I've written on this blog before about the Bay City Rollers -- the Backstreet Boys/N'Sync/One Direction/etc. of my day -- and my teenaged obsession with them. Coincidentally, as I read this book, I realized it was exactly one year & one day since Alan's funeral. I wrote about his passing, my reaction to it and my BCR memories here.
It's not a long book, and it's padded with other material, including an introduction from the ghostwriter explaining how he came to write the book with Alan, a vintage 1975 story from Melody Maker about the Rollers at the height of their fame in Britain, and an afterword by Liam Rudden, the author of "And I Ran With the Gang," the autobiographical show about Alan's life and the Bay City Rollers that was performed for several years at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh and other cities.
There are no huge revelations here, nor much dirt being dished. Alan glosses over his reported suicide attempt as untrue and a story fabricated by their manager, Tam Paton; as well as his brother Derek's arrest on child pornography charges (the photos belonged to a friend). He does admit to having had a drinking problem. He says he can't speak for the other members of the band, but says that while Paton was indeed something of a bully and a dictator -- "a good man gone bad" -- he only ever put the moves on him once (a hand on the knee while they were in a car together). Alan told him to "f*** off" and that was the end of that.
I will admit to reaching for the Kleenex a couple of times, particularly in the spots where Alan expresses his hopes for the future -- a better relationship with his son, for one. After years of legal battles with their record company & business managers, the Rollers did eventually receive a (small) financial settlement recently. "Now... a blockage has been cleared and royalties should flow, which is something," Alan says, towards the book's end.
I'm hoping someone will make new blockbuster film called Bye Bye Baby and use all our songs as the soundtrack. Hopefully, long, long after I've gone, a cheque will drop every six months through the front doors of my loved ones. It might not be much. But they might think 'Good old Alan. He's got us a pint or two there.'(sniffle)
There was also this:
...my twilight years are proving to be a voyage of joyous discovery. It would be the icing on this wonderful cake if us creaking old Rollers could lay our ghosts to rest, rise above all the old rubbish and come together one last time, and not let the music die. That would delight me. After all, we are not getting any younger and one of us will be the first to go, and statistically that's me!He's gone now -- far too soon, at the age of 70. I'm very sad that reunion will never happen (although -- to the other guys -- it's never too late...!). But I got the feeling he was a happy man when he died -- that he had made peace with his past -- and I am glad for that. I am also glad he was persuaded to tell his story for the Fringe Festival play and to write this book. It brought back a lot of fond memories.
*** *** ***
"When the Screaming Stops: The Dark History of the Bay City Rollers" by Simon Spence is indeed a much darker book. At almost 600 (!!) pages, it is a detailed history of the band (perhaps almost too detailed -- it could have used a good edit) -- from its beginnings in the Longmuir family's living room to the present (the book was published in October 2016). Gigs, tours, recording sessions, television appearances and business deals are described in sometimes exhaustive (and sometimes repetitive) detail.
It's also the rather lurid story of the band's potato salesman-turned-musician-turned manager/Svengali, Tam Paton, and the abuse -- emotional, psychological and sometimes physical (including sexual) -- that he inflicted on the band members and others. Paton was gay, in a society where homosexuality was illegal until just recently -- and he had a particular fondness for young teenaged boys. (He was also a control freak, and a major drug dealer.) Several of the band members have accused Paton of rape or attempted rape.
It was... interesting -- certainly a very different story from the one I absorbed as a teenager. I've heard some of the stories and accusations about Paton in recent years, and I know the band members have fought bitterly among themselves in recent years. This book brought back some good memories, but also a lot of sadness -- that reality differed so dramatically from the happy image we were presented, that things turned out the way they did, that the band members have so little to show for the millions of records they sold and all they endured. You can't blame them for being bitter, but I'm sad, for them & for us, their fans. All of us deserved better.
I gave "I Ran With the Gang" four stars on Goodreads (non-BCR fans might not rate it quite so generously ;) ) and "When the Screaming Stops" three stars.
Past Bay City Rollers-related posts here. :)
A great read about the Rollers, from a fan's perspective, that I read several years back (sent to me by a British penpal from those BCR days!): "Bye Bye Baby: My Tragic Love Affair with the Bay City Rollers" by Caroline Sullivan.
These were books #25 & #26 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 108%!!! of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books. I have now completed my challenge for the year, two above goal. :) (Anything I manage to read after this will be gravy, lol.)