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SWINE Great Albums : The Bay City Rollers - Once Upon A Star

by Alan Metcalfe

Don't know what it was like where you were in 1975, but Liverpool was an absolute pot-pourri of different musical tastes.  Round our way, Slade were on the way out, and loads of lads were wigging out to the Quo and Sabbath.  The more sensitive types, meanwhile, would nod along, eyes closed, to a bit of prog rock, and graffiti unfathomable slogans on their school bag.  Chart-heads would, religiously, press 'play' and 'record', every Sunday night, as the likes of Demis Roussos, Mud, and Elton John & Kiki Dee ruled the hit parade.  Something, though, was stirring across the Border, as the template by which all great boys bands would subsequently be judged was being manufactured by Lothian weirdo, Tam Paton.

 
For me, my 'Bill Grundy moment' came when I first saw the Bay City Rollers on 'Shang-A-Lang'.  Four hunks in Les, Eric, Alan, and Woody, plus ugly-as-fuck drummer, Derek, miming horridly to tracks from their first (unheralded) album, 'Rollin'.  There was, though, something about them that gave me a certain frisson, and that also clearly excited the studio audience of 14 and 15 year old girls.  As well as the finely crafted pop songs, and the unparalleled good looks of four fifths of the band (guitarist Eric Faulkner scored particularly highly in the mmmmmm stakes), it was the clobber.  Half mast denim flares, striped socks, and baseball boots may not, at first glance, appear to be the ultimate fashion statement, but ally them to tartan stripes down the kecks, and you have an ensemble to die for.  The look swept teenage Britain that Summer, but - and here was the rub for me - it was girls only.  To 'the lads', the band of my dreams was just the 'Bay Shitty Bowl-'eads', and their TV programme was really called 'Shag-A-Slag'.  My love for them dared not speak its name, and, when their second album was released, I had to bribe my female cousin to pick it up for me in Woolies on Church Street.
 
'Once Upon A Star' currently stares at me from my CD collection (re-mastered, of course).  It totally defined the pop aesthete of the year when West Ham beat Fulham in the Cup Final, Ray Graydon of Villa became the first player to miss a penalty in a Wembley final, and Everton were robbed in the UEFA Cup by AC Milan, and it gutted me that I had to listen to it in secret.  Looking back, I am sure that Rollermania touched the lives of other adolescent boys, but to have ever admitted to a certain fondness for Edinburgh's finest would have been total suicide.  And your schoolmates would have thought you were a 'hom' (the ultimate insult back in those unenlightened times).  The album spawned - perhaps surprisingly - only one number one and, in fact, only a couple of singles.  Strange, with hindsight, as every track (mainly penned by the legendary Chinn / Chapman duo) had 'hit' written all over it.  As it was, one other number one record later (the gorgeous 'Give a Little Love'), the Rollers were no more.  Acrimony and attrition followed them around, and, today, all of the band appear to be on their uppers.  This is criminal (possibly literally), as conservative estimates suggest that they should have earned at least 10 million sovs each during their heyday.
 
Ongoing legal battles withstanding, Woody and Alan have disappeared, Derek has been convicted on a kiddie-porn rap, the twat, but Les and Eric soldier on, separately (and depressingly) - each claiming to be the authentic Rollers.  Indeed, I saw the other week that Les was playing  a gig in Warrington, whilst Eric (bizarrely, along with Dave Sharp of the Alarm) was appearing in St Helens.  To my shame, I never went to either show; preferring to listen, again, to 'Once Upon A Star', whilst, reaching out through the mists of time and hearing a mass of girls,  ever so faintly, chanting 'B.A.Y B.A.Y B.A.Y C.I.T.Y, with an R.O.L.L.E.R.S, Bay City Rollers are the best'.  One male voice is clearly audible, though.  Yes, that's me in the corner  . . . .
 
Track Listing 
 
Bye Bye Baby
The Disco Kid
La Belle Jeane
When Will You Be Mine
Angel Baby
Keep on Dancing
Once Upon A Star
Let's Go
Marlina
My Teenage Heart
Rock and Roll Honeymoon
Hey Beautiful Dreamer
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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