REVIEW

 

BAY CITY ROLLERS
Shang-A-Lang [no label 2DVD PAL]
Every song from 20 shows. Pro-shot. Video Ex-; Audio Ex- SBD stereo. 240 mins

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.

All were much of a muchness, the host would play a clutch of numbers, a couple of guests would turn up to plug their latest single, a dance troupe would hop, skip and gyrate around, and "serious" rock fans would look down their noses at the whole affair, because you’d never get Zeppelin or ELP prostituting themselves like that. Huurruumph.

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 band’s 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 wouldn’t 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, don’t you?) - Dave Thompson

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June 1, 2007