Keep on rollin!

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ONCE, in the mists of pop time, the idea of an intimate night with a Bay City Roller would have sent a million teenyboppers’ hearts a flutter.

Now, it implies one man, one acoustic guitar and an evening worth’s of songs from 30 years of music history and more.

A key member of the famous 70s hitmakers, ex-Bay City Roller Eric Faulkner is bringing his back to his roots show to the Black Bull at Kettlesing between Harrogate and Skipton in three weeks’ time.

The tartan trousers, platform shoes and famous feather cut may be gone but the silver-haired, 58-year-old Scot still promises a few of the big hits.

“When I’m playing solo shows, I always try to cover my whole career. When I do Shang-A-Lang, it does seem to do strange things to women of a certain age!” he confesses with a twinkle on his mobile phone during what sounds like a windswept walk with his dog in the great outdoors near his home in Cornwall.

It’s quite a long time since his former group were storming both Britain and, as he reminds me, the US, where they became one of the few UK bands since The Beatles to score a number one hit.

Despite their worldwide fame, the five-strong Rollers were never regarded as cool but, unlike many other acts of the time, songs like Bye Bye Baby, Give a Little Love and Saturday Night have stuck in the public consciousness.

So much so, that no less than three former members, including Eric himself, regularly take their own version of the Bay City Rollers across Europe and into Japan on major tours.

Lead singer Les McKeown may have grabbed the lion’s share of the limelight back in the 70s with his smile and his mullet but, if any member of the Rollers was their Johnny Marr, it was the likeable Eric, who quietly got on with the business of playing guitar, writing songs and making good music.

“It was a bit frustrating at the time, the hysteria overtook everything. But myself and Woody (guitarist Stuart Wood) wrote most of the songs on the albums and the b-sides. In a way, we were happiest being a wee band from Edinburgh.”

As a wiser, older man, Eric is more in touch with his Scottish roots these days and his live shows tend to include a few classic folk covers by the likes of Ewan MacColl and Pete Seeger.

A veteran of many festivals, including Guilfest, Glstonbury and the Acoustic Festival of Great Britain, Eric does not see his current acoustic show as that much of a leap from performing Summerlove Sensation on Top of the Pops.

“I started playing viola when I was at school and there were always fiddles and bits of accordian on Rollers b-sides. We were always more of a band than people gave us credit for

“If you are a songwriter, you get up in the morning and look to any style that suits the song. The realness of acoustic music is great.”

Despite having a second top ten American hit with Money Honey in 1976, the wheels came off the Rollers’ wagon soon after as punk arrived in Britain and teenybopper pop and platform shoes faded from fashion.

Not that Eric, who is about to release a new solo album, can escape his own legacy.

All these years later, the Rollers are currently still embroiled in a lawsuit in the States with their former record label Arista.

But Eric prefers to concentrate on the music these days - and making it fun.

“I enjoy playing solo, there’s so much more freedom than being in a band. And I like a blether!

“At the Black Bull I will be doing all sorts of stuff over two sets. I still have a hoot doing the old hits but I like to see where the room takes me.”

graham.chalmers@ypn.co.uk