There are certain rules that all boybands need to follow. Member wise, you need the serious one, the cute one, the bad boy, the joker… And then you need the ballads. Any boyband worth their weight in hair products needs a lighters-up (or a mobile phone with the torch function on-up) moment towards the end of a concert.
Give a Little Love, by The Bay City Rollers (their 2nd and final #1)
3 weeks, from 13th July – 3rd August 1975
It’s a teenage dream, To be seventeen, And to find you’re all wrapped up in love… Here, then, is the Bay City Rollers’ chart-topping ballad. It is every bit as saccharine and as cloying as you might imagine. Give a little love, Take a little love, Be prepared to forsake a little love… (to be fair, not many teen-ballads throw words like ‘forsake’ into their choruses) And when the sun comes shining through, We’ll know what to do… This level of smarmy cheese haven’t been seen at the top of the charts since Donny O’s imperial phase.
The intro to ‘Give a Little Love’ actually promises a very of-the-moment funky soul song, but it doesn’t last. The arrival of the first verse sees things slip into the earnest plod of a proto-power ballad. That’s not to suggest it’s terrible. Bubblegum pop is always, at the very least, catchy. I admit I’m swaying along, while the hard rock guitars sound piped in from a completely different song and the backing vocals are almost, almost, Beatles-esque.
There is, inevitably, a spoken word bit. The mid-seventies are quickly becoming the age of the earnest, spoken word break. And I know, One day, I’ll find a way, To be safe and sound, Within your heart… Cue teenage girls around the country snogging their posters. Past this point, the song does start to drag. It’s just a bit too plodding. Plus, the Rollers’ voices aren’t quite strong enough to carry it.
Of course, as I wrote in my post on their first #1 – ‘Bye Bye Baby’ – it is unfair to reduce The Bay City Rollers to a mere ‘boyband’. They were a ‘proper’ band, ‘proper’ musicians, to start with. But, by the time this was released, they, or their management, were aiming squarely for the screamy teeny market. For the US, ‘Give a Little Love’ was re-recorded with extra strings, because the original just wasn’t drippy enough…
As with most pop groups, the Rollers burned brightly but briefly. In 1976 they took the US by storm, and were causing tartan-waving riots around the world, but by the late seventies several of the members had had enough. They became the Rollers and went New Wave, although this all took place far from the top of the charts. They would reform and tour in various guises in the decades that followed.
To finish, a story that shows just how manic Roller-mania was at its height: a friend’s mum went to school in Edinburgh, in the mid-seventies, and one August was given her maths textbook for the year. Casually glancing at the names of the students who had used the book before her in the cover, she spotted Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood’s name (the cute one). She maintains that she was lucky to come out of the scrum alive; while the textbook wasn’t so fortunate…