The Bay City Rollers first began to make their impression on the music scene in 1964 when a pair of teenage brothers, Alan and Derek Longmuir, went from performing at private functions to eventually entertaining the public. At first, they performed cover songs recorded and released by artists from the U.K. and the U.S. before developing their own material that would ultimately turn them into one of the most popular teen idols during the 1970s. As for the name of the band itself, this came about after dart throws against the map of the United States took place. The first time the dart hit the board featured the name of a place nobody cared for but it was the second one that made a better impression, landing near enough to Bay City, Michigan to officially dub this young rock group as Bay City Rollers.
New Teen Idols
At first, the Bay City Rollers had a somewhat slow start as recording artists trying to make a big impression on the audience. This resulted in frustration among some of the earliest band members that opted out before a teenager named Stuart Wood joined the lineup in early 1974. At this point, with Les McKeown as the group’s lead vocalist, the first hit single coming from the Bay City Rollers was 1973’s “Remember (Sha-La-La-La),” which officially served as the breakthrough hit needed to put the band’s name on the star map of the entertainment industry.
By the time 1975 hit, the five-man lineup of the Longmuir brothers, Eric Faulkner, Les McKeown, and Stuart Wood became the new teen idols that began to rock the world with one classic hit after another. It was this particular roster of teen idols that began the Rollermania trend which dominated the second half of the 1970s that saw even the fans of Bay City Rollers sport tartan-styled attire as their way of paying homage to the band. 1974’s Rollin’ album, as well as 1975’s Once Upon a Star, became certified platinum sellers with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). With this achievement already under their belt, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world would learn about the five men who called themselves the Bay City Rollers.
Coming to America
Starting in 1975, the popularity of the Bay City Rollers extended from the U.K. into Canada and the U.S. after the official release of “Saturday Night.” As if some new addiction had been unleashed, this song, plus the group’s self-titled album, hurled the North American audience into a frenzy that could rival what some of the iconic groups from the 1960s like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones did in the hype area. This album was originally a North American release only, followed a year later with Rock n’ Roll Love Letter. Just like the debut album, it became a certified platinum seller in Canada and certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
In 1976 and 1977, the momentum of the Bay City Rollers was still enough to earn RIAA’s gold certifications with the album releases of Dedication and It’s a Game before the novelty which made the group so popular began to wear off. Also, it didn’t help when Alan Longmuir opted to leave the group in 1976 as he felt the pressure of success had become too much to handle. He also felt over-aged as he was approaching his thirties while the Bay City Rollers are technically supposed to be known as a rock band consisting of teenagers.
From Rolling to Rocky
Shortly after the departure of Alan Longmuir, the lineup of the Bay City Rollers began to shuffle about while the group’s teen idol popularity outgrew the fan appeal it once had just a few years prior. With new faces and names, along with new music styles earning the spotlight, the band’s troubles began to take their toll. In 1978, Les McKeown left the Bay City Rollers as the group opted to alter its music style to favor the new wave craze that became the new trend in the music industry. Not only did the group alter their music style but the name as well, now simply calling themselves The Rollers. The lineup changes continued but any hope to regain the former glory the band once had never materialized, even after switching the name to New Rollers in 1980, and then back to Bay City Rollers by 1990.
Legacies and Reunions
As a twentieth anniversary celebration, the star lineup of the Bay City Rollers came together in 1996 to perform “Saturday Night” in Japan, which was followed in 1999 with a special concert performance in Scotland. This sparked a new level of interest in the Bay City Rollers but it still didn’t match the height of popularity this group experienced during the second half of the 1970s. From the lineup of Alan Longmuir, Les McKeown, and Stuart Wood, the Bay City Rollers began a revival in 2015. However, during the summer of 2018, Alan Longmuir succumbed to an illness that lead to his death, followed by the September 2020 death of Ian Mitchell due to throat cancer.
During the spring of 2021, Les McKeown also died. Of the legendary lineup that saw the Bay City Rollers reach the height of their popularity, only Derek Longmuir and Stuart Wood remain. Longmuir remains out of the public spotlight while Wood is still performing as a member of the Bay City Rollers.
The discography of the Bay City Rollers features thirteen studio albums recorded and released so far, along with eight compilation albums, two live albums, and thirty-one singles. Many of their hit singles became at least certified silver by the BPI and have also firmly established themselves as one of the best-selling recording musicians of all time with well over one hundred million recordings sold worldwide.
Top 10 Bay City Rollers Songs
#10 – You Made Me Believe in Magic
The 1977 release of “You Made Me Believe in Magic) was the hit single from their album, It’s a Game, and became a disco favorite as a number five hit in Canada and a number ten hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. It served as the group’s final top ten hit single in their recording career and was instrumental in keeping the popularity of the Bay City Rollers alive within North America, as well as overseas.
It was a top forty hit among the nations of Australia, Germany, New Zealand, and the U.K. For the first of the American Pie movies, “You Made Me Believe in Magic” was covered in 1995 by the group, Bed & Breakfast, which spiked the popularity of the original hit and won the Bay City Rollers a new set of fans who not only took in this song as a favorite but the rest of their biggest hits of the 1970s as well. Les McKeown’s lyrical delivery of “You Made Me Believe in Magic” was just as magical as the rest of the group as they demonstrate even with lineup changes they can still pull off chart-hitting favorites.
#9 – Yesterday’s Hero
“Yesterday’s Hero” was the first single released after Bay City Rollers’ founder, Alan Longmuir, had officially left the band. Taking his place was the first Irish-born member of the group, Ian Mitchell. It was one of two hit singles he performed during his brief run as part of the group’s lineup. Coming from the 1976 album, Dedication, “Yesterday’s Hero” became a number twelve hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and struck a special chord in the hearts of Canadian rock music fans after involving live material from a concert performance held in Toronto that same year.
Originally released in 1975 by John Paul Young, the cover version from the Bay City Rollers also gained a solid appearance on the music charts as it peaked as high as number thirteen in Germany, fifteen in Austria, twenty-two in Canada, and at number fifty-four on the US Billboard Hot 100. Young’s version was more popular among the Australian and European nations while the one from Bay City Rollers really won over the North American fans, especially Canadians. This heavy-hitting classic saw a slightly edgier version of the Bay City Rollers as the group took a direction to become more aggressive with their music style as a means to keep the shine of their stardom alive. With “Yesterday’s Hero,” it worked.
#8 – Give a Little Love
On the Irish Singles Chart and U.K. Singles Chart, “Give a Little Love” was a number one hit from the album, Wouldn’t You Like It? which was released in 1975, straight off the heels of the previous recording, Once Upon a Star, and its hit, “‘Bye, Bye, Baby.” It also became certified gold by the BPI. Although “Give a Little Love” was not officially released as a single in the U.S., it was still popular enough to earn the Bay City Rollers a fan following which paved the way for “Saturday Night” to top the charts in that nation, as well as Canada. In Australia, “Give a Little Love” peaked at number two and it was a number-four hit in Norway. In Germany and Sweden, it charted as high as number eleven. For that ideal teen love song, “Give a Little Love” is it, regardless of what age the listener happens to be.
#7 – Remember (Sha-La-La-La)
For the Bay City Rollers, “Remember (Sha-La-La-La)” was the first breakthrough hit as it peaked at number six on the U.K.’s Official Singles Chart, at number twenty in Ireland, and at number thirty-seven in Germany after it was released in 1974. Coming from the album, Rollin’, “Remember” also became certified silver by the BPI, marking the first real taste of success for the group since the start of their career in 1964. This single also became a hit in Australia as it charted as high as number sixty-seven there. From this point forward, the popularity of the Bay City Rollers in that particular nation rose so high that it maintained a healthier momentum than what was experienced elsewhere. If there was ever a playful take to look back on memory lane, “Remember (Sha-La-La-La)” is it.
#6 – I Only Want to Be with You
The cover version from Dusty Springfield’s 1964 original “I Only Want to Be with You” was one of two hit singles recorded and released by the Bay City Rollers which featured Ian Mitchell as part of its lineup. Coming from the album, Dedication, “I Only Want to Be with You” served as one of the last big hits from the group before their popularity began to wane in the wake of a new wave of rock stars who were now dominating the music charts and radio stations.
On the US Billboard Hot 100 and the U.K. Singles Chart, it was a number-four hit while in Canada it peaked as high as number three. It earned its best chart position in Ireland at number two. Among the nations of Australia, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, “I Only Want to Be with You” was at least a top twenty hit. For the Bay City Rollers, their version of Springfield’s classic was more popular in the U.S. while hers had greater popularity within the U.K. However, it was still popular enough to become certified silver by the BPI.
#5 – Rock and Roll Love Letter
Originally recorded by Tim Moore in 1975, “Rock and Roll Love Letter” didn’t become popular until the Bay City Rollers covered this song and released it as a single in 1976. Their version peaked as high as number six in Canada and at number nine in Australia as the group’s popularity within these two nations was so immense it seemed they could do no wrong as rock stars.
On the US Billboard Hot 100, it was a number twenty-eight hit while among the nations of Germany and New Zealand “Rock and Roll Love Letter” charted as high as number thirteen and thirty-four, respectfully. The quality level of Bay City Rollers, member for member, has always been as top-notch as it gets during an era where some of the best music in rock and roll history has ever been produced. The energy behind “Rock and Roll Love Letter” was perfectly written and performed by a group that still remains as a tough act to follow.
#4 – Shang-a-Lang
From the debut album, Rollin’, “Shang-a-Lang” was the second big international hit for the Bay City Rollers and was even more favored by the fans than their previous single, “Remember (Sha-La-La-La).” This song was inspired by The Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron,” a massively popular hit single the girl group released in 1963. On the U.K. Singles Chart, it became a number two hit after it was released in 1974, as well as a BPI-certified silver seller. The background sound featured in the song came from pieces of wood clapping together, a technique that was borrowed from previously recorded music that has since become a popular instrument of choice.
While the U.S. had yet to learn much about the Bay City Rollers, Canadian music fans were heavily drawn to the Bay City Rollers and their music style. Just like in Australia, the popularity of the Bay City Rollers in Canada was immense. To this day, much of their music, including “Shang-a-Lang” continues to receive many requests as retro favorites who still feel the music that came from the 1970s is superior to anything that has been released since then. Speaking of Australia, “Shang-a-Lang” became a number twenty-eight hit in that nation as well as in Belgium. In Norway, it became a number ten hit and charted as high as number sixteen in Ireland and at number forty-one in Germany.
#3 – Money Honey
In 1975, “Money Honey” was the hit single from the North American album, Rock n’ Roll Love Letter, and the UK album, Dedication. On the US Billboard Hot 100, this heavy-popping favorite peaked at number nine while in Canada it became a number one hit. Its popularity also saw “Money Honey” peak as high as number three in Australia and the U.K., number four in Ireland, and number eleven in New Zealand. It was also a number sixteen hit in Germany and a number seventeen hit in Switzerland. In the U.K., “Money Honey” became certified silver by the BPI while in Canada it was certified gold. With the opening riffs leading into the lyrics, then carrying through as an awesome hip-shaking and toe-tapping number, “Money Honey” is worth every penny as a genuine rock classic.
#2 – Bye, Bye, Baby
It was a number one hit in Australia, Ireland, and the U.K. “Bye, Bye, Baby” also became a BPI-certified gold seller after it was released as a single in 1975 from the album, Once Upon a Star. Among the nations of Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and South Africa, it was at least a top twenty hit. This 1965 Four Seasons original still shared the same cheeky farewell tone from the Bay City Rollers but at a considerably faster pace with stronger background music and sound. The cover version of “Bye, Bye, Baby” had a genius delivery of singing its concept of informing the adulterous lover whatever they had between them is officially over now.
#1 – Saturday Night
“Saturday Night” served as the ultimate breakout hit for the Bay City Rollers after it was released in 1975. In the U.S. and Canada, this was a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the official Canadian Singles Chart. This was the ultimate disco hit which became even more popular after this song made its debut on Saturday Night Live, with Howard Cosell. “Saturday Night” is that one song that sticks out more so than any other hit the Bay City Rollers has ever produced throughout the group’s entire career run.
Between disco clubs and rollerskating outlets, “Saturday Night” was a major fan favorite that would spark just about everyone to get up, spell it out, and get moving to its highly motivational beat. This single became certified gold by Music Canada and the RIAA and still remains a popular favorite among the fans who recognize it for its cultural significance during an era where groups like the Bay City Rollers heightened the popularity of amusement facilities such as arcades, rollerskating venues, and sporting events who took advantage of crowd-pleasing favorites as a means to rev up the crowd.
Photo: Rob Bogaerts (ANEFO), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Bay City Rollers Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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