Alyson’s Archive #6 – “Rollermania” and Me

Welcome to this occasional series where I share the contents of my archive box of teenage memorabilia. I always knew these random bits and pieces would come in handy some day, but little did I think back in the 1970s that they would find their way onto such a thing as a “blog”, courtesy of that as yet unthought of invention, the world wide web!

I’ve been threatening to write this post for a while, and it seems the time is right, coming at the end of a trilogy of posts inspired by my recent trip to Edinburgh. On our last day there we met some friends in an area of the city called The Meadows, a large green space near the Old Town. Bordering the Meadows is a large building which I discovered was Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, however in days gone by it was called Simpson’s Hospital. And why did that sound familiar? Because it’s where most baby boomers from that city were born, including those five lads who for a brief period of time went on to be the world’s biggest boy band – Yes, I’m talking about Les, Eric, Woody, Derek and Alan: The Bay City Rollers.

Simpsons Hospital where the Rollers were born

“It’s a teenage dream, to be seventeen”, sang Les McKeown back in 1975. But no, I beg to differ Les. Back in 1975 it was a teenage dream to be fourteen, and have pictures of you and the rest of the boys staring down at me from my bedroom wall. Had I been a year or two older, or a year or two younger, it just wouldn’t have happened but I was the perfect demographic for these “tartan teen sensations from Edinburgh”. My generation had missed out on Beatlemania, and Osmondmania was on the wane, it was time for something new and luckily for me the band that inspired this latest mania came from Scotland.

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The humble author’s teenage collection of Bay City Roller pinups!

(I have shared a display like this once before, of David Cassidy pinups. I would just like to reiterate that I honestly don’t spend my evenings pouring over such teen-dream fodder, because that truly would be weird, it’s just that if you’ve ever had to clear out your parents loft when they downsize, it kind of becomes redistributed to your own loft, which fortunately for this blog is where it remains today.)

Anyway, getting back to the Rollers, the band’s founder members were brothers Alan and Derek Longmuir but after a few changes along the way, in late 1973 the classic line-up fell into place, consisting of guitarists Eric Faulkner and Stuart “Woody” Wood, singer Les McKeown, bassist Alan and drummer Derek. Tam Paton, their (highly controlling) manager was the man in charge, they got a record deal with Bell, and they came up with a unique “look” which consisted of cropped trousers, skimpy V-neck sweaters and plenty of tartan – What could go wrong?

All through the year 1974 they were never far from the UK Singles Chart and when we heard the band were coming to the Capitol Theatre in Aberdeen, of course my friends and I (aged only 13) went to see them. This tour was to promote the album “Rollin'” where most of the songs were written by those champions of the short and catchy pop song, Phil Coulter and Bill Martin. First of all we had Remember (Sha-La-La-La), then we had Shang-A-Lang, Summerlove Sensation and finally All Of Me Loves All Of You. The album went to No. 1 in the Album Chart – The boys were adored by hordes of teeny-bopper fans and were well and truly on their way.

And here are a few personal memories of that time. I don’t know about elsewhere in the country but here in Scotland, back in the 1970s, many young lads left school at 16 after (half-heartedly for many of them) sitting their “O” Grades. They all had apprenticeships lined up and work was plentiful, so why not? There was however the technicality that if you turned 16 later on in the calendar year, you couldn’t leave school until Christmas. As a group they were called “The Christmas Leavers”. They didn’t want to be there and the concept of abiding by strict school uniform rules went out the window. One by one, in 1974, they started to adopt Bay City Roller style clothing wearing trousers with tartan down the side, the cropped jumpers and the short-sleeved shirts. They had Les, Eric and Woody style haircuts and of course had similar accents – For girls like us in the lower grades they became our big crushes. We all had our favourite Roller (mine was Les, quite the showman back in the day) and there were definitely boys in our school who started to look like him – Unlike the clean-cut Osmonds, who kind of came from an alien planet as far as we were concerned, the Rollers were the “boys next door”.

By 1975, Rollermania had really taken hold, and after putting together their second album “Once Upon A Star”, another tour was announced. Again my friends and I persuaded one of the mums to take us into Aberdeen to see them. Their cover of the old Four Seasons song Bye Bye Baby was at No. 1 in the Singles Chart and ended up being the biggest selling record of the year.

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The Rollin’ Tour programme and Once Upon A Star, complete with pull-out pics

Unlike the previous year when we went to see them, this was a far more hysterical concert with girls screaming constantly throughout – I probably went hoarse myself, shouting LES at the top of my voice every time he came near the front of the stage. But strangely, my most vivid memory of that night is of a particular member of security staff, who for one night only had been given free rein to manhandle young girls. This is not a #MeToo confession but I did come home with a whiplash that night, as suddenly, out of nowhere, a pair of hands had grabbed my shoulders and firmly shoved me back down into my seat. Everyone in the entire theatre was standing, but for some reason this one “bouncer” had decided he would go up and down all the rows forcing us back into our seats – I took some time out to watch him, and even at that young age, could tell he was enjoying hurting us. Of course I didn’t tell my parents, as we didn’t in those days, but this was a new concept for me and one I have obviously never forgotten.

But back to the Rollers – In 1976 they were kind of lost to us as they secured a record deal with Arista and were heavily promoted in America. They appeared on Saturday Night Live and ended up at the top of the Billboard Chart with a song that had been a flop in the UK but obviously hit the spot in the US. Saturday Night started off with a chant that also struck a cord with New York band the Ramones – It is no coincidence that their record Blitskrieg Bop starts in the same way. They had watched the Rollers on telly and decided to copy their winning formula of a catchy three minute song, a “uniform” and a football-style chant. Hard to believe I know, but part of rock and pop folklore.

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Most of us by this time had moved on to “real boys”, so we were happy to forget about the Rollers and leave them to their success in other parts of the world such as North America, and strangely enough Japan, where they still have a following today. I have never had any inclination to see them perform as part of a reunion tour, as for me, they were very much of their time. I do however feel very sorry for them sometimes, as it is well known that despite their global success they ended up with none of the money – 300 million albums sold worldwide (in an era where the revenue came from such sales) and no spondulicks. Tam Paton was of course blamed, and he went to his grave taking the secret of where the money went with him. The Rollers were not highly educated and they came from families that were ill-equipped to deal with their fame, so became one of the many financial casualties of that era.

Give A Little Love by the Bay City Rollers:

I am going to end this post with some extracts from what has turned out to be the most interesting part of rifling through old teenage memorabilia – The words that were on the back of the pinups. Prior to being in a band, Alan used to get the horses ready for the local dairy’s milk round (yes really). Eric and Derek (has a nice ring to it) were apprentice joiners and Woody and Les were only 16 when they found fame – Not the best backgrounds from which to go on and “take care of business”. Despite it all falling apart in the late ’70s, it sounds as if the Rollers still have happy memories of their heyday, their time in the sun. The Beatles had a mania, and so did these five boys from Edinburgh – Who would have ever thought it possible?

The Rollers’ Story Part 1
The Rollers’ Story Part 2

Until next time….

Give A Little Love Lyrics
(Song by Phil Wainman/John Goodison)

It’s a teenage dream to be seventeen
And to find you’re all wrapped up in lo-o-ove
And I found that you made a dream come true
Now I do believe in what they say-ay-at

You’ve got to 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-oo

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

When I walk with you there is just we two
And the world goes by and I just don’t care-are
And I know one day I will find a way
To be safe and sound within your hear-eart

So until I do, gonna 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-oo

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

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

20 thoughts on “Alyson’s Archive #6 – “Rollermania” and Me”

  1. I’m glad you carried thru on your threat to post this: confession is good for the soul. But seriously these guys were very fun for their demographic (my youngest sister also loved them). The part of them getting ripped off for the money they should have been getting is sad but unfortunately not surprising, The history of rock music is littered with bands that were unprepared for sudden fame and (potential) fortune, getting robbed by scumbag managers, Such a shame.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, it’s taken nearly two and a half years of blogging to pluck up the courage to admit to having been a Rollers fan but the time was right. And you are right, for our demographic they were great fun.

      As for the money, I think bands nowadays are far more savvy about protecting their interests but such a shame that it wasn’t the case back then. World-wide teen sensations but no fortune to show for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Way back in 1977, my chums and me were travelling by train down to London to watch Scotland play England at Wembley.*** As was the fitba fans’ fashion of the time, we all wore scarves tied around our wrists. As the train rattled towards London, a very prim and proper woman (we were travelling 1st Class) looked up from her book and asked: “Are you lads going to a football match?” to which my mate Andy – quick as a flash – replied: “No missus, we’re going to a Bay City Rollers fans’ convention!”

    Ye had tae laugh.

    ***Scotland won!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a good story and when I think back you are right, what the football fans wore to matches was in effect Roller garb. I’m pretty sure when we saw scenes of pitch invasions (you weren’t amongst them were you?) the fans were all lookalike Rollers.

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  3. Lovely write-up, Alyson. I don’t have much to add since the Rollers weren’t my thing at the time (especially since my sister, 2-1/2 years older than me, was gaga for them for a short time), but I did buy a CD compilation about 15-20 years ago and enjoyed a lot of their music in hindsight. As I mentioned in response to your previous post, the inclusion of “Bye Bye Baby” in that funeral scene in Love, Actually was a wonderful choice, allowing a heartbreaking scene to have a bit of humo(u)r.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes we’ve mentioned them already over at your place – I stuck to my guns and wrote about them, and long overdue really. I’m still amazed they were so big in America – They didn’t look like “jocks” but did look like Scottish Jocks – a bit pale and scrawny. Must have been just what was needed after all those squeaky clean Osmonds with their good teeth. Have just remembered that in Love Actually, Donny Osmond’s Puppy Love also puts in an appearance. Richard Curtis was harking back to the days of his youth for music choices obviously. Thanks for dropping by.

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  4. You’re not sporting enough tartan there Alyson!
    Did you ever hear the fan song We Love the Rollers?
    It went along the lines of
    Woody, Eric
    Alan,Lesley and Derek
    We love the Rollers
    Rollers we love you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, but as much as I loved the Rollers I was also a fan of fashion and the the tartan uniform was not for me. Who needs tartan when you can have a fine suit of brown corduroy anyway!

      No didn’t know about the fan song but sounds like a real winner.

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  5. Another excellent post, Alyson. I can’t claim my own collection stretches as far as the Rollers, but it seems odd to me that a band as big are they were have almost been airbrushed out of musical history. Can’t remember the last time I heard one of their songs on the radio.

    I love the way you mix pop history with personal memories: good and bad. Long may this continue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is odd indeed how they are rarely heard on the radio any more – It was bubblegum pop for teeny-boppers but they were massively successful in their day. Will 1D be remembered in 30 years time though? Also does Hear’Say not still hold the record for fastest-selling debut single but when did you last hear them on the radio – Some music is meant to be a burst of short-term pleasure, then disappear for good it seems.

      As for the personal memories, funny how some things stick when you hark back to those days. I am happy to share these kind of memories but trying hard to keep the over-sharing about current stuff to a minimum – Not easy for me though as I’m a born “sharer”.

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    1. It is sad how they ended up with none of the money, although then again, some of them are still working in the industry and have probably had a simpler and happier life because of it. A common tale from those days however before bands got a lot more streetwise about such affairs.

      Actually Simpsons was a Maternity Hospital so just about all babies born in the Edinburgh area would have entered the world there – As Edinburgh lads to a man, so did they!

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  6. Ah, love this! You’ve encapsulated that special feeling of being a fan (of whatever it may be!) in your early teens perfectly. I was a little too young for Rollermania but quite a few girls a couple of years older than me at school had it bad. Woody was the one everyone thought was really cute, I remember that…. that cheeky little face. I must confess that I did buy I Only Wanna Be With You in ’76, it was the only thing I ever owned by them and they never ended up on my wall, but I just liked that one song. Of course now I’d rather hear Dusty’s original!
    Great that you kept the photo and lovely to see you in the fashionable brown corduroy! – shame we can’t see the platform shoes 🙂
    Also the pin-ups/article, real timepieces. (All this would definitely have been of a great interest to the producers of the BBC 4 programme I’ve mentioned by the way – it was all about fans and memorabilia!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just to be clear I wasn’t an uber-fan, thus the brown corduroy rather than the tartan garb, but when the world’s biggest boy band (just called a band in those days) comes from only 125 miles away, you are inevitably going to see them when they come to town. Plus I was only 13/14 so the perfect demographic for them. I found it really tricky to find some decent YouTube clips of them however – As Rol pointed out, they have kind of been airbrushed from musical history.

      Interesting about the fan memorabilia and BBC4 – I await the call with baited breath!

      As for the footwear to match my outfit, not platforms but those lace-up wedges we all wore then – In brown of course.

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        1. Shang-a-lang is what they are best remembered for but amazingly I couldn’t find a semi-decent clip on YouTube. As Rol said above, they have kind of been airbrushed from pop music history.

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    1. A great line – Bill Martin said it was a song about running with a gang but far too jolly and upbeat for that I think. Written by products of the rock ‘n’ roll generation and sung by teenagers from the ‘70s so all a bit mix and match but definitely a winner. Bill Martin thinks it should be Scotland’s National anthem – Not so sure about that!

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  7. Reblogged this on What's It All About? and commented:

    I was finally coerced into writing about my teenage relationship with the Bay City Rollers a couple of months ago, and had a fond couple of days revisiting some of the memorabilia (unbelievably) still in my possession. It became apparent when looking back that there would have been no BCRs had founder member Alan Longmuir, along with his brother Derek, not persevered and pestered until they found success. He was definitely the shyest of the bunch however and at times felt it tough being the oldest member of what came to be known as a “boy band”. I was sad therefore to hear it announced today that Alan has died in hospital aged only 70 – The first of the Rollers to pass on.

    They were ill-equipped in the early ’70s to cope with the kind of international success they achieved and it is well known that they ended up with little of the vast riches that must have accrued from the tours and sale of albums. As for Alan, that didn’t seem to faze him, and humble until the end he used to tell friends and family – “I was just a plumber from Edinburgh who got lucky. RIP Alan Longmuir

    Like

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