After last week’s reference to the chocolate caterpillar contest, it’s the turn of the Bay City Rollers, or more particularly Les McKeown, the band’s lead singer who died last week. In the mid 1970’s the Rollers pioneered cropped trousers with tartan trimmings and wowed their mainly teenage female fanbase with such memorable numbers as Shang-a-Lang and Bye-Bye Baby.
McKeown was reportedly brought into the band on account of his good looks, but fortunately he could sing as well. But all was not well between him and fellow band members and he struggled to maintain the squeaky clean image their management team aspired them to have. In interviews reported in one obituary this weekend, he talked of the band’s manager introducing them all to drugs, likening his relationship with them to that of an abusive parent. He also had his own dark nights of the soul when shortly after passing his driving test he killed an elderly pedestrian in an accident.
He disclosed in 2009, after the death of the band’s manager Tam Paton, that he had been raped by him. Paton had threatened to kill him if he told anyone. This was some time after Paton himself had been convicted in 1982 of sexually abusing 10 boys over a three year period.
Not being a Rollers fan myself, much of this I didn’t know until I read McKeown’s obituary and learnt about the death of at least one other band member. In some ways the band’s trajectory over the decades was not dissimilar to many others, and so we may not be surprised by much of what I’ve just learnt about them. It’s also the case that often it’s only when people pass on that we get to know the detail about how life really was for them, or more positively, what they achieved and hid under a bushel.
Obituaries can tell us much about a person, but sometimes it’s all a bit too late. If only we’d known we could have celebrated, or conversely gained a deeper understanding of why they were like how they were. Don’t let’s miss the moment to share when we can, but safely too.