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My Bay City Rollers Experience - Tartanized Since 1975
My friend Lesa recently asked me what it was like to see the Bay City Rollers live, as she has not had the opportunity to do so. I thought hard about how I was going to answer and told her that I could only describe my experience, not so much the guys themselves. I was fortunate enough to see them perform once in 1976 and twice in 1977, and with completely different lineups each time.
The Uptown Theatre, August 1976
In 1976, it was America’s bi-centennial and there were phenomenal Independence Day celebrations going on all over the country. I was preparing for the dream of a lifetime, thirteen years worth, as I would be seeing the Bay City Rollers live in concert at the Uptown Theatre in Chicago on August 27th. Alan Longmuir was gone and Ian Mitchell was in. So vividly I remember my mom sewing tartan strips on jeans and shirts for me and my sister. My cousin Ron volunteered to drive and to this day begs me to stop talking about it. As a thirteen-year-old at her first concert, I had no idea what to expect, but I remember seeing the Uptown Theatre from the car and it was massive. We were allowed to bring cameras into the venue but once developed, they only showed the people in front of me. As a short girl, I stood on a chair but still couldn’t see much, and that’s about all I remember.
The Arie Crown Theatre, May 1977
On May 21, 1977, the day after my 14th birthday, I saw the Bay City Rollers live at the Arie Crown Theatre in Chicago with my friend Patti and her friend Paula. Ian Mitchell was gone and Pat McGlynn was in. Patti and Paula’s dads were the drivers and chaperones. To fit in, they screamed fanatically during the show a few times as well. The vivid memories of this show come in the form of security and uncontrollable fans, rather than the boys themselves. The show had to be stopped on several occasions because girls kept rushing the stage and the security guys would just toss them back into the audience like beach balls. A rumor had started working its way back through the crowd that a fan had actually broken a leg, but I was never able to confirm. I remember my mom opening the door to let me in when I got home, asking me how the show was. I responded with “Awful,” and told her about the craziness that transpired.
The Illinois State Fair, August 1977
Unbeknownst to me at such a young age, August 15, 1977, would be the last time I saw the Bay City Rollers live in concert. My Aunt Sue was living in Springfield, Illinois, at the time and they were going to be playing at the Illinois State Fair. My mom planned a trip to visit her during that time, and she was able to get us tickets to the show. Pat McGlynn was gone and the Bay City Rollers were down to their four-man lineup of Woody Wood, Eric Faulkner, Derek Longmuir and Les McKeown. At least this time I could see the guys on stage. It wasn’t hard considering I was the only one in our section standing up and screaming; apparently we were in the senior section of the stands, and I’m pretty sure Woody noticed me. We returned home on the day Elvis Presley died.
Devastated by Break Up... Wait, a 1996 Reunion?
I was devastated when the Bay City Rollers broke up, and with the internet still years away, there was no way to keep up with any of them. Fast forward to Summer 1996. I get an out of breath phone call from my sister Lisa, telling me she saw in the paper that the Bay City Rollers were coming to Chicago. We both went mental over the phone, my stunned cousin Laurie watching in horror, as if I had just received some troubling news. Just one month before we were set to see our teen heartthrobs once more, a girl who worked with my sister said she tried to buy tickets but the show was cancelled. Lisa was told if she returned the tickets, she would receive a full refund, so she did. The girl behind the counter started giggling when she went in to get her refund and my sister was curious to know why. “Do you know why the show was cancelled?” the girl asked. Of course not... how would my sister know that? “They only sold two tickets.” This story continues to make the rounds today among our family and friends, but at least now we know what happened. Years later, we found out that the Bay City Rollers in question only included singer Les McKeown. Due to lawsuits at that time, the use of the Bay City Rollers name was removed from advertising, thus putting an end to ticket sales.
2015 Reunion Announcement and T in the Park, July 2016
I have been a fan of the Bay City Rollers for over forty years, and I have never been ashamed to admit it. My love has never wavered and their music is in constant rotation on my infinite playlist. Imagine my excitement when, in late 2015, a Bay City Rollers reunion was announced. It wasn’t a reunion of all the band members, but with Woody, Alan and Les on board, it was good enough for me. It was a whirlwind for fans with news articles, television interviews, and the promise of a new CD and world tour. Tickets for the reunion shows were selling out in three minutes. They were even invited to play at this summer’s T in the Park, Scotland’s biggest music festival. From the United States, I was able to watch their T in the Park performance from a Periscope broadcast by Hev Vaughan, a fellow Bay City Rollers fan and online acquaintance. By the time their one hour performance ended, there were almost half a million people watching that single broadcast alone.
Why I Have Always Been a Bay City Rollers Fan
People regularly ask me why I’m still so hung up on the Bay City Rollers. It’s simple, really. I fell in love with them when I was twelve years old. It was a time when I was young and innocent and didn’t have a care in the world. It was a time before I knew what heartache was, or truly understood loss, failure, pain or death. Before jobs and earning a living or struggling to put food on the table. Before marriage and divorce. Before watching loved ones suffer through addiction or unspeakable heartbreak, and before enduring the effects of suicide. Before all the death, destruction, evil and ugliness that seems to be so common these days. It was a time I can relive over and over again with a smile, listening to happy, bouncy pop tunes and remembering my amazing childhood.
And as for the Bay City Rollers... I just want them to finish what they started with the ending they so truly deserve.