The Bay City Rollers in town – thanks to two 16 year olds

Down to us: Carol McEvoy and Susan Oddie campaigned for band to come to Preston
Down to us: Carol McEvoy and Susan Oddie campaigned for band to come to Preston
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Crowds of screaming fans gathered at the Guild Hall in Preston back in May 1975 to watch a live performance from the Bay City Rollers.

The Scottish rock band reached the height of fame in the 70s and were labelled “tartan teen sensations from Edinburgh”. They were the “next big thing” after the Beatles.

Aleta Marshall, Annette Smith and Karen Hines

Aleta Marshall, Annette Smith and Karen Hines

But the band would not have come to perform in Preston at all had it not been for two determined school girls who persuaded the Guild Hall to book the adored group.

Carol McEvoy and Susan Oddie, both 16 at the time, launched a campaign which consisted of numerous phone calls and letters.

However, even the girls were said to be surprised when their petition received more than 1,500 signatures in support. Needless to say, The Guild Hall booked the band for May 15 1975.

Mr Vin Sumner who was Preston’s entertainment and publicity manager said that “the pressure had been a great factor in booking the group”.

Bay City Rollers

Bay City Rollers

Around 2,000 fans arrived from various parts of England.

An article in the Lancashire Evening Post in early 1975 featured Melody Quinn and Elaine Oldfield from Wakefield, who slept on the streets of Preston for two days all in the name of the Bay City Rollers.

When asked about their drastic measures to secure tickets for the gig, Melody Quinn, 17, said: “I lost my job because the boss heard I was dossing around like this but it is worth it to see the Rollers”.

During the day the girls were allowed to sit inside the Guild Hall foyer.

Bay City Rollers

Bay City Rollers

Melanie added “This is a real luxury; in most places we have to sit outside all the time.”

Elaine, who worked as a kennel maid for her father, said: “My dad brought us here in the car but he doesn’t really agree with what we do. Luckily, my mum manages to talk him round.”

The head of Guild Hall security in 1975 Alan Baker said that most of the fans were expected to turn up for tickets to the show on the Friday afternoon as the tickets were released.

He added: “Some will obviously be disappointed as we expect large numbers to turn up at the box office. The two Yorkshire girls have been very good but it’s a good job they don’t all turn up this early.”

After it was announced that the band had been confirmed to appear on stage at the Guild Hall, a scandal emerged surrounding one member of the Bay City Rollers.

Guitarist Alan Longmuir said he would be leaving the band after fans discovered that his real age was in fact 25, not 21 which had been claimed in publicity material.

The decision to cover up his real age was due to trying to keep him appear in line with their “teenybopper” following.

In light of the exposure, Preston schoolgirls feared that the guitarist may leave the band and, as a result, not join the group live on stage that year.

Rollers fans Christine Levett, Susan Holmes and Mary O’Connell gathered thousands of signatures on a petition begging Alan to remain in the band.

Schools in the Preston area joined forces to collect a sufficient amount of signatures for the petition.

By the end, there were around 6,000 people who had signed the petition.

Chrissy Levett, 15, who was from the Walton-Le-Dale area, said: “We don’t care how old he is. We have got thousands of signatures from all the schools in Preston.” Chrissy was attending the concert with her two friends Susan Holmes, 15 and Mary O’Connell, 16.

The Tulketh High School petition was organised by 15-year-olds Annette Smith and Aleta Marshall and their friend Karen Hines, 16. The girls toured youth clubs to collect signatures to add to their petition. Annette said: “The group would not be the same without him.” At Brockholes Secondary School, commercial section, the girls collected another 2,000 signatures. Debra Varnon, 14, said: “It’s silly him leaving. You’re not old until you’re 40.”

The issue of security was also another factor which needed to be considered after it emerged that there had already been problems at other Bay City Rollers concerts. It was believed the problems were due to insufficient staffing at the concert.

Carol Oddie, one of the young campaigners, said: “It’s ridiculous to have too few men about when they know that the girls are going to get excited.”

The Guild Hall affirmed that they would provide adequate protection, with Vin Sumner saying: “I am appealing to the girls to think about themselves and their friends.”

However, they were somewhat unprepared for the events which were to follow.

Preston police said they were not expecting trouble and the Guild Hall had arranged for 48 stewards to be on duty that night to deal with the crowds and barriers. Eight medical officers were also arranged to be at the concert to help with any cases of hysteria or fainting.

Guild Hall operations manager Alan Baker said: “There will be no heavy-handed stuff.

“All we ask is that the youngsters stay in their seats.

“This is for their own safety.”

As the Rollers stepped on stage in their half-mast tartan trousers and bumper boots the crowd were already on their feet and going crazy. To get a better view, the fans took to standing on chairs and despite the stewards efforts to re-seat them, they were uncontrollable.

Photographs show the extent of the impact that the show had on many young teenage girls in the crowd.

Some were pictured with tears streaming down their faces, whilst others had expressions of utter shock. The crowd pushed to get close to the stage and it was reported that scenes resembled those from the “Beatlemania era”.

Several members of the crowd were in touching distance of the boys whilst they were performing some of their most iconic songs, including Bye, Bye Baby. However, they were all quickly removed from the stage.

Some were ‘ejected’ from the concert, whilst others were taken to hospital for treatment after several girls fainted.

Four girls in total were taken to a Preston hospital after being helped on site by the St John’s Ambulance Service.

Although it was reported that the sound quality left much to be desired, which also included a temporary power cut, it was still good enough for the fans to see the five Scotsmen in the flesh.