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Fender imprecision.

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Yesterday’s post will explain what this is all about.

Tartan terror!I could tell in my bones that the Bay City Rollers were poseurs.

Way back when I was a teenager, I came upon a copy of the band’s first British album, Rollin’, in a secondhand bin.

I snapped it up. It was cheap enough, and I perceived it as a sort of entry point to a time and culture that did not directly involve me.

And soon enough I was checking out the tinny music and the wealth of fan-magazine biographical facts on the cover. (Did British girls in 1974 flock to Edinburgh to see the hospitals where their idols were born?)

But what stuck with me more than anything else was the band picture on the inside, which showed guitarist Eric Faulkner cheerfully holding a bass and bassist Alan Longmuir happily holding a guitar.

This cheerful defiance of unwritten rules offended some of my basic principles.

See, my dad is an electrical engineer by training. And while I did not inherit his mathematical talent, I inherited his fixation on details.

We were a family of liner-note readers and musical anal-retentives. When we listened to my parents’ favorite Paul Simon albums, we knew whether Richard Tee or Barry Beckett was playing the keyboard solo; whether he was playing it on a Hammond B-3, a Fender Rhodes or a Wurlitzer; and whether that was John Tropea or Eric Gale backing him up with tasteful guitar comps.

Rollin'So, seeing these guys who didn’t even hold the right instruments on their album cover — and didn’t even seem to care — was something of a minor scandal.

These goons can’t be real musicians, I thought. Clearly the music doesn’t matter to them. Their instruments are just props. They could just as well be posing with a soccer ball, or a loaded schoolbag, or a sack of potatoes.

I had a certain amount of derision toward their audience, too. Only teenyboppers would be so heedless and unthinking as to overlook such a visible discrepancy, I thought.

(This would have been before the Milli Vanilli scandal broke, so the willingness of teenage girls to let details slide hadn’t yet been driven home to me.)

And to top it all off, that wasn’t the only time the Rollers had played fast and loose.

The quickie Rollers paperback biography I’d bought for pocket change at the local library booksale had featured a picture of drummer Derek Longmuir, looking just as cheerful, strumming a Les Paul.

Poseurs, I thought.

Scandal!

# # #

As I get older, I’ve come to appreciate — maybe even envy, a little bit — the point of view of those heedless listeners who don’t care about the details.

I suspect they get what they want, and what they need, more often than we obsessives do.

They don’t spend time thinking about who plays what instrument — or even whether the guys on the album cover are playing the instruments at all. They don’t care whether the lead guitar is being filtered through a Leslie, a phaser or an envelope filter.

They just enjoy the music coming out of their stereos.

And I suspect they enjoy it at least as much, in the long run, as those of us who strain our memories trying to remember the names of percussionists and horn players.

The music is as much a part of their lives, as much a soundtrack, as it ever has been to mine. And it summons emotions and memories that are just as vivid for them as for me.

(I’ve mentioned before that I knew girls in high school who went to see Milli Vanilli perform “live” as part of the Club MTV Tour. I don’t know what those girls would say about it 25 years later … but I don’t believe any of them asked for their money back at the time.)

I’m not sure I’ll ever switch sides and join them. I’m not sure I could; I’m just not wired that way.

And even if I did, I don’t think the contents of Rollin’ would suddenly take a place alongside A Love Supreme or Astral Weeks on my personal hit parade.

It does seem like the non-obsessives take the shortest, most direct path to the enjoyment of music, though.

Maybe — with apologies to Eric, Derek, Les, Alan and Woody — maybe I’ve been the poseur all along.

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13 responses »

  1. There’s probably something to be said for simply liking what you like and not thinking about it too much. But taken to an extreme, it leads to something like this year’s list of Billboard Music Award nominees (http://t.co/7ORCzb1LC1). While there’s always been a commercial imperative in popular music, this list is remarkably blatant about revealing it. I wonder if any of these people, apart from Springsteen, could talk intelligently about their artistic vision, or if they even know what it is. These people aren’t making music so much as they’re selling product.

    Yes, the Rollers were a fabricated product, too, but they weren’t so cynical about it.

    Reply
  2. Kathi Stenbock

    Good point. They were young men, living in an industrial, depressed area, who were musicians and found fame. No more poseurs than Justin Beiber, Madonna, or Taylor Swift, who don’t appear to have much in the way of talent, but they also make money for record executives.

    Reply
  3. I’m a guitarist…I’m a dude…I’m not gay…I saw this band perform “LIVE” a few times ( after the screaming had stopped ) and they could really play…just because some photographer said hold this or pose with that in early publicity shots meant nil. Now if we were talking about the Beach Boys, I could agree totally…( spare me the Pet Sounds praises ). Without the Wrecking Crew , these guys were flippn’ lousy…They still go out on tour backed by session guys that can actually play….but I get your drift…it’s the records that sell the idea evoke the feelings then and reawaken them now…

    Reply
  4. To the contrary, perhaps we were bright enough to know that media stunts are only media stunts and it didn’t affect the music. As John just said, yes they could play, and write. And they could carry a tune without a producer fixing everything (a-hem.. Taylor..) Comparing them to Taylor Swift is so far off base, you might as well announce for the Phillies. I’ve heard three of the BCR members live in recent years. They can still play, and sing, and put on a good show without a bunch of electronics and fireworks. Nothing fake about that. A lot of musicians have admitted how complex their band written songs actually are. Some of us already knew that and appreciated that and, yes, followed them for the music.

    I’ve blogged about them recently as well.

    Reply
    • (And I mean you as in a general “you,” not specifically. I do realize it was a comment. Had to get the Phillies swipe in there, as a Pirates fan. All in jest.)

      Reply
  5. Maybe it’s due to the fact that they are multi talented and can( like several other bands members) play several different instruments. There is no written law in the music industry that says you have to pick one instrument and that’s the one you are stuck with! Look at Steven Tyler of Aerosmith…he can play almost every kind of instrument there is. Maybe each roller is multi talented in the same way and they all can play other instruments as well as the one they choose to play during their song making and concerts.

    Reply
  6. They can laugh at themselves too. At an acoustic gig a couple of years ago a fan handed Eric Faulkner a copy of “Rollin'” to sign. He couldn’t stop laughing when he read the biographies then, on discovering what his favourite food was supposed to be, came out with the classic line, “What the **** is Peach Flambé?!?!”
    Eric’s musicianship is no longer in doubt, and next month he’s playing at The Edinburgh Guitar and Music Festival, The Islay Festival of Music & Malt and The Acoustic Festival of Britain.
    http://www.ericfaulkner.co.uk

    Reply
  7. Yep for all those doubters head to Karin’s links to Eric’s music. Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood is very big in the Celtic music industry and from what I hear Les and his BCR band give a good show too. Roll On 😉

    Reply
  8. Brenda Schneider

    With all due respect, I’ve been a fan of the Bay City Rollers since being a teenager. Last year I had the awesome privilege of going to the UK to see Eric Faulkner’s live gigs and I must say he is a brilliant musician … so much so that I will be going again this year (and I’m from Canada). That has to say something about his incredible talent.

    Reply
  9. If you are going to base their talents on one photograph you are an idiot. We all know who played what insturment on what song. In fact, Erick Faulkner played many many insturments along with Stuart Wood. It’s no different that Kid Rock playing as many different insturments as he does. Back then, whe photo shoots were done they were done with many different items. Big deal if Eric is holding a bass gituar and he is the lead gituarist or Alan Longmuir is holding a gituar and he played bass gituar. In fact, for several years Alan played gituar and Stuart played the bass, a very well known bass called The White Knight, named after the Knight chess piece. Please get your facts straight before you go and give a review of a group you truly were not even a part of and furthermore not even born in that era. You were probably concieved in a Chevy van after a Rollers concert on Ventura Hwy.

    Reply
  10. Well, I discovered this blog with one years delay. But it was an interesting read and I sign what you wrote. The rock and other scenes focuses much on music and the musicians as what they are – musicians. Fans of boygroups like BCR are more interested in the outfit than in the musicpart. They enjoy music but I would say, they mostly can’t judge it. Their idol(s) is/ are playing. He/they can play the biggest crap – it will be wonderful for them. Sometimes you can really envy their simplemindness. They just don’t care about anything but only how the star(s) look(s). As to the real thing – the music – they just Shang-a-lang around while peeling potatoes and lalala – ing without thinking about musical deepness and other effects or discussing the meaning of lyrics. Btw. can someone explain the intellectual lyrical deepness of songs like Bye Bye Baby or Love Me Like I like I Love You and the musical impact these songs had on the musicscene in general ?

    If you watch disussions by boygroupfans like BCR or the later incarnations it is funny how aggressiv they become when critisizing their “star”. It is very close to religious fundamentalism. Comments, which are common in the more serious musicbusiness like commenting to bands / acts about the qualitiy of concerts, aren’t possible with these fans. Touching a god would be blasphemous. This is a point I defo don’t envy – it scaries me!
    Fundamentalism has never been healthy and progressive.

    Out of BCR the worst musician of the whole band seem to be Eric Faulkner. We have watched him live a many, many times between early 90’s and the resent years and he became worse with every gig. Never seen a guitarist failing to hit the strings of the E-guitar, not able to handle the settings of the different guitarbrands and fuzzpedals. The decline was very bitter to watch. He has never been a good guitarist, jumping around stupidly – more illusion than realitiy – but even diminishing this poor ability is hard to watch. Beside we have never seen him handling any other instruments beside the guitar and the one fiddle-song – neither in the 70s nor today. I highly doubt his multi-instrumentalism and multi-talent. Switching between a few guitarbrands or between e- and accoustic guitar is no multi-instrumentalism nor talent. And just owning a bass doesn’t make you a bass player even if it is easier for a guitarist, as most guitarplayer are able to play bass too. I doubt him playing any windinstrument, drums, serious keyboard/ synth or any of the many instruments out or even records all instruments from drums, via synth, guitars/bass and extra instruments as many soloproject musicians can really and are able to do. It is funny how you can make a multi out of nothing.

    Reply
  11. “Angie” makes some interesting points about fans of “boybands”. Unfortunately, wherever there is such blinkered devotion, there is also real spite and hatred if their “idols” don’t pay them the attention they believe they deserve. “Number One Fans” can so easily turn into vicious critics if they imagine that they have been snubbed in some way. If “Angie” has so little respect for Eric Faulkner’s musicianship, why on earth would she have gone to see him live “many, many times”?
    I have seen Eric playing guitar (electric and acoustic), bass, fiddle, viola and mandolin all to a high professional and recording standard. I have also seen him play piano, electric keyboard, drums, double bass, cello and a selection of weird and wonderful stringed instruments. I would certainly class him as a multi-instrumentalist. He is respected by fellow musicians and festival organisers for both his musicianship and his song-writing skills and I would rather believe what they have to say about him than the critique of an ex-fan hiding behind a pseudonym.

    Reply
  12. Thanks for your comments, Angie and Karin.

    As an FYI to anyone else finding this post: I’m going to cut off future discussion in the comments of Eric Faulkner’s instrumental abilities, and probably those of the other Rollers as well.
    Both sides have been heard from in a reasonably respectful manner, and I don’t want my comments section turning into a flame war.

    Thanks for reading.

    Reply

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