Les McKeown's Rollers would rank high in any Scottish pop culture centre - Kevin Buckle

It was sad to hear of the death of Les McKeown at the relatively young age of 65. The Bay City Rollers were the first boy band and the precursors to groups like Take That but in truth when it comes down to the surrounding hysteria a band like this has generated they were never surpassed.

Saturday, 24th April 2021, 11:52 am
Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers, dressed in the band's trademark tartan, takes a flying lesson at Turnhouse airport in April 1975
Les McKeown of the Bay City Rollers, dressed in the band's trademark tartan, takes a flying lesson at Turnhouse airport in April 1975

Of course if you want to be really picky you could make an argument for The Beatles as the first boy band given the relentless screaming that accompanied their concerts and the crowds that assembled wherever they went.

They both also shared the distinction of governing the fashion of their fans an area in which the Bay City Rollers were even more influential than The Beatles if maybe not with the haircuts!

The obsession some fans had was not always the healthiest but for the vast majority there are many fond memories and it is a common conversation I have with parents that they feel their kids have missed out in these times of such sanitised pop.

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I’ve said for several years now that Edinburgh should have its own centre celebrating Scottish

popular culture covering not just music but films and books too and now post-pandemic there has never been a better time for such an idea to become a reality.

Given the fantastic amount of material available my preferred site has always been the City Art Centre which has all the space needed and could not be more central.

The great thing about a centre like this is that unlike most it should be able to cover its costs with the sale of all the related merchandise.

I have discussed this at a high level but the will simply isn’t there which is a shame.

I remember the puzzled faces when I said I thought 80 per cent of costs could be covered with breaking even possible after three years.

Their confusion, it turned out, was because the average income for a museum or gallery only covers 18 per cent of costs with the rest of their income coming from grants and donations.

This was borne out on a small scale when I put on a Scottish Music Exhibition in the Fruitmarket Gallery a few years ago and we got 1.500 people over a long weekend. All the costs were covered by sales and the cafe I was told had never been busier – and they have a very busy cafe!

Seattle has MoPOP, the Museum of Popular Culture, of course which would be something to aspire to with a ScotPOP centre, though it has wealthy backers. However, when you see the millions wasted on other projects it should not be out of the reach of a city like Edinburgh.

The National Centre for Popular Music in Sheffield lost millions of mostly lottery money and closed very quickly in 2000 showing how not to do it with their “interactive experiences”.

What people will want is a Bay City Rollers badge and a pic of themselves in tartan trousers!