Bay City Roller’s Third Album “Bay City Rollers” Reviewed
The year is 1975 and the Bay City Rollers are where the Beatles were in 1965, meaning they had just cracked the States, BCR with “Saturday Night,” and they needed an album to go along with it. And they did exactly what the Beatles did with Meet The Beatles, which pieced together Please Please Me and With The Beatles, plus singles. BCR took their first two albums (Rollin’ and Once Upon A Star reviewed here and here) and chose the best moments. The result, a greatest hits by other means released in the US and Canada three months before their fourth album would arrive in the UK in time for Christmas. And a great greatest hits it is, a standalone album that is the cream of the crop, at 32 minutes it is a relentless hit on your pop nerve, the album flows from one highlight to the next, culminating near the end with “Saturday Night”. And it did the job. Reaching # 1 in Canada and # 20 in the US, it was the epitome of boy band, a template for the sound of BCR.
You can put the Rollers songs into three categories and Bay City Rollers highlights all three:
1 – The Anthems, “Saturday Night” and “Shang-A-Lang” being the most obvious examples.
2 – The Covers – “Be My Baby” and the not yet released as of 1975 “I Only Want To Be With You”
3 – The Faulkner-Woods songs – “Marlena” being the best
The categories work here, the band and their minions crush the rockier numbers, the backing vocal harmonies are unobtrusive and comforting and Les McKeown deserved to have a Harry Styles type career and that was more than he ever got. His voice is neither strong nor well pitched, but it is unique and it is a blend of on the money boy band and everyboy, High School crush. BCR are not pre-sexual but they aren’t sexually forceful either, and it stems from Les’s constant ability to be appealing without being intimidating. Fronting a confection like “Let’s Go” Les is so sweet you want to hug him, “Let’s Go” gets a little lost on Once Upon A Star, but emerges as perhaps the most Roll-y song imaginable (and they should have absolutely released it as a single), an ode to kissing in the moonlight with a girl young enough to need her Mom’s permission to go out.
By the 1990s the British Boy Band became more intimidating, sexualized, people like Take That were taking their marching orders from the US and the result was a more open invitation to onanism, Bay City Roller’s greatest gift to their tween fans was a sexuality that could be revelled in without fear, a daydream uninterrupted, and intercourse still an unnecessary totem of beckoning adulthood. BCR, on these first three albums, were predicated on ageing not stopped but not arrived either, boys were still sliding into first base: there was still time…