R. Kelly recalls music's passion for underage girls. Sadly, sex with minors is hardly a new development on the music scene, says Tom Sinclair -- as the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and others can attest
Jimmy Page
Credit: Jimmy Page: James Fortune/WireImage.com

R. Kelly recalls music’s passion for underage girls

The drama surrounding the videotape that allegedly features R&B singer R. Kelly having sex with a 14-year-old girl is still playing out in a Chicago court, where Kelly has pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of child pornography. Of course, in the eyes of many in the court of public opinion, Kelly’s name has already been irreparably tarnished, rightly or wrongly.

Music fans, however, may remember that it wasn’t that long ago when pop stars engaged in liaisons with underage girls with apparent impunity. Rock artists in particular regularly flaunted their alliances with adolescent girls. The Led Zeppelin biography ”Hammer of the Gods” includes an account of guitarist Jimmy Page’s early-’70s affair with 14-year-old groupie Lori Maddox.

Indeed, Zeppelin recorded two tracks, ”Sick Again” and ”The Wanton Song,” both of which ”Hammer” author Stephen Davis contends ”related to the ever-younger flock of teenage girls who besieged Led Zeppelin in California.” (The Beastie Boys even made reference to Zeppelin’s unsavory appetites in a couplet from ”Licensed to Ill”: ”If I played guitar, I’d be Jimmy Page/The girlies I like are underage.”)

Another teen groupie, Sable Starr, was romantically linked with New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders when she was 15 and Thunders was 21. And those two examples are undoubtedly just the tip of a particularly chilling iceberg — as anyone who’s ever hung out backstage at a heavy metal show can attest.

There are plenty of songs in the rock canon that make explicit reference to sex with underage girls, too. Perhaps the most notorious example is the Rolling Stones’ salacious ”Stray Cat Blues,” on which Mick Jagger leers, ”I can see that you’re just 15 years old/But I don’t want your ID,” going on to proclaim that sex with the nubile in question ”ain’t no capital crime.” (Raise your hand if you beg to differ.)

And once you start looking for them, you’ll find such references all throughout rock. Cock an ear to Them’s ”Hey Girl” and hear Van Morrison declaiming, ”Hey girl, you’re so young, you make me lose my mind,” before he suggestively adds, ”Hey, there goes your baby sister…” as the song fades out.

And just what did you suppose that oft-covered chestnut ”Good Morning Little School Girl” was all about? Hell, even a song as seemingly innocent as the Lovin’ Spoonful’s ”Younger Girl” raises the question, Just how young IS that younger girl that ”keeps rolling across [the singer’s] mind”?

Of course, no videos of any of the above-mentioned folks engaging in raw sex with fresh-faced girls have surfaced (a fact that has no doubt helped keep a lot of rockers out of jail). If, indeed, R. Kelly is the man on the rancid tape that’s now so readily available on the black market — on DVD, yet! — he has only his own arrogance and narcissism to blame. In the wake of the Kelly case, musicians need to wake up and heed the words of R&B maverick Andre Williams: ”Seventeen-and-a-half is still jailbait.”

What do you think: Should rockers like Page and Thunders have been punished for sleeping with teenage girls?