Music business

Look Away examines sexual abuse in the music industry

The lyrics are cheeky: “I slept with Sable when she was 13,” sings Iggy Pop. Ted Nugent had a song called “Jailbait” about the same girl. “Sable” was Sable Starr, one of many young girls drawn to the dangerous glamor of the Los Angeles rock ‘n’ roll scene in the early 1970s. marvels the songwriter Kari Krome, in reference to this era. “Look away, look away,” crooned Iggy, and everyone did so obligingly.

There is of course a huge difference between a creative statement and a physical act, and writing about a crime does not make someone a criminal. Nevertheless, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of the sexual abuse of girls and young women in the music industry – so much so that many are wondering when this will be the focus of the intensifying #MeToo debate.

“Fundamentally, [Sable] lived to sleep with rock stars,” recalls Lori Mattix, another veteran of the “baby groupie” scene. She and Starr were regularly photographed hanging from the arms of visiting musos. Given his own well-documented association with certain members of Led Zeppelin, which Mattix doesn’t expand on here, this documentary feels more like an opening salvo than a sweeping indictment or call for change. Stories involving rock stars raise questions about the validity of consent in unequal power dynamics. Svengali’s manager, Kim Fowley (“Lord Voldemort”, according to Jackie Fuchs of girl group The Runaways), died safely.

In the documentary, Krome tells her own “hair-raising stories” of being raped as a teenager by a staff member in a back room of LA’s hip English nightclub Rodney Bingenheimer: “Bam – this guy got me.” Afterwards, “he dusted me off” and brought her a Coke. “He acted like it was no big deal… A lot of guys think they didn’t do anything wrong. (On the show, Bingenheimer denies any knowledge of an assault on his premises.) In a long interview with look away, Julia Holcomb describes how, at 16, she became the girlfriend of 26-year-old Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler, and then, chillingly, his ward. Alcohol and drugs were everywhere on tour: “It was almost as if the law didn’t apply to us, we were on top of everything,” says Holcomb. Aerosmith’s tour manager says he was “always waiting for the shoe to drop. . . it was not my position to question it.

As Penthouse magazine’s 1983 Pet of the Year, Sheila Kennedy was no ingenue, but nothing prepared her for spending time with rambunctious Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose. Even his manager calls him a “demon dog from hell”. “You had to be a bad boy back then,” says rock photographer Ruben MacBlue. A musical executive woman is more explicit on the musical scene: “The girl is disposable, the man is not. It’s a very simple explanation.

★★★★☆

On Sky Documentaries from September 13 at 9 p.m.

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