Alan Longmuir talks of new Fringe play

Alan Longmuir. Picture:  Greg Macvean
Alan Longmuir. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A TARTAN scarf is waving in the air, women with arms wrapped around each other are squealing and dancing to the music. The sound of the Bay City Rollers has a crowd on their feet once again.

Roller Alan Longmuir is on stage. A bit rounder and a lot older than he was back when his mere presence in a room was met with fainting females and screams so loud that he couldn’t hear what he was playing on his guitar, but he’s loving every moment.

As the music winds up, a couple of middle-aged women tentatively approach, clutching mobile phones so they can capture of snap of themselves with their one-time heartthrob.

“I was your biggest fan,” blushes one. “I used to go to see you at the Nash.”

“Oh, I’ve waited 40 years for this!” giggles another.

As they leave, fumbling with their Facebook status update, Shang-A-Lang still ringing in their ears, Alan, now 66 and living the life of a redundant plumber in Bannockburn, admits it’s fan adoration of a type he’s not seen for a long time.

“I’m absolutely buzzing,” he says, grinning ear to ear, hands shaking a little bit because getting up on stage in your home town and hearing someone tell your life story, before you rewind the years and get back to playing, is more than a little bit terrifying.

“I was shaking life a leaf before we started. It’s totally surreal, but it’s the best thing I’ve done in ages,” he laughs, waving as the last of the audience who have just enjoyed his first ever Fringe show file out.

“My wife, Eileen, told me to go for it – she was sick of me just hanging around the house, getting in her way.

“I’m glad I did, because I’m loving it.”

He is sitting upstairs at George Street hotel Le Monde gasping for a pint of export.

It’s here where every evening for around 90 minutes, the years roll back precisely four decades to the early Seventies, back to Rollermania, to white baggy trousers trimmed with tartan, garish stripy socks and bright red Chopper bikes, screaming lassies and the purest sing-along pop from one of the biggest boy bands ever.

By the time the opening bars to Shang-A-Lang kick in and Alan is on stage, guitar slung around his neck and his tartan waistcoat tightly buttoned, there’s barely a soul – from the middle-aged women reliving their schoolgirl Roller fixation to grandkids brought along to see the legendary Mr Longmuir who end up dancing – who doesn’t join in with the chorus.

It’s not the biggest gig he’s ever done – it’s certainly a world away from the manic scenes of that greeted the five Edinburgh lads at the peak of their fame. But what matters most to Alan is he’s back doing what he loves – performing live.

“I feel great,” he smiles. “It’s like going back in time. I’ve not done this for a long time and it’s brilliant.”

The show, penned by Evening News entertainment editor Liam Rudden, is a combination of drama, Rollers hits and a brief question and answer session with the man himself, sitting slightly awkwardly and a bit nervous on the stage. His first comments are a reminder to the audience that he’s not as young or quite as slim as he used to be.

So far the questions have been reasonably restrained, with fans asking about “your biggest gig?” and “will you reform?”.

“I’d like to, but there’s too much politics involved,” he replies.

As Alan admits, there is plenty he could reveal, but some things are probably best left unsaid.

Such as the wild fans – “I once opened my wardrobe and there were two of them inside,” he says with a twinkle in his eye – to partying with The Who’s Keith Moon, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham and Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore, and the drugs which he now admits he tried but preferred a pint to the dizzy weirdness of LSD which made the keys on his piano fly into the air. Then there’s the squabbles and that seemingly never-ending legal wrangle over what on earth has happened to the multi-million-pound fortune the Rollers generated during their spell as the biggest band in the world.

“I look back on it and it was really incredible, you couldn’t have made it up. I met everyone, but it was a case of just nodding and saying ‘Hi’ and moving along,” he says.

“I was in a bar in the States with my girlfriend at the time, she nudged me and said ‘look who’s behind you’ and I turned around and it was Robert Redford. We just nodded and said ‘hello’ and that was it.”

As for the squealing fans – now morphed into quite sensible middle-aged women who still go slightly to bits when they realise they are in the presence of one of the Rollers – Alan admits it’s almost like having had two lives.

“I sit outside underneath the poster for the show with my cap on and people stop, look at it and say ‘Look, it’s Alan Longmuir out of the Rollers, quite fancy seeing that’, and I’m sitting right there, drinking my pint and they don’t realise it’s me.”

The show, which coincides with the 40th anniversary of the band’s first big taste of success, tells how Alan went from music fan to playing with the world’s biggest boy band – the One Direction of their day. It reveals how Alan would hide from the band’s overpowering manager, Tam Paton, at his uncle Arthur’s flat and escape screaming fans by disappearing to Ryries at Haymarket for a quiet pint.

It has received standing ovations after every 
performance.

“I’ve had nice messages from Woody and Eric,” says Alan. “They have been in touch saying they hope it goes well. It would be nice if they came along but I can’t see it, they are very private.

“I’m just really enjoying being back on stage again,” he adds. “It makes a change from just sitting at home. In fact, it’s brilliant.”

• And I Ran With The Gang is Upstairs at Le Monde in George Street, venue 408, Sunday to Thursday, until August 21. Tickets £12 (£10).