“Everything we touched turned to tartan”

Les McKeown and his band relive the 1970s in Rollermainia.

Les McKeown and his band relive the 1970s in Rollermainia.

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BAY City Rollers legend Les McKeown is busy preparing for his his forthcoming Rollermania tour, which chronicles the story of how five working class Scottish guys became a worldwide pop phenomenom.

This week he chatted about Rollermania and the heady days of the mid 1970s. Aged just 18, Les and the boys became the centre of mass boy-band adulation not seen since the Beatles.

This week he chatted about Rollermania and the heady days of the mid 1970s. Aged just 18, Les and the boys became the centre of mass boy-band adulation not seen since the Beatles.

Said Les:“Rollermania! is basically me telling stories about the band from the days before I joined to the height of our success. Me and the guys will play the classics, the songs which influenced us and there will be a couple of songs recorded but never released by The Bay City Rollers, which I’m sure the audience will want to hear”.

What was it like to have been the centre of such adulation at that age, to live in a world where fantasy and reality came together?

“It was an indescribable experience – a euphoric bubble for three or four years. Everything we touched turned to tartan.

In Japan Australia and America we went to number one. ,s Most of the things that happened in 74, 75 and 76 were good things . It didn’t start to go sour until after 1978.

The fans appreciate that. They read an awful lot about us in the newspapers. But only we knew what it was like in the eye of the storm. In an echo of the infamous George Best phrase, he adds only half jokingly: “Where did it all go wrong?”

There were lineup changes, ego battles, legal disputes over millions of pounds of lost royalties, drugs and alcohol abuse and other dark problems.

But these days Les doesn’t want to talk about any of that. “I am doing this tour as part of getting my life positive again,” he says.

“This is a celebration.”

And teeny boppers of a certain age have never forsaken the Rollers.

“The audience are mainly people who were aged 8-14 at the time we were around. Obviously they have grown up and a lot bring their daughters with them. They have been brought up listening to mum’s old record collection. By the end they are all singing Bye Bye Baby and especially jumping around to Shangalang”. His current five-piece band The Legendary Bay City Rollers, has no other original members, but les has not fallen out with his old bandmates and said a reunion could well be on the cards.

“I still go out with Woody Derek and Alan. Everyone is still able to play. We are waiting for our American court case to be settled which will hopefully be this year. We can then move on and talk to sponsors about a world tour, which could be on in 2013”.

Two films about the Rollers are also in the pipeline. “There are two different versions - one is based on Bye Bye Baby, a book by rock critic Caroline Sullivan, who followed us all over America. the other is an autobiography which tells more about my story before the band.

My dad was a tailor and my mother was a seamstress. They moved from Ireland to Edinburgh to start a new life whose son had an ambition to go onstage. I am helping write that script and trying to evoke memories.of those days” .

Les says his father was instrumental in creating the Scottish sartorial image forever associated with the band.

“I remember a fan posted us pictures she had drawn of what the Bay City Rollers should look like. She sent it to the fan club. - us decked out in tartan trim.

We thought iot looked good and my dad ran up some outfits in an afternoon, sewing tartan on our jeans. That’s how it happened!”

I just want people to come along, grab their free tartan scarf, let their hair down, lose their inhibitions and take a trip straight back to 1975”.

Rotherham Civic Theatre, on April 19. Tickets £19.50 on 01709 823621.