I was about 10 years old before I discovered the Beatles. Do the math. I was born in November of 1963, and the Beatles first US tour started in February of 1964. That made me 3 months old. Fast forward to my grandparent's home in Georgetown, Kentucky, somewhere around 1973...my grandmother handed me a few 45's she thought I might like. What she put in my hands, were several early Beatles records that my aunt had purchased in the early 1960's and never took with her. I did not know that I had been given the gift of original early Beatles 45s on the Capital yellow swirl label., but what I discovered was "Ticket to Ride", "Please, Please Me", and "I want to Hold Your Hand". I flipped. My musical exposure up to that point had been my parent's Peter, Paul and Mary albums, Kingston Trio and the Smother's Brothers. My Republican parents had a penchant for counterculture music. I had just started listening to Top 40 radio and knew a few songs, like "Billy Don't Be a Hero", Seasons In the Sun", and such other dribble, but back to the Beatles... I probably listened to those 45's a couple of million times each. I was smitten. Who were these guys? I asked my dad all about them and he filled me in. Keep in mind, there was no internet to do research, no instant information. I found out that they had broken up 3 years earlier (my heart broke), but had already claimed their venerable place in rock and roll history. So, to the library I went. I discovered that there was a something called 'Beatlemania'. I saw the photographs of girls losing their minds over the Beatles. They openly wept, fainted and otherwise writhed with a fever of one possessed. Then I put the faces with the music, and I totally got it. I fell madly, madly in love with Paul McCartney (at this juncture I did not realize he shared the same birthday month and year as my father). I wanted to scream, faint, and otherwise lose my mind over these British lads too. They were hot stuff for this impressionable 10 year old. For the next few years, I became a bit of a Beatle scholar. I bought all the albums, read the books, saw every movie. Remember again, no internet to research, just music to listen to, books to read, and TV Guides to scour over in hopes 'A Hard Days Night', or 'Help!' would be on late night television (and praying our TV got that channel). I now appreciated the Beatles, post hysteria of the early years. I got their genius. Rubber Soul was my favorite album, followed closely by Sgt. Pepper. I still pined over Paul. However, my preteenage heart felt cheated and wanted to experience the craziness that was Beatlemania. In 1976 it finally happened. The band wasn't British, but of the Scottish flavor, and what a flavor they were. Hello Bay City Rollers!
I was not expecting it. I had heard the song "Saturday Night", their first US single, and thought (as a sixth grader might) that it was pretty catchy. Then, in fall of 1976, entering seventh grade, I met sisters Jody and Julie Harris, die hard Roller fans. I spent a Saturday afternoon at their house playing records, and looking at 16 magazine, Tiger Beat and the various teen rags of the time. The BCR were everywhere. I quickly fell head over heels in love with the blue eyed guitarist Eric Faulkner. Julie liked drummer Derek Longmuir, Jody and my aunt (I have an aunt who is six months younger than me - will explain in another blog) Angel shared an affection for lead singer Leslie McKeown. Angel lived in Dayton, Ohio and along with her best friend Vicki (camp Leslie), I had BCR girls to pen pal with. In fact, one birthday, while visiting Ohio, Angel and Vicki got me a wonderful plaid cake that said "Keep On Rollin'". That is some serious BCR love effort right there. No one, except my six year old sister Heather claimed bassist Stuart (Woody) Wood. This would change later when I jumped to the Wood camp. For the next two years, I devoted everything to these Scottish boys. I watched every Midnight Night Special that they hosted, I bought every magazine, every album, covered my room in posters, I wore plaid. I wrote love letters and made up scenarios in my head where Eric and I would meet and he would fall madly in love with me, never imagining that he could not fall in love with the frizzy headed, braces wearing, awkward kid that I was, living in Prairie Village, Kansas. I was convinced that every song they played was for me exclusively. I screamed, squealed and was a blubbering mess every time I watched an interview and heard those Scottish brogues. Ah...an accent to melt my already tender heart . They were, to the thirteen year old I was, the most beautiful creatures that existed. They were so easy to love though.
The reality of the Bay City Rollers is that they were pure, sugar-pop with no real substance. They were not, nor could anyone really, ever be the Beatles. They did however, provide me with what I was born too late to experience, and that was the mania. I got to dive into Rollermania, and it was a great, albeit, short, adventure. By the time I hit fifteen, I had figured out the boys were thin on talent. I had discovered the pure musical joy of Wings, Queen, Stevie Wonder, and other heavy hitters. I had given up the Top 40 music station in favor of the album rock station, KY102. My musical tastes were progressing and maturing, but my heart still beat quickly for the tartan clad fellows from Edinburgh. In 1978, the same year I saw Queen, and John Waite's band, the Babys, live, the Bay City Rollers came through Kansas City. This was it. This was my chance to experience the mania, to scream, to faint, to let these guys know that I loved them, wanted them, needed them - in all the ways an awkward, dorky teenage girl can. Me, Julie, Jody, Angel, and my dad and baby sister (how cool was I?) all went down to the auditorium for the show. I was decked in my best Roller gear. Yep, I was looking good in jeans trimmed in plaid, rainbow suspenders, BCR tee-shirt and tennis shoes. I had tamed my frizzy hair into some sort of semblance of calm, and I even was allowed to wear a hint of make-up. Of course Jody, Julie and Angel all had perfectly straight, feathered hair (in another blog, I will discuss my hair issues). I also had a plaid scarf with the name 'Eric' emblazoned on it. The screaming "mania" started before the lights went down. Young girls were working themselves into a hormonal rage. The ushers were doing a good job of keeping us from standing on the seats, but as soon as the lights went down and the first guitar chord hummed, it was a free for all. We rushed to the stage, screamed, sang, jumped and otherwise lost our ever loving minds. My father quickly extracted himself and my baby sister to a safer vantage in the balcony. I stood on Eric's side of the stage, holding up my scarf with his name, declaring my love for him. He looked at me - he really did! He couldn't have missed me - I was 5'9" by the time I was in seventh grade, and I was hopping up and down, screaming like a crazy person (I was crazy in love), a girl with a small afro at this juncture of the show. I discovered later that I had been holding the scarf upside down the whole time and he was probably looking at me like I was a preteen idiot who needed to go home and do her homework (I probably did). Nevertheless, we made eye contact and I knew right then and there, that my heart belonged to....the bass player Woody. Eric had taken the habit of wearing denim short shorts, and he had gotten chubby. The boys were trying to break away of their "teeny-bopper" image. Eric was pushing the envelope a little too much. Not a good look. I made my way over the the opposite side of the stage and stared at the lean (skinny), beautiful (hairless) Stuart "Woody" Wood. It was immediate love. He never looked my way, as I had no scarf with his name to flaunt. I was so close to the stage though, that I could see the make-up melting off his face as he worked up a sweat. He had pimples, but that was okay. I did too. It would give us something to talk about when we met later and fell in love. The reality is that if I had really met him, I would have melted into a puddle on the floor because I never would have been able to even say hello. The show ended and the Rollers left behind several hundred spent, sweaty, preteen girls who would never be quite the same again. I had my mania moment.
The Rollers ride of fame came to a close shortly after that tour. They may have made a couple last ditch efforts at an album, but I never paid attention. They disappeared into the annals of rock history, as a side note of the 1970s. I had graduated from a preteen pop princess and moved on. Fast forward many years later, sometime in the very early 1990s. I am living in Atlanta, and guess who is riding the wave of nostalgia and going to play at the Masquerade (local night club)? The Bay City Rollers. I was probably in my late 20's at the time. I grabbed Angel and away we went. She wore a kilt. I was still in my semi-goth stage, so I was mostly in black. The band we saw was not the original Roller line up. There was only one original member, Leslie McKeown, the lead singer. They played all the hits and sounded okay. I recall laughing the entire time and thinking how silly the whole show was. Silly yes, but sweet too. It was nice to revisit the fourteen year old girls we once were. Angel thought Leslie had become a handsome man. Handsome yes, but he had absolutely no sexual appeal to me whatsoever. He certainly was no Lyle Lovett (yes, I think he is smoking hot), or Daniel Ash from Love and Rockets (a band I flipped for in the early 1980's and still love to this day). I got on line and discovered that the original Bay City Rollers never saw much of the money they made in the 1970s. Their controlling manager told them how to behave and they never got to carry on like rock stars for fear they would lose their preteen fan base. How sad not to get to enjoy the perks of your fame. Currently the BCR are locked in a legal battle with Arista over millions of dollars in unpaid royalties. I do hope they win. These guys could use a break. They were a preteen pop explosion that fizzled out, and sadly the boys were victims of the business. I can't help but think of their song "Yesterdays Hero" off the 1976 Dedication album. The song is recorded live and you can hear the roar of screaming girls, and security guards yelling at the crowd to stay back. The words are rather poignant now.... "We don't want to be a yesterday's hero.." You aren't boys. You are the hero's that take up the corner of my preteen heart. XOXO