Bay City Rollers legend recalls rollin’ into Edinburgh’s Odeon

Alan Longmuir, Stuart Wood ('Woody'), Derek Longmuir, Les McKeown and Eric Faulkner of the Bay City Rollers backstage at the Odeon cinema before their concert in April 1975. Pic: TSPL
Alan Longmuir, Stuart Wood ('Woody'), Derek Longmuir, Les McKeown and Eric Faulkner of the Bay City Rollers backstage at the Odeon cinema before their concert in April 1975. Pic: TSPL

THEY had played there just a year before, but nothing could have prepared brothers Alan and Derek Longmuir for the reception the band they’d founded nearly a decade before would receive when they played The Odeon on the 29th April 1975.

Rollermania had arrived in the Capital and The Bay City Rollers were at the heart of the maelstrom - fans ripped their clothes, grabbed them for kisses, and Alan recalls he once lost his shoes fleeing down a fire-escape.

Alan Longmuir of The Bay City Rollers. Picture: Greg Macvean

Alan Longmuir of The Bay City Rollers. Picture: Greg Macvean

“That Odeon gig was mental,” recalls the legendary bass player. “The band’s name was on huge signs everywhere and people had been sleeping out to get tickets. I’d only ever seen that before with The Beatles.”

Now 69-years-old, Alan continues, “Usually before a gig, we’d all meet in my house on Caledonian Road, then head along in the van.

“That day, we went in earlier for the sound check, but the place was already a sea of tartan and we had to get out the van and try to creep in without being noticed.”

Once inside what was arguably the cities best-loved live music venue of the seventies, the madness continued.

Stuart Wood ('Woody') and Alan Longmuir of the Bay City Rollers backstage at the Odeon cinema before their concert in April 1975. Picture: TSPL

Stuart Wood ('Woody') and Alan Longmuir of the Bay City Rollers backstage at the Odeon cinema before their concert in April 1975. Picture: TSPL

“I felt sorry for the support act because all they could hear throughout their set were chants of ‘We want the Rollers’.

“We had been playing the likes of America and Germany... or where ever it was at that time, and it was huge buzz to come back and play our hometown.”

By the time the Rollers’ got on stage, however, it was mayhem.

“The Odeon had a cracking atmosphere because of its massive stage.

“There were bouncers and photographers all along the front of it... you just went on, smiled at everybody, gave them the odd wave, and did the gig. “You couldn’t really take it in, but we were that well rehearsed, as soon as we walked on stage, we went for it.

“The screaming was so loud you couldn’t hear yourself, we could have been playing Humpty Dumpty and they’d never have known.”

As the screams soared, the tears poured and the fainting began, the St John’s Ambulance personal sprung into action, and then when the concert ended, Alan, Derek, Les, Eric and Woody, had to escape the venue.

“There were lines of police officers holding the fans back at the stage door,” says Alan, “and when they cleared a path through them they’d yell, ‘Get in the car! Get in the car!’ We’d have to run. It was quite frighting.

“They even had decoy vans set up that night to put them off the scent. We actually ended up in a panda car, if I remember correctly, which took us away from the Odeon.

“Then we transferred into our van which was waiting to take is to our hide-away, which was outside Edinburgh.”

At the time, The Odeon was a mainstay of the city’s live music scene.

Indeed, throughout the decade, everyone who was anyone, from Bob Dylan to Lou Reed, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band to The Boomtown Rats, Blondie to Paul McCartney, played the Clerk Street cinema.

For Alan, who just a few years before had been playing three gigs a night in and around the Capital, it was a very different world to the one to which he’d been used.

He says, “We were discovered in a club called The Caves, on Blair Street. It was like The Cavern in Liverpool. That night it had just been painted black, in fact, the paint was still dripping from the walls.

“Producers had come up from London to see other bands, but our agent Ronnie Simpson brought them to see us.

“As they came down the stairs, a rush of girls knocked them over in their haste to get to the stage. The producers couldn’t believe it. They thought it was great.”

Having formed the band (originally called The Saxons) in 1966 with his brother Derek, cousin Neil Porteous, Nobby Clark and Dave Pettigrew, Alan had been gigging for the best part of fives years when they were ‘discovered overnight’.

“By that point we were on top dollar, £40 a gig,” he recalls, “and we’d sometimes play three gigs a night.

“We’d start by playing The Top Storey Club at 8pm, then head out to Penicuik to do another gig and then come back to do a late show at The International on Princes Street, until 2am.”

The International, also known as The Nash, was on three floors, sometimes we’d play the top floor and our roadies would have to get all our stuff up the fire escape so that nobody saw us.

“We’d have to help out - it wasn’t a glamorous life, carrying your own amps and stuff.

Dressing rooms too were often less than salubrious.

“Some were cupboards, some were toilets. In other places we’d get changed under the stairs,” laughs Alan.

“The Top Storey was the worst of all because you had to get changed in the boiler- house, which was full of coal.

“You had to put paper down before you got changed.”

Of course, all that had changed by the time The Rollers returned to the Capital to play The Odeon in 1975, they would play the venue a third time in 1976, but as Alan discovered, fame came with an unexpected price - he could no longer indulge his love of watching live bands.

“I did go to a club once,” he says, with a wry smile.

“I went to the White Elephant, which became Valentino’s, on the way home one night.

“I remember, I’d just walked in when the guy on the door took one look at me and said, ‘Put a bouncer with him’.

“He stuck with me all night. Funnily enough, I walked home afterwards on my own and wasn’t bothered once.”

See Alan in I Ran With The Gang, Le Monde Hotel, George Street, 4-18 August, 7pm, £15, 0131-226 0000