If you still like the Bay City Rollers, you can keep on dancing. Yet did you know their story is one of the greatest scandals of the music industry? Turn to When the Screaming Stops: The Dark Story of the Bay City Rollers (Overlook Press, $30) in which biographer Simon Spence offers up a rigorously investigated and unflinching exposé of the sinister undercurrents and dark truths behind “Rollermania”—the hysterical adulation for the Bay City Rollers that spread throughout the U.K., U.S., and around the world during the ’70s. (They came up with their names by throwing a dart at a map of the United States, which landed near Bay City, Michigan.)
With the release of their debut album Rollin’ and the No. 1 Billboard 100 smash hit “Saturday Night,” the Bay City Rollers quickly went from average Scottish teenagers to international heartthrobs. Everywhere the band went mountains of screaming girls, calling themselves the Tartan Horde, followed. The band’s skyrocket to fame led by Tam Paton, one of pop music’s most notorious managers, was one for which they were wholly unprepared.
Paton, their Svengali bandleader, controlled his charges and promoted them as clean-living, wholesome teens. What the world did not know was that behind this happy facade the band was continuously subjected to various forms of mental and sexual abuse. In Paton, the industry cliché of the manipulative and venal pop manager found its most grotesque expression. Dazzled by sudden global fame and corrupted by Paton’s unquenchable sexual appetites, the Bay City Rollers soon fell into his world of depravity, victimhood, crime and psychosis. Band members became hooked on drugs, and their fall was almost as rapid as their rise, leaving them penniless and emotionally destroyed. Three years after they fired Paton in 1979 he was finally imprisoned, convicted of gross indecency with the teenage band members. The band then spent a decade in litigation with Sony Records over the millions of dollars never paid to them under Paton’s management.
That such gross exploitation could have happened to one of the world’s most famous boy bands is a brutal reminder that conspiracies of silence about sexual exploitation were once the norm in the music and entertainment business. When the Screaming Stops: The Dark Story of the Bay City Rollers is a no-holds-barred exposé of sex, drugs, and financial mismanagement. Based on more than 500 hours of interviews with many of the Bay City Rollers’s closest associates, including former band members, Spence’s look into this chilling scandal is an essential read for those interested in the inner-workings of the pop music industry.