ORIGINAL voice of the Bay City Rollers Nobby Clark is in reflective mood.
In the past six weeks he has lost two of his band mates from back in the day; founding member and bassist Alan Longmuir, who died at the beginning of July after a short illness, and Archie Marr, one of the Rollers’ early keyboard players, who was found dead in his home in the South Side after a fire last month.
“I heard about Archie’s death a couple of days after Alan’s funeral, it came completely out of the blue,” says Nobby, who regarded both as close friends.
Of all the many Rollers to have left the band before the advent of Rollermania in 1974, it was Archie with whom Nobby kept in touch.
Both left the group shortly after they scored their first Top 10 hit with Keep On Dancin’, which secured the Rollers their Top of The Pops debut in 1971.
Nobby recalls, “As a teenager, Archie worked in Dandi Boutique on Rose Street, one of the first designer clothes shops in the city, and then at Our Man, a cracking shop.”
It was while working there that Archie joined his first band, popular local outfit Tandem.
“Tandem were looking for a keyboard player and asked him to join them,” says the singer.
“That was in 1970, Archie was 17. Tandem often supported the Rollers in places like the Top Storey Club, The Gamp, The International Club and McGoos,” continues Nobby, explaining, “Rollers’ manager Tam Paton was getting them gigs and the easiest way to do that was to put them on the bill with us.”
Later, when Billy Lyall left the band to form Pilot with another ex-Roller David Paton, Archie was poached from Tandem.
“When Billy left it was kind of a natural progression,” says Nobby, “Tandem and ourselves would share a dressing room so when we needed someone quickly to replace Billy, Archie was promoted.”
Joining the band when they were just about to breakthrough proved tough-going for Archie, who was “a bit of a home boy”.
“We had a map on the wall in Tam’s office in Prestonpans. Everywhere we played, we put a pin in the map.
“It was our intention to have a pin in every town and village in the country. We nearly achieved it,” says Nobby.
“You have to be strong to take that schedule - there were no tour buses, often we’d be travelling in the back of a big van.
“This particular time we played Thurso, then Elgin, Fraserburgh, somewhere else then somewhere else and we ended up in Dundee... but the gig the following night was in Bournemouth.
“We didn’t leave Dundee until 1.30am and had to drive overnight despite the fact we were already knackered.
“From Bournemouth we had to go to Andover and then to the Isle of Man.
“That was the cruncher for Archie, that conglomeration of gigs were just too much.
“Going over on the boat to the Isle of Man I remember him saying ‘I think I’ve had enough’.
“I knew then that he was going to leave.
“I know he missed it very, very much and loved his time in the band, but he just couldn’t handle the travel.”
Archie left the Bay City Rollers at the beginning of 1972 and went into the bar trade, indeed he was manager of The World’s End on the High Street during its darkest period in 1977.
Nobby recalls both he and Archie were present the night 17-year-olds Christine Eadie and Helen Scott were abducted and murdered by serial killer Angus Sinclair.
“All the regulars were questioned and strangely, after that night, the bar actually became more popular as people came out of some morbid curiosity,” remembers Nobby.
From The World’s End, Archie quickly established his next venture, Marr’s Bar on Thistle Street, as one of the city’s best bars.
“His father George, a coal merchant from Liberton, bought two pubs, one for each of his sons, one became Marr’s Bar, the other, Nuggets on Market Street, which his brother David ran,” explains Nobby.
Describing his pal as “an exciting guy to be around” Nobby continues, “He was fanatical about music. His jukebox was the best you could imagine and people still talk about it today; his choice of music was second to none.”
“He also had a real deep interest in cars and loved telling stories. His personality attracted people into the pub, he was perfectly suited to it, but it was a full on job.”
Always busy, the workload took its toll on Archie’s health and personal life.
“He was a workaholic, so his father, wisely, decided to sell the bar,” says his friend.
It wasn’t long before he was back pulling pints, however. By the mid-Eighties, he was running The Cat’s Pyjamas at Abbeyhill before finally moving on to manage Leith Walk’s Boundary Bar.
He gave up the bar trade on being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 13 years ago, and latterly needed round-the-clock care.
Nobby recalls, “I’d been away in London and hadn’t seen him for a while. One day I was driving up The Pleasance when I saw him hanging onto some railings.
“I stopped the car and went over. He had trouble with his legs so I gave him a lift. Wrongly diagnosed, he had been told he had gout.
“Each time I saw him after that I noticed a marked difference. When he became housebound we’d reminisce. I’d take my guitar when I visited and we’d have a right laugh about our time in the band.
“I’d sing and he would join in. It warmed my heart. He’d remember all the old songs and had a great harmonising voice.”
Archie died in a house fire in July. Nobby learned of his death from his brother David.
“It is horrendous because I don’t know, and nobody else knows, the exact circumstances of what happened. It upsets me to think about it.
“I was supposed to see him the week I got the news but had been forced to cancel as I had a hospital appointment.
“I’ll always regret that.”
He adds, “If you spent time with Archie you never forgot it. That was the same for the people who came into his bars too.
“He could be very cheeky but was just a lovely person, which is why we remained friends.
Archie Marr will be laid to rest later this month at Mortonhall Crematorium.
ARCHIE MARR REMEMBERED BY HIS BROTHER DAVID
“Archie was a bright articulate, entertaining guy, who, for whatever reason, people would gravitate towards.
“He had a smile for everyone and really quiet a magnetic personality, but he was just my big brother.
“He enjoyed many highlights in his life and sadly experienced some devastating lows in the later years.
“We were at school together at George Heriot’s. Even back then Archie was musical. He loved to go to McGoos on the High Street and see all the bands of the day.
“After playing with a few local bands, he joined The Rollers. It was all very exciting for me, then in my late teens, to come home in the evening and find young girls sitting outside my parents house.
“It was cool to be Archie Marr’s wee brother.
“I will never forget when we all sat in my parents’ house and watched their Top of the Pops appearance. My parents were bursting with pride.
“That appearance also boosted my popularity and made me very popular with the fans, but I quickly realised all they wanted to do was talk about Archie. One even called out his name when we were in the final throws of passion.
“From there he entered the bar trade and Marr’s Bar was opened on Thistle Street. He really had found his comfort zone.
“He loved it and the fact he was working for the family business was a huge bonus.
“After working in various bars he was diagnosis with Primary Progressive MS – the most aggressive type you can get. After 12 years and continuous hospital stays, he was housebound and in need of constant care.
“I know the past few years, after my dad himself became housebound, he was beyond grateful for Nobby Clark and Alan Paterson, the drummer in Tandem, keeping in touch with Archie.
“To then lose his life in a fire seems just the worst end to such a colourful character.
“I grew up, worked with and stood side-by-side this entertaining, but very complex man I was always proud to call my brother.
“He will be missed, but not easily forgotten. Love and respect to my big brother. Brave till the end.”