Bay City Rollers’ lead vocalist and guitarist Les McKeown passed away on April 20 at the age of 65. In 1975, the Scottish band debuted in the U.S. with their self-titled third album, containing the weekend party anthem “Saturday Night,” which spelled out S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y and climbed the U.S. Top 40 all the way to No. 1 in early January 1976 and became a gold single. The flip side was the gentler “Marlina,” co-written by McKeown and more in line with what would become their final U.S. Top 40 hit, late the following year, “The Way I Feel Tonight.”
Bay City Rollers
Flip side: Marlina
A side: Saturday Night
Top 100 debut: October 11, 1975
Peak position: No. 1
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“Money Honey” was the next single for the group in 1976 and reached the Top 10 as did “You Made Me Believe in Magic” the following year. Their energetic cover of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be With You” was their fourth highest charting single in the U.S. “Yesterday’s Hero,” written by The Easybeats’ Harry Vanda and George Young, gave a hint of the edgier direction the band wished to pursue later in the decade. At their 1970s peak, Bay City Rollers were Scotland’s biggest band. With the proposed change in musical direction, McKeown decided to leave the group in 1978, but later rejoined the band for comeback tours and live recordings.
In the 2003 movie Love Actually, Bay City Rollers’ cover of “Bye Bye Baby,” from their self-titled album, was featured early in the film.
In his 2020 Goldmine interview, Australian rock guitarist and singer Joe Matera shared the story, “Opening for Bay City Rollers was one of the highlights of my musical career. They came to Australia in 2017 and did fifteen shows, including sold out concerts. I played at the sold out shows in Melbourne and about 99% of the audience were women. They were the biggest crowds that I had played to and they enjoyed my set. I was nervous going out in front of all those female Bay City Rollers fans, but they really took to my music and it went down really well. I garnered a whole new fan base, which is really cool. The women in the audience were reliving their childhoods, which was really wonderful to see.”
Post-pandemic, Bay City Rollers, with original member Stuart “Woody” Wood, will return to performing concerts.