BAY CITY ROLLERS
The mid-1970s were
the golden age for prime-time (or, at least, tea-time) music television
in the UK, with acts as disparate as Arrows and T Rex enjoying their own
weekly half-hour shows, to rival the more established Top Of The Pops.
Of all these shows, the Bay City Rollers Shang-a-lang was the most successful, both in terms of viewing figures and its ability to spawn hits. Significantly, neither T Rex nor Arrows scored anything more than a minor smash during their weeks of visibility. But the Rollers were omnipotent, even if almost every note they played or word they uttered was drowned out beneath the barrage of screams that arose from the audience.
And that was always the bands problem. No matter how hard they attempted to demonstrate a musical ability beyond the talentless tartan teen idol tag that haunted them from the outset, the Rollers were never going to convince anyone that they were jerking their own puppet strings, and so Shang-a-lang has sunk into the memory as little more than a 30 minute advert for whatever Rollers record was being shoved down our throats that week.
Watching Shang-a-lang from 30 years distant, however, and you do wonder if maybe history has misjudged the band. At least they looked like they were trying, they sounded like they meant it and, wrapping themselves around some of the biggest hits of the age, they did have a knack for crafty hooks and singalong choruses. All the hits are here, of course, often in multiple versions, together with a healthy crop of album cuts and all-purpose covers, performed either live to the cameras, or accompanied by some pre-shot footage the Rollers invent the music video, shock horror.
It does get a little wearing if you try to watch the full four hours in one sitting, but most people probably wouldnt even attempt that. In half hour snatches, though, (and overlooking the tragic excision of the guest appearances), this is an excellent reminder of both a time, and a band, whose like we will never see again. (And you still remember all the words to the songs as well, dont you?) - Dave Thompson
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