Bay City Rollers were "the safest boyfriends" you could never have
Yes, it was mad, but Les McKeown enjoyed every moment of his time with the Bay City Rollers – an era he will relive as he goes on the road with the Legends Live tour.
Suzi Quatro, David Essex, Les McKeown’s Bay City Rollers and Showaddywaddy will be on the bill as the show hits the Brighton Centre on Sunday, April 7 (0844 847 1515 or www.brightoncentre.co.uk).
“Everybody growing up in the 70s and maybe even the 80s, then Top of the Pops was still the number one place to get music, and there was only Radio 1 and Radio Luxemburg,” Les recalls. “There were very limited outlets for music.
“I can remember standing on the corner listening to Radio Luxemburg and I remember trying to get all the lyrics to the latest songs so that I could sing them. I have been singing ever since I can remember. My mum always used to be singing, and it was just normal to be singing all the time. People would say that I had a sweet voice.
“I was invited to leave school when I was 15. It was implied ‘Don’t come back!’ I joined my first band, and I cut my teeth there, and then I got offered the job with the Bay City Rollers, which was November 73. They had had a hit in 71. They had been going since 69, I think. They had released other songs but didn’t get anywhere, and then amazingly for me the singer left the band. They picked the most popular singer in the east of Scotland at that time, and that was me. I just thought ‘That’s the job!’ They had equipment, they had a roadie, they had hotels, they had bookings.”
And things took off: “We got more and more popular with the younger generation especially through the TV appearances, things like Crackerjack and Basil Brush. We quickly connected with the audience, and we were off.
“Our audiences were basically teenage girls, but we went from the really tiny ones all the way up to 13, 14, 15 and 16. We had the older ones coming to the concerts, and the younger ones were being really cute, and I think for the girls that were going through that part of their lives, we were really important for them. We were like a safe boyfriend. We were untouchable. There was no danger involved. We were like the safest boyfriends you could ever imagine.
“And I absolutely loved it. There were a couple of the guys that thought it was a bit mad, but I thought if we were going to get fame, I wanted it to be like for the bands that I had seen between 1970 and 1973, for people like David Bowie and Roxy Music and Queen. They had had great reactions, and I was thinking that if I got famous, then that was how I was wanting it to be. And consequently, that was how I was wanting the audiences to react.
“I think it was frightening sometimes when it was chaotic. We had our own security permanently, and sometimes there were situations that were manufactured by the management to create headline news. They would orchestrate situations, just like happens now, to hit the headlines.
“But my job was just to go out there and front the band and sing, and I love it. I went out there and there were all these smiling faces. It was great. I loved it. And I still love it. I can recommend it to any young man out there!”