Mania. A word describing the absolute sense of hysteria generated by teenage fans, and a term that was attached to only two bands. I’m sure you all know about Beatle mania, I mean it was everywhere and still is today but… do you know the second band? I’ll give you a (very big) clue. Tartan. Of course I’m talking about the The Bay City Rollers (BCR) and… they’re coming back to Australia, or at least a great chunk of their sound is, lead by one of the prominent BCR frontmen Les McKeown. Ahead of his gig at Wests New Lambton on the 2nd of July, I sat down with Les to chat about the lost songs, Rollermania and of course, tartan.
“I just really enjoy doing what I do. I love going out on stage to an audience full of smiling faces, that all want me to be the best that I can be”, says Les of his passionate return to the stage. For those who can remember, BCR hit peak popularity in the 70’s, crooning and bopping their way to the top of the charts and into the hearts and minds of their fans. Churning out pop mega hits like ‘Bye Bye Baby’ and ‘Shang-a-Lang’, only if you could manage to hear them over the screams of course. This sort of success though, Les tells me through the phone one afternoon his Scottish accent thicker than ever, definitely wasn’t something any of the members anticipated. “It was just one big adventure over a number of years from about 1973 to 1977. It was a spectacular adventure for someone like me who’d come from the wrong side of the city in Edinburgh like where I was from… We were working class boys and we didn’t expect to get very far. When this happened though it was such a great adventure for us. It was just amazing really”. Continuing Les adds of his inclusion to the band; “It was my dream to get involved with a music group, and get on the road and that’s exactly what happened”.
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Of course, Scotland is a far cry from the sunny shores of Australia, but in the 70s, Rollermania was an unstoppable force, and a tour destination that Les remembers fondly. “Australia is the furthest place that Rollermania reached and you’d always see things about Australia, it was just a very exotic place for us. When we finally got the chance I was like ‘wow yeah let’s go, I didn’t care how long it was going to take.” Although it may feel like yesterday to some, the Rollers first toured Australia back in 1975.
On the longevity of the band, their sound, and what fans can expect from his Australian tour, Les comments; “I provide a gateway to the past. We do the songs that were famous back in the 70s and all the fans in Australia would remember them. We do the tracks as close to the record as we can, and we try and bring back memories of the old days. It’s worked really well over in the UK”. In today’s world, surely nostalgic trips down memory lane are just what the doctor ordered? But it’s not just nostalgia that Les is promising on this particular tour, he has a whole bunch of new material up his sleeve. “I was able to re-record songs that I composed when I was 18. These are the lost songs, the songs that were rejected by producers in the 60s… Me, the wife and the son, went up to the attic one day to see if we could find anything that might have any of the old material in it, and I’ve started to work on those, you can actually find them on iTunes now”. Tunes? Check. Nostalgia? Check. But it wouldn’t be a BCR tour without, tartan. “Aye of course there is aye” Les laughed when asked, “There’s going to be a lot of tartan.”
So… run with your gang, grab a ticket to see Les sing ‘Shang-a-Lang,’ because music like this will never die… Doin’ doo wop be dooby do ay!