368. ‘Bye Bye Baby’, by The Bay City Rollers

Our last number one, Telly Savalas’s ‘If’, caused us to wonder if a song can be simultaneously very good and yet very, very bad. Our next number one raises similar queries…

Bye Bye Baby, by The Bay City Rollers (their 1st of two #1s)

6 weeks, from 16th March – 27th April 1975

Let’s start with the positives. I like the nod towards ‘Do You Love Me?’– #1 twelve whole years ago! – in the spoken word intro. I love the disco-ish beat that drives the whole thing along. I like the fried guitar solo that comes out of nowhere. ‘Bye Bye Baby’ pushes all the bubblegum buttons that I am powerless to resist, and culminates in an earworm of a chorus: She’s got me but I’m not free so… Bye bye baby, Baby goodbye… Bye bye baby, Don’t make me cry…

On to the negatives. It’s a song that doesn’t know what on earth it wants to be. It chucks all sorts of classic pop references – Motown, a glam drumbeat, disco rhythms, Beach Boys’ harmonising – and hopes that they stick. That guitar solo that I quite like sounds like it should belong to another song entirely. To be fair, and this is something I had no idea about before writing this post, ‘Bye Bye Baby’ is a cover of a Four Season’s hit from 1965, which explains the Motown references. But I can’t say they’ve improved upon the original…

Then there’s the fact that I’m Scottish, and that The Bay City Rollers come laden with cultural baggage. I’d bet most Scots my age couldn’t name a Bay City Rollers song, save for this one, or maybe ‘Shang-a-Lang’, and yet they’d know exactly who they were. They’d know the tartan, and the goofy grins, and the screaming hordes of teenage girls last seen at the height of Beatlemania. They’ve also become by-word for manufactured pop, which is unfair, as they were self-formed and had been a going concern since the mid-sixties.

They were, though, groomed and prepped for success by a Svengali figure, Tam Paton. They went through various line-up and name changes (the past members section of their Wiki page lists over twenty people). Their name comes from them throwing a dart at a map of the USA and it landing on Bay City, Michigan. And they perform this song with semi-convincing American accents. It’s a fine tradition, British acts pretending to be American, which we last heard with Mud and we will continue to hear in acts like Busted and McFly many years from now.

Look at pictures of the band and it seems amazing that they were so huge, on both sides of the Atlantic. They just look very… ordinary. They’re cute; but not globe-humping, colossally successful boyband ‘cute’. Maybe 1 Direction would have looked like that if it weren’t for modern dentistry and Photoshop…? Who knows. Anyway, the Rollers have a second number one coming up pronto, so let’s save any discussion of their legacy, and their disintegration, until then. For now just enjoy, if you can, their most famous moment, and the biggest selling single of 1975… (Seriously – six weeks is the longest a song has spent at #1 for four years!)


17 thoughts on “368. ‘Bye Bye Baby’, by The Bay City Rollers

  1. I’d add The Four Seasons back-catalogue is about to be ravaged right up to the 21st century, yet they were never as huge in the UK in the 60’s as the US: I won’t pre-empt your 1976 bit but 4 acts had chart-toppers with their songs, one was a genius improvement (Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore, Walker Brothers which you’ve already reviewed) and the rest were…variable.

    I was actually a fan of the Rollers – in 1971, when they had a different line-up and were a Jonathan King 60’s obscure bubblegum cover act: Keep On Dancing was fab (not the rubbish later line-up version though) as it was pretty much a copy of The Gentry’s original with a 1971 tart-up. So I had some left-over love for them when they came back with Saturday Night (not a hit until a few years later when it topped the US charts) and Remember (Sha La La Lee). Until they got increasingly nursery-rhyme, pre-teen girls started screaming and hyperventilating, and the half-mast Oxford Bags trousers made them look ridiculous – at least the rest of us in tight jeans with massive flares had the bravery to take our lives in our hands every time we got on a bike, or walked in platform shoes! 🙂

    Bye Bye Baby the song has an underlying decency to it, being written by professional songwriters. The next one though…wasn’t.

    • You are right – under all the fluff this is a solid pop song. I know what you mean about the follow-up, though… eesh.

      Knowing how big they were, how they induced hysteria wherever they went, it’s amazing to see pics of them now. They look so ordinary (and ridiculous in their half-masts). You can see why Elvis sent the teens wild, or Marc Bolan, the Rollers not so much…

      Also, I misread your comment and thought that four 4 Seasons songs would make #1 in 1976 alone! What are the other two covers?

      • Walker Brothers, Tremeloes, Bay City Rollers, Detroit Spinners all topped the chart with 4 Seasons songs, other hit covers include Madcon, Divine, Andy Williams/Stylistics/Pet Shop Boys/Boystown Gang, Osmonds, Adrian Baker, Darts/Barry Manilow plus a Stars On 45 type-medley Seasons Of Gold by Baker aka Gidea Park. it’s why Jersey Boys works as a musical, non-stop familiar songs mixed with real-life drama (mobsters, bankruptcy, in-fighting, loss, comeback) 🙂

      • Nice. I presume I knew when I wrote the Walker Brothers and Tremeloes posts that they were 4 Seasons covers…. Seems a long time ago! And of course, they have their own sole chart-topper to come pretty soon.

  2. I was 20 when Rollermania peaked, and part of the crowd who thought they were beneath contempt. Some years later, I joined those who realised that they were not only part of our youth, but perfectly innocuous at worst, pleasant and even quite nostalgically likeable in a way – even if they didn’t play on some of their singles (well, look at The Byrds, The Love Affair, Sweet, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and… and later admitted that they were absolute rubbish. And at the risk of name-dropping, Les McKeown phoned me up one day in 1995 as we were hoping to do an interview with him for a short-lived fanzine I was editing. It never happened in the end, but he came across as a very nice, unassuming, friendly guy. I swore I would never diss the Rollers again – or at least him (there were some legal shenanigans about who owned the group name).

    • Nice story! I can imagine they were swept along and didn’t have much creative control, so it’s nice to hear that he remained a decent guy. Yeah, I would never like to be the snob who calls an act out for not playing the instruments, or *shock horror* not writing their own songs. There’s even a time and a place for lip-syncing. Going by your logic, then, and the boyband who were big when I was 20… I’ll be nostalgically pining for Westlife in a few decades…. Hmm… We’ll see…

  3. Tartan everywhere you looked! They were harmless…they were what they were but I think…they did play in the studio so I have to respect them a little for that. They didn’t last long though.

  4. The best modern comparison I heard for the Bay City Rollers is the Jonas Brothers in that they looked like your typical rock band but were heavily marketed as teen idols having the kind of looks and music you’d expect from a teen idol marketed act. Weirdly, their impact on the States was very limited to only one #1 “Saturday Night” which despite being released in 1973 and the lead singer already gone topped the Hot 100 in January 1976 after the famed exec Clive Davis discovered it after signing the Rollers in America figuring it’d be the perfect crossover going as far as to have the group perform it on the short-lived Howard Cosel Saturday Night late-night show. After that, they only had two more Top 10 hits including the quasi-disco “You Made Me Believe In Magic” before fading away like most teen idol acts.

    • To be honest, in the UK they didn’t hang around for much longer. Their two 1975 #1s were their peak, with a year of hits either side. Though they had sneaked a Top 10 hit several years before, ‘Keep on Dancing’, which is very pre-glam rock bubblegum. They were constantly changing their line-up, which probably didn’t help, and suffered from the classic teen idol problem of the members wanting to be taken more seriously…

  5. Pingback: 374. ‘Give a Little Love’, by The Bay City Rollers – The UK Number Ones Blog

  6. Pingback: 385. ‘December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’, by The Four Seasons – The UK Number Ones Blog

  7. Pingback: Recap: #361 – #390 – The UK Number Ones Blog

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