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In the last eight or nine months, fans of veteran rockers the Bay City Rollers have been well and truly spoiled.
Indeed, after years of silence, 2016 has been a vintage one for followers of the tartan-clad Seventies sensations; what with the big reunion which saw Les McKeown, Alan Longmuir and Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood rocking once again to the Shang-A-Lang sound of the music at a series of sell-out gigs in the UK, talk of a new world tour, and the promise of a brand new album to follow soon.
Halcyon days. Or at least that’s how it looked until the cracks began to appear during the BCR’s recent appearance at T in the Park, after which ‘Woody’ said ‘bye bye baby’ to the band for a second time, before telling the red-tops that McKeown’s ‘greed’ had forced him to hang up his tartan breeks.
It was but the latest twist in a tale so unbelievable you couldn’t make it up.
As anyone who knows the tumultuous backstory of the Edinburgh band will tell you, though, there’s always drama where these guys are concerned. The history books show that the BCR’s stole the hearts of teeny-boppers everywhere on their way to becoming the biggest thing since The Beatles, only to self-destruct in spectacular fashion just a few years later. Then came years of acrimony as former members of the band fought for the millions they were owed but never received – a bitter legal battle that’s still raging on to this day.
If the story of the Bay City Rollers had been written for a novel or a screenplay, the entire plot would have been laughed at simply for being too nonsensical to be believed. As is so often the case, though, truth is stranger than fiction, and all of this drama, and plenty more, combine to make I Ran With The Gang riveting viewing – and not only for Rollers fans, but for anyone who likes a good yarn.
The show, written by award-winning playwright Liam Rudden (Thief, Silence In Court, Conflict In Court), is a celebration of those heady days of hit songs, hectic touring schedules, Top of the Pops appearances and the behind-the-scenes pandemonium that followed the Edinburgh band everywhere they went.
At its core, the play reveals the story of Longmuir, the original Bay City Roller. It’s fun, fast-paced, and features a set of the Rollers’ biggest hits, including Bye Bye Baby and Shang-A-Lang.
That the show ends with a Q&A with Longmuir himself is a neat touch, and on the night AAA caught the show, the one-time teen heartthrob answered the audience’s questions sincerely, before revealing that he has plans to record new music of his own – “maybe with a country and western flavour”.
But while this is very much Longmuir’s story, he’s not the only star of the show. Indeed, the entire cast are brilliant. Stephen Arthur expertly portrays a youthful Longmuir during the biographical part of the show, which tells the story of the Rollers’ meteoric rise, capturing both the young wannabe’s starry-eyed enthusiasm and his boy-next-door appeal. He was, after all, just a plumber from Edinburgh who dreamed of being a pop star.
John McColl is fantastic throughout, too, doubling up as both the show’s narrator and Tam Paton, the band’s pantomime villain of a manager. Stephen Humpage, meanwhile, completes the cast as frontman McKeown, doing a fine job lending his vocals to hits like All Of Me Loves All Of You, Saturday Night and Bye Bye Baby – all of which get the audience on their feet for a mass singalong towards the end of the show.
Now enjoying its third Fringe season at Le Monde, I Ran With The Gang offers a fantastic night of Seventies-tinged nostalgia. Highly recommended.
I Ran With The Gang, Le Monde Hotel, 5-28 August, 7pm, 0131-226 0000, www.edfringe.com
Photo credit: @susanrostron.com