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avatar for Ann Powers

Ann Powers

Ann Powers is critic and correspondent for NPR Music. She is the author of several books, including the forthcoming history of American music's relationship with American love and sex.

“Hard Rock, Sex Sounds, and the Groupie System: Life at the Riot House, 1973”
The Los Angeles-grounded hard rock scene of the early-to-mid 1970s is often remembered as a lawless milieu: a Wild West populated by satin-clad outlaws and erotic pioneers who put pleasure first and, as feminist revisionism has revealed, also left victims in their wake. In reality, this period was one in which many Americans, baffled by the sexual revolution, sought to codify sexual roles and rules to make sex manageable at a time of profound change. Hard rock made eroticism audible in new ways that connected it to another emerging form: Hollywood-style narrative pornography. At the same time, the mythos surrounding the music kept men and women in their places by establishing a system of conquest and road romance with clear roles for both male rock stars and female groupies. This presentation explores how the sound of hard rock, particularly the voice of Robert Plant, turned mainstream popular music frankly pornographic, while the groupie system maintained the very boundaries that those moans from the stage seemed to disrupt.

Photo by Mito Habe-Evans 


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