The Bay City Rollers were a Scottish Pop/rock band of the 1970s. Their youthful, clean-cut image, distinct 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 a worldwide sensation. 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 and his younger brother Derek, a drummer, 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.
They received their first break when prominent record executive Dick Leahy caught their act by chance in an Edinburgh club. After signing with Bell Records, their first hit was "Keep on Dancing" (UK #9, 1971), a cover of a 1965 Gentrys hit, recorded at the suggestion of the now-disgraced pop impresario Jonathan King, who produced the Bay City Rollers' version and sang some vocal parts himself. Upon this release's success, they made guest appearances on the BBC-TV's lip-sync television show Top of the Pops. Following on the heals of "Keep on Dancing", the group won a Radio Luxembourg sponsored song contest with the song "Mañana", which was later popular in parts of Europe and Israel.
The Bay City Rollers went through several line-up changes (and non-charting singles) over the following two years. In late 1973 they narrowly missed the UK chart with "Saturday Night." This and many subsequent singles were written and produced by the highly successful songwriting duo of Scotsman Bill Martin and Irishman Phil Coulter, previously responsible for Sandie Shaw's "Puppet on a String," Cliff Richard's "Congratulations," and the England World Cup Squad's "Back Home," among others.
Beginning with early 1974's "Remember (Sha La La La)" (UK #6), the Rollers released a string of very successful hits on the British charts. Following in succession were "Shang-a-Lang" (UK #2), "Summerlove Sensation" (UK #3), and "All of Me Loves All of You" (UK #4). By the spring of 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. A cover of the Four Seasons' "Bye, Bye, Baby", stayed at #1 in the UK for six weeks in the spring of 1975, shifing nearly a million copies to become the biggest seller of the year, and the subsequent single "Give A Little Love" topped the charts that summer, their second #1 hit. At the peak of their popularity in the UK, comparisons were even made to The Beatles.
In late 1975 the Bay City Rollers reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 with the above video, "Saturday Night", the song which had missed the UK chart completely two years earlier. A second US hit came with "Money Honey" which hit #9 (earlier it had gone to #3 in the UK). The group also hit the US and UK charts that year with a cover version of the Dusty Springfield song "I Only Want To Be With You". This would be their last Top 10 success in Britain.
The group's commercial fortunes declined towards the end of the 1970s. An unsuccessful 1973 single by the String Driven Thing, "It's A Game", was covered by the Bay City Rollers in 1977 to give them their final UK Top 20 hit, #16 in the spring, but "You Made Me Believe in Magic" could only make #34 in the summer. Summer of '77 saw the group release the It's a Game album and tour the world as a four-piece group.
In 1978, Alan Longmuir reunited with the band for the recording of Strangers in the Wind. The release of this LP was timed to coincide with the debut of the Rollers' US kiddie television show on the NBC network. The show was a poor match for the 1978 edition of the band, however: their time in the teen-idol spotlight had long since past, and their music was decidedly mature and sophisticated compared to the bubblegum hits of '75-'76. The show and album were each dismal failures.
McKeown participated in a 1978 tour of Japan but left the group for a solo career shortly thereafter. Paton was fired in 1979, as the band added lead singer Duncan Faure and shortened their name to The Rollers. Three albums were issued under this name, including Voxx (1980) and 1981's Ricochet, before the group disbanded.
During the 80s and 90s, there were various short-lived revivals featuring some of the original members, notably including a New Year's Eve 1999 concert. Interest was rekindled in Britain by television documentaries about the group and a television-advertised compilation of greatest hits, which entered the UK charts on release in 2004 at its #11 peak.
Currently, there are two touring versions using the group's name: Les McKeown's Legendary Bay City Rollers and Ian Mitchell's Bay City Rollers. Each group features only its titled member from the original Rollers heyday.
The line-up with which the group is most associated is the late 1973-early 1976 assemblage:
Eric Faulkner (lead guitar)
Alan Longmuir (bass)
Derek Longmuir (drums)
Les McKeown (lead vocals)
Stuart Wood (rhythm guitar)
McKeown had replaced Gordon "Nobby" Clark (heard on "Keep On Dancing"). Alan Longmuir was replaced briefly by Irish American guitarist Ian Mitchell, who in turn was replaced by guitarist Pat McGlynn. Longmuir re-joined the band in 1978. McKeown was replaced in 1979 by Duncan Faure, a South African singer.
Bay City Rollers discography page