King or knave?

Jonathan King appeared on TV recently. Dave Woodhall argues that this shouldn’t be cause for concern.

I was looking on Twitter last night and Jonathan King was trending. I looked further to see what might have caused this and no, he hadn’t died or been arrested again, he’d been shown on a Top of the Pops repeat. Maybe it’s because Twitter seems to have a youngish usership but there was none of the outrage that such an appearance might have provoked. If anything the feeling was one of amusement that he’d popped up while episodes presented by Jimmy Savile and Dave Lee Travis are not shown.

It also made me wonder, not for the first time, why it is that outrage towards sex offenders in popular music is so inconsistent. Gary Glitter remains ostracised, King is showing signs of being rehabilitated in the public eye. Pete Townsend, cautioned as part of a child porn investigation, and Bill Wyman, whose past is unsavoury while not necessarily strictly illegal, have had no harm done to their careers. Nobody suggests Rolling Stones or Who records should be banned. Jerry Lee Lewis, meanwhile, is a Grand Old Man of rock’n’roll.

Where do you draw the line, and how long after the (alleged) crime can an artist’s music be acceptable again? Personally, I think it’s ridiculous to pretend that certain people never existed. To show, as has happened, programmes about glam rock without mentioning Gary Glitter, or to miss out episodes of a series of Top of the Pops because they were hosted by ‘unsuitable’ presenters, is to insult the intelligence of the viewer. Nobody is going to think child abuse is acceptable because they watch a 30 second clip of Leader of the Gang on Channel 4 or saw one of Jonathan King’s many appalling songs on a repeat of a 40 year-old show introduced by Dave Lee Travis (who, incidentally, hasn’t been convicted but is nevertheless still deemed unsuitable for viewing).

Incidentally, it was revealed earlier this year that in 2012 alone, Gary Glitter made £300,000 from royalty payments, including use of his work in the Oscar-nominated film Silver Linings Playbook. His music is played regularly at large-scale sports events throughout America, but not on local radio or satellite TV stations in Britain.

Yes, Glitter is a loathsome individual, King arguably more so as he still refuses to accept that he did anything wrong and continues to seek publicity in as many crass ways as he can. There’s an overwhelming body of evidence that says Jimmy Savile was evil, although again that must be countered by the fact that he was never convicted. But do their crimes make their contributions to British culture invisible? Should we carry on pretending that they never existed? Or should be able to accept that their behaviour was unacceptable and divorce it from their work?