Saturday Night Music Byte
The Bay City Rollers were a Scottish pop/rock band of the 1970s. Their youthful, clean-cut image, distinctive styling featuring tartan-trimmed outfits, and cheery, sing-along pop hits helped the group become among the most popular musical acts of their time. For a relatively brief but fervent period (nicknamed “Rollermania”), they were worldwide teen idols. The group’s line-up featured numerous changes over the years, but the classic line-up during its heyday included guitarists Eric Faulkner and Stuart Wood, singer Les McKeown, bassist Alan Longmuir, and drummer Derek Longmuir.
Since the band’s quick rise to, and subsequent fall from fame, the members have endured numerous and varied struggles regarding royalty payments, substance abuse, and personal legal problems.
Bassist Alan Longmuir, his younger brother Derek Longmuir, a drummer, along with school mate, lead singer Gordon “Nobby” Clark founded the group in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1967, as The Saxons. Shortly afterwards, seeking a less English-sounding moniker, they chose a new name allegedly by throwing a dart at a map of the United States. The dart landed on the map in the state of Arkansas, but since “Arkansas Rollers” did not sound quite right, and might also lead to problems with pronunciation, they tried again and this time the dart landed near the community of Bay City, Michigan.
The five members at the very end of 1973 – the Longmuir brothers, Faulkner, Wood and McKeown – are generally referred to as the “classic line-up”. In early 1974 McKeown hastily re-recorded lead vocals of the group’s forthcoming single, “Remember (Sha La La La)”, which became a sizable hit and a lead-in to a series of UK chart hits. By early 1975, they were one of the highest-selling acts in Britain. That year saw a successful UK tour (which prompted newspaper headlines about “Rollermania”), and a 20-week UK television series, Shang-a-Lang.
As the group’s popularity swelled to superstardom in the UK, a concerted effort was made by Arista Records (the record company that evolved from Bell) to launch the Rollers in America. New Arista head Clive Davis was instrumental in grooming and overseeing the project. His work paid off, as in early ’76, the Rollers reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 with “Saturday Night”, the song that had missed the UK chart completely two years earlier. The Rollers gave the tune its American debut via a much-hyped satellite-link performance on Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell.
During the 1980s and 1990s, there were various short-lived revivals featuring some of the original members. The classic quintet played Japan in 1982, and again in ’83 with guest spots from both Mitchell and McGlynn. A slapdash reunion album of sorts, Breakout, came out in Japan in 1985, performed primarily by McKeown and McGlynn with minor contributions from Faulkner, Wood, and Mitchell.
In the late 1980s a version of the band called the “New Rollers” was formed featuring Faulkner on lead vocals, Kass (Karen Prosser) on vocals, Jason Medvec on guitar, Andy Boakes on bass, Mark Roberts on drums. The band toured extensively throughout the US and Canada as well as tours of the UK and Australia. This group also released an independent 5-song EP titled “Party Hardy”.
In 1990 Stuart Wood and Alan Longmuir joined with Faulkner to tour under the BCR name, and issued several CDs of re-recordings of the old Roller tunes. These recordings still turn up frequently on iTunes and in CD bins.
The classic lineup (minus Derek) performed a one-off show at a New Year’s Eve 1999 concert in Scotland. In the 2000s, interest was rekindled in Britain by various television documentaries about the group and a new TV-advertised compilation of greatest hits, Very Best of the Bay City Rollers, which entered the UK charts on release in 2004 at #11.
Currently, Mitchell, Faulkner and McKeown each regularly tour playing Rollers hits. Due to legal issues over which performers may use the band name, McKeown’s group uses the name: Les McKeown’s Legendary Bay City Rollers. At present there is no official Bay City Rollers.
Please enjoy (if you can) this video clip of The Bay City Rollers performing their 1976 hit, “Saturday Night”.