The Bay Clty Rollers: breaking up ls hard to do
- and sols ditching the tartan, apparently
When attention to the Edinburgh fivesome’s personal lives — 12.000 fan letters per week. drugs. sex. a manager with a penchant for young boys. a fan shot at a gig — overtook interest in their (admittedly ﬂimsy) artistic merit. the Rollermania bubble abruptly burst. Whilst 60s stars The Righteous Brothers. Dusty Springfield and Donovan (through the trickery of telly advertising or otherwise) have all shoved their wrinkly faces to the front of the pack to remind us that they’re still here. the Rollers haven’t found the going so easy. But they too are still here. In fact. they’ve just re-released the toe-curling ‘Bye Bye Baby’ to prove it. So where have they been for so long?
You would be forgiven for supposing that. after their last British chart showing in 1977. the Rollers simply disappeared. Guitarist Eric Faulkner. now 37. who has reformed the band for their first UK tour in fourteen years, along with two other original members (guitarist Stuart ‘Woody‘ Wood. aged 35. and bassist Alan Longmuir. 43) plus his fiancee Kass on backing vocals, has the real story.
‘We never vanished. There’s always been something happening. In 1977. we quit Britain for the States. We couldn’t play here any more because of fan hysteria. We were banned from venues and hotels all over the
UK for safety reasons. our own and that of the fans. Also. we‘d progressed musically and realised that teenybop stardom was a two-year thing. Unfortunately. a lot of people around us didn’t. We ended up making records that the people in britain marketing the band just were not equipped to sell. In 1978, it was time for us to talk to more serious magazines and DJs. but our agents only had the numbers of Jackie and Fab 208.‘
The Rollers were by then without frontman Les McKeown (now pursuing a disco-pop career in Europe), to whom they recently served a legal writ preventing him using the ‘Rollers‘ monicker. ‘He lives in a fantasy world,’ snaps Faulkner. ‘I really don’t know what goes through his head.‘ Relocated in New York, the Rollers were not regarded Stateside as the novelty act that they had become in a Britain weary of bubblegum-glam. Three successful soft-rock albums
followed, all ignored in the UK: It's 3
A Game (1977). Elevator (produced by Bowie’s Young Americans
knob-twiddler, Harry Maslin, 1979). ~
and Ricochet (1982). Between 1978—9, the band had a successful weekly TV series on NBC and made a ﬁlm, Burning Rubber — a spoof roadster movie which satisfied an American public determined, unlike their British counterparts. to take
the more mature. tartanless Rollers seriously.
'We did extremely well in America while British people regarded us as a bunch of bozos who‘d vanished without trace.‘ Faulkner continues. ‘But we made the mistake of trying to come back over here. There were serious attitudes against the Rollers in Britain in the 80s.‘
At the I982 Leeds Futurama concert. these ‘serious attitudcs' took the form of beer-cans. with which the Rollers were pelted as they took to the stage. This was the lowest point of Faulkner‘s career. and the band split a month later. They reformed briefly in 1986 for a Japanese tour. After this. Wood. who was going through ‘identity traumas‘. went to South Africa and Longmuir went into catering (his brother Derek. the original Rollers drummer. now a nurse. has always declined to join the reformed outfit). In 1989. Faulkner. having beaten an alcohol problem via a nervous breakdown. formed The New Rollers. who released a spoof-glam single (‘Party Harty‘) and. in Gary Glitter style. played the college circuit. half sending themselves up. half impressing upon people that they had ‘serious‘ songs as well as golden oldies. But. says Faulkner (who runs Bay City Rollers l.td from Bexhill. Surrey). this time round. with original name and authentic line-up. there’ll be no more false starts.
‘The engine room's back together. It's not some dodgy nostalgia merchants saying. “Let‘s make a few bob." We've always fought against that attitude. We don‘t need the money — royalties still come in from international sales. Our catalogue has just been re-released in Japan. Whether people like it or not. the Rollers were a significant cultural thing. In the late 70s. bands like Blondie and The Records were really into the Rollers. Punks came to our gigs in New York. We had an input into punk. Walk into Kensington Market and there‘s Red Or Dead designer jackets which are pure Rollers. Okay. we‘re not saying records like “Shang-a-Lang“ were musical masterpieces; they were just pop songs — we were teenagers for God‘s sake.
‘People expect us to be the same as 1975,” he sighs. finally. ‘We don‘t need that. We went through so
much. made all that money. got our
egos massaged. I‘m not moaning.
because it was nice at the time. but
you get older. you put it all behind you and you just want to be happy. get back to basics and play new
music. We played Keele University last night in front of 1200 people. but we‘d be just as happy now playing a bar in Lossiemouth to an audience of
12. There‘s no superstar pretentions f
in this band any more. It‘s not a "comeback". as such. just a new phase.‘
Tricky things. new phases.
The Bay City Rollers play Motherwell Concert Hall on Sun 22 and Century 2000, Edinburgh on Mon 23.
I The Halt Bar. scene of many a good gig in years past. has been reactivated. and bands are now being sought to play this muso’s Mecca. Demos should be sent to Mark Knight. The Halt Bar. 160 Woodlands Road. Glasgow (‘13 bI.F.
I Hugh Reed And The Velvet Underpants. driven by an unquenchable thirst for justice. have taken the drastic step of writing to The Judge in the Sunday Mail. They hope that he (she? it?) will make the definitive decision on whether they can tell a bunch of [English heavy metal upstarts who also call themselves The Velvet Underpants to eff off and leave their name alone. The Hugh Reed contingent are convinced of their claim to the name. and say they have clippings going back about two-and-a-half years to back it up. They also have an Iil’. entitled Take A Walk On The ( 'lytle Side scheduled for release in February.
I Hue And Cry have ‘parted company" with (Tirca Records. Despite some odd rumours that they were to sign a contract with a Warners label immediately before taking the stage at their Usher Hall gig. nothing is to be inked until January. The brothers have apparently been negotiating with five different companies. but the name of the lucky one isn‘t being revealed until the New Year. Hue And (‘ry are said to have already recorded eight tracks for a new album and want to release it as soon as possible. In music biz terms. that means around May.
The List 20 December 1991 — leanuary 1992 39