Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: They were going to be bigger than the Beatles


Do you remember that phenomenon, ever so brief as it was?

“Rollermania” was a take off on the term “Beatlemania.” In the mid-70’s there were extremely exaggerated predictions that the Bay City Rollers potentially could be as big as the Fab Four.

The Scottish band (above) became popular for their calf-length pants, tartans, and upbeat songs. Screaming teenagers mobbed them, a la John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

They had the first #1 hit on the Billboard chart in America’s bicentennial, hitting the top spot on January 3, 1976.

Not long after, a founder of the group, bass player Alan Longmuir left because the pressure was just too much.

“I was getting depressed. I couldn’t take it anymore,” he told the BBC in a 2015 documentary, but he re-joined the group many years later for a short reunion.

Longmuir died in 2018 at the age of 70. He had been receiving medical treatment in Edinburgh after being flown home from Mexico, where he fell ill while on vacation.

Les McKeown, the group’s lead singer, died last week of unspecified causes. He was 65.

“When we sort of started getting famous in the UK we sort of stole little bits of ideas from other bands, one of them was a band called Slade, they use to wear rolled up jeans with a Doctor Marten boot,” said McKeown. So, we kind of copied the rolled up jeans but we wore Adidas trainers instead of those big boots and so that was part of the image done. Then of course in Scotland we were Scottish so we thought we’d put some tartan on our shirts and that became an instant success and that’s the way we were dressed for a little while.” 

The Bay City Rollers chose their name by tossing a dart at a map of the United States. It landed on Bay City, Michigan.

The group split up in 1978. They sold 120 million records.

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