The Rollers were the renamed Bay City Rollers trying to shake off their teen idol past but the only thing they suceeded in shaking off was their popularity.
I don’t remember this incarnation of the Bay City Rollers but I do recall the craze of the three or so years pervious.
At least one of my school friends would come to school in his tartans … and he wasn’t Scottish and we were in Australia at a Catholic Boys School in the inner-west of Brisbane.
The Bay City Rollers were a micro phenomena (the so-called “Rollermania”) but a pheomena nevertheless.
They were, certainly, Scotland's greatest musical phenomena and one of the first boybands, though strictly speaking they were more os a teen band cecause they played their instruments.
The phenomena wasn’t micro but its longevity was. It dissipated pretty quickly and the band was rapidly forgotten by many of their fans.
Worse still, for them, they aren’t revived by kids (well, not many) nowadays or subsequent generations..
The Spice Girls, One Direction, Justin Beiber, David Cassidy … there have been many (teen) manias but only Elvis, The Beatles and Frank Sinatra have maintained their fans and transcended the manias.
But for a few years the Bay City Rollers could do no wrong.
Between 1974 and 1978 they had single hits in England (2 #1s, 8 Top 10s, 2 Top 40s), Australia (1 #1, 6 Top 10s, 3 Top 40s), the US (1 #1, 2 Top 10s, 4 Top 40s), New Zealand (1 Top 10, 8 Top 40s) and elsewhere.
They, also had, perhaps unusually, album hits in England (2 #1s, 2 Top 10s, 1 Top 40), the US (4 Top 40s), Japan (2 No1s, 1 Top 10, 3 Top 40s), New Zealand (3 Top 10s, 3 Top 40s) as well as charting albums in many other countries.
Apparently they sold some 300 million records (I've also read 80 million) and that would have been prior to 1978.
They were also called the next Beatles for a while … a tag that brings certain death to a musical act, much like the "next Dylan".
Allmusic: The Bay City Rollers were a Scottish pop/rock band of the '70s with a strong following among teenage girls. The origins of the group go back to the formation of the duo the Longmuir Brothers in the late '60s, consisting of drummer Derek Longmuir (b. March 19, 1952, Edinburgh, Scotland) and his bass-playing brother Alan (b. June 20, 1953, Edinburgh). They eventually changed their name to the Saxons, adding singer Nobby Clarke and John Devine. Then they changed their name again by pointing at random to a spot on a map of the United States: Bay City, Michigan. Their first hit was a cover of the Gentrys' "Keep on Dancing," which reached number nine in the U.K. in September 1971. In June 1972, guitarist Eric Faulkner (b. October 21, 1954, Edinburgh) joined. In January 1973, singer Leslie McKeown (b. November 12, 1955, Edinburgh) and guitarist Stuart Wood (b. February 25, 1957, Edinburgh) replaced Clarke and Devine, stabilizing the quintet's lineup … After flopping with three singles, they finally hit the Top Ten again in February 1974 with "Remember." At this point, the Rollers became a teen sensation in Great Britain, with their good looks and tartan knickers, and they scored a series of Top Ten U.K. hits over the next two and a half years: "Shang-a-Lang," "Summerlove Sensation," "All of Me Loves All of You," "Bye Bye Baby" (a cover of Four Seasons hit that went to number one), "Give a Little Love" (another number one), "Money Honey," "Love Me Like I Love You," and "I Only Want to Be with You" (a cover of the Dusty Springfield hit). Their albums Rollin', Once Upon a Star, Wouldn't You Like It, and Dedication were also Top Ten successes, with Rollin' and Once Upon a Star getting to number one. They scored their first U.S. hit with "Saturday Night," which was released in September 1975 and hit number one in January 1976. It was followed by the Top Ten hits "Money Honey" and "You Made Me Believe in Magic." The Rollers also had five straight gold albums in the U.S.: Bay City Rollers, Rock 'n' Roll Love Letter, Dedication, It's a Game, and Greatest Hits.
But by 1978 things were going astray.
At the end of 1978, the band had split with lead singer Les McKeown, then fired their manager. Shortly after they decided to continue in a more new-wave, rock-oriented sound.
They brought in South African-born Duncan Faure (from South African rock band Rabbitt) as new lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter and called themselves The Rollers.
“Elevator” was the first album under the new line up
They aren’t the first band to change their image and their sound.
Their initial fans (lots of young teen girls) may have been a little older but not old enough to appreciate this new-wavish power pop sound which appealed to late teens and 20s somethings and mainly boys I expect.
Check out the other power pop comments on this blog for some history but the term powerpop wasn't really used until around 1978. The Rollers were, rather, playing the melodious pop rock they always had but now with some sharpness, punch, maturity and cynicism (the pill on the elevator on the sleeve is an indication as there are some rock 'n' roll drug references in the songs).
With the new sound they fell into the same groove as Cheap Trick, The Knack, The Romantics, The Cars, The Shoes and others with a smidgen of ELO thrown in, though without the focus of those bands. Power pop and the New Wave do intersect but The Rollers aren't sure which camp they want to be more in.
In any event nobody went for it, though live clips of them at the time show enthusiasm from their female fans. They lost many of their old fans because that’s what happens with the fickle fans of teen bands, and no music geek was going to fall for a name change or give them a break.
And it's a pity because they had something, and , continual playing during their successful period would only have honed their musical ability.
With Faure the line-up produced three albums: "Elevator" (1979), "Voxx" (1980), and "Ricochet" (1981).
Following the expiry of the band's Arista contract (and poor sales) they stopped touring in late 1981 (though they have reformed since on a few occasions).
Faure and the classic earlier line-up have since sued the Arista label for unpaid royalties.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Stoned Houses #1 – (Faulkner, Wood, Faure) – a intro
- Elevator – (Faulkner, Faure, Wood) – a great punchy power pop song with all the right musical motifs hit.
- Playing in a Rock and Roll Band – (Faure, Tom Seufurt) – Lead Vocals by Eric Faulkner. A catchy song about a kid in a rock n roll band and without much cynicism.
- Hello & Welcome Home – (Faulkner, Faure) – quite a pretty song and quite McCartney-esque though a throwback if filtered through the Raspberries.
- I Was Eleven – (Faure) – more power pop though with a rather full back end sound
- Stoned Houses #2 – (Faulkner) – a slightly bizarre faux new wave song.
- Turn on the Radio – (Faulkner, Faure, Wood, Alan Longmuir) – a great tune and very Beatles with a John Lennon-esque vocal.
- Instant Relay – (Faulkner) – more faux new wave with dance / disco overtones much like Blondie in some ways
- Tomorrow's Just a Day Away – (Faulkner, Wood) – Lead Vocals by Woody Wood. The obligatory ballad that appears on all powerpop albums.
- Who'll Be My Keeper – (Faure) – a rock 'n' roll lifestyle song.
- Back on the Road Again – (Faulkner, Faure, Wood, Alan Longmuir) – another rock 'n' roll lifestyle song with a driving rock n roll rhythm.
- Washington's Birthday – (Wood, Faulkner, Faure) – nonsensical slightly pretentious lyrics, big production, layered harmonies, silly musical asides. A perfect later Beatles rip off. But it is undeniably catchy.
A mix of new wave and power pop sounds the power pop comes off best and is at times spectacular. Undervalued … I'm keeping it.
Hello & Welcome Home
Turn on the Radio
Back on the Road Again
- wikipedia: They were also extremely popular in Australia. One example of their popularity, was put into the book about Countdown – the Australian TV music show which ran from 1974 – 1987. Their 1976 appearance on Countdown coincided with a total eclipse of the sun. Director Ted Emery recalls '(there)… were thousands of kids done up in tartan pants that didn't reach the top of their shoes, constantly bashing on the plexiglas doors. They would do anything… to get into that television studio. There's 200 kids bashing on the door and a total eclipse of the sun occurred. I'd never seen one. On this day we all stopped in the studio and the Rollers went up on the roof. We stood out there and watched the flowers close up and all the automatic street lighting come on. It was chilling, the most fantastic thing you'd ever see. Downstairs the kids never turned around, staring into the plexiglas waiting to see the Rollers come out of the studio, go down the corridor and into the canteen. (They) never noticed the total eclipse of the sun'. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_City_Rollers
- Bay City Rollers starring Les McKeown are touring Australia in July 2017.