Times are good for the Bay City Rollers according to front man Les McKeown.
While they have not scaled the heady heights they struck in the 1970s, the band are enjoying a renaissance of late.
At the height of their fame, comparisons to the Beatles’ earlier popularity were not uncommon. In total, the Rollers released eight original albums including five gold records and six singles that made the Top 40 on the U.S. hit charts. Among their many hits were ‘Saturday Night,’ ‘I Only Want to Be With You’ and ‘Bye Bye Baby.’
Not only are the ‘Les McKeown Bay City Rollers’ back out on the road, they play Derry on Saturday October 29, but he has overcome his much publicised alcohol dependency issues, the bands long running legal dispute with record label Arista seems set to be resolved in the short term and his relationship with his former band members is “better than it’s has been in decades.”
Les told the Journal: “Rollermania happened at such a young age and it was all go all the time then suddenly, very suddenly it stopped. I got bored very quickly and it was hard if not impossible to adapt, that’s were my problems stemmed from.”
Les recalls the day the doctor told him he needed to change.
“The doctor said stop drinking if you want to see Christmas. I thought ‘ What the f*** does he know?’ And went out and got drunk.” Salvation for Les came in the form of a reality TV show which chronicled his treatment in an alcohol dependency centre. “They paid for it and while it was hard it was probably the best thing in my life. I got my family and the music back because of it. Looking back it was a very generous offer.”
Les had been in the eye of a the storm that was Rollermania since he was 15 years old.
“There was some animosity in the band but I brassnecked it and it didn’t last long.”
In fact Les was in the band for just under five years. It is a period in his life he believes he is still owed royalties from. “I think a favourable decision in our court case is imminent. It has been such a long road. It was a challenge to take a case, not least as I had quite a lot of bridges to build with the other bandmates and I had to build them from the ashes I left behind.”
The bands hits were written by Derryman, Phil Coulter. “If I met Phil I’d love to go for a chat with him. He was, is, a great songwriter. he gave us a clear and definitive identity as well as great hit songs. They are his songs and it is a testament to him that they’ve stood the test of time. Phil was the best thing to happen to the Rollers.” Describing the time he left the band as “very confusing” Les admits: “I didn’t want to sing songs about drugs even if I was taking them at the time. I thought, ‘We’re the biggest band in the world we’ll write our own songs.’”
Les has a different type of buzz today. “I get a buzz from performing. It is a different type of feeling to the one I had back when I was performing at the height of the bands fame but it is still a huge one.
“You learn to appreciate it on a lot of levels. I just love putting a smile on peoples faces. I’m delighted to still be doing what I love doing. I look at the news of Steve Jobs, who had all the money in the world and what good is it to him? I’m determined to keep on the right side of my health now and I appreciate every time I perform with the band.”
Les McKeown’s Bay City Rollers play Derry’s Millennium Forum on Saturday October 29.