I’ve been so immersed in the past this month, frantically writing away on a new book, that I completely failed to notice the death of Tam Paton, the former manager of the Bay City Rollers.
Now, I know few people had good words to say about Tam – particularly those musicians who he managed – but I always had a bit of a soft spot for him. He was a very visible media presence when I was young, and a couple of years back I spoke with him for the book Cult Rock Posters 1972-1982, that I did with Roger Crimlis.
What impressed me most was his commitment to keeping total control over the image of his charges: ‘I had to control it,’ he said, ‘because I was aware that all I had was an image.’ So he would destroy all the discarded negatives from a photo session to ensure that only approved shots could be published. And, he said, he monitored everything: ‘I used to keep in control of the fan club at the same time. We used to ask who their favourite Roller was, and when I found any member of the Rollers was falling behind big-style, I would then concentrate on them, getting them press, photographing them, trying to push them ahead.’
He was never given as much credit as he deserved for his ability to manipulate the media.
It all ended in scandal, of course. And in the courts.
Which reminds me that I met Jonathan King this week. Another fascinating man from the neglected side of rock and roll history – the missing link between Larry Parnes and Malcolm McLaren.
He’s written and filmed a rock opera about the trumped-up charges he faced and the outrageously long sentence he received, a copy of which he was kind enough to give me. Titled Vile Pervert, it’s available for viewing on his website and it has some good stuff in there, including the wonderful Johnny Reggae, as well as new songs – There’s Nothing Wrong with Buggering Boys is a particular gem.