FINDING Les McKeown in a nostalgic haze is becoming an increasingly common occurrence. The Bay City Rollers’ oft- troubled frontman has undergone a transformation in recent years, neither burdened so heavily by the band’s tumultuous past nor his own numerous personal traumas.
The prospect of a tribute show to the legacy of the Bay City Rollers at the Corn Exchange tomorrow evening – titled Les McKeown’s Legendary Bay City Rollers, for legal reasons – sees McKeown in a positive mood, but he’s careful to stress that it isn’t all about him.
“There’s a couple of local bands that I’ve booked who are doing some retro stuff, which will be good. Seeing young people playing old 70s music, it’ll be interesting for me anyway. It’s all supposed to work like bang, bang, bang, so you’ll not really have time to drift back to 2011, you’re kept in the past.
“It’s all memories, memories, you see. Then we’ve got a 70s retro disco kinda thing happening after. We’ve got DJs and bands playing, a right party atmosphere.”
McKeown has previously stated that he sought refuge from memories of a band whose immense popularity, chiefly engineered by their late manager Tam Paton, had come at a terrible cost.
Paton’s corrosive relationship with the band – and McKeown in particular, whom Paton is widely reported to have sexually abused as a teenager – had bred bitter and longstanding feuds among the Rollers, and it’s only recently that the acrimony has begun to subside. McKeown says that the show is a way of preserving the band as fans remember them.
“It’s hard to build up something that has been involved and embroiled in so many arguments,” he says. “It’s difficult to keep the brand and the name in a positive light, and I’ve been able to do that over the years.”
He adds that he was “always a team player in the Bay City Rollers, no matter what you’ve read or seen”.
He continues, “I would’ve loved it if the Bay City Rollers were together and doing their thing. If they ever thought about reuniting, it’d be great for the fans, but I’ve had to look at the situation in real terms and think, ‘Well, what’s the possibility of that happening? It’s pretty low, so get out there Les and do your thing’.”
McKeown explains that his Bay City Rollers Hits show is a chance for him to do just that, as he showcases the Edinburgh outfit’s back catalogue.
“It’s a celebration of the Rollers’ few years being the biggest band in the world. There’s no post-fame depression or arguments involved in it at all, it’s just a very positive show.”
McKeown seems for the first time in a long time – if not ever – in control of his own career, a situation he is rather satisfied with. “Though I must qualify that by saying it’s a bloody hassle as well. It keeps me on my toes,” he laughs.
Given all that has passed, it’s still difficult to imagine how he has managed to pluck out the positives and turn it into a 90-minute guilty pleasure. A recurring theme begins to reveal itself, one of “giving back” – proceeds from the BCR Hits show will go towards children’s charity Cash For Kids, and McKeown has also organised a special ball the following day for the same charity – and it’s perhaps here that we arrive at an explanation.
“There’s something to be said for being innocent and naive. In those days, I would consider myself rather innocent and naive. It was great to have a load of girls running after you – it was like having hundreds of thousands of girlfriends.
“A Bay City Rollers show is not a good show if it’s in front of people who are into some other kind of music. It really works its best when an audience that likes the band come for the Rollers stuff because the people get excited about when they hear the music, the words, and remember back to the times when things were perceivably simpler, and when their mums and dads were alive.
“These things bring back great, great memories.”
Les McKeown’s Legendary Bay City Rollers, Corn Exchange, Newmarket Road, 8pm, £15, 0131-443 0404