'It was no secret Jimmy Page liked young girls': New book packed with horrifying claims about underage sex could unleash a #MeToo reckoning on Led Zeppelin

The year was 1973 and on a warm day in May the rooftop swimming pool of the Continental Hyatt House Hotel in Los Angeles was full of young girls wearing bikinis or even less — most of them ‘underage’ by a significant margin.

The scene was set for the next instalment of the depraved bacchanal that was Led Zeppelin on tour.

Girl after girl was thrown into the deep end as, strung out on drugs and drink, the band and their cronies watched leeringly.

Jimmy Page, revered guitarist of the world’s hottest rock band, hung back and watched from a distance. He couldn’t swim and, besides, he had already picked out the one he wanted — 14-year-old Lori Mattix.

He’d been sent a photo of her earlier and, later that night, as the party moved to a sleazy local nightclub, Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco, he pulled Mattix to one side and said: ‘I told you I was going to be with you.’

She was worried — her friend Sable Starr, just a year older, had made clear she also had her eyes on the lanky British musician and had warned her: ‘If you go near Jimmy, I’ll kill you.’

Out on the town: Robert Plant, left, next to Sable Starr and John Bonham, right, alongside Lori Mattix in LA in 1972

Out on the town: Robert Plant, left, next to Sable Starr and John Bonham, right, alongside Lori Mattix in LA in 1972

In the event, the decision was taken out of her hands as, Mattix claims, she was later hustled into a limo by Led Zeppelin’s two managers, threatened with violence if she resisted and driven, terrified, back to the Hyatt House for an assignation with Page in his suite.

She says that, as a teenager bewitched by her ‘rock god prince’, it was love at first sight, adding: ‘He was 29, I was 14. It was no secret he liked young girls.’

Page, she claims, had ‘respect enough’ to ring her mother and check she wouldn’t have him thrown in jail for underage sex. He needn’t have worried — Lori’s mother had actually taken her daughter to the hotel and into the band’s orbit in the first place.

‘She knew he was a huge rock star,’ says Mattix of her mother’s horrifying encouragement of a girl who’d already lost her virginity. Mattix would go on to have a three-year affair with the guitarist.

Four years after the fall of Harvey Weinstein fired up the #MeToo movement, few areas of public life haven’t faced a reckoning over predatory male behaviour. So why has rock music remained untouched?

That question could most appropriately be asked of Led Zeppelin, who were ‘monsters of rock’ in every way.

Rock legend: Jimmy Page on stage in 1975

Rock legend: Jimmy Page on stage in 1975

Many of the stories told of the hugely successful British band and their hotel-trashing, drug-abusing, groupie-indulging ways are nearly too awful to print — a fact that has probably helped the surviving members to dismiss them as cocaine-fuelled fabrications.

However, Bob Spitz, American author of Led Zeppelin: The Biography, a new 688-page history of the band, spoke to dozens of those involved and says he confirmed the horror stories were largely true. Led Zeppelin are guilty as charged, according to him.

Spitz reckons it was highly instructive that after the surviving band members — singer Robert Plant, bassist John Paul Jones and guitarist Page — all agreed to talk to him when he started researching his book five years ago, they suddenly changed their minds. ‘They didn’t need to say why. The #MeToo movement broke and the next day my co-operation dried up,’ he said this week.

As a former manager of Elton John and Bruce Springsteen, Spitz is no stranger to rock ’n’ roll excess, but he admits that he was appalled by the stories he heard about ‘Zep’, particularly concerning the legions of underage girls who came their way.

Spitz, who has a young daughter, says his wife had warned him not to call the groupies ‘young women’, explaining: ‘They were girls, 12 and 14 years old — way below the age of consent. Yes, they were everywhere “on the road”, and, yes, Led Zeppelin were involved with them in many different ways.’

He says he was particularly struck when former Led Zeppelin publicist Janine Safer told him: ‘They were a mystery to me but I adopted the band’s view that these girls weren’t quite human. I certainly never thought of them as sentient.’

Spitz says he believes the still hugely popular band’s treatment of women ‘colours their legacy completely’.

Although Led Zeppelin were particularly egregious, many other performers behaved the same way and Spitz suspects underage groupies still exist in rock music.

Pictured: Lori Mattix (second right) and friends in West Hollywood, California, in 1975

Pictured: Lori Mattix (second right) and friends in West Hollywood, California, in 1975

‘The whole industry is corrupt for not bringing this to light and doing something about it,’ he says.

Apologists for the ‘sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll’ culture of the 1960s and 1970s often say that it was just what happened in those days, but Spitz insists that simply isn’t true.

He interviewed Sir Paul McCartney for his last book, on the Beatles, and Macca told him the Fab Four were also besieged by underage girls. The difference was that the Beatles didn’t say ‘yes’.

‘All the Beatles’ girlfriends were “age appropriate”,’ says Spitz. ‘They always sought women their own age.’

Earlier this week the death of Richard Cole, Led Zeppelin’s tour manager and leading hell-raiser, prompted a raft of obituaries, which painted a picture of a permanently loose cannon who once rode a motorbike up to the band’s lair on the ninth floor of the Hyatt House and hired a large customised jet fitted out with a queen-sized waterbed, fake fur bedspread and a shower for their groupies.

Spitz reveals that Cole was also the band’s chief procurer, picking out the prettiest girls in concert audiences and hotel lobbies to have sex with the band.SHARE THIS ARTICLShare

Thin-skinned, narcissistic and increasingly grandiose, Led Zeppelin could never understand why they sold more records than the Rolling Stones yet attracted far less attention, says Spitz. A key reason, he says, was that they were infinitely less likeable.

While the Stones were ‘bad boys’, Zeppelin were ‘bad bad boys’, he says. ‘A suggestion of violence shadowed them and their management.’

As they spent a lot of time touring and recording in the US, they found their nirvana in the unrestrained hedonism of California, particularly Los Angeles, which spawned a frenzied groupie scene and a vast supply of cocaine to fuel it.

‘LA in particular was like Sodom and Gomorrah,’ recalled Jimmy Page. ‘You just ate it up and drank it down. It was the feeling of “we can do absolutely anything”. There were no rules.’

Considering Page had been fascinated from the age of 11 by the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley — dubbed the ‘wickedest man in the world’ and whose chief injunction was to ‘Do what thou wilt’ — he needed no encouragement, says Spitz.

The groupies were ‘shockingly young’, he claims, quoting a music industry publicist who recalls: ‘They were 13, 14, maybe 15 tops. Girls just showed up — they came out of nowhere.’

Target: Lori Mattix as a young teenager in 1974

Target: Lori Mattix as a young teenager in 1974

In fact, many came seeking big city excitement from LA’s sprawling suburbs of San Fernando Valley and Orange County.

‘They were mostly latchkey kids,’ says Michael Des Barres, a British-born musician and friend of Page who married his ‘super-groupie’ girlfriend Pamela Miller. ‘Their fathers were away and their mothers could [not] give a s***.’

Both Mattix and her rival for Page’s attention, Starr, claimed to have lost their virginity to David Bowie — at 13 and 12 respectively.

And there were plenty of men ready to exploit their youth. Page learnt of Mattix’s existence after being shown a photo of her and other underage LA girls in a seedy showbusiness magazine, Star, which had titled the photo spread of highly sexualised images ‘Your Very Own Superfox’.

Zeppelin insider Bernard ‘Beep’ Fallon, who had photographed the girls and shown the pictures to Page, gives Spitz his highly controversial take: ‘The thing about groupies that’s misunderstood is that it was all consensual. The girls were the predators, not the bands.’

Not surprisingly, Spitz sees it very differently. ‘A lot of their parents were complicit,’ he says. Considering these girls were adolescents — if that — responsibility lies with ‘the parents and the men who were taking advantage of them’.

He spoke to many of the young groupies and was shocked that, even now, ‘there were no regrets whatsoever . . . and they were not shy in giving me intimate details, which was also astounding’. Too young to get into bars, they hung around the hotels where rock stars congregated, often in bungalows with open doors and easy access.

On one occasion Page allegedly allowed John Bonham — Led Zeppelin’s volatile drummer until his death at the age of 32 in 1980 — to dress as a waiter and wheel him, ‘splayed on a room service cart, into a suite of sybaritic girls’.

One club where the child party girls were allowed in was Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco. Led Zeppelin were regulars, curing their homesickness with pints of Watney’s Red Barrel and watching — says Mattix — ‘pre-pubescent teenagers dressed up like groupies’ (as indeed many of them were) as they danced to glam rock.

The club’s boss, Rodney Bingenheimer, tells Spitz he’d issue a general call to arms among his school-age clientele if Led Zeppelin were in town. ‘These guys were party animals, beyond party animals,’ he recalls. ‘The wild guy, of course, was Bonham.’ Of the band, only ‘family man’ bassist Jones didn’t get involved. As for Plant, Spitz writes: ‘Robert’s girlfriends weren’t as young as Jimmy’s; many hovered around the age of consent.’

Plant would even compose lyrics about the ‘baby groupies’, once remarking: ‘The words show I feel a bit sorry for them. One minute she’s 12 and the next minute she’s 13 and over the top.’

Spitz says it’s revealing of the attitudes of the time that he wasn’t lambasted for such gruesome sentiments.

And nor did Bonham ever get into trouble when he once tore the clothes off a woman journalist in the band’s dressing room and, on another occasion, tried to rape a stewardess on their jet.

Led Zeppelin and their defenders have sometimes put their debauchery down to their young age — some of them were just into their 20s when they became stars — but they were still behaving disgustingly towards women years later.

In 1977, manager Peter Grant handcuffed a naked woman to the pipe under the bathroom sink in his LA hotel suite for an entire weekend. Page came across her and ‘in an uncustomary show of gallantry, found a key to unlock the cuffs and helped her to escape’.

For more than 40 years the architects of such behaviour have escaped public censure or legal consequences but, after the publication of Spitz’s book, a reckoning may well be at hand.

  • Led Zeppelin: The Biography by Bob Spitz is published by Penguin Press, price £30.

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