Something was missing when the National Hockey League’s Nashville Predators played their first home game of the 2014-2015 season on Sept. 25: Gary Glitter. Previously, each time the team scored a goal, the Bridgestone Arena played a snippet of Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2” — a.k.a. “The Hey Song,” with its rolling beat and chant-along “Hey!” that has become a sports staple in the U.S.
But like many teams, the Predators may not have realized until recently that their use of the song was earning royalties for a man convicted of two child-sex offenses and accused of several more.
Glitter, 70 (real name: Paul Francis Gadd), was briefly a superstar in his native England during the glam-rock era of the early 1970s, with 10 U.K. Top 10 hits between 1972 and 1975, including three No. 1s; “Rock and Roll Part 2” was his biggest U.S. hit, peaking at No. 7 in 1972. But more recently, he served nearly three years in prison in Vietnam after being convicted in 2006 of sex offenses with girls aged 10 and 11; in 1997 he served four months in Britain after child pornography was discovered on his computer. He has been accused of other child-sex offenses, most recently in Britain in June, when he was charged with eight counts of sexual offenses against girls between the ages of 12 and 14 related to the investigation of late, longtime BBC host Jimmy Savile’s history of rampant sexual abuse, primarily against young people.
Nevertheless, “Rock and Roll Part 2” — which Glitter co-wrote with producer Mike Leander — still generates about $250,000 in annual performance royalties, a source told Billboard. Glitter’s low profile in the United States, along with the song’s largely instrumental nature — it’s little more than a beat, a riff and a “Hey!” — lead few Americans connect it with anything or anyone except sporting events and athletes.
Glitter’s version of the song was banned by the National Football League after his conviction in 2006, but a cover version was widely aired and even adopted as the New England Patriots’ touchdown anthem. The league asked teams to avoid the song in 2012, after an uproar in the British press when the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl and Glitter faced a substantial payday. (Reps for the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball tell Billboard individual teams are empowered to make decisions on all aspects of in-arena entertainment.)
Still, fan complaints were one factor in the Predators’ decision to stop playing the song, according to Predators svp of communications Gerry Helper, who says the team regularly assesses how music, the scoreboard, food and merchandise impact the fan experience. “We’ve been searching for the next song, the next thing that would give us a fresh look,” he says. Over the summer, the Predators swapped Glitter for The Black Keys‘ “Gold on the Ceiling.”
On that note, “Rock and Roll Part 2” is fading from arenas anyway. Fred Traub, founder of Pro Sports Marketing, says Glitter’s play has dropped noticeably since the NFL ban, but added that newer songs like The White Stripes‘ “Seven Nation Army” are pushing aside many decades-old favorites. “Music moves on and people try to capture the zeitgiest,” he says.
Additional reporting by Ed Christman.
This article first appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of Billboard.