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moral landscape of pop at the time. Though the power exchange may have been grubby and corrupt, he mostly took what was on offer. There are fewer alleged victims of assault in those years.
Age was against him, however. He entered his 40s as the music scene embraced the counterculture, and it became increasingly implausible for him to pose as the hip young eccentric. Yet his power within the media was growing, and his predilection for young girls remained. The greatest number of the charges now laid against him date from the subsequent decade, as the country moved into the ’70s. Increasingly, his predatory attentions turned to captive audiences in schools, hos- pitals and TV studios.
Much has been made of those who covered up for Savile’s long career of abuse, or who turned a blind eye. This is as it should be. It would be hard for anyone working in pop music at the time to claim they hadn’t heard the stories. There were many in the police, local businesses, government, the charity sector, and in the broadcast and print media who were likewise conspicuous by their silence. So, too, in the management echelons of boarding schools and care homes.
Worse, Savile was not a lone offender. Davies recounts the tragic case of 15-year-old Claire McAlpine, who committed suicide in 1971, leaving behind a diary record of having been pressed into sex with two BBC disc jockeys. One of these was certainly Savile. The other remains unidentified. Even more shockingly, one victim, who says Savile first assaulted her in 1976 when she was nine years old, talked of being abused by more than 30 men at the BBC.
Here, perhaps, is the fundamental flaw in this book. The focus is so fixed on its subject that there is no analysis of a wider problem. There is a detailed account of how the posthumous BBC TV show Newsnight’s expose was suppressed, but bigger questions concerning moral values in the country’s power-structures go unasked.
Maybe this isn’t the place to ask. This is, after all, a portrait of one man. As such, it’s a compulsive, colourful and chilling read, without sensationalism. But the significance of Savile seems to rest on the light he sheds on our recent history and on the present, rather than in himself as an individual.
Jimmy Savile was at the height of his fame in 1972. His power only grew, however, and much has been made of those who covered up for Savile’s long career of abuse, or who at least turned a blind eye.
In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile