Liam Rudden: Rollers can still reduce women to tears

Alan Longmuir with Ewan Petrie who plays young Alan in And I Ran With The Gang. Picture: contributed
Alan Longmuir with Ewan Petrie who plays young Alan in And I Ran With The Gang. Picture: contributed
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BYE, Bye Baby (Baby Bye Bye)... the year was 1975 and suddenly I was aware of this tartan-clad band from Edinburgh called The Bay City Rollers.

That was exciting. Chart-toppers were usually exotic creatures from Planet Pop, not working class lads from down the road.

Yet here they were, Alan, Woody, Les, Derek and Eric on Top Of The Pops and the cover of just about every music magazine on the stands. Rollermania had arrived.

Four decades on and Alan Longmuir, the man who started the band back in the 60s, way before they scored more than a million sales and a No 1 hit with the aforementioned Four Seasons cover, has become a mate.

It’s one of those connections in life that makes me smile while at the same time leaving me a little bemused, especially when sitting in the pub listening to a lifetime of showbiz tales over a pint or two.

Which is how we come to be working together on And I Ran With The Gang, a Fringe show penned for Alan, who modestly, to this day, still claims to be nothing more than “a plumber frae Edinburgh”.

Albeit one with a few tales to tell.

Of course, he is much more. In pop terms, the 67-year-old who formed the group heralded “the biggest band since The Beatles” is a legend.

You can tell by the reaction of people when they meet him. The first time I fully comprehended the power of Rollermania was while directing another play a few years ago. Alan was a guest, sitting in the front row with his wife, Eileen.

At the end of one performance, a slightly embarrassed man approached him.

“Sorry to bother you mate,” he blushed, “but the wife wonders if she can have a photo with you.”

“The wife” duly came forward, a lady of a certain age, she took one look at Alan, he said, “Hello,” and she promptly burst into tears.

“Oh Alan, ah’ve loved you for years,” she smiled through her tears.

Suddenly she was 13 again.

That scenario is repeated time after time at And I Ran With The Gang, which tells Alan’s story.

By the time the man himself arrives on stage for a mini-concert of Rollers hits, the ladies, and some of the men, now all in their 50s and 60s, are teenagers again, on their feet, tartan scarves swaying in the air, and screaming. Yes they really do scream. Not many plumbers get that reaction... the leagacy of the Bay City Rollers and their music in all its glory.

Rollermania it seems is alive and well, but then Shangalang is practically our unofficial National Anthem.

All together now, “We were rippin’ up...”

And I Ran With The Gang, le Monde Hotel, George Street, 6-31 August (not Saturdays), £13-£15, 0131-226 0000