Bay City Rollers- a re-evaluation
a goofy instead of guilty pleasure? Bay City Rollers- a re-evaluation

So there I am backstage at Rebellion punk festival hanging out with a slightly grizzled old rock n roller who is talking ten to the dozen. His thick Scottish brogue belies years of living in Spain and his endless funny tales of the seventies pretty soon narrow him down to being Woody from the Bay City Rollers. Turns out that Woody is a cool guy and the Rollers have just gone a storm at the punk festival.

Bay City Rollers- a re-evaluation
a goofy instead of guilty pleasure? Bay City Rollers- a re-evaluation

Of course we hated them at the time.

We thought that the Bay City Rollers were gurning buffoons committing pop crimes. They arrived at the tail end of glam rock with overgrown feather cuts and Stonehenge teeth smiles caught in one of those screechy, screaming, pop rolercoasters that used to have mania thrown on the end of them as a desperate echo of Beatlemania. For a couple of years they seemed to be equal in intensity to the mad Beatles wet knicker landslide that had so altered the sixties instead they ended up like so many since then- enormous for a few glorious months, a young dumb and full of cum fantasy for pre pubescent, sexually explosive mid teens looking for an imaginary grope and a cuddle from their favourite goofy pin ups.

The Bay City Rollers story is the ultimate tale of the road to ruin, roller coaster ride of pop. Years of graft on the Scottish club circuit then a brief three years of being teen sensations. Then the big time in the USA before the wheels came off, they then lost millions, there was dingy sex, drugs, jail, a dark afterlife after the brief orgasm of thrilling success. Somehow there is a residual love for the band, the teeny hoppers are now middle aged women turn out for the band and at the Rebellion punk festival one of the many line ups of the Rollers went down a storm with non ironic good time sing a longs from punk rockers old enough to know better. They still tour in dribs and drabs- ghosts of some long lost screamathon celebrating lost youth and white half mast kecks with bits of tartan sewn on them.

And yet somehow there is something of the classic about the band.

They were just not that bad.

In these Cowell-pop days when all pop seems to be slushy- auto tune- ballads that have no sentiment the leering joyous come on of the Bay City Rollers sound like the perfect naive teenage anthems. These songs were the first fumbling grope in a freezing cold mid seventies youth club and the soundtrack to a million half hidden zits and disappointing hand jobs.

There is a brilliant pop naivety to their upbeat anthems and a simple doe eyed melancholy to their sadder tunes that even then harked back to a less complex time of the late fifties.

‘Shang A Lang’ is anthemic, ‘Bye Bye Baby’ is mercurial in it’s innocence and seemed to be number one for ever, ‘Money Honey’ was when they almost convincingly rocked it up for that much hoped for but rarely achieved crossover- the point when the boys had to gruntingly admit that were not that bad before attempting to spell Led Zepplin correctly as they carved it into the school desk with a flick knife.

The Bay City Rollers first hit, ‘Keep On Dancing’, was in 1971- oddly this seems forgotten in the scheme of things- like original singer Nobby who was replaced by the ragamuffin Les Mckeow, whose crooked smile made him look like the hard kid trying to be cute for the girls. Mckeown looked like the fairground dodgem hustler- a job that oozed seventies glam and ambition and his leering charisma ignited the band into the big time.

They didn’t get another hit till 1974’s ‘Remember Sha La la’ and then for three years they were pop gods. The hits kept coming including their first number one in America, ‘Saturday Night’. Rollermania briefly threatened to engulf the world- well the tabloids, their singles were massive and there were number one albums. They sniffed the hairy buttocks of the top twenty in America before the wheels came off with scandals, fuck ups and a fashion sea change when punk made them obsolete and the Rollermania girls hid their tartens and swopped them for the heavy manners. punk rock gear and were embarrassed about their Roller love.

Oddly the band was one of the unspoken influences on punk rock. Malcolm Maclaren wanted the Sex Pistols to be a ruder version of the Bay City Rollers and there is a whiff of the Rollers in the Clash or Generation X, their converse, hitched up pants and spiky hair were oddly more in tune with what came next than some of their contemporaries.

The Rollers songs with their nod to classic power pop and girl group melodicism- the neon saturday nights of teenage lust and fish and finger pies weirdly sound like Jesus And The Mary Chain and classic indie pop. Revisiting the Bay City Rollers anthems is a goofy not guilty pleasure and a timely reminder of the power if classic pop.

It’s oddly, that good.

Next articleEdwin Collins working on solo album
Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. I think you might find that it was Eric Faulkner you were chatting with (I was there too). Funny, you didn’t seem that drunk at the time!!!:)

    • Karin, as you have said, it’s only an interest at being an agent for Eric Faulkner,why do you think you know so much about his medical side and think you know him so well,why do you think you should of stayed in the hospital with him, are you trying to say you and he are an item, or wishful thinking,what’s the story with his mother and brother, do they think they get his estate if he were to pass, considering his parents and brother left him at fourteen or fifteen, to eat out of rubbish, his mother’s sister took forever to take him in,they think they are intitled to have anything to do with him,do you think your getting anything,not married after two bad marriages,no family of his own?he’s older then you, should know better then to be told to sign papers all the time, should of learnt from roller day.thats when tam was getting permission to get money from his bank account,cilla blacks father signed once for his permission for her to sign to Brian epstein.if I was the nurse you wouldn’t have got your way.

  2. Am very appalled with your write up about the Bay City Rollers. Just to let you know that I for one will not be interested in reading any of your future write ups. For your information. The person you were interviewing was the lovely Mr Eric Faulkner who is very much respected in the music industry and has a very huge fan base following. I think you are rude and owe Mr Faulkner an apology!

  3. That’s a great article , it was obvious it was Eric you were talking to though !
    It’s a shame they weren’t appreciated more at the height of their fame , especially Eric.

  4. I would have to agree, Eric was not shown respect, people thinking he wrote money honey with woody, when Eric wrote it at 12, and has said so in his later concerts, what is left of the band should still go and get their money, but pick their own judge, get a scottish one, and have the old record company shut down, if only his p . a would let Eric do it, shes worried about losing a client, as he wouldnt have to tour to pay for his rent, and he can go back to Edinbough where he should be, that called holding information, treated very badly, now respect.


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