AUTOBIOGRAPHY: THE MEMORY BOX

 

The Memory Box is my memoirs, currently being serialised on Facebook in the Group of the same name, where readers are free to share their thoughts, memories and photos.

 

This resource will allow those not using Facebook to read the text and will be updated periodically. 

  • Joolz Denby

Digression: Obsession

Updated: Nov 25, 2018

First thing I'm going to say, and I need everyone to fully take this in, is that 90% of fans of the band, or of any band,  artiste, artist or writer, or myself come to that, are simply music, art, writing or poetry fans, who happen to really like  certain artists, writers or artistes' work. It says something to them. It resonates somehow. They often associate it with their youth, interesting or happy times in their life, or a beloved friend or partner. But that's it. I'm a fan of the band. I'm a fan of Mary Renault, Dylan Thomas, Killing Joke, Maria Callas, Neil Young, Edith Wharton, James Lee Burke, T.Rex, Arthur Rackham, Vincent Van Gogh and dozens of others. I like 'em. If I meet the living ones, like I did Umberto Eco, I'd mumble something about loving their work, trip over my shoes and stagger off bright red in the face. Which is exactly what I did with Mr. Eco. In other words, I behaved just like most of us when faced with our favourite artists.

The 10%, however, that little minority of fans that baffle all of us, are what I call The Obsessed. They come in various forms, but they all, no matter what type they are, have 2 things in common. They're obsessed with their chosen artist, in this case the band, and they often suffer from a psychological quirk called Ideas Of Reference. This is when an individual believes innocuous events or mere coincidences they experience, such as a song, a poem or a gig, have a very strong personal significance to them. So for example, you may enjoy that love song, it reminds you of your partner and a lovely holiday you had when it played often in that bar you liked. It makes you happy to hear it again. The Obsessed hear that love song and think - oh my god! How did X know what I was thinking! He totally writes what's in my heart! It's like he knows me! We're obviously on the exact same wavelength! Twin souls! We should be together! A fine example of this is Eminem's classic track, Stan. Believe me when I say artistes all over the world had the shivers when they first heard it. Stan was very definately, one of The Obsessed.

I've known many varieties of The Obsessed. I've been the hate object of X's various stalkers on many occasions. I've had my own stalkers. X's stalkers posed more of a threat to me personally because the reality of stalking is not that the stalker wants to destroy the object of their obsession, no, they looooooove them, in a way no one else could ever possibly understand because only they truly know and appreciate their victim. It's those bastards and bitches standing between them and their adored one, pouring poison in their ears about the stalker, stopping them being together, because the stalker knows, completely believes, their victim really wants to be with the stalker. They're just being prevented from that glorious union by, er, me mostly. If I were out of the picture, dead or vanished, everything would be hunky dory in Stalkerland. Female stalkers are often said to suffer from Erotomania, a delusion in which a person (typically a woman) believes that another person (typically of higher social status) is in love with them. They just need to get close to them, so they'll see the truth.

X was always fairly safe from these people because he was the love object. I was the Queen Bitch. The letters we received from The Obsessed, and later the emails, posts, messages, are masterpieces of self delusion, to be honest. The one who sent 20 page deranged handwritten letters, detailing her lingerie collection, and that she was willing to have X's baby (the Female Obsessed are all very free with the pregnancy angle, but I'm here to tell them it has the opposite effect to the one they intended), the one who pretended she'd actually had X's baby and fooled a whole swathe of fellow fans with a fantasy so incredibly elaborate it almost defies description. How about the South African one who sends folded diagrams written on every direction and covered in unrelated newspaper clippings about violent deaths. Or the one who left porn mags on X's car outside our home in neat patterns until he was caught. There was the one who thought I should die for being gobby and the one who thought I should die for being X's friend. And so many glassy eyed ones who push their way into dressing rooms and try to clamber on the tour bus, convinced X is just waiting there for them with a red rose, an engagement ring and a glass of Crystalle. And of course, the ones who wait for decades, patiently, for their big chance to be with the man of their dreams. If only I wasn't around. If only.

Some tried befriending me in an attempt to get closer to X. Some men tried to sleep with me, on the grounds it was the closest they'd get to X. In fact this phenomenon is described in Nick Hornby's novel,  High Fidelity. The obsessive music nerd hero finds out an ex-partner of a famous singer, who we're to imagine might be Bruce Springsteen, herself a singer, is doing a low key gig in town. He sets out to have sex with her so he can boast of having been where the Boss was. When I read it, I realised what those wierd guys had actually been up to. It made me nauseous. Women also went through the fakery of friendship. I once had a German woman spend years writing  nice letters, chatting at gigs etc so convincingly I totally believed we were pals. Until she came to the UK and during the course of visting mutual friends, revealed what she'd been about all along. She was obsessed with X and was using me to get to him. He didn't even know she existed. In her head, they were as good as married.

Female Obsessed fall for the man onstage. The persona. The rock star who's exciting, passionate, intense and thrilling. They think he's their Knight In Shining Armour. That he'll sweep them off their feet and solve all their problems. That life with their Star will be a Boho whirl of parties full of other famous rockers, where they'll hang off X's arm, dressed in cool rock chick gear, admired by all and envied by the drab fanchicks they left behind and who they can then condescend  to at gigs. Magically, their past lives will fade out of existence, partners they dump won't be cross or children upset and they'll live in a beautiful home and go on luxe holidays. They'll be his adored Muse and inspiration, despite having no creativity themselves nor any understanding whatsoever of how art is made. This enduring fantasy always seemed to involve a number of The Female Obsessed glaring from the shadows and mumbling curses at me whilst I was selling t-shirts, or sending poison pen letters, usually couched as 'it's time you realised you're holding X back and you're a disgrace to the band every one hates your guts you fucking cow and you're horrible and a monster' etc. Or that I'm a fithy whore not fit to lace X's clogs, unlike themselves who simply want to make him happy etc. They are the handmaidens of the shrine of rock n' roll. If they actually achieve their dream and get with a pro musician, double if it's the band songwriter,  they find a human man, with all the flaws and failings, needs, problems, complications  and doubts of any other man. Except these are men wholly dedicated to their work which is paramount in their lives to the exclusion of everything else. Also, unless they're actual superstars, they very seldom have any personal money. No celeb parties, no London penthouse apartment, just holidays on the cheap, worries about bills, health, aging. A life in fact like everyone else's, except the men are away for three quarters of the year or in the studio for months, if not years, from midday to midnight. They do not get weekends off. They are not interested in domesticity. They are generally selfish, self obsessed and often narcissistic - because in order to get up on that stage, to front a band, you have to be. Literally. It's part of the job. But it isn't what The Obsessed want, or expect. They then get very, very disappointed indeed. They feel cheated. Tricked. It's not a happy situation for anyone,  which is why old school managers always used to say to band members, never date the fanbase, it'll always end in tears. For both parties.

But at least those Female Obsessed feel they're in love. The Male Obsessed believe they, and they alone, know what's best for X. That they're saving him from the influence of a wicked and malicious woman who was leading him, poor fool, away from the decent manly virtues of Rock. A Yoko Ono, Linda McCartney or Sharon Osbourne type of bitch. A vile creature who disrespects the decent fans - themselves - and is not sufficiently grateful and obsequious to them for the money they spend on recordings and gigs. Or t-shirts for that matter. It's their duty to get rid of this malign witch so the band can be true to the 3 B's of rock n' roll - Beer, Burgers & Birds. Or the even more repulsive 3 C's - Coke, Cunt & Cash. Rock is a Boy's Club and women should be decorative in a PVC corset and suzzies kind of way, or be doing the catering. Anything else is blasphemous and unnatural. And must be destroyed in case other women get uppity ideas.

Sometimes, Male & Female Obsessed work in tandem, using the self righteous, moral outrage stance. Defenders of the faith. That kind of malarkey. But their agendas are pretty obvious as they always over-egg the pudding and out themselves in a spitting froth of envy and misogyny.

And then, there are Groupies. At this point can I please, please beg female music fans never, ever to refer to themselves as groupies even as a joke. If you knew what the men think of groupies, you'd wash your mouth out with carbolic soap. Seriously.  Groupies have subdivisions like Stalkers. There are the local party girls who just want a good time with someone new, someone with a bit of glam who's not Dave from the boozer. As long as they're all consenting adults, that's their call. There are also crossover groupie stalkers, who are fixated on one band member and will do anything to get with them, break up marriages, separate people from their kids, ruin long term partnerships, friendships, work relationships - anything to be with their object. Anyone who stands in their way will be eliminated. These are the ones who destroy bands, mostly out of jealousy or because they don't like or understand  the long hours of intense work their Star puts in to his music, or because they feel they aren't shown enough respect and deference by other band members or crew. Their obsession knows no bounds of logic or common sense and they seem incapable of realising if they wreck the band, their Star will cease to twinkle and given it was the band that gave them their Star, destroying it seems counterproductive. But hey. We're not discussing reasonable people here. Ditto the men who've been targeted. I've lost count of the times I've heard oh, you're wrong about her, she loves me for myself, not because I'm in the band! You're just being bitchy. My answer is always would she have been interested in you if you were managing a Lidl in Preston? Hmm? But it's never any use, as narcissism loves adoration and can't believe it isn't real.

Of course there are also professional groupies too. These are women wanting a boost up the social ladder and a rich successful husband. They really only concern themselves with very successful outfits as unless they're trying a gamble in the hopes that a musician is on the up, or think getting with that musician will give them access to a bigger catch, it's not worth it to waste their efforts on a poor man. I remember being in the backstage of a German venue during the height of the band's fame. I was working so had the much coveted AAA pass. As I went to the dressing room I passed a line of about a dozen or more women, all similarly attired in a black leather mini skirt, black fishnets,  a decollete top in black or red, high heeled shoes or boots and big hair. They actually hissed at me as I ran past. They were pro groupies hoping to score a band member. It wasn't personal and they weren't bothered which one, but the singer was always the prize. I've seen similar hanging about big bands, and I've seen how ruthless they are. Well, a job's a job after all, if you want to succeed you have to be ambitious.

Most band members, when not besotted with a groupie, despise them in the way that only men can despise women they think are sluts. They see them as a cheaper alternative to sex workers. They have no interest in any emotions or feelings the women might have and in fact, aside from the obligatory pillow talk are turned off by any hint of emotional engagement. These are women who will give blow jobs to strangers in the backstage toilets just because they're in a band. Or work for a band,  because crew get leftovers. There aren't words for what the men think of that. You're all grown ups. Use your imaginations.

Does this sound harsh and grim? Does it jar with preconceptions of rock n' roll as a hedonistic free for all non stop party? That's because a woman's view of the music industry is quite different from that of a man's. We see behind the curtain. It's one reason men don't really like having women workers around the band.  No-one likes a cold eye on their shenanigans.

Are there male groupies? There are definitely male stalkers, I've had my share of those too. But male groupies don't really exist in the same way. The power dynamic is different. As I said, some men want to get with female artistes to sample what a male star had,  which is revolting, or some men want to dominate a female artiste to get bragging rights about putting that bitch in her place. Some men are dazzled by a female artiste then furious and disappointed when it turns out that female artiste isn't going to be a homebody as well as an artist, and couldn't give a shit about sorting laundry. Male groupies often get violent and abusive with the female artistes they latch onto to demonstrate their power - you seldom see that with female groupies. They tend to go for coercive control.

All in all, it's a good thing The Obsessed are such a tiny minority, along with Hate Fan Trolls and other wonders of rock n' roll weirdness. I can honestly say I have never witnessed any kind of non consensual behaviour with underage persons or anything like that at all with the band. I've seen a mother offer their pretty 14 year old twin daughters to the band if they could have sloppy seconds while their father looked on grinning and seen them be refused with absolute horror by the men. I've seen a club owner pimp his 15 year old daughter to X on the grounds he'd brought her up to be a rock star's wife and X couldn't do better and seen X look like he was going to throw up in disgust. I've seen other bands take advantage of dizzy underage girls as perks of the job and been threatened with violence for intervening. I've also seen women over 50 got up as the ubiquitous cliché rock chick go after band members in their 20s and been asked by said band members if, as I was an older woman, could I ask 'those ladies' to leave the dressing room where they'd camped out as the lads wanted to get changed. In private.  In short, I've seen if not it all, most of it.

It has made me grateful for all the genuine music fans who have supported and encouraged both the band and myself for so many years. Especially the women fans, who are all too often tarred with the groupie brush and made to feel uncomfortable. Their bravery and dedication in not being put off loving the music, loving the art, is inspiring. We're all fans of the band. We all love music, art, writing, poetry. It's what gives colour to life. The Obsessed don't. They love themselves and in the end they very often destroy the very thing they profess to be obsessed with.


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© JOOLZ DENBY - ARTIST - TATTOOIST - WRITER - POET - BRADFORD, WEST YORKSHIRE, UK - JOOLZDENBY00@GMAIL.COM