Some time in the early ’70s–probably circa 1973 or ’74, when I was 13 to 14 years old–I decided I wanted to be a writer. I’ve never made much money in that endeavor, but there hasn’t been any extended period in the past four-decades-plus where I haven’t at least dabbled in writing… something.
So, while still a teen, I started filling notebooks with ideas for things I might want to write. “Ideas” inflates their worth and weight; these weren’t ideas, but little notions, germs of ideas, usually no more than a title or a vague concept at best. Most of these notions were for comic-book stories (like The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze, my recently-completed Batman pulp story), but I also imagined things I could write for movies, magazines, TV, radio, and paperback novels.
In this open-ended series of Notebook Notions, I’ll be looking back at some of these half-baked, quarter-baked, sixteenth-baked, and damn-this-thing’s-still raw! almost-ideas that I jotted down in my notebooks. If any of the notebooks themselves still survive, I hope to unearth ’em someday. For now, this is all from memory; long before I became a middle-aged wannabe, I was a teen-aged wannabe, and I had a few notions, I did….
The Bay City Rollers in Catch Us If You Can
I’ve written a lot over the years about The Bay City Rollers; Scotland’s phenomenal pop combo was the subject of my first article for Goldmine in 1987 (later updated here), and even my blog bio mentions my interest in writing the liner notes to a Bay City Rollers anthology. But I wasn’t really all that big a fan of them initially. I thought their claim to be the next Beatles was absurd, but I liked their first two U.S. singles–“Saturday Night” and “Money Honey”–well enough, I guess, and I loved their third hit, “Rock And Roll Love Letter.” Go ahead and have another listen to that one; I’ll wait here.
Yeah, still good.
So maybe I was a fan after all. As silly as the Beatles comparison was, I’m sure the idea of a Scottish Fab Five intrigued this British Invasion zealot, and it surely fed my interest in them. If The Bay City Rollers couldn’t be the next Beatles, perhaps they could be the next Dave Clark Five, or the next Herman’s Hermits, and that would be fine by me. And if that were the case, the Rollers would need to do what The Beatles, Dave Clark Five, and Herman’s Hermits had all done before them: The Bay City Rollers would need to make a movie.
It’s further illustration of what an out-of-time square peg I’ve always been: in 1976, when pop music was at the awkward melting point of disco, metal, mellow, hard rock, prog, skyrockets in flight, and the early rude, loud stirrings of punk, I thought there would be commercial prospects for the razzafrazzin’ Bay City Rollers to star in a latter-day update of A Hard Day’s Night. See, this is why I didn’t have a girlfriend.
But a notebook notion is a notebook notion. At 16, A Hard Day’s Night was already my all-time favorite film. I’d seen all of The Beatles’ movies: A Hard Day’s Night on its first run at The North Drive-In in Cicero in 1964 (and on many a TV rerun thereafter), Help! on Channel 3’s weekday afternoon matinee, Yellow Submarine on network TV, and both Magical Mystery Tour and Let It Be in a weekend matinee double-bill at The Hollywood Theater in Mattydale. I had also seen Herman’s Hermits’ dreadful Hold On! at the Hollywood, and I think I’d seen The Monkees’ Head on the CBS late movie. I had not yet seen The Dave Clark Five’s Having A Wild Weekend, but I loved its companion album (not exactly a soundtrack LP), and I loved seeing that film’s stills on the LP’s cover. And I figured, that’s the kind of movie The Bay City Rollers should make. And that’s the kind of thing I should write, to further my sinister end game of becoming rich, famous, influential, irresistible to gurls, and ultimately married to hot actress Valerie Perrine.
One of my favorite songs at the time was The Dave Clark Five’s “Catch Us If You Can,” a song I’d heard on the radio and declared The Greatest Record Ever Made. I didn’t realize that Catch Us If You Can had been the actual title of The Dave Clark Five’s 1965 feature film, re-titled Having A Wild Weekend for us dim Yanks here in the Colonies. So my thought was that the Rollers should cover it as the title theme for their own breakout, career-defining feature film debut.
The notion never got all that much more specific than that. My idea was heavily influenced (possibly to the point of outright thievery) by the film Good Times, a Sonny and Cher vehicle I had recently seen on TV. In that movie, pop stars Sonny and Cher struggle with corporate entertainment-biz weasels for control of their own name-above-the-title flick. I thought a similar plot would work for a Bay City Rollers movie: The Man tries to treat Les, Derek, Eric, Alan, and Woody like puppets in the music business’ plastic cookie-cutter pop assembly line, and our heroes struggle with the gaudy temptations of success: women, fame, women, wealth, women, adoration, women, and, y’know…groupies ‘n’ stuff. The allure of such enticing prizes seems too much for five simple Scottish lads to resist, and individually they could well succumb to these sinful pleasures of greed, lust, and hedonism, but at the cost of their souls. But standing together, The Bay City Rollers are too strong, too true to their own working-class roots, to be fooled by empty promises. The group rebels, refusing to play the game, even if it costs them their fame, their fortune, and their future; for even without all of that, The Bay City Rollers would still have their music, and their tartan-clad friendship. In a climactic showdown with the suits and the moneymen, The Bay City Rollers walk away from it all, gleefully, triumphantly, to the tune of “Catch Us If You Can.” Their boldness resonates with youth across the globe, and The Bay City Rollers become bigger than ever, with no Big Company ever again telling them what they could or couldn’t do. Catch this if you can, suckers!
Plus, they get to hang on to the women. Finders keepers, man.
The bare-bones nonsense detailed above was farther than I ever got with Catch Us If You Can, and it still leaves such banal trivialities as plot, motivation, dialogue, pacing, and common sense to be tossed in some time down the road, I guess. Even in my most starry-eyed flights of fancy, even as a more-naive-than-most 16-year-old, I knew this picture wasn’t gonna happen, ever. If one could pretend for a second that I had the talent and drive to work up a complete project proposal for this–a bona fide synopsis, some sample script pages, something more concrete than a scrawled notebook entry that read The Bay City Rollers: CATCH US IF YOU CAN [movie]–that leap of faith would still plummet into the murky depths of a Scottish loch, me laddies and lassies. This was a fantasy. And it was fun to imagine.
While I had the minimal intelligence necessary to discard the notion of The Bay City Rollers in Catch Us If You Can, I ultimately became a bigger fan of the group. They were never my favorite, but I was never ashamed to proclaim my approval of the Rollers’ best power pop tracks, particularly “Rock And Roll Love Letter,””Wouldn’t You Like It” (which I somehow convinced The Flashcubes to cover for a Bay City Rollers tribute CD), and “Yesterday’s Hero,” among others. In college, I had a BCR poster in my dorm room as an act of defiance, right alongside my KISS, Sex Pistols, and Suzi Quatro posters–a heady stance to take in the Southern Rock/Deadhead hotbed that was my college campus. I pestered my friend Jane Gach to play “Wouldn’t You Like It” on her radio show; she protested, she refused, she told me to go to Hell…but she finally played it just to shut me up. Surprise! She loved the song, and said so on the air. Just like at the climax of Catch Us If You Can: the music of The Bay City Rollers transcended differences, and provided its own happy ending. Roll credits!
(And, although Valerie Perrine never did deign to notice my existence, I met a girl named Brenda in college. On an early pizza date, listening to oldies on the restaurant’s radio, we discovered a mutual affection for a song I didn’t think anyone else my age knew about: “Catch Us If You Can” by The Dave Clark Five. Bonding! Brenda and I have been together ever since. Maybe my notebook notion of a song to further my sinister end game wasn’t as far off course as I’d thought.)