Music RPF

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RPF Fandom
Name(s): Music RPF
Scope/Focus: bands and musicians
See also: Category:Music RPF
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Music RPF is a catch-all term for fandoms and fanworks involving real people from the music industry.


Because most early RPF was drawerfic, its origins are difficult to trace.

Beatles RPF reportedly dates back to the late 1960s,[1] and Led Zeppelin RPF to the late 1970s.[2] One early example of music RPF in fanzines was Dead Beat, a 1982 Professionals crossover with members of the band The Moody Blues. The first known zine to publish Duran Duran fanfiction was a 1987 German zine called Vertigo.[3]

With the arrival of the internet in the 1990s, music RPF fanworks started being posted online. Popular RPF bands in '90s included Metallica, Led Zeppelin, U2, and Hanson.

Fan Comments: 1994

I have heard a wonderful rumor, which I certainly hope is true, that a certain university library in New England has a secret archive — not to be made public until all concerned are dead — of a mimeographed pornographic magazine written and illustrated by a small group of working-class women in the 1950s, some single but most bored young wives at home with the children (elderly pillars of their communities today, so you can see why it is being kept secret). The stories included every kind of sexual combination they could imagine, but the greatest interest was reserved for tales of the hot affair between — are you ready?— Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. Yep, Buddy Holly slash. I've heard that there were similar activities in rock fandom in Texas at about the same time. Then there are the rumors about things that went on somewhat later in Beatles fandom. One thing I heard was that girls used to write each other love letters, and in some cases have actual affairs, in the personae of their respective favorite Beatles: "I'll be John and you be Paul," or something like that. I suspect that something along these lines— women role-playing male parts with each other— is being done by at least some people in present-day slash fandom, though I've never met anyone who admits to it. [4]

Music and slash: I'm not sure just what it is that I want in my music slash. Where I might be open enough to read any slash pairing (at least once) in general fandom, I'm not so sure I would with rock and roll. Part of it is I have very specific tastes on who I want to see slashed - but all that ties in very much with the music - so you're working on at least two levels here, at least for people who listen to r&r (for those who don't, then it's just another universe/pairing). There are lots of groups I love and would read about because I love their music. Conversely, there are many groups who I detest and no matter now good the fiction, I'm not going to buy into the story because the music has turned me.

It gets back to whether one is slashing the musicians because one likes them or if there's slash in the music and thus the musicians are slashed. I think finding slash in the music is akin to finding some sort of slash content in a TV show. Because, after all, the lyrics and the show are the same "text" to be poached [5]. And the big plus with rock & roll slash is that the songvids are already there! And if one chooses carefully, they can be just as potent and suggestive as fan-created vids (U2 spring to mind - their videos are rife with men kissing, men dancing together, men in drag, half-naked men in drag and the all-important suggestive looks).

So, ideally, one could write great fic about r&r groups that anyone, whatever their musical preferences are, could read. But because music is such a personal/intimate experience one would also have to be writing to that second level which is the music and how it affects the music fan.[6]

Okay. I'll get right to the point. I'm obsessed. Completely, absolutely and wholeheartedly obsessed. I want rock and roll slash. It's the best of all possible worlds - sex and music. What more is there, besides chocolate? I want to read about my favorite rock stars bonking each other with relish (or any other condiments of their choice). I want to listen to earth shattering music while I read about earth shattering sex. I've done a complete turnaround on so-called "reality slash". It used to make me twitchy. Now it makes me want more. As long as it's people I want to see slashed, ie: the rock stars of choice - Bono, the Edge, Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails, for anyone who's been able to avoid the post-Woodstock II-media-hype-blitz-mudslide) then I'm willing to sweep all my so-called scruples under the carpet and let them get to it. I admit I was uncomfortable with Collins/Shaw slash, Tris & Alex made me squirmy but I have seen the light and I want to slash specific artists. I want to make them do all sorts of sweaty, nasty things they would never do in real life. Or would they? One can speculate. One has speculated, endlessly, with M. Fae, about various permutations, combinations and triangulations. We have done some of the most inexplicable, unprintable (except in slash) things to these public figures and I want more.[7]

Music RPF vs Actor RPF

Music RPF has a very different history from Actor RPF, which was written by media fans who in many cases were subject to internalized shame about breaking the fourth wall and writing about real people instead of the fictional characters they played on television. Music fans did not have this problem, though people making fun of teenage girls for writing fanfic about pop stars is an ongoing issue. Young people have indeed long been writing and posting large quantities of fanfic about their favorite pop or rock musicians, from New Kids on the Block to Justin Bieber. From the point of view of media fandom, RPF became more acceptable when a large number of media fans joined popslash. Later music fandoms with significant television fan participation include bandom and (to a lesser extent) One Direction.

Some Subsets of Music RPF

From a 1994 Panel Discussion

From a fan at the slash convention, Escapade:

A few other members of the circle, audience and panelists, mentioned stray examples of slash they'd heard of, notably Moody Blues, in which one person seems actively involved. She writes stories (with a couple of others) based on a particularly close-seeming pair within the band, I think by name but not (that I know of) distributing the stories outside the very small originating circle. Someone managed to bring up Bono and Edge of U2, and surely somebody mentioned Queen. And perhaps others.

The named band members, with few exceptions, could be cited as presenting a stage persona that invited speculation about either a very wild private life (for the stage persona, at least; in some cases the discussion tried to differentiate between the musicians' public faces and whatever private personas they might have as individuals) or about a bond between two given members of a band. The latter cases, naturally, had sparked the most obvious slash, though bands known for wild behavior in general, such as Rolling Stones, as well as Queen for the reputation Mercury chose to court, came in for some speculation in fans' minds, if not much on acknowledged paper, as slash fodder.

Led Zepplin, being the most famous, colorful, and cohesive band in the lot, had (in addition or concomitantly?) sparked the most open slash, having at least two spin-off "universes" of recognizable fictional clones with new names: the Paradox material [8] and Bird of Paradise. These re-creations are understood, in the complex fannish fashion, to be fiction with a close basis on LZ's history; they follow it, but are not bound to it. [Megan Kent] made the point that while the ' writers may have ties to and memories of LZ-era events, perhaps even inner-circle private events, their accounts are not necessarily objective or, at this date, reliable. They are, however, an exceptionally grateful basis for fanfic.

Why focus on rock band musicians to find slash? The milieu, of course, is glamorous but distanced, "other," if very visible; and the characters (meaning the musicians) are extremely high-profile for the population that includes most fans. One audience member said, with emphasis, that 'the image was of' men cooperating with all their resources to create something, rather than to deal death and destruction; the contrast with most slash scenarios is indeed striking. Should we not find that sexy? This highlights the split-second coordination, the years or practice and moments of inspiration that build a band or a close couple within a band. Should they not find it sexy, as characters in our imaginations performing those actions? And, as was at least peripherally acknowledged somewhere in the panel, these guys are not hard on the eyes and in some cases dress to titillate. Not counting the guitar-fucking, the simulated fellatio on stage, and similar stunts. Rock music is based on, and exudes, sexuality from its origins to its social functions today and at all points (if not in all examples) in between.

I brought up rock as a milieu that is not only glamorous but sometimes meant, on stage at least, to be weird and fantastic. SF-like images on stage (Ziggy Stardust...) are not uncommon, and song lyrics with surreal or fantasy elements are common enough. The room as a whole didn't think much of Bowie as a slash icon, but his reputation (and others') for bi and gay behavior certainly feeds the speculation. This is one milieu where a public figure could succeed in flirting with gay images from about 1970 on, however little serious gay activism was accepted there until the 90's.

If the problem for many slash writers Is that these are real people, said someone, how can we defuse that, make it obvious we're writing fiction for our fantasies instead of trying to defame (as some would see it) popular artists? The solution there is obvious (and has been used by published writers time out of mind) — change the names. Tris/Alex is circulating semi-openly in fandom, though other hinted-at stories are not, because the name change makes it fiction by most people's definition.

There are some of us who found the Paradox fiction [9] before hearing much about (or of) Led Zepplin, including myself. I know that I was entranced by the fiction — the writing of fans — rather than, originally, the band. No doubt 1 would have been less fascinated if LZ's music had not intrigued me on its own when 1 did hear it, but the appeal is very different. 1 enjoyed the fan-style character writing and the (admittedly sanitized) evocation of a touring band in prose, or I'd never have cared about LZ. Slash at its most abstract, or perhaps slash writing at its least dependent-on-source, attracted me. Is there a significant percentage of mediafans who pick up on rock-milieu slash simply because it's fannish and slash, regardless of the characters' origins? Or do the majority of fans in this sub-group tend to remember their experience of rock music and the rock element in youth culture, seeing the musicians as so numinous that, like TV characters, they are eternal in the common audience's imagination and thus workable as fanwriters' starting points?

List of rock-milieu fanfic:

Bird of Paradise (fictional band based on LZ, crossover with S&H, eventually sorts out into Deryk/Allen and S/H couples by the end of the kidnap-plot novel)

For All the Gods Departed (fictional band based on LZ, Tris/Alex as lead couple, long complex ambitious novel with fantasy elements; and many earlier stories attached, semi-finished)

Runner Home (B/D story with unidentifiable rock band as catalyst for relationship)

Deadbeat (zine with two stories in which Professionals characters interact with rock band members; one has Doyle undercover masquerading as a member of the Moody Blues in a smuggling plot; no sex as such, or even implied)

At least one other B/D story with a rock star as character (Billy Squier?), possibly others, title now forgotten. Typically, the musician catalyzes the B/D relationship by sleeping with one of the agents until the other realizes what his jealousy and possessive feelings mean, and then B/D go off together.)

How Cold Is The Heart (vampire novel based on The Police, with the Sting figure the vampire; heavy proto slash tone in two of the band members' interactions, no overt sex. All names and many details changed of band's career).

Some — perhaps many — private stories exist that cannot be listed. If these could be categorized, no doubt we'd learn a lot. Which bands? Which musicians? Is couple slash, group slash, Mary Sue fantasy, or other action the most common motif? Which music styles, if any, spark slash or other fanfic — is it simply the stuff the most fans have been exposed to, or does it depend on musical elements or other presentation elements (comprehensible lyrics, glamor associations, particularly toothsome guys on stage ...)? Is slash created for a solo artist by combining him with another suitable figure? Any female couples appear? Etc. Etc.

Note: I may not have been mentioned at the panel, but Japanese rock fans write any and all of these types of stories about their favorite musicians; it's not intrinsically impossible for rock audiences to think of this outside the Western media slash fan circles.

External Links


  1. ^ See the Beatles RPF article.
  2. ^ The Fan History Wiki's Led Zeppelin page states: "People such as Sidewinder [...] have dated the material back to 1977. This information has been confirmed by one or more people on the LiveJournal community fanthropology and on the mailing list FCA-L." (Archived 14 December 2012 by the Wayback Machine.)
  3. ^ Duran Duran at the Fan History Wiki, citing the ddfic Yahoo! group, post #5459. (Archived 03 January 2012 by the Wayback Machine.)
  4. ^ from Strange Bedfellows APA #5 (May 1994)
  5. ^ "'text' to be poached" is an example of this term came into use with fans after the publication of the book, Textual Poachers
  6. ^ from Strange Bedfellows APA #6
  7. ^ from Strange Bedfellows APA #7
  8. ^ "Paradox" is the Tris/Alex universe that includes For All the Gods Departed and Tiger-Tiger
  9. ^ "Paradox" is the Tris/Alex universe that includes For All the Gods Departed and Tiger-Tiger