Your Rock Star Idols Suck

Guitarist in the dark

(Gianna Prado)

Published in LA in 1973, ‘STAR’ magazine was a teen and self-titled ‘groupie mag’. It was “aimed at teens and tweens who aspired to join the ‘Baby groupie brigade”. With nude sexual photos struck in its issue pages of men three times their age, and titles of articles such as “Are you ready for an older boy?” and “Sunset Strip Groupies (and how to be one”), young girls following the harmful messages led out for them, fled to clubs such as ‘Whiskey A-go-go’ and ‘The Rainbow Bar’ in pursuit of what they believed at the time was the next wave of female empowerment: sexual liberation. Of course, these girls were way too young to be exposed to such materials, but with the help of paid-off or fame-hungry parents, these girls became prey to the predators. Musicians like Iggy Pop, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, and Robert Plant all were involved. Enter the ‘Baby Groupies’ into the scene, with 13-year-old ‘Lori Maddox’ and others; respective underage fans who were thrust into a crazed world at the guidance and misconduct of these celebrities. The previously mentioned artists and bands each had their hand in traumatizing and abusing their power to sexually exploit young girls. 

A set stage at Studio 54, New York City, 1973. ‘Sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll’ has completely taken over the world. We got iconic albums such as The Stooges’ ‘Funhouse’ album in 1970, Bowie’s ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust’ in 1970, and Led Zeppelin’s’ ‘Physical Graffiti’ in 1975. But what came with this evolution of sounds also came a complete loss of ethics and morality. Drug-fueled clubs with stars in regular attendance, we see interactions forming with young, vulnerable fans. This led to the creation of ‘Baby Groupies’, underage girls who were taken advantage of and thrust into the world of Hollywood excess. These baby groupies such as ‘Lori Maddox’ and ‘Sable Starr’ were idolized as sex objects by America and the world’s top stars. A life of indulgence was idolized and praised, at the expense of girls as young as 12 years old. At age 13, Lori Maddox often referred to as ‘Lori Lightning’, had an abusive-pedophilic relationship with Led Zeppelin’s ‘Jimmy Page’. And in 2015, was confirmed by her admission in an interview to the publication ‘Thrillist’ to have lost her virginity to glam rock star David Bowie in a threesome with then 16-year old Sable Starr. The United States entered into the Vietnam War in 1965, to put it into perspective ‘Lori’ was just 7 years old at the time, and Jimmy Page was 21 years old. The swinging pendulum of American trends, growing ideologies of violence, and fast-paced music are all factors contributing to the manipulation of the developing mind and body of a child. The atmosphere of hedonism, sexualization, and abuse in music-centric scenes was all prominent in the 1970s, a time led by rock legends with unapologetic self-expression and drug abuse. This era was shaped by the aftermath of the Vietnam War, and what entered after it was the rising call of the sexual revolution, hippie-giving ideologies, and the feminist movement. Ideologies centered around  the expression of white women and the newfound power of sexuality and “free love”. But this philosophy was unfortunately targeted and manipulated by older men of power in its wake. 

An era of music defined by its importance on overindulgence and hedonism created a distinct type of man in the music scene. A harmful man. One who preys upon the vulnerable. This man is those who many of modern culture look up to in the importance of the creation of some of rock-n-roll music’s genres and songs of a generation. In the mid-1960s we can see a shift in music, an emphasis on “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” overtaking mainstream ears. Bands like ‘The Stooges’, ‘The Rolling Stones’, and ‘David Bowie’ dominated fans’ lives. Turning into the 1970s, rock and roll floods as  these violent behaviors and sounds take over. Coming out of Hollywood, new sounds and new feelings with a rawer, more ‘garage’ gritty tune.. Many people, including myself, hear the songs from this era and are led in a fuel of inspiration, but we have failed to acknowledge the sudden change in the community and the ideologies that followed it. The sudden sexualization of the ‘taboo’ and in it, the perversion of innocence. 

As much as I have a fascination and sort of hyper-fixation on classic rock and these 1970s creators, in my exploration I was never able to ignore these controversies. It brings the question of if we as a society can continue to ‘separate the art from the artist’ and a part of me agrees with that. We’ve witnessed over decades of musical history that creativity can  often be fueled by degeneracy and drug abuse, but when is it too far? A line has to be drawn when we have modern musicians now idolizing these figures and in turn not taking notice of their deranged and nasty behavior. This is not to ignorethe sexual abuse which has taken place decades before in the music scene, but this is focusing on the almost normalized issue of these minors being taken advantage of, which was ignored then and continues to be dismissed now by lovers and artists in the modern era. Women and femmes in the music scene will read this and understand these controversies and say to themselves “This musician was an abuser,” while men in the music scene have the privilege of brushing it off and continue to do so time and time again. Now in 2024, many have come to the realization that many of the artists and musicians we idolize in society as creators and innovators are predators; sick minds whose egotistical nature held power over their fans at the time. Musicians, fueled by excessive drug-filled visions in the 1960s which then seeped into their cocaine addict minds in the 1970s, destroyed any semblance of the pre-1950s sweet ‘boy-band’ sounds and destroyed the developments in feminism for women in the music scene. Yet, these controversies were never hidden either.

Left out in the open with documentaries in the decades pass, movies and books which have now come out written by these groupies on recounts of their abuse; and still we continue to ignore and by doing so, perpetuate these actions and behaviors of men in our own lives, especially those which surround local music scenes in violence and sexism. Evolved from the over-indulgent and hedonistic ‘rock-n-roll’ nightlife of the 1970s bands. Musicians like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon are considered absolute legends if you ask anyone who doesn’t live under a rock, but these men have one thing in common: they were abusers and cheaters. Drunken spouts of physical abuse, leaving victims with bruises and stitches, tales of their drug use and their anger, taking advantage of their wives and/or young impressionable, loving fans were not uncommon actions for the two.

A second wave of generalized feminism was introduced in the early 1960s, after the first wave which began following white women’s suffrage in the 1920’s. This newfound freedom was immediately crushed afterward by the male rock stars craving attention and inappropriate ego boosts from young girls. As a response, we get the yell of Riot Grrrl punk of the 1980s pulling into the 1990s, third-wave feminism ignited against their pains and sorrows. ‘Riot Grrrl’ which followed, took action to take back their power as feminine subjects not to be messed with. They worked to create an inclusive space for racial and gender minorities, something feminism waves before it failed to take notice of. ‘Riot Grrl’ evolved from the era of ‘sex, drugs, and rock n roll’, from the baby groupies and tales of sexual abuse which most try to write off as a “product of their time”. What we need to do is highlight how these decadent, over-indulgent spaces held an audience of women-girls at the time; they took advantage of  the ‘free-love; feminism of the ‘60s  by tricking these young minds that their over-sexualization of themselves was power. But it wasn’t. It was a pursuit of destroying the youth culture, the blatant abuse of young girls in the hopes of attention and fame from their ‘idols’. It begs the question of who we idolize in society, in musical scenes. The best way to go about loving these artists is educating ourselves and the people around us about their damaging ideologies, not in any pessimistic or hateful way, but so these events cannot take place again at the expense of young people’s innocence.

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