Now that Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual assault and predatory behaviour has been exposed, other sleazy, powerful men such as the actor, Kevin Spacey and comedian, Louis CK have been forced to crawl out of the woodwork. Women are sharing stories online with the hashtag MeToo. It can only be a matter of time before the music industry exposes its own sexual predators.
However, as we know from countless album covers of scantily clad and pouting women, sex sells, and rock and roll likes its heroes to be larger than life. The glamour of sex and drugs and rock and roll allows powerful men to use and abuse women, who are often more than willing to offer up their bodies.
The murky world of music turned on Gary Glitter and rightly demanded he pay for his transgressions, but what of our more beloved rock gods? Should we turn a blind eye because they make better music, and their sordid misdeeds have been glamourised by the press?
In America in the early 70s, the short-lived, Star Magazine, featured the ‘baby groupies’—so named because they ranged in age from 12 to 16. They hung out in the rock stars’ places, Whisky A Go Go, Rainbow Bar and Grill, and Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco. They dressed in lamé hotpants, sequin halter tops and six inch platforms. The magazine paraded them as provocative and sexy, wilfully cancelling out any look of innocence and childhood.
Childhood friends, Sable Starr and Lori Maddox, were just 13 and the most infamous of the baby groupies, with Sable being their uncrowned queen. She’s reported to have slept with Iggy Pop, who wrote the song, ‘Look Away’ about her. Not to be left behind, Lori allegedly slept with David Bowie. Is there going to be accountability and a reckoning or are these icons untouchable?
The Rolling Stones quiet bass man had a well documented relationship with Mandy Smith, apparently with her mother’s blessing. They met when Mandy was 13, and according to her, slept together when she was 14. They married when Mandy was 18 and Bill was 49.
By definition, these men are paedophiles, yet the seductive power of rock and roll has protected these musical heroes from censure and prosecution.
In 2015 a British police investigation had the names of 40 people in the music industry who were suspected of having participated in child sex abuse, some of whom had faced prosecution but many of whom had already died. In July, Jackie Fuchs of The Runaways told a horrifying story of being raped in front of a room full of people in 1975 by her band’s manager Kim Fowley, who died in 2015.
Women are at last bravely coming forward to talk about their experiences in the hope and belief that times are changing. It has been a long time coming, but the music industry has to acknowledge its own part in the abuse of women and girls, and whilst I am not advocating tearing down our heroes, there has to be consequences, and powerful men must be held accountable for their actions. The excuse that it was a different time is not valid.
We can still have the excitement of sex and drugs and rock and roll, but only with clear and explicit consent.