Friday, 31 October 2014

GRAB A LITTLE PIECE OF HEAVEN, WITH ROGER SCOTT, FROM THREE TIL SEVEN ...


Roger Scott was the D's Bs, the DJs' DJ. When I went to Capital Radio as an 'intern', post-Uni, he had already been at the station for ten years. To the millions of Londoners who grabbed a little piece of heaven from three til seven daily, who cruised with him on his Oldies show every Friday night, he was as good as it gets.

He took me under his wing. Nurturing my ambition to write rather than broadcast, he devised an unofficial role for me as an assistant on rock star interviews, in the days when record companies coughed generously for us to fly places. I'd transcribe the tapes for the Capital Radio archive, which I was later able to use to write newspaper and magazine profiles that would promote the station. Perfectly legit, as, thanks to him, I'd met them all. I know only now that I didn't appreciate the enormity of this favour. Nor did I understand the privilege that it conferred. Thanks to Roger, I met Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon for the first time, and David Bowie for the second, at Mountain Studios, Montreux, where they were working on 'Under Pressure'. We interviewed Bowie again at the Birmingham NEC, and also Lionel Richie. Kate Bush at home, Prince at the Roof Gardens, Spandau's Gary in a room above the Groucho, John Taylor of Duran, Mick Jagger. In Los Angeles, where Roger signed a coast-to-coast contract with Westwood One Radio to syndicate his all-American shows. We hung with his great hero Bruce Springsteen, and conducted the last-ever interview with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson. Perhaps the most musical Boy of the lot, Dennis confessed that the love of his life was Christine McVie. He drowned at Marina del Rey shortly afterwards, in December 1983, out of his skull. His 1977 solo album 'Pacific Ocean Blue' was a Roger favourite. 

In Florida, we rendezvous'd with flat-capped, born-again Dion diMucci, the '50s/'60s teen idol who'd a capella'd on street corners in the Bronx. Roger idolised him. Dion & the Belmonts' first hit 'I Wonder Why' had made them rock&roll pioneers. Dion survived the 1959 tour that killed Richie Valens and Buddy Holly. He also survived heroin addiction, and opened up about both. His solo hits 'Runaround Sue' and 'The Wanderer' were Roger Scott classics. 

In New York, we ambled with Billy Joel over to 142 Mercer Street, SoHo, where they'd shot, on the front doorstep, the cover image for his rock heritage tribute album 'An Innocent Man'. In New Orleans, we immersed ourselves in the Neville Brothers. Keith Richards had introduced Roger to the group: he'd played on their 1987 album 'Uptown'. In 1989 they released 'Yellow Moon', which was perhaps the album, notably its tracks 'Healing Chant' and their cover of Bob Dylan's 'With God On Our Side', featuring brother Aaron's haunting vocal, that turned Roger inwards and most lifted his soul when the oesophageal cancer took hold. By this time he was at BBC Radio 1, prevailing in style over the Saturday afternoon and late-night Sunday shows. He had hung up his passport, quit the relentless globetrotting and was hoping against hope, taking half a day at a time, along with the painkillers.

He didn't take long to die, having tried everything not to. His final birthday party, at a Wembley Park restaurant for his forty-sixth, was always going ahead, with or without him. As it happened he was there, but only just.

He would have turned seventy one last Thursday. The only consolation in dying young is that it allows you to remain that age for eternity. He once told me that his whole life had been a 'con': he'd 'conned his way into the States as a 'Beatles expert' during the Sixties, talking himself onto the airwaves as a personal friend of the Fabs. Flaunting his British accent, his sardonic humour and his tongue-in-cheek, he got away with it. He'd 'conned' himself into the Montreal hotel bedroom where John and Yoko recorded 'Give Peace a Chance' in 1969. There is footage of him talking about that, on YouTube. He'd 'duped the lot of us,' he said. Yet Roger was anything but a con-artist. He was the most honest fan of music I've ever known.




7 comments:

  1. I was at Roger’s last birthday party, privileged to have the chance to say goodbye to someone who’d given me such a lot, first as a broadcaster of genuine distinction on Capital and BBC Radio 1 – I loved listening to his shows – and second as a friend, which we became after he generously included me in a few special projects. Some DJs in those days (I don’t know much about them now) were in it to be hip hep personalities, all Smashie & Nicey; Roger Scott was a DJ because he was utterly passionate about music – ‘Hey, listen to THIS!’ He had a great radio voice, natural, his own, economic. He was a fascinating and enjoyable man to know, and I miss him still.

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    1. How strange that we were both at that last birthday party, Mark. I agree with everything you say, and will miss him forever.

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  2. People's Choice, HitLine Top 10, Crusin' (wow!), Three O'Clock Thrill, The Phantom Phonebox....I could go on. I won't. Roger had a way with words. Less was more. I don't think I will ever hear a music loving British disc jockey as good as Roger Scott so long as I live. I am still in awe of his greatness. A giant. And a lovely article Lesley-Anne. Thank you.

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    1. I agree with everything you say, and thank you for your kindness. A legend in the true sense of the word.
      He will always be missed. xlaj

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  3. Lovely words about Roger... thanks Lesley. I'm guessing we may have met when I was much younger, Roger was my Dad. I've had so many people asking recently for recording of his shows that I've dug out all I have and converted them to digital. Now I'm building a tribute website for all to listen.
    Would you happen to have any material which I could use on the website?
    best regards,
    Jamie Scott

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    1. Jamie, how wonderful to hear from you. We did indeed meet. We need to talk: will you email me at laj@lesleyannjones.com and I will explain? I keep a picture of your father on the wall, over my desk. He was a really special man. a one-off. Looking forward to hearing from you soon. xlaj

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  4. As a promotion manager for many record companies as well as artist manager together with various other interest in the music industry, I first met Roger when he was on UBN the United Biscuits internal radio station, and then on through Capital Radio etc., and I can honestly say having to deal with many DJ's and with it 'many' ego's, this never applied to Roger who I found to be one of nicest guys around and a true professional.

    I came across this feature and whilst sad it was interesting to read and know of Roger's last few days and exactly the illness that took him as this I never knew and sometimes wondered.

    Strangely enough over the past couple of months through inclusions Steve Allen has been doing on his LBC radio show (another presenter starting on UBN and old friend) on my John Lennon Psychedelic Eye mosaic and it's V&A 'world' tour, I did remind Steve of Roger (as well as some of the other guys then on UBN) and Steve did give an inclusion.

    Overall fond memories and good to read other replies. Bernie

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