Bay City Rollers' Les McKeown runs with the gang
HE'S known as 'The Voice of the Bay City Rollers' but it was his new solo album that brought Les McKeown home - that and the chance to catch up with band mate Alan Longmuir, co-founder of the Capital's most famous boy band.
Speaking ahead of surprising the audience at Le Monde Hotel, on George Street, by appearing at the hit Fringe show I Ran With The Gang, Les said: “I’m super, super excited to be in Edinburgh, my home town, to see Alan’s show – I saw it once before and it was fantastic – and to do some promotion for my new album.”
All the tracks on the 60-year-old’s latest release, Les McKeown . . . The Lost Songs, were written in the 1970s, at the height of Rollermania, a time when the band were topping charts around the world.
“I kept the tapes in a suitcase in my attic and never thought they’d see the light of day,” admitted Les.
“I’m ecstatic they have now been turned into this great record.”
Released on CD today, the album was conceived in hotel rooms around the world, the songs recorded on a cassette tape recorder but then forgotten for four decades.
“It almost feels unreal,” confessed the singer. “I’d put them in the past and thought nothing will ever happen with them. It wasn’t until producer John McLaughlin encouraged me to present him with some ideas that I went out of my way to find them.”
Multi-million selling, award-winning writer and producer McLaughlin was blown away by what he heard.
“The first thing that struck me was that the tracks sounded as if they were from 1974-75.
“They took me back; I was listening to a young Les talking, singing bits, and recording ideas. Suddenly I was a wee boy myself again,” recalled John, a long-time Rollers fan.
“That got me massively excited because, as a songwriter myself, the ideas were way more developed than those of many artists I’ve worked with . . . and they all had that 1970s essence.
“In one, Les was sitting in a hotel room in New York with the window open – I could hear the sounds of New York in the background. I thought, ‘Wow! This is dynamite.’”
Les revealed that touring as a teenager frequently left him homesick, and writing his own songs helped alleviate that.
“I always got homesick but the band at that time were all buddies together, we looked after each other. You have to remember phoning home was very expensive back then, it was a case of ‘Hi mum, love you mum, bye mum’,” he laughed, adding: “First thing I did when I got back was go down to the bakery for a Scotch pie.”
Today’s CD release will be followed in September by a new single Crazy Nights, which includes the line “I Ran With The Gang”, a nod to the original Roller’s Fringe show, and Les reveals the pair could soon be back on the road together.
“Alan and I would love to go out playing together; his people are currently talking to my people about doing just that.”
I Ran With the Gang continues at Le Monde, 7pm, tonight and Sunday.