Sunday, April 27, 2008

Culture Wars, Revisited

It is curious that “Bye Bye Baby”, by the Bay City Rollers, is the second song to rise to the surface in the 1,305-song lottery provided by Darren. It is one of the last things I can remember, musically, before the great dividing line of the Sex Pistols. At Fish Creek Primary School, in 1975, when I was in grade six, the girls were into the Bay City Rollers. The boys were not. We were men’s men. We had already lived through the Skyhooks vs Sherbet battles, convinced, then as now, that Skyhooks were the only possible winner. By 1975, If it wasn’t by The Sweet, or Suzi Quatro, or Alice Cooper, we weren’t interested. (Well, I had, and still have, an unputintowordsable soft spot for “I’m Not In Love”, by 10cc, but I kept that to myself. And, although I hate to admit it, the firt album I ever bought, probably only a year or so earlier, was by Paper Lace, who it now strikes me may have been one of the reasons for the Bay City Rollers’ existence, or particular shape.) The hate we felt for the Bay City Rollers knew no bounds.

None of us, girls or boys, had any understanding of the Bay City Rollers’ background, personal or cultural. Tartan? What was that? They just looked like poofy clothes to us. They girls we figured, were just into their undoubted good looks (another reason to hate them). I suppose it might seem a bit odd that an advertisement for (or against?) Scottish nationalism should be postered on pre-teen bedrooms the world over. But stranger things have happened.

What does it sound like in 2008? Wet, certainly. Naively innocent. About as far from punk as you could imagine. But it is easy to see why this was, and deserved to be, a hit. What’s not to like? At two and a half minutes (including the pseudo-doowop introduction) it lasts the perfect amount of time. And you can detect at least a hint of Belle and Sebastian in its structure, its inclusiveness and its exuberance.

The funny thing is that, even after thirty-three years, I can’t hear this song without superimposing over it the sound of thousands of young girls screaming.