Sex with The Who
by Regis Boff
The single overarching characteristic of all concerts is that everybody wants to get backstage
It was recently proven by Edward Snowden that it is simpler to get hold of crippling governmental secrets than it was to get backstage with bands like The Who, The Stones or Led Zeppelin in their heydays.
The responsibility and utter control for The Who backstage passes was always in the hands of a truly wonderful woman named Anne Weldon. Anne remained so hunted and nervous during a tour that she would develop a kind of permanent shimmer about her, similar to that taken on by water microwaved in a cup to near but not yet succumbing to, it’s own boiling point. She got so jumpy by all the demands for passes that she remained vaguely out of visible focus to the naked eye for months.
In many ways, she was the most powerful person on the tour. Even the band themselves had to beg her for passes. Every ten days or so Anne would have an English version of a nervous breakdown. It was a more refined collapse of courage and all of us would set upon her to bring her back to calm if only because we did not want to have to do that job ourselves.
If you look closely at the credits following any important Hollywood film you will notice that the casting directors are nearly always women nowadays. This is largely due to the rampant sexual overdosing the men who held this job historically engaged in. They were trading parts so habitually for sexual favors that many had to be hospitalized. The same bad end overtook many rock tour managers who could not successfully temper their blackmailing. I have an old friend who, to this day, sits in a rest home drooling involuntarily over a fistful laminated backstage passes for Metallica because only that seems to calm him.
If rock’s audiences were populated solely with acolyte nuns then this backstage barter system might have been sinful. Obviously it is a coercion of sorts, but by the same token it differs not so much from your average amusement park.
The dynamic is fixed overwhelmingly against the girls backstage because getting to the real prizes, (sleeping with and eventually marrying a member of the band) are mathematically fairly remote, but if you consider the odds of bouncing a Ping-Pong ball into a goldfish bowl at your favorite arcade I believe this analogy holds tight. After all, ending up sleeping with a roadie is far grander than spending one hundred dollars on winning a fish that most likely won’t make it home alive that first night.
It is helpful to frame it this way: everyone wanted something and the route that needed to be taken was, though disappointing sometimes for the contestants, still kind of fun.
There is a type of farm system in place on a rock tours not dissimilar to that used to select professional baseball players for the big leagues. Without this sexual ecosystem the hunt for women by the roadies would have become too feudal and discouraging for them. Girls could work their way up through the road crew. With a roadie’s help, coupled with the sweetener of the backstage passes that were given to the crew to use, girls could eventually break through a band’s perimeter defenses. To be successful these girls had to work very quickly.
Without this arrangement there would be no way to find people to do the jobs that road crews do, which are among the hardest in the world. The crew does not do the work only because they love the band, the drugs or the travel. They do it mostly for sex.
By the time I started with The Who, a band I had listened to in college, I had been in the business a good period of time and felt myself at least a crumb more worldly than most, but nothing I had ever experienced prepared me for the world they lived in.
It took me years to harden enough to take the hits emotionally that came at me from this band and their life. It altered me and at times it hurt and humiliated me badly because I came to them too proud. They showed me how to laugh at myself. It remains at this stage in my life, my only valuable wisdom.