Sep 19, 2012

The Bay City Rollers

During the mid-1970s, I occasionally saw pictures of the Bay City Rollers in teen magazines, but I knew nothing about them, except that Ian Mitchell got the lion's share of semi-nude and bulging swimsuit photos, even though he was a member of the band for only about seven months.

I figured they were from Bay City, Michigan and performed on roller skates.

No, they were Scottish, trying to capitalize on American chic by throwing a dart at a map of the U.S. and naming themselves after wherever it hit.

And "roller" meant "rock and roll."

Consisting of Alan and Derek Longmuir, Eric Faulkner, Stuart Wood, Les McKeown, and for awhile Ian Mitchell (with Tam Paton as their manager), they were so big in Britain that they were compared to the Beatles.  There were also big stars in Australia, Canada, and Japan.  They established an entire "Bay City Rollers" lifestyle, complete with costumes and slang terms.

In the U.S., they charted in 1975 and 1976, but had only one #1 hit: "Saturday Night," which I remember only vaguely:

Gonna dance with my baby till the night is thru
On Saturday Night, Saturday Night
Tell her all the little things I'm gonna do
On Saturday night, Saturday Night

Maybe that's why I don't remember it; incessantly heterosexist.

In 1978, they appeared on The Krofft Superstar Hour on Saturday morning tv, along with such Krofft superstars as Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf (which had been off the air for years).

The program was even renamed, briefly, to The Bay City Rollers Show, making it one of the famous short-lived 1970s variety shows, along with The Brady Bunch Variety Show and The Hudson Brothers Show.

By the end of 1978, Les McKeown and Tam Paton left the group, and the remaining guys renamed themselves The Rollers, and then the New Bay City Rollers. Their last official concert was in 2000.  But today there are two competing groups: Les McKeown's Legendary Bay City Rollers, plus The Bay City Rollers Featuring Ian Mitchell.

In spite of their largely heterosexist lyrics, there are some gay connections. Tam Paton was gay.  In 2009 he faced charges of child sexual abuse for alleged incidents with under-aged boys. He was cleared, but the stress weakened his health, and he died shortly thereafter.  

Les McKeown came out as gay on tv in 2009.  He states that no one knew, not even his wife of 25 years.