Savvy Predators: Inside The World Of The 1960s Rock 'n' Roll Groupies

A new exhibition of the work of Rolling Stone co-founder and first chief photographer Baron Wolman examines the sexy stars of the 60s subculture
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A new exhibition of the work of Rolling Stone co-founder and first chief photographer Baron Wolman examines the sexy stars of the 60s subculture

There was a time when being backstage had some meaning. That was long ago. These days it’s the area in a venue where Dermot O’Leary is restraining wayward Grandmothers baying for the blood of whichever talent show judge has broken the news that their granddaughters will never ever be as good as Adele.

At the meatier, sponsored establishments however, you can now have the HOSPITALITY PACKAGE. This’ll consist of a freshly decorated executive suite where champagne flutes clink whilst waiting for, say, Snow Patrol to finish a Fresh ‘n’ Wild seed selection and fourpart vocal warm-up. What ensues is often the complete sterilisation of the gig as we thought we knew it. Less rock n’ roll. More fruit ‘n’  nut.

Backstage, though, was once a place where what happened there happened once, to be carried forward only in whisper and hearsay. There’d be no tumbling, tweeting or instagram filtration that could ever immortalise the moment, or moments, of complete debauchery, expression and tragedy. There was one view during a gig and one place to be when the curtain fell. A time like this goes by the year of 1968, and the groupie ruled the roost. These groupies were, as we know from tried and trusted definitions, prolific bedpost notchettes on an unsurprisingly similar wavelength with their intended prey. Everyone was on the move and everyone on good, and rather short terms.

But within a haze of lustful, albeit precise savagery Baron Wolman, co-founder and first Chief Photographer of Rolling Stone, saw a ‘silent subculture’ of chic and savvy predators emerge with clarity, wit and self‐awareness. They were still groupies,  and yes they were there for all the same spills and spells, but they had a bit more about them, more to say. They even had stuff to do when the sun came up. Wolman, smelling a tale that need telling, based an entire issue of Rolling Stoneon The Groupies, and this week an exhibition of rare and exclusive prints are unveiled that revisit the mischief, memories and friendships that are defined the era.

There’d be no tumbling, tweeting or Instagram filtration that could ever immortalise the moment, or moments, of complete debauchery, expression and tragedy.

Exhibits include the Frank Zappa produced Girls Together Outrageously (GTO’s), a group of seven scatty souls making music that was, as Wolman puts it, “almost impossible to endure”. Still, so are the Pussycat Dolls and that Lewis Scherzinger fella from The Voice.

Out of the two, the GTO’s win hands down on ‘band you’d have a pint with’. Others captured by Wolman took routes deeper, darker and even more trivial, such as The Plaster Casters of Chicago, who rather than kiss and telling, casted and immortalised the penises of various legends of the time, Hendrix included. Wolman, approached by the two founders to take part, instead “opted to take them out for burgers”. Time spent backstage was as much an arrival as it was a departure on a number of spiritual or hallucinogenic
levels.

Some pushed their luck to within an inch of a life in prison, only to come back with conviction and purpose. One lucky Larry
named Sally Mann, whom after marrying Spencer Dryden of Jefferson Airplane and developing a rather nasty heroin addiction,
dried out and swotted up, leaving the slammer for  law school in Atlanta before arriving in Texas to embark on what is to this day a successful career.

But as enjoyable as the commentary is,anecdotal or otherwise, the stories Wolman tells with most intensity, delicacy and swagger are those he committed to picture, the simplicity of each shot a celebration of the danger, deviance and intimacy all

The Groupies were, at one point or another, more than capable of inspiring and harnessing. And despite the sudden
attention  Rolling Stone were affording these otherwise unknown quantities, they were quite aware of who they were, what they
were called and why they were being featured, and if some needed a gentle reminder, Wolman often obliged.

“Oh, I’m not a groupie."

“But you’re a beautiful woman who hangs around musicians. Call yourself what you want, but that’s why we’re featuring you”.


‘The Groupies’ can been seen at 46/48 Beak St.,London,  W1 until October 28
th.

All images in the exhibit can be purchased online at rockpaperphoto.com as limited--edition fine art prints hand--signed
and numbered by Baron.


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