“Give a little love, take a little love
Be prepared to forsake a little love
And when the sun comes shining through
We’ll know what to do”
They say that confession is good for the soul, well here goes. Even though I pretended to be a cool teenager with my two-tone jeans (purple and pink), listening to Sweet and Queen records, while using my dad’s “Censored” aftershave (it didn’t matter that I didn’t shave yet) I had a secret liking for The Bay City Rollers! I didn’t admit it, and laughed at my sister’s tartan scarf, but I just happened to be in front of the TV when they were on with the justification that I just wanted to see what the fuss was all about…………
The group were originally known as The Saxons but wanting to change to something more American they stuck a pin in a map of the United States. They initially pointed to Arkansas but, needing something more memorable, they eventually settled on Bay City, Michigan – the Bay City Rollers were born.
The line up of Derek Longmuir (drums), Alan Longmuir (bass), Nobby Clarke (vocals) and John Devine (guitar) built up a good following in Scotland and were signed by Bell records. While their first single, “Keep On Dancin”, reached number 9 in 1971 the following three releases all failed to make the charts. Changes in personnel resulted, with Nobby Clarke and John Devine leaving to be replaced by Eric Faulkner (guitar), Leslie McKeown (vocals) and Stuart Wood (guitar) – forming the classic quintet remembered by most people.
To grab the attention of a fickle public the band changed their image and added tartan to their shirts and trousers (at half-mast!) alongside the obligatory tartan scarf – to say it was a success would be an understatement. In February 1974 they released “Remember” which reached number 6, this was followed by the anthemic “Shang-A-Lang”, “Summerlove Sensation” and “All Of Me Loves All Of You”, all of which were to hit the top ten in 1974. With the image and the hits the group were now regulars in magazines and on the TV.
The group however weren’t happy and wanted to take greater control of their music. To this end they dropped their producers, Martin and Coulter who had also written their 1974 hits, and teamed up with Phil Wainman. While for many bands this sort of action signals their death the Rollers went from strength to strength with 3 hits during 1975 including the massive “Bye Bye Baby”.
1975 also saw the birth of Rollermania with fans going crazy for anything to do with the group and hysterical fans causing concerts to be stopped (they were the “Beatles for the 70s”, “our version of the Osmonds” or “playing like girls, they can’t play real music,” depending on who you spoke to – the last comment credited to my Uncle Rob). The scenes in the UK were matched in the US, Canada and Australia as the Rollers undertook an exhausting worldwide schedule. While 1976 did see them have two top ten hits, their concentration on overseas markets coupled with a changing music scene heralded the end of their chart success.
The Rollers tried to change their sound but, against a background of punk and new wave, this was always going to be a non-starter and the group fell apart in 1977.
Versions of the Bay City Rollers have sporadically played around the country since then, leading onto my second confession – I saw Eric’s version of the Rollers play in 1990, nothing wrong with that except that it was at a Club 18-30 Reunion Weekend!