Scandal shines a light on pop's dark corners
AT A RECORDING STUDIO in London a few years ago to interview a band, the studio engineer regaled us with tales of its previous client, a household name. “He’d turn up at 2pm, faff around and then disappear for an hour before coming back to start work,” said the engineer. The star took the break, we later learned, because a local school would be finishing, and he enjoyed “driving past and looking at the young girls in their uniforms”.
Before the simmering Jimmy Savile scandal become a crisis last month, the music industry had for years been largely hiding from the world the sordid secret that it was a perfect cover for paedophiles. All that has changed, and ever more allegations are being made. The former pop star Gary Glitter, a convicted child sex offender, was arrested last weekend on suspicion of other sexual offences, as part of the investigation into Savile and others, and on Thursday police questioned the comedian Freddie Starr about an allegation that he molested a schoolgirl in Savile’s dressing room in 1974. British newspapers have reported that at least two more celebrities will be questioned by police.
In an unrelated case, the BBC is reconsidering naming part of its new London HQ after the late DJ John Peel after allegations that he impregnated a 15-year-old in 1969, when he was 30. Jane Nevin alleges she became pregnant and had a “traumatic abortion” after unprotected sex with him. (Several year earlier, when he lived in the US, Peel had married a 15-year-old who had lied about her age.) In 1989 he told one newspaper: “Girls used to queue up outside; oral sex they were particularly keen on. I remember one of my regular customers, as it were, turned out to be 13, but she looked older.”
Here, press reports claim an Irish show- business personality has been accused of raping a 16-year-old in the 1970s; allegedly, she later gave birth to his child. The woman is said to have reported this to the Garda a few weeks ago, before the Savile story broke.
The extent of entertainers’ alleged sexual abuse of underage girls and boys in the UK in the 1970s (and presumably before and after) was underlined this week by the publicist Max Clifford, who said he has been contacted by dozens of stars from the time who are “frightened to death” of being implicated in the investigation. “All kinds of things went on, and I do mean young girls throwing themselves at stars in their dressing rooms, at concert halls, at gigs, whatever,” said Clifford. “They never asked for anybody’s birth certificate. We are talking about a lot of people that were huge names in the 60s and 70s and a lot of them barely remember what they did last week . . . For them to try and recount what happened in a dressing room in 1965 or 1968 or 1972, genuinely, they are frightened to death. No one had heard the word ‘paedophile’ in the 60s and 70s.”