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New documentary accuses music industry of normalising rock star relationships with teenage girls in 70s and 80s

By | Published on Monday 13 September 2021

Live Music

A new documentary set to air tonight includes accounts of how the music industry turned a blind eye to rock stars engaging in sexual relationships with teenage girls in the 1970s and 1980s. Among the musicians discussed in ‘Look Away’ are Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Guns N Roses’ Axl Rose.

“There are so many stories”, director Sophie Cunningham¬†tells Sky News. “So many I was just not able to tell – and that’s because of money and power – success and celebrity goes a hell of a long way to keeping people quiet”.

It seems like the music industry “hasn’t yet had its #MeToo moment and I think [it] desperately requires it”, she goes on. “I think a lot of the times the artists themselves have written about their escapades with their girlfriends, or what they got up to during this era, and you never really hear from the women”.

In the case of Tyler, it was he who first brought the story of his relationship with Julia Holcomb to light, when he wrote about it in his 2011 autobiography. She says now that she met him in 1973 when she was sixteen and that, in order to be able to travel with her on tour, he convinced her mother to make him her legal guardian.

“Musicians were these godlike creatures, especially at that time”, says Cunningham. “There were power structures that enabled them; as long as they were selling records and as long as they were making money for the big record companies, I think there was a general understanding [they] could pretty much get away with anything, and also it could all just be written up as an excess of the time”.

“It’s very, very easy to think ‘it was different then, it was hedonistic, the world was a different place'”, she continues. “But I think it’s clear from the women who’ve spoken out that their experiences as [teenage] girls impacted them in the same way that they would if it happened to [teenagers] now. It’s not a different era, it’s just that we look at it differently”.

‘Look Away’ will air tonight on Sky Documentaries at 9pm. It will also be available in the Now app.