Review: I'm With The Band

I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie
by Pamela Des Barres

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm With The Band / 9780450506376

I really wanted to like this book, but I couldn't get much past the first third of the book. Somehow, impossibly, this fascinating life story just could not hold my interest.

"I'm With The Band" is maybe a cautionary tale of the difficulties of writing an autobiography and the importance of a good editor. Pamela tells her life-story chronologically, but the chapters of her book have nothing to tie them together, no high highs or low lows around which the text is meaningfully organized. Everything just sort of flows from her early teenage years onward, carefully inter-spaced with increasingly longer entries from her diaries kept during those times. I think a skilled ghost writer or capable editor could have shaped this story into something with a little more punch, and a little less repetition.

Things I liked about this book, though, include: a very sex-positive and people-positive look at a fascinating time and a fascinating life. The writing, though sometimes repetitive as young Pamela bounces from new causes and new bands and new friends, is very earnest and largely feels extremely honest and open. It's very fascinating to read about the sit-ins, the be-ins, the drugs, the bands, and the people as though you're really there seeing everything through Pamela's eyes, and the diary excerpts underscore that these experiences aren't wholly filtered through the lens of memory and nostalgia.

Things I didn't like about this book: sometimes there's some shaming of other women, as when Pamela speculates that certain people who didn't live her lifestyle are probably miserable now anyway, but I imagine that Pamela has been given her fair share of flack so I won't judge her for being a little defensive. The disorganization of the material means that there are a lot of names to keep track of as they fade in and out of Pamela's life and it's sometimes hard to keep straight who everyone is. Without organized 'themes' in chapters, the writing starts to become a little repetitive: Pamela finds a new cause, a new friend, a new boy, a new band, a new drug, or a new job; falls intensely in love with the new thing; and is slowly pushed away from the cause/friend/band/boy/drug/job as it becomes increasingly unhealthy and/or a bad fit for her. I can see someone sticking with the narrative for the experience of the times, but for me I started to just get very sad at how many people weren't treating Pamela as nicely as I felt they should.

Also, the Kindle edition of this book has some errors that proved distracting (such as extraneous periods that slipped into sentences every so often) and the "teen speak" is a little heavy at times in the narrative, such as the desire to use triple adjectives like 'he was dreamydreamydreamy' and similar sentiments.

Finally, and this is going to sound a bit voyeuristic, but in a novel that advertises to be a "kiss-and-tell-all", it's very frustrating to me that in at least the first third of the book, scenes are written so vaguely that I have no idea what's going on. A recurring theme with the first third is Pamela's virginity and who she chooses to give it to, and I lost count of the times when I *thought* PIV intercourse had occurred, only for Pamela to bring up a few pages later that she was still a virgin. I'm not expecting graphic detail, but when everything is cloaked in vague descriptions and heated metaphors, it's really hard to follow the story. I note that Pamela describes her book as more of a coming-of-age tale in the introduction, and I think that's accurate -- at least for the parts I read.

Whether or not you will enjoy this novel will probably depend on what you're looking for. If you want an honest, open romp through the past and a close look at the drugs and rock of the period, I think this book will probably deliver. If you want a sexy tell-all that starts fast and keeps you hooked, I'm not sure that you won't find the book to be a touch of a slog.

~ Ana Mardoll

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