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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Nobby Clark - The Lost Roller



It's quite remarkable how many major acts have a Pete Best-type lurking about as footnotes in their biographies - i.e. someone who left or was sacked from the group at the cusp of their success. 
I am not entirely certain that the man himself would agree with that label, but whether he likes it or not, Gordon "Nobby" Clark is the Bay City Rollers' very own Pete Best. 
A founding member and the Rollers' lead singer for seven years of blood, sweat and tears, fed up with life on the road and Tam Paton's dubious managerial practises among other things, Nobby left the band just as their breakthrough hit "Remember" was climbing the U.K. charts in January 1974.  I'd like to say he never looked back, but that's not exactly true and now he has written a book about it all. 
The aptly titled "The Lost Roller" (Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co., 2014) chronicles Nobby's life and times, from growing up dirt-poor in Edinburgh with an abusive and alcoholic father, through his time with the Rollers as a teen-aged minor pop star, and onto his own troubles of being addicted to both alcohol and gambling.  It's a tough and turbulent life but in the end our hero prevails, having beaten - hopefully for good - his disease, albeit not all of his demons.
The first-hand account of those very early Roller years fascinate the most since other books on the band have come up somewhat short on the subject.  At long last, actual personalities and minor character traits can be applied to names such as Archie Marr and Dave "The Rave" Pettigrew, both early members of the band, as were David Paton and Billy Lyall who later found mid '70s chart success with Pilot ("Magic", "January").
However, I do have some gripes with some details of the story at times.  In particular regarding certain errors and inaccuracies when it comes to the Rollers' recorded and released output.  For instance, it is truly puzzling why Nobby insists that the 1976 No. 1 U.S. hit version of "Saturday Night" is "his" version of the song, when, in fact, the original 1973 Nobby Clark-sung flop version of the song is an altogether different recording to the Les McKeown-sung hit version of the song, which was recorded in 1974 for the debut Rollers album "Rollin'".  Why anyone - and a musician at that - is unable to tell the difference between this (the Nobby Clark '73 version):

 
And this (the Les McKeown '74/'76 version):
 

 
...is beyond me.  They sound like two entirely different recordings to me at least, although I am willing to leave room for the possibility that the original recording was so severely remixed and Nobby's BACKING vocal may be buried in the mix there somewhere along with all the other Rollers' voices.  But it most certainly isn't his LEAD vocal as he states numerous times in the book.
That being said, I am 100% on Nobby's side that he deserves some of the famous "Rollers millions", since songs containing his lead vocals (The original versions of "Keep on Dancing", "Saturday Night" and "Remember" in particular), not to mentioned a song written by him ("Because I Love You", the B-side of third single "Manana") have been issued and reissued countless of times during the past forty years without him earning a single cent from it, and that is just plain wrong.
However, still more errors occur when Nobby lists the records "his" recordings are reportedly on, and he is therefore allegedly owed money for.  There he lists, among other things, an obscure Taiwanese bootleg which, of course, has nothing at all to do with Arista or Sony.  Also he claims "his" songs, such as single B-sides "Bye Bye Barbara" and "Hey! C.B." are included on the 1974 version of the "Rollin'" L.P.  That is incorrect.  These songs first appeared as bonus tracks on the U.K. CD re-issue of said album in 2004.  And that's just one example off the top of my head.
Unfortunately, as a result, poor research like that lessens the overall credibility of the work, which is as I stated before, fascinating at times.  Also, Nobby's nasty jabs at Eric Faulkner ("An unclean person"; "A nervous wreck") seem uncalled for and do little to support the statement to the effect that he doesn't hate anyone; he just wants his fair share of the pie.  
In any event, the book is a must for any self-respecting Roller fan and a very welcomed, although flawed, addition to the published printed material already available on the band, especially regarding its early history.
 
*** (3 out of 5)
 


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