FOR nearly five decades Alan Longmuir, the original Bay City Roller, has sang Shang-a-lang and ran with the gang but nothing could have prepared him for the twist of fate that has rocketed him back into the spotlight at the age of 67.
Last Sunday, he took the stage of Glasgow’s Barrowlands for the first of four sell-out reunion concerts with Les McKeown and Stuart “Woody” Wood.
It was the first time the three had played a gig together in 15 years. Tomorrow they do it all again at the Usher Hall.
“It was as though I had stepped back in time,” Alan said. “As I plugged in my guitar, I looked out onto a mass of tartan-clad fans, all screaming. It was just like old times.
“It was something I never expected to experience again in my lifetime. Amazing.”
The last time the Rollers played their home town they were fronting the Millennium Hogmanay celebrations in Princes Street Gardens. Before that their most famous Capital gig had been at the Odeon on Clerk Street in 1975, when dozens of fans fainted at the sight of their idols.
“It’s great to be in Edinburgh again,” said Alan, who was brought up in Dalry. “But I will always remember the Odeon, that was madness. Afterwards, they had to get us away. The others said, ‘We’re staying at Melrose Castle’, which was one of our hide-outs, but I said ‘I’m going hame,’ and headed back to 5 Caley Road to have a party.”
No 5 Caledonian Road is where it all started for the Rollers.
The Longmuir family home, the front room was where Alan formed his first band, The Saxons, and where he famously stuck a pin in a map of America to give that band the name that would make them world famous.
It was also the room where they first met a young Leslie McKeown.
“My first ever gig with The Saxons was at the Cairns Memorial Church Hall on Gorgie Road,” remembered Alan.
At that first gig the band consisted of Alan, his brother Derek on drums, their cousin Neil Porteous and school pal Nobby Clark on vocals.
Even then, Alan could attract an audience – 300 turned up for their debut.
In 1971, shortly after changing the band’s name, the Bay City Rollers scored their first top ten hit with Keep On Dancing, but it wasn’t until Les, Eric Faulkner and Woody joined a couple of years later that the Rollers would change the face of pop forever.
“John Peel helped us get Keep On Dancing to No 9. At that time it took about six months to break into the charts, not like today where it’s instant . . . or not, as the case may be,” recalled Alan.
“Then Nobby just left, I still don’t know why, and we needed a new singer. Les came to 5 Caley Road and we agreed he should come with us to a gig in Ayrshire.
“I remember I had to do most of the singing because he was so nervous.
“He’s certainly not nervous now and is one of the finest frontmen you could ask for. I was never a frontman. I was always happier in the background.
“All I want to do is to have fun, play my guitar and get paid . . . a lot,” he said, a nod to the Bay City Rollers’ financial problems which are as legendary as the group.
Those toils will be put to one side tomorrow, however, when the Bay City Rollers play the Usher Hall, a venue that holds a special memory for Alan, as he’s played it before.
“Aye, in a white shirt and school tie,” he said. “I was 15 and singing in the Tynecastle School choir.”
And as he prepares to entertain his home crowd with the band that has been part of his life for so long, he said: “For four days I had an absolute ball in Glasgow, the highlight being inducted into the Barrowlands Hall of Fame. Now it’s time to do it all again for Edinburgh.
“I’m not being funny, but I find it amazing that people are coming from as far as Japan to see us and I’ve noticed that, while in the early days it was all girls, this time, there are so many men in the audience too... and they are loving it.
“I don’t know what the secret is. For me it’s all about having fun – I love when we go off after Shang-a-lang, then come back for the encore. I’m going to miss it when it’s over.”
Chances are, he won’t miss it for long. He said: “There are plans to tour America and Japan and my show I Ran With The Gang is going to Canada.
“I’m also excited we’re doing the BBC Hogmanay Show with Jackie Bird.”
Rollermania is alive and screaming, it would appear.
n Bay City Rollers, Usher Hall, Lothian Road, tomorrow and Monday, doors 7pm, Sold Out (returns on door)