What ever happened to the Bay City rollers?
The Bay City Roller Coaster
Recently I went to a garden party. I know that this may sound like a great intro into a Ricky Nelson song but I can assure you that it’s not. What I can promise you, is the tragic story of a band, as tragic as Ricky's own death.
While attending this garden party, a song was played which was very familiar to me. As the song drifted thought the night air, I found myself having no problems singing the words, and yet, for the life of me could not place where I knew the song from, or where I had heard it before. Suddenly in the blink of an eye it all came rushing back to me. I knew the song because I had sung it alone a thousand times in my room as a teenager. The song was "The way I feel tonight" by the Bay City Rollers.
For those of you out there who are too young to remember, The Bay City Roller were heralded as the ‘Biggest group since The Beatles' and one of the most screamed-at teeny-bopper acts of the 1970s". Their song S.a.t.u.r.d.a.y night was played continuously from 1974, when they hit the top of the pops charts, to 1976 when their fame left as quickly as it had arrived.
After leaving the garden party I couldn't seem to get that song out of my head. I started wondering what ever happened to the five lads from Scotland. My curiosity got the best of me, and I spent days doing research on what once had been my childhood idols. For anyone wanting to make a name in the music business, this story is a warning and a must read. In my opinion it reads better than 99% of most fiction novels that I have ever picked up in my lifetime. Mark Twain could not have been more correct when he stated that truth is stranger than fiction. I can honestly not make this stuff up.
What has now come to be known as "The Bay city roller coaster", it is said that through the years, the line-up of the band changed so much that they tally the final count at around 27 members in all. In August of1968 a group named "The Saxons" changed their name to The Bay City Rollers. The Rollers where managed and owned by a man named Tam Paton. While it is indisputable that Paton created the Rollers, the group members claim that he was also largely responsible for destroying them. They compare the band's relationship with Paton to that of a child with an abusive parent.
For two years, everything that the band touched turned to gold. There was a national Bay City Rollers uniform, of which I myself was a proud owner. Tartan scarves dangling from the wrist, Doc Marten Boots, and short spiked haircuts. The female universal anthem was "We want the Rollers!" which could be heard at every venue they played. When their career came to an end, just two short years after it started, it is estimated that the band sold between 70-120 million records. Some thirty five years later however they are still fighting to see any money whatsoever in royalties. It's sad for me to say that these are the good parts of this story. The "boys" now in their fifties and sixties are hard to find these days because they simply do not want to talk about their roller days.
In 2004 the group’s manager Tam Paton suffered a stroke after being cleared of child sex abuse allegations and being fined for supplying cannabis. In a separate case, Paton was given a three-year jail sentence in 1982 for gross indecency against two teenage boys. Paton had an interest in young boys which has been described as nothing short of diseased. Paton also disliked woman and called them dirty, smelly fish. Paton who was openly gay died of a suspected heart attack at aged 70 at his Edinburgh home on April 8th of 2009
The former guitar player for the rollers accused Tam Paton of raping him in a hotel room in 1977. Pat’s cousin faced trial in Australia for the charge of killing his brother-in-law, 24-year-old Andy Ball.
Les was 18 years old at the peak of his career in 1974. When he was 19 he treated himself to a turbo-charged Ford Mustang 351. In 1975, he was driving in Edinburgh when he hit and killed his 76-year-old neighbor Euphemia Clunie while she was crossing the road. At the age of 22, he was a has-been, looking after his mother and father in a hotel in Edinburgh because the house they owned had been repossessed. Journalist Simon Hattenstone was granted a rare interview with Lead Singer Les McKeown back in 2005. He described him as "still handsome, though a little bloated and pasty, like somebody who has taken more drugs in his time than is sensible". McKeown is now 56. Soon after that interview McKeown was charged with drink-driving.
The band's bassist, now 60 years old along with his brother Derek who was the drummer for the band started the rollers in Edinburgh in 1967. Alan went back to working as a plumber after the band ended. Suffering a slight heart attack and then what his wife calls a "big stroke “he lost the power on his left side and still gets twitches. He attributes both the heart attack and stroke to the Bay City roller stress.
Derek now 62 went back into nursing after a few snags in his life. He was fired from his job in 2001 at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he worked as a psychiatric nurse. In October 2001 he was allowed to resume his nursing career. Prior to that in 2000, he was convicted of downloading child pornography from the Internet and sentenced to 300 hours community service.
STUART JOHN ‘WOODY’ WOOD:
Now 55 and a guitar player for the band, has been rumored to have produced "some Scottish stuff" and has written several successful "Celtic mood" albums in recent years. He has been unreachable.
Faulkner now 59 was the other guitar player for the band and singer. He is MIA and unwilling to be found.
Most of the money owed to the band seems to be held in trust by the Sony-BMG, record company which bought out Arista in 1976. Sony-BMG has been unable to pay royalties because there is no copy of the initial contract. Chances are that they will never see what is owed to them. What difference would the outstanding royalties have made to the band members lives? McKeown says he wouldn't be here, because he'd be dead. So perhaps it's worked out for the best?
The only thing more pathetic than their music career is what they have done with their lives after the music and fame ended. Every single member has chosen to hold on to the bitterness, instead of focusing on the positive. The ones which have talked to the media constantly complain about the exhaustion, the exploitation by manager Tam Paton, the need to jump out of window’s into waiting vans to get away from fans, the lack of sleep, missed holidays and being given speed to keep themselves going. It's horrible to be unable to walk the street and have hundreds of girls outside your house every day. I’m sorry guys but you can't ask for the money and the fame without having to sacrifice. The larger the fame tends to be, the larger the sacrifices it tends to bring.
It pains me in a strange sort of way that these were the people that I once looked up to as idols in my youth. This article has bought about a few lessons for me. Never Idolize anyone because nobody’s perfect, Always try to walk away with something positive from every experience and when you take things for granted, those things you are granted get taken away. Oh yes….and always get it in writing!