As early as 1937, Sonny Boy Williamson was singing
, Hello little school girl, Good morning little school girl, can I go home, can I go home with you?
And the song has been covered again and again ever since by such stars as Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and many, many more.
With the invention of Rock and Roll in the 1950s, this fixation on underage sex was revolutionised, repackaged and sold to a whole generation of teenagers, for whom songs such as Chuck Berry's Almost Grown
became an anthem. Perhaps, it is then less than surprising that Berry would be subsequently convicted of transporting a fourteen year old girl across a state line. Jerry Lee Lewis, famous for songs such as Great Balls of Fire
, even married his thirteen year old cousin.
Popular music has never accepted the line drawn by the age of consent laws. In the sixties, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones were singing, I don't care that you're fifteen years old, I don't want to see no ID
. Bill Wyman, the band's bass guitar player, infamously "dated" Mandy Smith, a thirteen year old girl. Maxim
magazine rated him number ten on their list
of "Living Sex Legends".
And it wasn't just the stars. The disc jockeys basked in the reflected glamour, and, as the revelations of the Jimmy Savile scandal show, exploited it ruthlessly. As John Peel boasted to the Guardian
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, though she looked older.
Peel went on to marry a fifteen year old girl.
Even when ostensibly repudiating underage sex, popular music has inevitably glamorised it. Gary Puckett and the Union Gap's Young Girl
is a classic example of the phenomenon. The lyric
explicitly celebrates the temptation a young girl poses to an older man and locates the responsibility clearly on her. Young girl get out of my mind. My love for you is way out of line. Better run girl...Before I change my mind
. The same theme, and the same blaming of the victim, is equally prominent in The Police
's Don't Stand So Close To Me
Any culture that celebrates the sexual exploitation of young girls will, notwithstanding laws to the contrary, produce men in substantial numbers who prey on such girls. Laws of consent exist for a reason: children are vulnerable and are not able to defend themselves. And the greater the power difference, the easier it is for people like Sir Jimmy Savile to exploit vulnerable children.
The tragic case of Clair McAlpine clearly shows just how vulnerable children are to this glamorisation of underage sex. The fifteen year old, who worked as a dancer on the BBC's Top of the Pops
, a programme presented by Jimmy Savile, was found dead by her mother. She had committed suicide because, as the diary lying beside her recorded, she could no longer stand the abuse. The diary named Jimmy Savile and others. The police dismissed the evidence out of hand as fantasy.
On Wednesday Clair's mother, Vera, will be laid to rest
, having never seen justice.