At some point in 2020, possibly in a Facebook group, I came across mention of the book “Let’s Make Lots of Money” by Tom Watkins. I had become aware of Tom Watkins’ name from reading “Pet Shop Boys, Literally” as he had been their manager at the time that that book was written. Other than that – perhaps because I don’t read the tabloid or music press – I was not familiar with his name. As a fan of the Pet Shop Boys, and having also read “Pet Shop Boys versus America“, I thought the book could be interesting. My interest was particularly peaked when I saw the front cover and saw that it also featured Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
So I read the book from a background as being both a fan of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Pet Shop Boys. I was also intrigued as, as I mentioned in my post about “Nasher Says Relax“, I didn’t remember seeing Tom Watkins’ get a mention in Brian Nash’s book about Frankie. It’s a number of years since I’ve read Holly Johnson’s “A Bone in my Flute“, but the name just didn’t resonate in the same way that Trevor Horn, Paul Morley, and others (beyond the band itself) do when thinking about Frankie. As I am working on a book (“Frankie Fans Say”) about Frankie Goes To Hollywood and their fans, I thought that Tom Watkins’ book could be useful.
In that respect, the book was a major disappointment.
Given that I didn’t associate Watkins’ name with Frankie, I don’t really know what I was expecting, but given the title of the book and that by the time (about half way through the book), we get to the chapter that will clearly be about Frankie (“Frankie Says Success”) I was really expecting quite dramatic. In the end, it turns out that Watkins’ association with Frankie was as part of the team/company that helped with the PR of Frankie. Now, don’t get me wrong, that was (is) a very important aspect of the Frankie story – but in the end I found that the chapter was lacking in detail (there are also no Frankie PR-related photos in amongst the collection of photos in the book) and contained errors. The official T-shirts were always “FRANKIE SAY…” not “FRANKIE SAYS…” as Watkins lists – if he couldn’t even get this right – just how involved was he and what other errors are contained in the book?
While there is some discussion about the band and their production and management team and some of this was interesting – it didn’t really present anything new though and, at the danger of taking sides based on my inherent support for the members of the band, I couldn’t help treat some of his views with a pinch of salt (to put it politely).
Having finished the chapter about Frankie, I suppose I approached the remaining chapters with a much more critical eye. Yes, there is stuff about the Pet Shop Boys – but again, nothing that really made me feel I had learnt anything new (again there are errors/missing parts – the tour to Japan is mentioned, but Hong Kong is not included). And, much of the attention of the rest of the book actually seems to be on Bros (that fascination with Bros is something that came through in “Pet Shop Boys, Literally” also). That Pet Shop Boys are still making music and Bros, as noted in the book itself, didn’t go on to be a huge success probably helps sum up the book more than anything.
The title, presumably a nod to the subtitle of “Opportunities” by the Pet Shop Boys, hints at how Tom Watkins was some kind of super music manager, very successful, and went on to make lots of money as a result. From the book, I gather that the last happened. What I don’t really understand is how. The book is littered with more failures than successes, and where there are successes it’s hard to fathom just how much was really due to Watkins himself.
If you are going to read this book because you are hoping to learn lost about music management or some of the artists featured on the front cover, then you are likely to be disappointed. If you want to read a book that helps you to reminisce about 1980s music (primarily) then you may well enjoy it – though keep in mind that Watkins rarely has positive comments to say about anyone.