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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Easybeats

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.

Building upon our influences plays a large role in shaping who we are, and what we become. As a kid in the ’60s, and as a teenager in the ’70s, my personality, and my likes and dislikes, were molded in part by the pop culture I absorbed via TV, comic books, movies, and AM radio. A Hard Day’s Night. BatmanThe Monkees. Pulp paperbacks. Jukeboxes. DC ComicsMarvel ComicsGold Key Comics, all kinds comics. WNDR-and WOLF-AM in Syracuse. Throw in some baseball, some random 45s, some more TV (from Gilligan’s Island to The Guns Of Will Sonnett to Star Trek to Supersonic), some books on World War II, some DisneyMarx Brothers, and Jerry Lewis flicks, and some surreptitious glances at Lorrie Menconi and Barbi Benton in Playboy, and you have a partial portrait of the blogger as a young man.

Y’know, it ain’t polite to stare, mister!

And throw in some rock ‘n’ roll magazines, too. I’ve already written at length about the importance of the ’70s tabloid Phonograph Record Magazine, and I will still have more to write about PRM in future posts. I saw an issue of Circus some time in the mid-’70s, and I fell in love with Suzi Quatro when I saw her on the cover of the Rolling Stone. Later on, I’d immerse myself in Trouser PressCreemNew York RockerRock ScenePunkThe Pig Paper, and also a little thing called Goldmine, for which I freelanced for almost twenty years. But the most important single issue of any rock mag I ever read? No contest; that was the February 1978 issue Bomp! magazine: the power pop issue.

The way I read and re-read and re-re-read that issue, it’s a miracle its cover is still attached. I was 18. I was a fan of The BeatlesThe MonkeesThe KinksThe Raspberries, and The Ramones. I’d just seen The Flashcubes for the first time, so I was already a fan of theirs, too. The power pop issue of Bomp! was Heaven-sent, a manifesto for what I already believed, but couldn’t yet articulate. And its pages contained scores of recommendations for more acts I should check out as a nascent power pop acolyte, bands like The Flamin’ Groovies (whom I’d already heard, but needed to hear more), The CreationThe Dwight Twilley Band, and The Nerves; and there was quite a bit of coverage of some band called Big Star, and some group from the ’60s: an Australian band named The Easybeats.

Greg Shaw and Gary Sperrazza!, the auteurs behind Bomp!‘s power pop extravaganza, cited The Easybeats alongside The Kinks and The Who as power pop’s founding fathers. That’s pretty heady company to keep, so I certainly wanted to learn more about The Easybeats. If there were any Easybeats records in print in the U.S. in ’78, I wasn’t aware of them; I don’t think I could even find an Oldies 45 reissue of the group’s lone American hit, “Friday On My Mind.” So Easy Fever had to be deferred for me.

It may seem odd in retrospect that I’d never heard “Friday On My Mind,” but I don’t think I had. I finally heard it in–I think–the summer of ’78. Tip-A-Few, a bar on James Street in Eastwood, specialized in playing oldies while thirsty patrons tipped a few (or, sometimes, more than a few). The DJs at Tip-A-Few were armed with a massive collection of 45s–no need for LPs, because they would only play hit oldies–and I was there with decent frequency, tippin’ a few while requesting singles by Gene Pitney, The Beau BrummelsThe Knickerbockers, and The Fireballs. And, one night, I requested “Friday On My Mind” by The Easybeats.

I liked it, of course, It wasn’t immediately revelatory, but it was catchy rock ‘n’ roll music, and that was fine by me. That fall, I picked up a used copy of David Bowie‘s covers album, Pin Ups, which contained the former Mr. Jones’ take on “Friday On My Mind.” That track was, in fact, the very thing that prompted me to buy my first Bowie album, so yes indeed, thank you, Easybeats! I did eventually score an Oldies 45 of The Easybeats’ “Friday On My Mind,” a record which I grew to love more and more with each easy spin.

It took me a while to expand my Easybeats stash beyond that one 7″ single. In the mid-’80s, Rhino Records‘ The Best Of The Easybeats rewarded me with a glimpse into the true and enduring greatness of The Easybeats. “Friday On My Mind” was their only Stateside hit, and on some days I’ll agree it was their best track. But most days, I’ll dig in my heels, and I’ll insist, Yeah, “Friday On My Mind” is great, but “Sorry” is better!  “Sorry” struck me as the perfect melding of The Monkees and the early Who, so sign me up for a new religion based on those Australian pop gods, The Easybeats. “Good Times.” “Made My Bed (Gonna Lie In It).” “St. Louis.” “She’s So Fine.” “Sorry.” “Friday On My Mind.” Scripture. Chapter. Verse. Easy!

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Les McKeown (1955-2021): The Voice Of The Bay City Rollers

Former Bay City Rollers lead singer Les McKeown passed away in April of this year. This memorial piece originally ran at BOPPIN’ (LIKE THE HIP FOLKS DO) on April 23, 2021.

Les McKeown, lead singer for The Bay City Rollers during their 1970s hitmaking heyday, has died at the age of 65. I was and remain an unapologetic fan of the Rollers’ uptempo material; I like a lot of the stuff the Rollers did when McKeown was a member, and I like a lot of what they did after he split from the group in ’79. I don’t have a specific eulogy to offer for McKeown, but I find myself thinking back now on some of what I’ve previously said on this subject of The Bay City Rollers.

My first feature article for Goldmine was a Rollers retrospective called “Rollermania: A Hard D-A-Y’s Night.” The article was published in 1987, and much later updated for the 2001 book Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth  (as seen here). When I was in high school, I had a vague fantasy about trying to write a Bay City Rollers movie. More recently, I’ve had a slightly more concrete fantasy about trying to write a book called The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1), which would include a chapter about the Rollers’ “Rock And Roll Love Letter;” I also made a video about that chapter. 

For all that, I don’t feel that I have anything fresh to add now about McKeown’s life, career, and body of work. Here’s what I’ve had to say in the past about a few of The Bay City Rollers’ songs:


THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: Saturday Night

Never feel guilty for digging a pop song. I reject the ludicrous notion of guilty pleasures in music; you either like something or you don’t like something, and no amount of misplaced hipsterism should be allowed to alter that. Stand your freakin’ ground, and dig what you dig.

I dig The Bay City Rollers. I pretty much always have, at least once I got over the absurdity of them being hyped as the next Beatles. As a teen, I owned the Rollers’ “Rock And Roll Love Letter” and “Saturday Night” 45s. I did not care whether or not my peers approved of the choice. Guilty? Not me, man–your rules do not apply.

THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: Wouldn’t You Like It

When I was in college in the late ’70s, I had a friend named Jane, who was a DJ on the Brockport campus radio station. We hung out together a few times, including one night when I kibbitzed with her in the studio while she did her radio show. And I requested one specific song….

By the end of the Me Decade, former teen idols The Bay City Rollers were persona non grata to the buying public, an embarrassing relic of adolescence for those (mostly female) fans who’d outgrown their puppy-eyed crushes on this Tartan-clad combo. And most music lovers who identified as older, male, hipper, and/or more mature just despised the Rollers all along.

But not me. Once I learned to ignore that ludicrous “next Beatles” notion, I found that I liked some of the Rollers’ records just fine, thanks. I was especially taken with “Rock And Roll Love Letter” and “Yesterday’s Hero.” When I became aware of the notion of power pop, I was delighted to learn that the writers of Bomp! magazine included The Bay City Rollers as at least a tangent to that discussion.

I saw the Rollers lip-sync an album track called “Wouldn’t You Like It” on the Midnight Special TV show, and I was instantly captivated by its power-chord riffs, chugging rhythm, and sheer overall oomph. My interest in the Rollers wasn’t then sufficient to prompt me to buy many of their records, but my girlfriend’s pal Debi was an unrepentant Rollers fan; she had the Rock And Roll Love Letter album, and played “Wouldn’t You Like It” for me. Man, what a great track.

So some time later, when I was chilling with miamiga pequeña Jane as she did her radio show, I bugged Jane to play “Wouldn’t You Like It.” Bugged. Begged. Pestered. Pleaded. No, Carl!, she insisted, I’m not playing the freakin’ Bay City Rollers on my show! She finally relented just to shut me up. The song played…and, to her surprise, she liked it, and said so on the radio. Gotta give her credit for that. She went so far as to say that if the Rollers had just come along a couple of years later than they did, they would have been considered part of the new wave.

 It’s been more than forty years. We were pals, and we parted as pals. I still think of Jane whenever I play that song, a Bay City Rollers album track that illustrated the transcendent value of ignoring prejudices, and embodied the enduring strength of friendship. And I dedicate the song once again, as I did on the radio just the other night, to an old comrade. This one goes out to my friend Jane, wherever she is. Thanks again, my friend.

THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: Sweet Virginia


By 1977, teen idols The Bay City Rollers were nearing the end of their hitmaking tenure, but not quite done yet. The It’s A Game album yielded the Tartan-clad group’s final American radio hits, “You Made Me Believe In Magic” and “The Way I Feel Tonight.” I recall my friend Dan Bacich being amazed that a group like the Rollers (whom he normally detested) was capable of making a record he liked as much as “You Made Me Believe In Magic.”

Me, I liked the Rollers’ earlier hits just fine, and thought the new stuff okay, too (if nowhere near as pleasingly exuberant as the previous year’s “Rock And Roll Love Letter”). The album as a whole seemed like an attempt to groom a slightly more mature BCR audience, though our Rollers may have been undecided about exactly what kind of mature audience to target. MOR? Disco? The rock crowd, via a cover of David Bowie‘s “Rebel Rebel?” Album track “Sweet Virginia”‘s tragic tale of a young lesbian taking her own life (Was it really such a crime, to be lovin’ your own kind?) is certainly grown-up in its subject matter, its sprightly, boppin’ arrangement providing an odd juxtaposition with its downbeat storyline.

The Bay City Rollers’ next album didn’t sell, and they wound up hosting a Saturday morning kiddie TV show. The mature audience didn’t materialize.

THE BAY CITY ROLLERS: Yesterday’s Hero

We want the Rollers! We want the Rollers!Released late in 1976, The Bay City Rollers’ single of “Yesterday’s Hero” did not match the American chart success of “Saturday Night,” “Money Honey,” “Rock And Roll Love Letter,” or “I Only Want To Be With You,” missing the Top 40 and peaking at a mere # 54 in Billboard. Nonetheless, I’d rate

“Yesterday’s Hero” with “Rock And Roll Love Letter” and an LP track called “Wouldn’t You Like It” as the best of The Bay City Rollers, vibrant proof that the Tartan-clad poster boys were capable of transcending their teenybop image and delivering genuine, exciting power pop. 

In ’76 and early ’77, I wasn’t aware of the phrase “power pop,” which had been coined by The Who‘s Pete Townshend in the ’60s but was not yet a part of the everyday rock ‘n’ roll lexicon. I heard “Yesterday’s Hero” on WOLF-AM in Syracuse, and I loved it. I was in a transitional period, just starting to transfer my allegiance from AM Top 40 to the wider rock ‘n’ roll vistas of album-rock WOUR-FM. I didn’t know that George Vanda and Harry Young, the authors of “Yesterday’s Hero,” had been members of 1960s Australian pop gods The Easybeats, nor that they had written The Easybeats’ signature hit “Friday On My Mind.” In fact, I didn’t know The Easybeats or “Friday On My Mind” at all; that knowledge would come later. I just knew there was a song on the radio that deserved to be on the radio, but that it disappeared from radio almost immediately.

 I was a senior in high school. Boys weren’t supposed to like The Bay City Rollers, and I don’t think that girls my age were much interested in the Rollers by that point; although the group would bounce back with two big hits in ’77 (“You Made Me Believe In Magic” and “The Way I Feel Tonight”), they were themselves about to become yesterday’s heroes.

We don’t wanna be yesterday’s hero.Not me. Not yet. As I turned 17 in January of ’77, I was already tired of people trying to tell me what I could or couldn’t, should or shouldn’t. Piss off. Whether it was superhero comics or oldies records, The Monkees or The Marx BrothersMarilyn Chambers or Suzi Quatro, if I was into something, the matter wasn’t up for debate. Dig what you dig. AM and FM influences would merge and converge. Catchy singles. Deeper cuts. Varying styles. Folk. Prog. Bubblegum. Metal. Soul. Punk. 
And power pop. We don’t wanna be yesterday’s hero. Haven’t I seen your face before? We want the airwaves. We want the Rollers. When we walk down the street, tomorrow’s gonna take yesterday along for the ride.

 It had better. If it knows what’s good for it.

Rest in peace, Leslie.


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