Thursday, October 6, 2016
REVIEW for When the Screaming Stops The Dark History of the Bay City Rollers
TITLE: When the Screaming Stops The Dark History of the Bay City Rollers
AUTHOR: Simon Spence
RATING: 3 Stars
I was a huge BCR fan in the late 70's and if I read this book as THAT young fan, I can honestly say that I am horrified at all the stuff that was going on behind my young 14 year old back! I remember seeing the Rollers at the CNE show in Toronto on August 22, 1977 and how fascinated and enthralled I was by it all and by them. But now, reading this book, I was obviously clueless about all the pain, all the stupidity and all the drugs and sex my "heroes" were obviously living through. I am happy that I was so innocent about them back then (thank god there was no Internet to remove my rose colored glasses) because I can think back on that time with fondness, unlike the Rollers apparently.
Having said all that, reading this biography as an adult has brought out a variety of emotions in me. Firstly, I guess I have to say that I cannot believe just how manipulated and used the Rollers ended up being. I mean, these guys had the most horrific luck with the people they met- it seems every single person in their path was out to cheat them. I never realized just how bad it truly was. These guys made millions and saw very little of it.
However, over the years, I had heard that they had NO money at all, but this is obviously not true as they did benefit (somewhat) from their fame - trips around the world, buying properties and cars and tons and tons of drugs. Granted, considering how popular they were, they should have been beyond rich - if they hadn't been cheated, but what money they did have - they simply let slip through their fingers, especially when they were trying to "rekindle" their dead careers (living in hotels for month on end), etc. when they clearly should not have been doing it.
For me, the saddest part of this story is definitely how they kept trying to find ways to resurrect their dead careers and nothing ever worked - I admire how dedicated they were, yet, at the same time, what else were they going to do? its not like they had any other skills.
Finally - and this is, of course, the "spoiler" parts that we had only heard bits and pieces of through the years - the drugs, the sex with each other, as well as groupies and the sexual identify. The author does go on quite a lot about these big reveals and can I just say Tam was a friggin PIG! You have to wonder if the Rollers discovered their sexuality on their own or because of the horrendous things Paton did to them. What followed was a nightmare for all of them that even addiction could not help.
As for the book itself - Spence has an odd way of writing - it feels almost robotic and is not helped by the fact that none of the Rollers were willing to speak with him for this book. So, the story is full of very well researched facts (which I have no doubt are real), but it lacks any kind of warmth. We get to hear about the abuse, the drugs, the manipulation, but it sits there on the page strangely without emotion. I guess that is a problem with biographies -vs- memoirs. At least, with memoirs, you will find text such as "my thoughts at that moment were or my feelings for this event were" - there is none of this in this book.
This book is a brick (over 500 pages) and at times, it feels as though it repeats, while at other times, it feels like it doesn't go into enough detail. There are also some crucial missing points - we go from Les being "single" to several pages later hearing mention of his wife and young son. Really? I would have liked to hear about Les meeting his future bride, where/how? There is nothing. For a biography on the band, there is strangely very little "personal" information on them. I still don't even know if Eric is married, divorced, has kids.....there are some important facts missing here.
Also, the author seems to back off, at crucial moments in the book. He mentions SEVERAL times how "some" of the Rollers were found with Paton in bed, etc. Yet, he never comes clean and mention names. This is a tell all book - so alluding to situations and then chickening out at the eleventh hour is not appreciated. Ditto, other events he "teases" about, but never seems to find the guts to fully disclose.
The author does an amazing job of describing the music world - he is obviously very comfortable in that environment and he helped me better understand all the situations the Rollers were put in.
Finally, this book made me angry - in some ways, I felt for the Rollers, I really did and in other ways, I wanted to smack them upside the head and tell them to "get their shit together". The Rollers were and STILL ARE their own worst enemies. Huge egos, lack of a true understanding of their talent and limitations and a slew of other issues are preventing them STILL TODAY from putting their differences aside to capitalize on the fact that they are still loved by many and that their music is still floating around.
Its hard to feel too sorry for the Rollers in the end.