Bay City Roller Alan Longmuir recalls time fan camped for hours under his bed

Alan Longmuir on stage in 1978. Picture: Shutterstock
Alan Longmuir on stage in 1978. Picture: Shutterstock
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THE Bay City Rollers had arrived against a backdrop of recessions, three-day weeks, miners’ strikes, power-cuts and terrorism in Northern Ireland and the 
mainland.

Candles were outselling carrots. There was an air of desolation and despair. Those who had lived through the Second World War drew parallels.

And then the Bay City Rollers appeared among the tumbleweed, shimmying, shammying and shonging like flowers in a skip.

I think that the gang thing and the tartan look which we had adopted not only gave us our identity, but it solidified and lit a fire under our fan base.

Girls started copying the tartan look, keeping their mums busy edging their trousers and sleeves with tartan.

They modified their existing clothes to get the style but soon sweat shops across the world would be churning out ready-made Roller clothing for these hungry fans.

Young girls had no voice up until then. Even when Mods and Rockers and skinheads were in vogue, girls were normally seen as mere adjuncts to boys. Suddenly they had a shared identity and a cause.

B-A-Y, B-A-Y, B-A-Y, C-I-T-Y,

With an R-O-double-L, E-R-S

Bay City Rollers are the best.

Eric, Derek, Woody too,

Alan, Leslie, we love you.

This, to the tune of Nick Nack Paddywack, Give a Dog a Bone, was the chant developed by the fans that took hold on our first tour.

That, coupled with the football crowd mantra “We Want The Rollers” that was sweeping the country.

Rollermania took everyone by surprise, including us. Someone said the hysteria spread like snowballs rolling down a hillside.

I remember one night I plonked down on my hotel bed exhausted and heard a little growl. A fan crawled out from underneath it. She had a spiky haircut and looked not unlike Woody, but it was clear she was a young woman.

She must have crept in when the maid was cleaning and waited for hours.

She had a thick Glaswegian accent and fixed her stare on me.

She was trembling, but the determination in her was tangible. “Take me, Alan Longmuir, take me,” she finally said.

I was unsure whether this was an invitation or a threat.

By November 1974 even the often sniffy Melody Maker had declared us the Kings of Pop.

In our home town of Edinburgh, one announcer did not expect, when he urged the crowd to take their seats, that they would do so literally.

The summer of 1975 was our peak in the UK. Bye Bye Baby, our cover of an old Four Seasons hit, was No 1 for six 
weeks.

I remember recording it in the studio. It was one of the rare moments when the whole band were united and happy, and we congratulated each other, knowing we were part of something great. Truly great.

At the end of 1975 our management had decided to break us in America.

We were beamed in live to the Howard Cosell show singing Saturday Night, the song that had flopped for us in the UK a couple of years before. We were an overnight sensation.

We boarded a plane and flew first class to Kennedy Airport in New York into the maelstrom that had been whipped up.

Eleven days earlier nobody in the US had ever heard of us, now landing at the New York airport we were welcomed by hundreds of screaming fans who had managed to lay their hands on tartan clothes and scarves and were chasing us and the crew all around the arrivals hall.

Saturday Night was released in the US at the end of 1975 and was the first number one of 1976 and it spent a healthy 17 weeks on the chart.

Tam said to me that our record company had been told, by Buckingham Palace, to ask us if we would accept MBEs from the Queen if we were offered them.

Tam had indicated that we would. I was sworn to secrecy by Tam but believed this to be true because he seemed genuinely excited which meant, I guess, that he was included in this potential royal recognition too.

When Les’s car accident happened, [On 29 May 1976, 76-year-old Mrs Euphemia Clunie was killed when hit by McKeown’s car while crossing the road], rather than expressing sympathy for the accident victim or Les, Tam whispered to me, “Och, we can kiss guidbye to a visit to the Palace”.

I Ran With The Gang: My Life In and Out of The Bay City Rollers by Alan Longmuir with Martin Knight is published by Luath Press in hardback, priced £14.99.

Launch events are: Friday 23 November, 7.30pm-9.30pm (doors open at 7pm) at Espionage Nightclub, Victoria Street, and Sunday 25 November, 2.30pm-5pm at The Tartan Arms, Bannockburn. Admission to both events is free.