Fame at last for 1970s group .. but where are Iron Virgin?

THEY were the Capital's answer to glam rocker Marc Bolan and were championed by comedian and Radio 1 DJ Kenny Everett.

They even had the audacity to record a "punk" cover of one of Sir Paul McCartney's songs, before being pipped to the charts by the former Beatle when he released the original version as a single.

Yet during their brief career in the mid-1970s, Iron Virgin never quite made it to the big time.

Consigned to history as one of Edinburgh's numerous musical "also-rans", only the most die-hard of fans will recall their hit, Rebels Rule.

Even among those devotees, most are likely to remember the jokey, jingle version they recorded for Everett's Radio 1 show, rather than the original single that barely troubled the charts.

But the Portobello five-piece - who disbanded in 1974 after releasing only one album - are beginning to gather an unexpected cult following.

A punk and glam rock club night in Glasgow has been named after their one and only "hit". They have also been favourably profiled in the music press. And the organisers of the club night are hoping to track down the former musicians for a reunion.

Club creator Sharon McHendry, 30, a Glasgow PR executive, wasn't even alive when the band broke up, but she was inspired to name the club after the Edinburgh group after being introduced to Iron Virgin's music by a friend.

She said: "I hadn't heard anything about them until a couple of years ago when a friend played me Rebels Rule. The music struck me as being a prime example of that era of 1970s glam rock and early punk and I couldn't understand why they hadn't gone on to better things. I'd had ideas for a while about putting on a club dedicated to that style of music, as there aren't many mainstream places where you can hear songs by those kind of bands.

"When it came to putting a name to it, the Iron Virgin song just seemed right. What I'm really hoping to do is track down some of the guys in the band and get them to come along to the opening night as guests of honour.

"It's going to be difficult - as they haven't been involved in the music industry since the seventies - and I imagine that they'll have families and other commitments now, but it would be great if even one of them would come.

"I'd like to think they'd still be interested in coming to a club and hearing the kind of music they were playing 30 years ago. It would be brilliant if they wanted to play or do a DJ set."

The five-piece group are believed to have formed in Portobello in the early Seventies and included lead singer Stuart Harper, drummer John Lovatt, guitarists Gordon Nicol and Lawrie Riva and bassist Marshall Bain. Although they predominantly played around Edinburgh, they also toured across England, and, bizarrely, Luxembourg, during their brief musical career.

In 1973 they recorded a version of Jet - a song from Wings' Band On The Run album - but, by the time it was finally released the following year, Paul McCartney's band had decided to bring out their own single, which scuppered the Iron Virgin release.

Guitarist Gordon Nicol now lives in Dallas, USA, where he works as a professional "Scottish poet" for functions, but the rest of the band have long since disappeared from the public eye.

Ms McHendry added that she hoped to locate the band before Rebels Rule's first night at the Glasgow Barfly on December 30.

The low profile of the band, however, could make the attempt to reunite them challenging.

Former Simple Minds manager Bruce Findlay - who saw hundreds of bands play in his chain of Bruce's record stores across Scotland in the 1970s- admitted he could not remember the group.

Mr Findlay, who currently manages city band Aberfeldy, said: "There were dozens of good Scottish bands at that time who didn't have any chart success but could still sell out a pretty big venue, but I can't remember Iron Virgin at all.

"However, it certainly sounds like they had a fairly interesting time during their brief musical career."

Were you in Iron Virgin, or do you know what the band members are doing now? If so, call Adrian Mather on 0131 620 8741