Label: Not On Label (Chris Olley Self-released) - none • Series: Muzik Klub - 37 • Format: CDr Album, Limited Edition, Numbered • Country: UK • Genre: Electronic, Rock • Style: Krautrock
When looking to describe her contribution to the Sixties and Seventies, the word "groupie" — perhaps "super-groupie" — might spring to mind. And yet, groupies don't tend to have a song written about them by George Harrison or sing the backing vocals on Hey Jude. More obviously, groupies don't tend to fetch the gods of rock'n'roll cups of tea, sew on their buttons and do the odd bit of filing. She did it all. Sitting on the terrace of her modest bungalow home in Tucson, Arizona, O'Dell recoils slightly at the groupie label.
To be fair, she was also a lot more than that: one of the few outsiders — and certainly one of very few women — admitted into the inner circle of rock royalty in those golden years. Inafter a chance Its A Different Life - Chris Olley / Six By Seven - Muzik Klub 37 (Suicide / Alan Vega RIP Special) with the Beatles' PR man in Los Angeles, she left small-town life in Arizona and found an office job at the band's Apple headquarters in London.
Naturally friendly but also fairly forward for a wide-eyed young American in swinging London, she had soon made the transition from general factotum to trusted confidante.
Like a cocaine-snorting, brandy Alexander-swigging, rock'n'roll Forrest Gump, O'Dell was there to observe moments of high drama and pop history. She was in the kitchen of George Harrison's home when he told Ringo Starr he was having an affair with his wife "Better you than someone we don't know" was Ringo's response ; she was hanging around at Abbey Road Studios when Paul needed someone to sing some backing vocals, and sitting in a tiny plane with John and Yoko when it almost crashed and they chanted Hare Krishnas for dear life.
Now 62 and looking very much the former rock chick who has weathered some heavy stuff, O'Dell has finally put what she can recall of the Sixties and Seventies into a book. Now she thinks everyone is too old to care. Clapton is particularly hard to like, around whom everyone had to walk "on eggshells" when he was rarely sober and who, she says, "always seemed very lonely and very empty".
Sir Mick, meanwhile, may not appreciate her observation that for anyone who worked for the Stones, part of the contract should have read "must sleep with Mick whenever he asks". Then again, he may. The Beatles also had an unpleasant side, even Harrison, whom she knew best. Some of it was that Liverpool way, that sarcasm, and part of it was that they discovered that they could say anything they damn well wanted and they could get away with it.
And people didn't know how to respond. But she persevered. When Harrison asked her to come and work for him in Friary Park, the pile he had just bought in Henley, she suddenly found herself "on the inside". She stayed for four months, did virtually no work but put spared no effort with her drug-taking duties. Pattie Boyd, Harrison's wife, was convinced George wanted her there just so he could sleep with her. O'Dell, who remembers Harrison as "a very flirtatious man" who "liked to go off and have his little affairs", says he did make a few passes but she rebuffed them.
Instead, she and Harrison would stay up talking into the early hours when the others had gone to bed, she more than earning her keep nodding attentively while he droaned on about karma. When Harrison tired of her presence, she simply rang up Mr Clapton and went to stay at his place.
And so it went on. After the Beatles broke up, she worked for the Rolling Stones, joining them for their infamous tour. Richards, we learn, was "extraordinarily sensitive to people's feelings" while Jagger exercised a droit de seigneur with all female staff. Two years later, she was hired as a tour manager for Bob Dylan — a job promotion even if, bless his little liberated heart, he would still ask her to sew on his buttons. And sleep with him, naturally.
That there was a lot of Mash - The UV Race* - Malaria sex going on among this bunch is hardly earth-shattering news. O'Dell points to the advent of the Pill, and the vast quantity of drink and drugs that were consumed. She thought about her friendship with Maureen Starr — Ringo's first wife — for all of two seconds before having a three-month affair with him in the s.
She wasn't the only one with a wonky moral compass. At times, it is Courtney Pine - Dont Xplain / The 37th Chamber hard to keep track of who is sleeping One Nose - Antic - Pulse / One Nose / Converter who as the partner swapping — largely between Ringo, George and Eric — descended into bedroom farce.
O'Dell felt special when George and Mrs Ringo both came to meet her separately at the airport, just as she did earlier when Eric would come round to see her at the Harrisons.
On both occasions, she was simply the patsy, first, for Eric's affair with Pattie and, later, for George's affair with Maureen.
I doubt it would happen today. That these supposed liberated, free-thinking icons were such chauvinists is perhaps the biggest surprise. Look at their women — so afraid of other women because they thought they were going to take their man away. The feminist movement hadn't hit then. I don't think that women today would put up with it. As for the drugs and drink, again, no real surprises there, though it is still startling to learn just how much of the time these folks spent under the influence of one or the other.
Every band had its favourite tipple — the Beatles favoured Scotch and coke, the Stones the other type of coke. While there were always drugs around the Beatles, she says, it tended to be softer narcotics such as cannabis and speed, although Lennon was "pretty strung out on heroin" when she first met him in Maureen once told her that Ringo took so much cocaine in the s that it permanently changed him, making him paranoid and contributing to their marriage breakdown.
Predictably, the drug consumption soared when she moved to the Stones. O'Dell, who admits that her capacity for drugs was probably as much Giants Among Commen Men - Various - Another Victory - The Best Rock Songs From Alternative To Extrem factor as her easy-going personality in her popularity with rock stars, rose to the occasion.
Richards admiringly told her that she took drugs "like a man". Praise from the master. She can barely remember Its A Different Life - Chris Olley / Six By Seven - Muzik Klub 37 (Suicide / Alan Vega RIP Special) from her "lost years" in the s, when her drink and cocaine consumption went off the scale though she does recall in marrying a similarly-addicted English aristocrat, the Hon Anthony Russell. They had a son, William, now grown up and practicising his guitar indoors as we speak.
Long since divorced from Mr Russell and clean of drugs, O'Dell is now married to a fellow substance-abuse counsellor. O'Dell says she wrote for the fans who wished Mo Bass - Bios 02 had been there.
Having read the book, it's tempting to think many might keep the music but pass on the proximity. The prickliness and self-absorption — her adjectives not mine — of these characters stretched the Its A Different Life - Chris Olley / Six By Seven - Muzik Klub 37 (Suicide / Alan Vega RIP Special) arguable appeal of celebrity the only rock star she met who came across as a well-adjusted human being was Phil Collins. Call or visit www. Terms and Conditions.
Style Book. Weather Forecast. Accessibility links Skip to article Skip to navigation. Thursday 26 December She reveals her sex, drugs and rock'n'roll lifestyle in a new book. By Tom Leonard in Arizona. Rock and Pop Music. In Rock and Pop Music.
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