The band that stopped us growing up

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Bye Bye Baby: My Tragic Love Affair With The Bay City Rollers by Caroline Sullivan (Bloomsbury £10.99)

Bye Bye Baby: My Tragic Love Affair With The Bay City Rollers by Caroline Sullivan (Bloomsbury £10.99)

'B-A-Y! B-A-Y! B-A-Y-C-I-T-Y! With an R-O-double-L-E-R-S! Bay City Rollers are the best!" Aaargh! The sound that struck fear into my nine-year-old heart. The war cry of dozens of knicker-wetting Karens, my tartan-clad, pre-pubescent tormentors ...

Now here's a chance to understand what drove those tiny maniacs to fight over Woody and Eric, and to pinch and punch their detractors. But, 274 pages of Caroline Sullivan's book later, I'm no closer to resolving those early psychological traumas, for a) Sullivan is American, and b) she was 16 in 1976. The Rollers actually had fans who had hit puberty! Who could drive! Who had jobs! And boyfriends! And apartments!

If you're an established rock critic knocking 40, it takes a certain kind of chutzpah to admit a lapse in taste of such gargantuan proportions. It seems unlikely that anybody was holding Caroline Sullivan to ransom over her teenage crush but, like Portillo, she clearly felt it necessary to come clean and picked the book-as-confessional genre to exorcise her muso-sexual demons. And I suspect that this particular paean to one of pop's most cringe-worthy periods could ring the death knell for the little-old-me genre.

What's most alarming is that Sullivan was not only aware of punk, she had some of the earliest singles. Still, she chose to spend the larger part of her early semi-adult freedom chasing the Bay City Rollers across a variety of American cities; booking hotel rooms on the same floor as her heroes, running up enormous phone bills making transatlantic hoax calls to bemused relatives of the band, and - gasp - posing as a pop journalist.

The trouble with Bye Bye Baby is rather the same as the trouble with the Bay City Rollers - it all sounds the same. It pays the reader to pay attention to whether you're in a hotel room in Detroit or Atlantic City or Chicago, for if you lose your page you could be anywhere. The reality of touring is, of course, precisely that; it's just another room, just another show. But the repetitiveness of that experience is mirrored in the repetitiveness of Sullivan's prose. She quotes liberally from her adolescent diaries, but her style in this book is stuck at the same stage of arrested development. "All we ever asked of them was to stop us growing up," she writes, in a rare moment of hindsight.

There's an attempt at Brysonesque "My, it's damp and backward here!" descriptions of Seventies Britain (she had pen-pals), and a few hints at what sounds like an interestingly complex relationship with her mother, but her brief tussle with panic attacks and tranquilliser-dependency is glossed over. Flashes of humour come in the descriptions of the clothes that Sullivan and the other self-appointed Tacky Tartan Tarts chose to lure their famous prey.

This book is an antidote to nostalgia in the form of a timely reminder of the dreck that dominated the charts - and the boutiques - before Strummer et al burst on to the scene. But these gestures at contextualising her experience of pop fanaticism are very much secondary to Sullivan's obsessive record of flights and journeys and decades-old diary entries. Every few pages she reminds the reader that she was really "sad". This is quite unnecessary as few readers would be likely to forget that for more than a paragraph.

As the book grinds on, the group's success winds down. Their venues get more and more obscure, chart places are lower, and Sullivan finally gets her man - three times (which one, she's not saying, but I narrowed it down to two contenders without too much trouble). That hard-won consummation begins her cure. Stripped of his tartan, her "own personal Roller" is stripped of his extraordinariness. Admiration turns to sympathy, sympathy to lack of respect and, ultimately, to lack of interest. So, fans do get to bed their stars but if Sullivan's elegy has any moral it must be: burn those teenage diaries immediately.

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