It was 1981 and there had been a school reunion a couple of weeks previously. A few dozen of us had travelled down to Devon to attend a lunch and to tell stories that would have been boring to anyone who had not been at school with us.
In the spirit of the occasion, some of us had travelled by train and had been met by a bus from the school. It seems odd, four decades later, that anyone would have attended a reunion at a school they had only left four years before – perhaps years were much longer then.
Anyway, two weeks on from the gathering, a square envelope had come through the post. Made from card and about eight inches square, the handwriting of Paul, my roommate in the senior house, was recognisable.
The package was a mystery. He had not said anything about sending me anything. Opening it, I found a seven inch vinyl record inside, with the labels removed from both sides. There was no way of knowing what the record was without playing it.
As a student, I had felt constrained only to buy albums in order to keep my credibility, so I would have had to adjust the record player to 45 rpm in order to play the single.
Within a few seconds of the stylus touching the vinyl, the truth had been revealed: Paul had sent me the Bay City Rollers’ Shang-a-lang.
I laughed so much at the time that I kept the record, I still have it. It is still inside the envelope in which it had arrived. It has not been played since 1981.
Shang-a-lang had been our equivalent of a nuclear deterrent, it had been a threat. “I’ll play Shang-a-lang if you don’t stop.”
The Bay City Rollers had been immensely popular when we were fourteen years old, they enjoyed a series of Number One hits. They were a band liked by girls who would imitate their heroes by wearing tartan scarves and calf-length jeans trimmed with tartan.
The Bay City Rollers may not have been a band much liked by teenage boys, but they were a fun band. The tunes were upbeat, jolly, easily remembered. They were tunes that brought people out onto the floor at discos. There was no anger, no angst. Lyrics were light and quickly learned by the Rollers’ fans.
The death of Les McKeown takes from the world someone who made us smile and laugh and remember happy days. Shang-a-lang was a piece of nonsense, but it was a cheery piece of nonsense. A bit more cheer would be very welcome now.