Bay City Rollers play Crawley as part of extensive UK tour

Les McKeown
Les McKeown

2015 has seen the Bay City Rollers, starring Les McKeown, tour Japan, Canada and Europe.

Now the band is gearing up for an extensive UK tour, following summer appearances at shows and festivals. They play the Hawth, Crawley, on Monday, October 19, at 7.30pm

This September also marked the release of the band’s new single ‘Boomerang’ as they teamed up with Scottish producer and songwriter John McLaughlin (McBusted).

The music of the Bay City Rollers became the soundtrack for a generation of teenagers growing up in the mid ’70s. Frontman Les McKeown was the voice of the Bay City Rollers as they were propelled to superstardom, with massive hits including ‘Bye Bye Baby’, ‘Shang a Lang’, ‘Summer Love Sensation’ and ‘Give A Little Love’ and their USA number one Saturday Night.

“I started in ’71,” Les recalls. “The Bay City Rollers had had a hit in ’71 with a song called ‘Keep On Dancing’ and then they had several records that didn’t do very well at all, and their singer just got fed up with the lack of success and decided to hop it.

“I was in a little up-and-coming band in Edinburgh. The Bay City Rollers manager came to me with the guitarist to ask if I would be interested in joining them.

“At the time I had a part-time job in a studio. I was learning the tricks of the trade. I remember consulting a friend about it. He was saying ‘They have got a bit of an iffy image. He was saying ‘It is going to be backs to the wall, Les’ and all that stuff.

“But he said ‘What are they offering you?’ I said ‘£10 a week’. He said ‘How much are you earning with your current band?’ I said ‘I am down on it. I am spending my dole money on it’. He said ‘Well, there’s your answer’. So I said yes... and the rest is history.”

Though not always terribly happy history. There were difficult moments among all the highs.

“I wouldn’t say we gelled straight away. I remember after the first gig, I had a fight with the guitarist Eric. We were not getting on very well in rehearsal. He kept telling me what to do. I didn’t like it. That’s why I got kicked out of school. I had a problem with authority figures! But after a while, we got a professional respect for each other.”

And then the whole thing became massive.

“From the middle of ’74 it was clear that we were on our own little ego trip wanting to conquer the world, which we did pretty successfully, I am proud to say.”

If he knew how, he’d do it all again, says Les, who maintains that he is still 17 in his head. UK fame spread to the colonies. They became huge in Australia and then Japan and then their debut single in the States – a single that had failed in the UK with the previous singer – hit number one.

As to how he coped with it all, Les admits he doesn’t really know: “But at the time it didn’t seem very hard to cope with anything. I was having a great time. We were travelling first class everywhere. We were being molly-coddled and treated well. We didn’t really have to think about anything apart from work and having a bit of fun – and it just all happened very very fast.”

The band would go from filming TV material in Sydney to flying to Japan for more TV to flying back to London for Top Of The Pops and another number one and then off overnight to Helsinki.

“I suppose we coped because of our age and because of our diet. We ate well and we drank well. None of really drank at the time...certainly not the hard stuff of later years.”

The adulation was huge – but not scarily so.

“I think it all went over my head. The only time I felt fear of anything was for someone else, for the fans that would just throw themselves in front of the limousines.”

Tickets on 01293 553636 or by visiting www.hawth.co.uk.

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