Looking for Roller revelations? Best keep looking. Alan Longmuir was one of the founding members of the Bay City Rollers, playing bass with younger brother Derek playing drums but here’s not just a shortage of kiss here, there’s not much tell either.
Longmuir sets out his stall at the start of the book – “I will not be dishing dirt, speculating, commenting or making any shocking revelations about the personal lives about any of my band colleagues. What happened or didn’t happen is their business and not for me to judge”. Not only has any debauchery been airbrushed out, there’s a general lack of substance, suggesting that Longmuir wanted to make money (nothing wrong with that), as easily as possible, leaving boats unrocked.
The early days of hard graft on the Scottish “chicken in a basket” circuit, building a fan base, hoping for the big time are an entertaining read. Unfortunately, once the Rollers become a teenage tartan cult and “Rollermania” becomes a thing, all the spectacular somehow becomes pedestrian. We learn almost nothing about the other band members – towards the end Longmuir makes reference to Stuart Wood having issues with him but without any further comment as to why. Longmuir explains how his role became that of peace maker in the group, and how wearing that was, but gives no examples of the type of conflict he faced.
He does address the issue of the Rollers being barely present on their first two albums, something that was routinely cited by critics as evidence of their musical irrelevance. His resentment at the suggestion that this meant that they were poor musicians is obvious. He makes clear that the years of live work the Rollers put in before they hit the big time are testimony to just the opposite. They had no studio experience and so it was quicker and cheaper to hire session guys. Fair enough. But in suggesting the Rollers were judged more harshly than other bands his argument falters. Citing Billy Preston’s contribution to The Beatles as evidence rather misses the point that the Beatles drafted in a keyboard player, not had Ringo’s drums and Paul’s bass played by ringers. That said, Longmuir position is reasonably stated – which is more that can be said for co-writer Martin Knight’s histrionic introduction, which paints the Rollers as victims “intense musical snobbery” and “cultural bullying”. Apparently, people only owned “Tarkus” as a fashion statement and secretly listened to “Tiger Feet”. Resented for their appeal to millions of teenage girls? Yes, clearly. Unappreciated musical geniuses? Hardly. If memory serves I liked ELP even less than the BCR.
Longmuir digs deeper – in part – when discussing late manager Tam Paton. Paton’s manipulation of the band’s image and finances are a recurring theme and Longmuir gives numerous examples of Paton’s duplicity, Longmuir had suspicions, but didn’t know how to do anything about it. His reticence returns when considering Paton’s sexuality, and although he mentions that Paton made advances to him once – he told Paton firmly where to go and was never bothered again. But there’s no reference to the allegations (unproven and never tried in court) made by former Rollers Pat McGlynn and Les McKeown that Paton assaulted them. In a similar vein Paton’s introduction of the band to Jonathan King and Chris Denning garners just a throwaway line about being relieved to read in King’s autobiography that the King didn’t fancy them Longmuir offers no other comment, and no reflections on being the sort of eye candy that Paton obviously liked to use them as.
His later life is set out at considerable pace. Marriages come and go as do heart attacks and even homelessness. We get an insight to his financial hardship and the pleasure he took in getting back to the simple things in life – the outdoors, his mates in the pub. He comes across as a down to earth, stoical guy who having been briefly sprinkled in stardust came to really appreciate friends and family having otherwise been treated very badly by the music business. Sadly, Longmuir died aged 70 just before the book was published. This may have been the book he wanted to write, but I can’t help but think that a lot of the story remains untold.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
One thing you’ve learned
In his local pub, Longmuir’s nickname was “Shang-a-Lang”