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Pet Shop Boys star Neil Tennant pays tribute to former manager

Neil Tennant (Yui Mok/PA)
Neil Tennant (Yui Mok/PA)

Pet Shop Boys star Neil Tennant has paid tribute to the group’s former manager as a “genuine larger-than-life personality”.

Tom Watkins, who was born in London, was responsible for shepherding pop acts including East 17 and Bros to success during the 80s and 90s.

His agent confirmed that he died aged 70 on February 24, and that his funeral took place on March 10.

Tennant shared a tribute on Twitter, writing: “Chris (Lowe) and I were sad to learn that our first manager Tom Watkins has died after being ill for several years.

“I first met Tom in 1975 and then a decade later he became our manager. He was a genuine larger-than-life personality – his company was called Massive Management – and we learned a lot together about the music business and had many good times.

“After Tom ceased to be our manager, I remained his friend for several years but for various reasons long-term friendship with Tom wasn’t possible.

“However Chris and I will always be grateful for his efforts on our behalf in the early days of our career and we have many memories of fun times with him back then.

“Today we sent flowers to his funeral with the message: ‘Thanks for five Massive years.’”

VO5 NME Awards 2017 – London
Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys (Matt Crossick/PA)

Watkins found fame managing Pet Shop Boys from 1984 to 1989 as they topped the charts with four hit singles: West End Girls, It’s A Sin, Always On My Mind and Heart.

He also managed twin brothers Matt and Luke Goss, known as Bros, between 1986 and 1990, and East 17 between 1992 and 1997.

Watkins notably co-wrote Bros’ biggest hit, When Will I Be Famous?

During that time, he also looked after acts including Electribe 101, Faith Hope & Charity, 2wo Third3 and Deuce.

Brit Awards 2019 – Arrivals – London
Matt Goss (left) and Luke Goss of Bros (Ian West/PA)

Tennant once described Watkins as “a big man with a loud voice” while music industry executive David Munns said he was “an unstoppable creative powerhouse”.

Prior to his career in music, he worked as a designer for Sir Terence Conran and Rodney Fitch, after attending the London College of Furniture.

He was part of the team that designed Heathrow Terminal Three and the London Stock Exchange.

Watkins later founded his own company, XL Design, creating record sleeves for artists including Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Duran Duran and Wham!

In 2016, Watkins released his autobiography, Let’s Make Lots of Money: Secrets Of A Rich, Fat, Gay, Lucky Bastard.

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