Columnist: The long-gone days of knicker-throwing music fans

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Hot on the heels of Tom Jones’ 80th birthday came the news of the death of Ricky Valance at 84, who was also a huge heart-throb for women of my generation with the plaintive Tell Laura I love her released in 1960.

I must admit that I had always thought Ricky was American but he was actually born in Wales like Tom. Definitely something in the water there!

So, are there many of our idols left now?

With Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Cliff Richard all well in their 70s, it would seem that the days of screaming fans and knicker throwing are well and truly over!

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Tom Jones signs autographs for fans when he popped into the Rawmarsh Trades and Labour Club while appearing at the Rawmarsh Baths HallTom Jones signs autographs for fans when he popped into the Rawmarsh Trades and Labour Club while appearing at the Rawmarsh Baths Hall
Tom Jones signs autographs for fans when he popped into the Rawmarsh Trades and Labour Club while appearing at the Rawmarsh Baths Hall

It‘s one thing to get old yourself but when it happens to your idols. Well, that is totally unacceptable!

Young people today may think they invented hero worship of pop stars, but it was really us in the 60s and 70s, although there was a hint of it through the 1950s with the riots when Johnny Ray appeared.

Called by many ‘the father of rock and roll’, he was the prime target for teen hysteria in pre-Presley days, especially with his number one hit in the UK, Just Walking in the Rain.

Like many gay stars of the day, his sexuality was a closely-guarded secret and, like the screen heart-throb Rock Hudson, Johnny was married in the 1950s in order to put the press off the scent, although they both came out as gay in later years.

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Early British pop star Ricky ValanceEarly British pop star Ricky Valance
Early British pop star Ricky Valance

Many women of my age fell into the category of groupies, although I don’t think they would admit to it now.

They were most prominent in the music scene of the 1960s when they fell into two categories.

Those who were happy to be picked out for a brief sexual encounter by their heart-throbs, or those who actually travelled with the band for extended periods of time, acting as surrogate girlfriends or mother and taking care of the star’s valuables, drugs, wardrobe and social life.

Nancy Spungen, who became the ill-fated partner of Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, was one of the most famous examples, together with Pamela Des Barres, who became famous for her relationships with members of super groups.

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She once famously said that a groupie is to a rock band what Mary Magdalene was to Jesus!

The methods used to pick fans out for sex was well documented in the autobiography of Rolling Stone, Bill Wyman, and by The Eagles, who would instruct their roadies to give a badge to specially-picked young women from the audience to enable them to meet their heroes backstage.

Apple Scruffs from George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass refers to a group of teenage girls who stalked out the Beatles offices at Abbey Road Studios and Paul McCartney’s home, often sleeping out all night hoping to get a glimpse of a Beatle.

In fact, the Beatles song She Came in Through the Bathroom Window refers to the day scruffs climbed into Paul’s house through the upstairs bathroom window, taking a pair of his trousers which they wore in turn!

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Beatlemania became a real word and it was said that it was invented in October 1963 when the group’s second number one propelled them onto the stage at the London Palladium where hordes of fans tried to besiege the theatre.

The Rolling Stones commanded just the same adulation but it was usually one or the other for fans. Not both!

Either way, our parents were not very happy about it.

Certainly, my mother spoke of both groups as being long-haired yobs, which was laughable if you look at pictures of them.

They were always smart and well groomed, but of course didn’t look anything like her heart-throbs, who were performers like Mario Lanza, Bing Crosby and Perry Como and, of course, Johnny Ray.

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Today, there is a term for people obsessed with those in the public eye. It’s called Celebrity Worship Syndrome or CWS, which is a newly-identified psychological condition.

It seems that one in three people are suffering from it, many to the extent that it can seriously affect their daily life.

Some people fail to realise that celebrities are normal people who happen to be in the spotlight. They fantasise about them and try to get close to them.

There is a long list of television shows including The Only Way is Essex, Made in Chelsea and Real Housewives of Wherever, featuring so-called celebrities with little or no talent, who then often appear on shows like Celebrity Big Brother - otherwise known as the graveyard for has-beens!

Groupies are not confined to entertainment stars.

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In America there are astronaut groupies and rodeo groupies called buckle bunnies.

The Wimbledon tennis scene has its followers, as does the football scene, and in Sheffield there have always been groupies at the stage door of the Crucible, hoping to see snooker stars.

During the World Championships in the 1970s, my mother used to walk past in case she could spot Ray Reardon!

Just a bit of harmless escapism from an otherwise humdrum life or a bit sad? What do you think?

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