Apr 08

BAY CITY ROLLERS – “Give A Little Love”

FT + Popular102 comments • 5,562 views

#374, 19th July 1975

A few entries ago I compared “Oh Boy” to Westlife, which got a few commenters disagreeing. The boyband genes of “Give A Little Love”, though, are far less recessive, and when the Rollers amble into that chorus like a tram on a track you can almost see them bestooled and swaying. There’s enough rock in the rollers for the song to play out with an incongruous and entertaining guitar solo (nodding back to the Beatles’ “Something” if I’m not mistaken) but mostly this is purest plod, with yet another hand-wringingly sincere spoken passage to sap us further. It’s pretty enough, though, and there’s something almost endearing about how brazenly it presses its various buttons – but only almost. There’s no harm in it, but no delight either.



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  1. 31
    mike on 3 Apr 2008 #

    I remember a one-off TV drama from around this time, starring Tim Curry as an embittered, bewildered, frustrated and increasingly angry survivor of the idealistic, “rock and roll will change everything” 1960s, now working as a local radio DJ, and being obliged to play “production line pap”, while slipping in tunes like “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” wherever he could, and ranting emotionally on air about “where did it all go wrong”. (Part Johnnie Walker, part Tony Blackburn?)

    His nemesis comes in the form of an insipid boyband called something like The Natterjacks, clearly moulded on the Bay City Rollers, whose characterless commercialism Curry finds intolerable. He develops a fixation with one of their teenage fans, and stages a “meet the band” competition (“Which Natterjack would you like to go on holiday with, and where?”) in order to award her the winning entry (“I’d like to go to Kenya with Ken, so I could see more of his lovely sun tan.”), and thus to meet her in person. She turns out to be the very apotheosis of Normal, and when he realises he can’t get through to her or make her see the world in a different way (“You don’t actually LIKE this shit, do you?” “Yeah, it’s good”), he flips out, rants and rages, makes her cry etc.

    In other words, its assumptions are about as rockist as you can get. And somehow, it’s a play which could only have been written in 1975.

  2. 32
    Billy Smart on 3 Apr 2008 #

    That play is ‘City Sugar’, by a young Stephen Poliakoff.

  3. 33
    mike on 3 Apr 2008 #

    Oh blimey! And, er, IMDB says it was screened in 1978!

  4. 34
    mike on 3 Apr 2008 #

    Aha, but Wikipedia says it was first performed on stage in October 1975. The theory stands!

  5. 35

    (good rule of thumb for the late 60s through to the late 70s — TV takes c.3 years to catch up with the pop zeitgeist)

    (also haha that it’s procul harum being treated as the holy flame of — what? — 60s idealism? *prog* idealism? i love “white shade” obv but k-blimey o’reillyXoR as we used to say) (or was the subtle subtext — easy to miss when small? — actually that ms normal was korrekt abt pop, and tim curry was being a weirdo idiot innit?)

  6. 36

    cf also “Jumping Bean Bag” in 1976 (again with curry, which is abt public school glam*): also rock follies of course

    *scroll down for extended synopsis which i briefly posted in its entirety by mistake

  7. 37

    i think it’s the “oh that it has come down to this” response to the rollers — with rollermania compared sourly to beatlemania, and all the possibility the latter supposedly opened up — is important, however good or lame the plays being written about it were (tho i’d like to see jumping bean bag again — i watched it at the time, aged 16, at a school not so far from the one depicted, and was VERY sceptical)

    anyway, malcolm mclaren saw something in this kind of project that tam paton missed — or knew but didn’t dare chase: there’s even an early, never-used photoshoot of the pistols as abused rentboys, and this deadly dodgy territory was what mr sitationist was definitely after stirring up

    (off-topic a bit, but i’ve *always* hated tim curry — he wreckes everything he’s in for me)

  8. 38
    Billy Smart on 3 Apr 2008 #

    See Simon Reynolds and Joy Press’ ‘The Sex Revolts’ for a very good critique of McLaren’s preoccupation with sexual exploitation of the young in his projects, culminating with Bow Wow Wow. He doesn’t come out of it very well.

  9. 39
    Lena on 3 Apr 2008 #

    Is the line “Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust” about the Rollers? I never thought of it that way, and in fact once read it was about The Knack…

    Tim Curry is grating.

    Isn’t ‘punk’ an old term for a rentboy, a male prostitute?

  10. 40

    to be honest i’d prefer mclaren’s badboy provocation to simonR’s panicky anti-sex prissiness in this particular territory*: malky puts on scary mask, easily impressed critic confuses mask with actual-real demon of the night, moralistic hilarity ensues

    haha i never thought of that either, re the clash — i am loth to grant them that much latitude, but of course i am a notorious hater!

    and yes, punk means exactly that — ’53rd and 3rd” is where the rentboys hung around for clients, dressed like the ramones! it all fits!

    (*ps simon is an old friend and longtime foe who is of course wrong about EVERYTHING EVER) (if yr reading simon, which i know you occasionally are)

  11. 41
    mike on 3 Apr 2008 #

    And I’m sure we’re all familiar with the other Rollers-to-punk connection, via Martin & Coulter/Slik/Midge Ure/Malcolm McLaren…

  12. 42
    Billy Smart on 3 Apr 2008 #

    Well, McLaren did enourage the rest of the band to have sex with Lewin and think that it would be a fantastic lark to attempt to turn the Cambridge rapist into a cult icon. Finding all of this distasteful isn’t really being “anti-sex”, surely?

  13. 43

    worth remembering that most of grisliest stories about evil MM come *FROM MM HIMSELF* — and are not the truer for his being source! so i will stay agnostic about that first one for now — mclaren is the person who said, you know what, this [whoever]mania thing is ABOUT TEENAGE SEXUAL URGES AND EXPLOITATION of SAME, let’s put that absolutely upfront and talk about it out loud and see what happens? which he did

    mclaren: “i am going to present myself as behaving in a way that makes me look really unpleasant”
    unwary critic: “mclaren’s behaviour is really unpleasant”

    mm’s demystification of industry process depended precisely on him, mm, playing the prancing worst cynical demon at the centre — keeping his hands clean they’d never have had the force they did — i am pretty ambivalent about a lot of mm’s projects, which spun badly out of control with many people getting hurt (or worse), but y’know, i myself (as a professional critic) am also an result of some of them: i am super-wary of the retrospective critique which says, “think how much more effective this would have been if the horrible rubbish bits hadn’t been there”, cz i’m not sure it WOULD have been more effective…

    anyway we surely really ARE straying into spoiler-bunny territory here! i promise i will also carefully reread sex revolts before the number one at issue (oh not it wasn’t!) (OH YES IT WAS!) and see if i’m being unfair

  14. 44
    Billy Smart on 3 Apr 2008 #

    A long way in the future, but I wonder if we’ll also be getting the two other number ones that they lied about and said that they weren’t, once we get to 1981 and 1990…

  15. 45
    rosie on 3 Apr 2008 #

    Is there any evidence for ‘lying’ apart from anecdotal evidence and speculation?

  16. 46
    Billy Smart on 3 Apr 2008 #

    1990: Statistics show that both records sold precisely the same amount, but the chart company put the (inferior) one – whose sales had increased by the higher percentage that week – at number one.

    1981: I only knew about this one because Marcello has written about it, but it was deemed ineligible for the charts because it was sold too cheaply.

    1977; Despite this being a thrice-told tale, I really don’t know.

    So, if not “lied” then certainly “did not permit the highest-selling single of that week to be listed at number one in the charts” in at least two instances…

  17. 47

    (if that’s a question about mclaren, rosie, i’m going to hold my fire on the answer till we get to his chiefest and most infamous project)

  18. 48

    (by which time i may with luck have learned to read billy’s posts more carefully — ignore me)

  19. 49
    Caledonianne on 3 Apr 2008 #

    Back to the Rollers. I think this is humdrum in the extreme.

    Some of you may be interested in the WTF??? moment I had last week. After watching the Curse of Comedy: Hancock and Joan thing on BBC4 last week, I felt inspired to read a wee bit more about Ken Stott (he was in my mind as a few days earlier I had watched an episode of Taggart from 1985 in which he featured)

    I had a quick look at his Wikipedia entry, which claims that for three years in his teens he was a member of an Edinburgh band called Keyhole, members of which went on to form the BCR. In the “January” thread the observation that David Paton and Billy Lyall of Pilot had passed through the Roller ranks was mentioned. But an association with Ken Stott??? I’d never have guessed that!

  20. 50
    crag on 3 Apr 2008 #

    Re#46-I don’t know anything about the “fake” number 1 in 1981 but there was a genuine ‘lost’ charttopper at the end of the previous year- unless thats what you’re talking about, Billy?

  21. 51
    Billy Smart on 3 Apr 2008 #

    I don’t know anything about the 1980 record – and will be interested to find out! The 1981 one would certainly have been one of the most audacious – and deeply serious – things to have ever been Number 1, had it been permitted.

  22. 52
    Tom on 3 Apr 2008 #

    No plans to cover the 1981 one, and probably not the 1990 one, monstrous injustice though it was! I could be persuaded on either of those.

    There are good ‘narrative’ reasons for including the 1977 one though and it seems likely. But we’ll get to it soon enough (if I manage to keep up the current pace).

  23. 53
    crag on 4 Apr 2008 #

    Trying to avoid spoilers here- though since its not “official” number 1s we’re discussing i dont know if it really matters- the 1980 “lost” number 1 was a christmas song recorded 8 years previously. Does that help, Billy?
    Any ‘clues’ to help me work out the v intriguing-sounding 1981 hit that was sold “too cheaply”? Just to make a stab in the dark- was it recorded by a US solo artist who later became romantically linked to a famously grumpy rock legend?

  24. 54
    intothefireuk on 4 Apr 2008 #

    Clearly the Rollers were riding the wave having previously released better candidates than this for the number one spot. It’s pretty insipid stuff but has a certain naive charm. As did the Rollers themselves which I would say was the main reason why I would prefer them over the Wastelife boys. Both cynically put together by their respective managers but at least the Rollers attempted to be a band and more importantly they didn’t try and dance ! What would Johnny Walker have done to the WL singles ?

  25. 55
    Billy Smart on 4 Apr 2008 #

    No, it was made by a notorious anarchist collective, a song about one of the most horrifying and bloody incidents towards the end of the second world war. The alternative, official, number one was also a story about the same country, and is about as different from this song as its possible for two singles to be!

  26. 56
    rosie on 4 Apr 2008 #

    I’m thoroughly confuzzled now…

  27. 57
    Mark G on 4 Apr 2008 #

    Nope, neither are clicking in for me.

  28. 58
    Marcello Carlin on 4 Apr 2008 #

    First of all, for the 95% of regulars here who don’t know what I look like (and I have been scrupulous about not posting photos of myself on t’web), I have been told by numerous people (not least my first wife) that I bear some striking physical resemblance to Ken “Rebus” Stott (or Ken “Taking Over The Asylum” Stott since I still think that’s one of the best things he’s done on TV) so you have been warned…

    (though the eyes are definitely Italianate rather than Scottish/Stottish)

    Now, to what I call the “phantom” number ones, and these break down as follows:

    1. 1976 – the shortest-lived number one ever, since it was announced as number one on Johnnie Walker’s Tuesday lunchtime show before the BMRB realised that they’d missed out a whole day’s worth of sales figures, hurriedly recalculated the chart and produced the correct one in time for the Tuesday teatime recapitulation, by which time the chart-topper in question had been demoted to third place.

    2. 1977 – Jubilee week, say no more (though clearly there’ll be a lot to say when Popular gets there)…

    3. 1981 (1) – first chart of the year. At the time the Christmas chart officially stood for two weeks but the BMRB usually privately compiled a list for the missing week. In general this hardly varied from the Christmas chart at all but in this particular missing week one single was found to have overtaken the official number one in sales. But by the time the next chart had been compiled it was overtaken by another single and therefore never formally reached the top.

    4. 1990 – equal sales for top two singles but instead of awarding a joint number one as they should have done, Gallup gave the top spot to the single whose sales had increased more over the previous seven days.

    5. 1981 (2) – there is still a question mark of sorts over this, but at this time I was working weekends and holidays in a chart return shop in Glasgow and I saw all the various data printouts which the BMRB sent routinely after the new chart had been issued which showed ALL sales figures. For two weeks (weeks ending 11 and 18 April, to be precise) there was a single which was clearly outselling the official number one but which had been “disqualified” due to chart compilation rules which said that singles had to retail at a certain minimum price. At the time the mininum was 59p and this particular single was selling at 49p. This was undoubtedly at least in part a political manoeuvre since the act’s records were banned from a major nationwide record shop chain until well into the nineties.

    IDs to come as and when the time comes, unless you can guess them…

  29. 59
    Marcello Carlin on 4 Apr 2008 #

    Further re. #27: Hitler thought his stuff was magnificent so that argument doesn’t really work.

  30. 60
    crag on 4 Apr 2008 #

    I know #s 1-4 but have no idea as to the identity of #5 whatsoever! I’ve worked out the subject matter( i think) thru Billy’s clues but am still drawing a blank. A “notorious anarchist collective”?!Nope, i’m stumped..
    As for the other 1981 phantom a further really obvious clue to those still pondering-it was a posthumous number one…
    come on i’m practically giving it to you now!

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