Early summer 1975 - the Serbian Community Centre, Notting Hill, London, a rehearsal room. Production assistants putting tape marks on the floor, piles of scripts, and in the corner an upright piano. My introduction to musical theatre, albeit through the extraordinary hybrid, Rock Follies: part backstage musical, part rock and roll fantasy. I was to be the rock bit, although I got caught up in much more. It was exciting and challenging; the first time I had written for women, the first time in a dramatic context and, unlike the songs I had written with Bryan Ferry which had been music first, words after, I had Howard Schuman’s rhythmic, witty, punchy lyrics in advance. Often not much in advance; we worked at an exhilarating not to say reckless pace, some twenty-five songs for the first series in a few months.

I rehearsed the girls whenever I could get them out of rehearsing some other part of the show, and we pre-recorded at Thames TV’s in-house studio (on six track!) usually only a few days before filming. Vocals were often live on set.

I was very fortunate to have in the Little Ladies band a core of real top class musicians, Ray Russell, Brian Chatton, Chris Parren, Tony Stevens, and Pete Van Hooke who played throughout all twelve episodes and played themselves on screen.

Rock Follies had not been conceived as a ‘Monkees’ style show with record spin-offs. The songs were an integral part of the drama showing what the Little Ladies did, but also expressing their inner thoughts. When the episodes were finished and transmission imminent, there were no clear plans to release the music. An ‘original cast’ record of all the music from TV would have been a possibility, but technical (the sound track was mono) and union rules effectively prevented this. My job was making records so I booked Basing Street Studios anyway and persuaded my record company to let us make and release as quickly as possible an album of twelve songs. As Rock Follies became perhaps the most talked about programme on television the album entered the chart at no. 1.

I hope that those too young to have been allowed to watch and those old enough to have forgotten will enjoy this first re-issue on CD..

Andy Mackay April 2000


 
  Back in 1976, Rock Follies proved to be a surprise hit both on television and in the record shops. A low budget comedy musical drama, written, performed and produced in the spirit of fringe theatre, it wound up winning a BAFTA Award and generating a Gold Album.

One of the happiest aspects of the exhilarating and exhausting creative process was collaborating with Andy Mackay. Both of us have been amazed over the years at the number of people who still remember the show and its score with great affection. The original cast album has been out of print for years, so I'm thrilled that Virgin Records are releasing both Rock Follies and its sequel (Rock Follies of ‘77) on CD.

To jog the memories of older fans and give new listeners a roadmap, here's how the musical numbers fit into the first six episodes of Rock Follies. Stylish, smart, hollow Derek 'Hyper' Huggins forms a girl group called 'The Little Ladies' featuring Dee (burnt out rocker) Anna (Oueen of Regional Theatre) and 'Q' (fading chanteuse.) The journey of the 'Little Ladies' is mapped out by the songs. Lust for success: Sugar Mountain / Stairway - schlepping around Britain as an unpretentious pub band: Good Behaviour / Daddy / Lamplight & The Road the humiliation of starring In a softcore porn musical: Talking Pictures / Hot Neon - the scary sensation of not being in control of their own lives: Roller Coaster - brief period as the epitome of glamrock: Biba Nova - shortlived success with a final image change, being re-incarnated as The Andrews Sisters singing pastiche 40's music: Glenn Miller Is Missing, War Brides and, finally, a bitter look back at the entire experience: Rock Follies.

There's the map, now start the trip.
 
  Howard Schuman April 2000
 
 
 

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