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Friday, August 20, 1999

Bay City Roller's in a Scottish mood

By JANE STEVENSON -- Toronto Sun

TORONTO -- I'm sitting in a Toronto pub yesterday afternoon with onetime Bay City Roller Stuart "Woody" Wood. He was known as "the cute one" during the '70s Scottish pop band's spiky-haired, tartan-and-platform-shoes-wearing heyday.

The friendly, good-natured 42-year-old musician talks about his more recent endeavours as the composer of a series of Celtic instrumental mood recordings -- the fourth one, Scottish Moods II, was released in Canada a month ago. But I have to resist the urge to shout at the top of my lungs:

"S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y! Night! S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y! Night!"

No, I haven't completely lost it -- that's the intro to the Bay City Rollers' biggest hit in North America, 1975's mindless, uptempo, singalong anthem Saturday Night.

But given that the Edinburgh-based Wood has been exposed to enough hysteria to last a lifetime -- his last visit here was in 1976 while making the Rollers' album, Dedication, and about 60,000 teenage girls turned out in Nathan Phillips Square for a brief appearance -- I think better of it.

"We just came on the stage and waved at people," remembered Wood, in his thick Scottish accent. "The thing was jampacked. They got crammed into that square. It was great. Just people fainting and screaming (like) a weird Twilight Zone episode, but brilliant at the same time."

Wood, then just a dimpled-chin teenager himself and the youngest Bay City Roller, lived with his fellow bandmates at the Harbourcastle Hotel for five months while making Dedication, although he said they didn't get to see much of the city as they travelled to and from the studio in a van.

On this promotional trip, which has been combined with a visit to his wife's relatives in Kitchener, he's making the most of it. Wood's played golf and done some sightseeing, although some people have approached him about Scottish Moods II.

"Another guy, he actually has it, and his comment was, 'God, I never knew that was you, it's absolutely brilliant. And it's not Saturday Night. It's more like Wednesday rather than Saturday, you've kind of moved on a little bit.' "

Wood left the Bay City Rollers in the early '80s and played in the garage rock-pop threesome Karu in Los Angeles for almost five years, and then the more serious jazz-rock fusion outfit Passengers in South Africa for another eight.

"It taught me a lot," he said of that time. "When I do music, my mood albums, if I've done it right, when you close your eyes, you should be able to see Scotland. It's that simple."

But when Wood returned to Edinburgh and began making his instrumental mood music three years ago, it was under a different name, Celtic Spirit.

"I didn't want my name on it 'cause I didn't want the Roller thing to be brought into it," he said. "It didn't seem the right thing -- instincts again, I suppose. Just let the music kind of do the talking. Give it its own space to do what it was going to do."

So now that Wood finally has a successful, post-Bay City Rollers career, why would he even consider a reunion tour and possible album? There are currently plans for five Bay City Rollers shows in England in November and December.

"I had to have a good, long think about it," said Wood of hooking up again with Alan Longmuir, Leslie McKeown and Eric Faulkner. "On one hand, the reason I wouldn't want to do it is because it's so long ago and musically it's not satisfying. But, on the other hand, you feel that if people want to see you, you're in the world of entertainment, they've almost got a right."

Even the popular VH-1 series Behind The Music is getting in on the plaid action -- "There would have to be some kind of tartan," agreed Wood of the reunion (maybe kilts?) -- with an upcoming segment on the band that MuchMoreMusic in Canada has yet to pick up. The group suffered through Valium dependency, a couple of overdoses, bad business decisions and mentor-manager Tam Paton -- fired by the group in 1979 -- being later jailed on obscenity charges involving teenage boys.

"Really, I don't think it affected me," maintained Wood of his Bay City Rollers past. "We were all street kids, we all came from pretty average, middle-to-working-class families. Everybody was pretty solid."

Ex-Bay City Roller Stuart Wood is in Toronto promoting his Celtic instrumental mood recordings. -- Greig Reekie, SUN