(Pre) Review: Bay City Rollers Latest Album

Bay City Rollers members (left to right) Stuart Wood, Les McKeown and Alan Longmuir announce their reunion in Glasgow. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

Bay City Rollers members (left to right) Stuart Wood, Les McKeown and Alan Longmuir announce their reunion in Glasgow. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

The Backstory:

Upon learning that the 70’s boy-band the Bay City Rollers were getting back together after a 30-something year hiatus, I was quite excited as I have always been fond of their music and their 70’s television show. While this may date me, I recall every person I knew while growing up being huge fans of these Scottish gents wearing tartan kilts and dominating the airwaves and magazine covers at the grocery store checkout lines. It was called Rollermania and the only way you could avoid hearing about the Bay City Rollers was to be in a coma. There was no escaping it! Back to present day, they are working on an album together (the first since 1978) and are already selling out dates on their tour which starts in December.

As of this writing, the confirmed original members signed up are: lead vocalist Les McKeown, guitarist/backing vocalist, Stuart “Woody” Wood and bass guitarist/backing vocalist Alan Longmuir. According to CNN, guitarist Eric Faulkner is interested but former drummer Derik Longmuir (now a cardiologist nurse) is not. The band is now managed by John Mclaughlin who, if I may say so, is doing great job – he is just the right guy to manage this project.

When the band announced it’s first reunion concert in over 30 years was going to be December 20th at the Borrowland in Glasgow, Scotland (Scotland’s premier rock venue), tickets went so fast they added another night, and then another night and then yet another night. Rollermania has obviously been defibrillated & resuscitated (that one’s for you Derik). The dates are Dec 20th, Dec 21st, Dec 22nd and Dec 23rd. And yes, the boys will be sporting their tartans!

In honor of this good news, I decided to venture on a slightly different path and write a review of their forthcoming album – before it was even recorded. In fact, to my knowledge the songs haven’t even been written. But, being so familiar with their work both as a group and as individual artists, I feel quite confident I can nail this.

The Review:

When I heard the Bay City Rollers had a new album out, I immediately went to iTunes to buy it. The moment I saw the artwork for the album, I was both taken back in time to my teen years  filled with great memories listening to and watching these guys AND I was taken to present day where I could tell by their pictures they too had added a few years but somehow the two different emotions quickly merged into one which I’ll refer to as “The Modern Day Rollermania”. I didn’t know for sure what was to come, but I was sure it was going to be awesome!

With the album downloaded on my iPhone, I put in my Beats Earbuds by Dr Dre and hit the play button. With the first note, I was already happy. Perhaps it was the anticipation. Maybe it was the excitement. Actually, it was all that and so much more. I was immediately treated to a familiar yet unknown sound that brought a smile to my face, a dance to my step and a beat to my heart.

Every song on this album is equally magnificent, each with it’s own unique message and personality. Each members voice adds a very special characteristic to the songs. Their melodic structures with their perfectly accented harmonies are complex in structure yet somehow sound effortless. The familiarity of their voices, instrumentation and musical composition immediately invite you in and yet the new songs keep you on your toes in anticipation of the unknown that’s still to come. It’s truly a treat to be able to experience so much from music.

The album is full of these familiar, yet unknown journeys which draw you in and make you feel awesome. It’s great music, fun music, captivating vocals & harmonies that are layered atop instrumentation that morphs into a delightfully great experience.

To each member of the Bay City Rollers, I thank you for your willingness to get back together and for giving the world something fun, entertaining and meaningful. One of the reasons I think Rollermania is so powerful is that it is somewhat like the fountain of youth we all yearn for…it takes us all back in time to our own special & happy places and that’s a journey we all embrace with open arms.

I give this album and each individual band member an A+ in all categories.

John J. Simpson


Rock and Roll All Nite: The Quintessential Anthem by KISS Turns 40

(AP Photo/dpa,Britta Pedersen)

(AP Photo/dpa,Britta Pedersen)

What is an anthem? Merriam-Webster says it’s “a formal song of loyalty, praise, or happiness”. While that definition properly suits most cases, when it comes to the Rock and Roll Anthem, aka “Rock and Roll All Nite” (by the Hottest Band in the World, KISS), that definition falls very short.

40 years ago, 4 guys wearing 8″ platforms and more makeup than your mother (credit to Gene Simmons for that phrase) were in New York City working on their 3rd album (Dressed to Kill) and it was suggested they write an anthem for the very genre they quickly came to redefine and dominate, Rock and Roll. The idea was to create a song that would in and of itself represent all that the music stood for. In other words, if you had to sum up what Rock and Roll was all about, listening to this song would do the trick. Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley got together and did just that. The year was 1975.

40 years later, “Rock and Roll All Nite” has endured as THE Rock and Roll anthem. It was initially released on April 2nd 1975 via Casablanca records and was produced by Neil Bogart and KISS. The song was originally recorded by Gene SimmonsPaul StanleyAce Frehley and Peter Criss.  KISS has recorded several versions of the song (1 studio, many live) which have appeared on 18 KISS albums/DVD’s and the song was most recently featured in the “Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery” movie (released July 10, 2015). In 2008 it was named the 16th greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.

What makes a great song and what makes a great anthem are two different things. However, you can’t have the latter without the former. A great song has a melody you can’t get out of your head, lyrics that resonate with the listener, a beat you find yourself moving to and that magical something that can instantly turn a bad mood into a great one the moment the song starts playing. A great anthem is all of that yet so much more. An anthem is somewhat like a corporate mission statement. It doesn’t represent just an idea, it represents and defines a path for an entire philosophy. “Rock and Roll All Nite” clearly not only meets that objective, it eclipses it.

There are numerous songs that are considered staples in Rock and Roll. However, when you ask virtually anyone on the planet which one song best represents what Rock and Roll is all about they will undoubtedly say “Rock and Roll All Nite by KISS“. Simply stated, there is no other song that properly epitomizes or even closely exemplifies what Rock and Roll is all about. The genius of “Rock and Roll All Nite” is that the message is clearly yet succinctly stated (lyrics) and the vehicle by which that message is delivered (KISS) is truly larger than life. These two distinct properties coalesced resulting in a newly-defined perpetual masterpiece. It would become KISS‘s magnum opus.

For  Gene Simmons   and Paul Stanley, the song’s title was an obvious one “Rock and Roll All Nite”.  It summed up exactly what they were all about – being the band they always wanted to see (credit to Paul Stanley for that phrase).

The second lyrical phrase in the chorus “and party every day” is a brilliant phrase not just because the statement naturally expands the predecessors message and not just because those that “party” in the traditional sense can relate to it, but because anyone can relate to it. “Party every day” means different things to different people – but the very nature of the phrase in this context is about continuing the journey experienced during the concert throughout the next day. In other words, the excitement doesn’t have to stop at the end of the night. You can embrace it as part of your daily life.

While the lyrics can be interpreted many ways, the song is about a movement, a state of mind, a way of life and a celebration of all of the above. As for the music itself, it is beautifully  simplistic in structure (rooted to the 1, 4, 5-7) yet is brilliantly accented and carried with a rolling bass line throughout that completely supports and compliments the melodic structure of the lead vocals (bass guitar and lead vocals by  Gene Simmons).

The chorus of any great anthem represents the very foundation of your soul. It’s the icing on the cake (Gene  loves sweets so I wanted to throw that in there just for him). “I wanna Rock and Roll all nite, and party every day”. So simple, yet so right.

“Rock and Roll all Nite” is the song every  KISS  fan can’t wait to hear live. It’s usually the last song of the show and therefore it’s a bitter-sweet experience. However, the song is so powerful and the energy and heart KISS  puts into playing it live make every audience feel like they are a part of the concert – as if the audience was on stage performing it with KISS. 64,000 people nightly are singing along, playing air-guitars and drums, clapping, screaming, cheering and are one with the hottest band in the world.

In sporting events, the National Anthem is performed at the beginning of the event which gets the audience and both teams excited and pumped up for what is yet to come. With one team usually winning a game, playing the National Anthem at the end of the event when 1/2 of the audience just had their team lose the game would not be nearly as exciting or effective. It simply wouldn’t work. Conversely, every audience member at a KISS concert is first treated to the ultimate two-hour Rock and Roll show and therefore when KISS plays “Rock and Roll All Nite” as the encore, every single person in attendance is celebrating as they have ALL just won the Super Bowl of Rock. There are no losers at a KISS concert.

And, when KISS  finishes “Rock and Roll All Nite” & thus the concert, each member of the audience is probably as tired and yet equally as energized as the 4 guys on stage who just spent two hours giving them everything they had (not to mention doing this while running around a huge stage blasted with hot lights, fog, explosions, fireworks and all while wearing 30-50 pounds of costumes/gear). This is the essence of why KISS  and their “Rock and Roll All Nite” anthem have endured and why KISS  will live on long after Gene and Paul  stop performing.

Thank you, Gene and Paul, for creating this quintessential anthem and thank you to each and every KISS member past (Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Eric Carr, Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick) and present (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer) that has had the privilege of performing this prodigious piece of art.

For 40 years, fans all over the world “keep on shoutin’ I wanna Rock and Roll all Night, and party every day” and they owe it all to you.

— John J. Simpson