You’ve got to Rollers with it
Bay City Roller legend Les McKeown is on tour again – almost 40 years after his band achieved world-wide domination.
He will be in Preston on Saturday, reproducing the sound of the 70s and turning the town tartan.
And the 57-year-old superstar told the Lancashire Evening Post why he objects to the term “boy band”, and why he has no interest in Harry Styles.
“People use the term boy band”, he said, “but I would have put the Bay City Rollers as a musical group.
“We were young lads, but we all played our instruments and I wouldn’t call what we did dancing.”
McKeown has been described as the Harry Styles of his day, with One Direction’s success and impact mirroring that of the Bay City Rollers.
He said: “It’s a designer world and they are designed to appeal to the current generation of young girls – and good luck to them. It’s not like we cross paths or anything – it’s not like they’re in competition with me.”
He added: “I don’t really think that much about them. I’m just interested in doing different things – writing songs, doing tours abroad.
“I’ve got a business to run, it’s not on my radar.”
Asked about the rise of talent shows and manufactured groups, Les said: “I suppose I could have been seduced by the promise of instant fame, but it didn’t happen.
“It is perceived to have happened that way for the Bay City Rollers, but we were going since 1969, had a hit in 1971 and then got famous in 1974.
“There was a lot of work going up and down the country and learning our craft, I like to call it.”
The show itself is The Bay City Rollers Story.
Les said: “I’m playing myself, I’m on stage being Les McKeown. Of course it’s great to put on a little bit of tartan and remind the audience – it’s the Bay City Rollers, it’s a celebration of the world wide domination in the mid 70s when we turned the whole world tartan.”
He said: “The only other band to have done that since then is One Direction as far as world wide sales go.”
But he added: “We did it all before there were videos and internet.
“We physically had to travel to all these countries – we were on tour for three years non-stop and I saw my mum and dad six days in three years.
“So I’m only comparing the record sales.
“Of course they are much better looking than we were, they can dance better than we can dance.
“The reaction to them is very fanatical.”
Les said as he gets older he now prefers to play to smaller crowds.
He said: “When you play stadium gigs, you have to act a different way with the audience because of projecting to a big audience.
“I prefer to project to a theatre audience - you can speak to people because it’s not bustling with noise, you can crack jokes and they are heard in the right context.
“It seems much more personal.
“I had never really worked in theatres until 2010, but as soon as I started I thought this is what I like to do.”
And he said the audiences had changed as well.
“There’s the people who were original fans who have followed me for the last 40 years.
“And now their kids come along who know that while mum was making breakfast she was playing her favourite band and talking about whose picture she had on her bedroom wall, when her daughter is talking about The Wanted.
“There’s a younger generation of fans and the other exciting thing is that there are loads of guys coming.
“I think the wives are dragging their reluctant husbands, but once they hear the quality of the music they are suitably impressed.”
The Bay City Rollers Story will be at the Charter Theatre on Saturday at 7.30.
Tickets are £19.50, concessions £2 off.
Groups of 10 or more get the 11th free. To book call 0844 844 7710 or visit www.prestonguildhall.com.
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