boy bedpost by far.

One thing’s certain – these fakers don’t have anything on their predecessors, especially not the sixties originals. Battling to meet their heroes rather than born into it Pamela Des Barres and co make the Geldof crew seem like a bunch of chastity belted Mozart-loving virgins.

Bring back the originals say I. For although they didn’t have morals they had loads of fun losing them. Plus they have plenty better stories to tell than the champagne swilling groupie pretenders who bought their way into a life some crawled through the gutter to get. And that deserves some kind of warped respect. Right?

Read Hell’s Belles 001: The Paramore Effect.

Death: an appreciation

July 8th, 2008

Widely regarded as the founding fathers of the death metal genre, Death’s classic album Symbolic was given a re-master and re-release. Joel McIver takes a look at exactly why they were, and still are, so very important.

Death Thrash Hits Chuck Schuldinger

The late musician and songwriter Chuck Schuldiner, who died in 2001 at the age of 33, is hardly a household name among fans of mainstream music. The figures of other prematurely-departed icons such as Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley, Jim Morrison and Elliott Smith loom much more prominently over most people’s musical landscapes.

But if extreme metal is your thing, Chuck stands tall among fallen heroes such as Cliff Burton and ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott as a man who pioneered, defined and then redefined some of the most powerful music ever made.

The catalogue of Schuldiner’s main band, Death, has been the subject of the occasional reissue over the years, most notably an entire reprint run in 1999 courtesy of Century Media and a brand-new version of one of their best albums, Symbolic, this month.

Death Symbolic Roadrunner Records Century Media Thrash Hits

Reissues are often disappointingly barren, but the brushed-up Symbolic has been given the full treatment by its licensee, Roadrunner Records, adding bonus tracks, liner notes and new packaging to emphasise its importance in the death metal canon. Buy it – we recommend it highly.

The relevance of Symbolic today is more easily understood in the context of Death’s relatively brief history, and the near-vertical curve of evolution which Chuck and his band underwent in that time. In 1987, after recording a series of demos, Schuldiner recorded a debut album, Scream Bloody Gore, with drummer Chris Reifert (who went on to form the highly influential band Autopsy).

As its title implied, the songs were raw, graphic and violent: titles included ‘Zombie Ritual’, ‘Regurgitated Guts’ and ‘Sacrificial’, whose verse contained the establishment-unnerving reference to the ritual murder of a ‘sacrificial cunt’.

Watch the video to ‘Lack Of Comprehension’ by Death

However, this early flirtation with gore and slasher themes didn’t last, as Chuck evolved a more sophisticated lyrical and songwriting style, with the following year’s Leprosy a much more refined work.

Assisted by death metal producer extraordinaire Scott Burns, Schuldiner and band (a revolving cast of musicians) created an album which continued to address macabre subjects (‘Open Casket’) but also dealt with mature topics like euthanasia (on ‘Pull The Plug’, Chuck muses “I now behold a machine decides my fate”, with sad prescience).

1990’s Spiritual Healing changed all that, with Chuck’s first step into progressive metal. Helped out by the ubiquitous shredder James Murphy, the band crafted long, multilayered songs like ‘Defensive Personalities’ (which dealt with schizophrenia), ‘Genetic Reconstruction’ and ‘Living Monstrosity’ (both of which addressed with the idea of DNA manipulation).

Watch the video to ‘The Philosopher’ by Death

Spiritual Healing was the beginning of an experimental path which took Death to new heights of musicianship via 1991’s landmark Human, ’93’s Individual Thought Patterns, the aforementioned Symbolic in ’95 and a final statement in 1998’s The Sound Of Perseverance.

Of these, Symbolic is probably the most enduring, with its epic atmospherics and jazz, ambient and prog elements a huge influence on the current wave of progressive death metal spearheaded by Opeth and Meshuggah.

Although Chuck died from a brain tumour in his early thirties, depriving the metal and wider music scene of perhaps 30 more years of creative output, he left a considerable body of work – much of which is only now beginning to be appreciated.

If you haven’t explored Death’s music yet, the time to start is now. Chuck Schuldiner was truly one of a kind.

Symbolic by Death is out now on Roadrunner Records

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