Scottish Music Awards: Bay City Rollers honoured

Just a few months ago they were long-forgotten Scottish pop stars best known for being left penniless by the music business - despite selling more than 100 million albums.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 30th November 2015, 5:31 pm
Bay City Rollers (left to right)  Stuart Wood, Les McKeown and Alan Longmuir announce their return in September. Picture: JP
Bay City Rollers (left to right) Stuart Wood, Les McKeown and Alan Longmuir announce their return in September. Picture: JP

But now the Bay City Rollers have completed a remarkable comeback after the former boy band was honoured at Scotland’s music industry Oscars - four decades on from their heyday.

They have been hailed as “living legends” by their peers less than three months after announcing a surprise on-stage reunion and a new album in the wake of a BBC TV documentary on their rise and fall.

The Edinburgh outfit - whose pop anthems Shang-a-lang, Bye Bye Baby and Saturday Night saw them become global superstars - were also chosen to close the Scottish Music Awards ceremony in Glasgow.

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Bay City Rollers (left to right) Stuart Wood, Les McKeown and Alan Longmuir announce their return in September. Picture: JP

They have followed in the footsteps of Simple Minds, Big Country, Biffy Clyro, Deacon Blue, the Average White Band, Wet Wet Wet and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions in being honoured at the event - the main annual fundraiser for music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins Scotland.

Three members of their classic line-up - Les McKeown, Alan Longmuir and Stuart Wood - triggered a new wave of Rollermania in September when they announced a one-off gig at Glasgow’s iconic Barrowlands venue next month.

Three further nights sold out and the band - whose comeback is being masterminded by the veteran producer and songwriter John McLaughlin - went on to announce two “homecoming” gigs at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, as well as dates in London and Manchester.

The reunited Rollers performed at the climax of an event which also saw the Glasgow-born singer-songwriter Donovan receive a special “Scottish Music Hall of Fame” honour.

Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist Donovan. Picture: Getty

Actress and singer Clare Grogan, who shot to fame in the early 1980s with the pop outfit Altered Images, was honoured for services to her home city of Glasgow, and also performed her classic hits with the new-look band.

Paulo Nutini was crowned Scotland’s leading live act, while Amy Macdonald was named songwriter of the year.

Veteran folk singer Rab Noakes, a contemporary of Billy Connolly, Barbara Dickson and Gerry Rafferty, was honoured for services to Scottish traditional music.

White, the Glasgow electro-pop outfit who have landed a plum slot at next month’s Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh, were named the breakthrough act of 2016, while the young Dundee indie band Model Aeroplanes won the best emerging talent prize.

Paolo Nutini. Picture: Getty

Murray Chalmers, a Dundee-born publicity guru who has worked with Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams, Radiohead, Coldplay and the Pet Shop Boys, was honoured for services to the music industry.

McKeown, who turned sixty earlier this month, said the Living Legends Award for the Rollers was “bigger than the Oscars.”

He added: “We’re over the moon about this. It’s a real privilege and an honour. We’ve been working very hard lately and rehearsing for the live shows, but we didn’t expect anything like this, it’s just fantastic.

“It’s been a long time in the making to get here. I’ve been working with John for around a year now on some new songs.

“I’ve been doing my own thing and was quite happy up till then. It all came about when I read an interview with John when he said it was his dream to work with the Bay City Rollers and I decided to get in touch with him.

“It’s just been building up, but it was great to get the agreement of Alan and Woody to make a real go of it.

“It was pretty awkward trying to get back together with people you’ve been slagging off for the last 25 years. But we were all pretty grown up about it.

“We agreed we would do one show at the Barrowlands, get together, see if it worked and if we liked it we might develop something else, but it’s just taken a life of its own and everbody wants a bit of the Rollers now.”

Despite the sell-out success of the live shows, former Rollers Derek Longmuir, now a nurse, and Eric Faulkner, who tours as a folk singer, have thus far resisted overtures to return.

McKeown added: “We’re just trying to keep all the negativity away and build up a strong relationship between us, and maybe we’ll be able to entice Eric back into the band.

“Once he sees how much money we’re making he’ll probably be knocking on my door - but we’d all have to take a cut in our wages!”

Rollers bassist Longmuir, a founding member of the band back in 1966, added: “It makes me feel immensely proud and a wee bit emotional to receive this wonderful recognition after all these years.”

Guitarist Wood added: “I feel very honoured. I’m very thankful to be involved in something like this that shows that music can be such an amazing thing.”

Donovan, the Sixties icon best remembered for hits like Sunshine Superman, Catch the Wind and Mellow Yellow, was unable to make the ceremony at the Old Fruitmarket to collect his honour, which was awarded to mark his 50 years in the music industry.

However, speaking from his home in Majorca, the 69-year-old singer said: “I have just finished a big 50th anniversary tour which I started off in Glasgow, which was very important to me. I had 26 members of my family fly in for it.

“This award really tops off the whole year for me. It’s a grand honour to get from your homeland. I’m more proud of this award than anything else I’ve ever been given.

“I’ve travelled the world and carried the Gaelic muse with me everywhere. Deep down in the Donovan sound has always been the old music of Scotland and Ireland.

“If it wasn’t for the Scots and Irish going over to America in the 18th and 19th century there wouldn’t much popular music in the world.

“All the tunes and ballads that went over to America very much mixed with the African rhythms and Latin-American music and produced things like rockabilly, gospel and blues.”

Grogan, who combined pop stardom with appearing in classic comedies like Gregory’s Girl and Comfort & Joy, said: “It’s genuinely just special to be here. I don’t think any of us do it for awards, we really don’t.

“I just feel overwhelmed. It felt like I meet 100 old friends within the first five minutes .

“If you’ve ever been in a band, no matter how successful, or just for fun, if you’ve got that in you it never leaves you.

“Standing in front of my dressing table at home as a middle-aged woman with a hairbrush was never going to be enough for me.

“I didn’t sing for about 20 years so when I got the opportunity to do it again I thought: ‘You know what, this is who I am.’

“Music was such a big part of me. It’s quite a silly part of me, but it’s lovely to have the opportunity to re-engage with who I was in my own terms.

“I think I get more of a buzz and really connect with audiences much more now than when I was young. I was a combination of being really nervous and enjoying being a show off.”

MacDonald said: “It feels very strange and nerve-wracking.

“I always just feel that I am winging it, no matter how many years it has been.

“I never feel that I deserve to be here, but I am very grateful that I am.”

Nordoff Robbins Scotland, the country’s only music therapy charity, works with around 400 children and adults a week across Scotland and has four specialist clinics in West Lothian, Glasgow, Fife and Dundee. A fifth is planned in Aberdeen.

Paisley-born singer Nutini, who sold out two shows at the SSE Hydro and played a huge outdoor gig at Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park this year, said: “The awards are a celebration of Scottish musicians, which is great, but more importantly, they are a catalyst for raising money to help this great charity do the fantastic work that they do.

“If you don’t know about Nordoff and the work that they do then look into it and give them your support. Music can be a powerful thing.”

Donald MacLeod, co-chair of Nordoff Robbins Scotland, opened the event with a minute’s silence dedicated to the victims of the Paris attacks and a moving message that those behind the massacre at the Bataclan theatre “must never win.”

He said: “The awards are a celebration of the massive strength, and huge diversity, of Scotland’s internationally successful and renowned music industry.”

Best Live Act
Paolo Nutini

People Makes Glasgow Special Recognition Award

Clare Grogan

Music Business Award

Murray Chalmers

Contribution to Traditional Music

Rab Noakes

Best Breakthrough Act


Best Emerging Act

Model Aeroplanes

Scottish Music Hall of Fame Award

Living Legends Award

Bay City Rollers

Songwriting Award

Amy Macdonald

Tourmaster Award

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

UK Artist of the Year


Big Apple Award

Chloe Latimer (Kloe)