The Bay City Rollers – Unlikely Godfathers of Punk?
Above Photo: Hard to believe, I know….
I recently read an article about how the Bay City Rollers had apparently inspired the Ramones’ early sound. I then realised, if they had indeed influenced the Ramones, they may have also been responsible, even in a small way, for the Ramones’ powerful germination of Punk in the mid-Seventies’ New York/CBGB’s Punk scene.
And with the Ramones’ subsequent role in galvanising early British Punk bands, the Bay City Rollers might even be able to lay a small but legitimate claim to a massive Transatlantic Punk music legacy – if true.
For the uninitiated, the Bay City Rollers were a Scottish, tartan-clad teenybopper band in the 1970s, insanely popular (mostly amongst teenage girls) in the UK. They also had a massive following in the US, until the ‘rollers’ came off the Bay City’s bandwagon in spectacular but truly tragic fashion, which I’ll explore in another article.
For the record, I always thought they were rubbish, musically and fashion-wise back then, but I was in my early teens and now I’ve (sort of) grown up a bit, I admire any band that can (a) play their instruments and (b) move people to the heights of mass hysteria that they moved their audiences to.
I also mention a few Bay City Rollers’ singles in my ‘70s – ‘80s Punk and New Wave music memoir, Bombed Out!, as there’s no denying their huge appeal back then.
The article I read claimed the Bay City Rollers had directly influenced The Ramones, who, over the past few years, have increasingly been credited with laying down the musical blueprint for Punk in New York. In the mid-70s however, the Ramones were apparently struggling to find their sound.
Craig Leon, the Ramones’ producer, said: “The Rollers were high up on the list of bands the Ramones would think were very cool. Two things were very influential – the idea of quick, three-minute pop songs and everyone having a uniform look where the fans copied what the band looked like.”
The Ramones copied the football terrace chant-style introduction to the Rollers’ US number one single, Saturday Night for their signature punk anthem, Blitzkreig Bop.
“I don’t see how anyone has missed this,” Leon said. “The opening of Saturday Night is virtually the same as Blitzkreig Bop. If it’s not note for note, word for word, it’s a direct homage.” The Ramones substituted “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” for the Rollers’ “S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night” chant.
Now, I’ve listened to these two songs (see You Tube links below, and decide for yourself), and I’d think this was absolute bollocks, except for what follows.
Astonishingly, even the Ramones’ drummer, Tommy Ramone, claimed the Rollers had influenced Blitzkrieg Bop: “There was a big hit by the Bay City Rollers at the time called Saturday Night, which was a chant-type song. So I thought it would be fun to do for the Ramones too. And somehow I came up with ‘Hey! Ho! Let’s go!’.”
Released in May 1976, Blitzkrieg Bop helped launch the Ramones’ sound as the authentic Punk sound of New York.
Less than two months later The Clash, the Sex Pistols and the Damned all attended the Ramones’ first ever UK gig at Camden’s Roundhouse in London, and Blitzkrieg Bop was likened to a rallying call by Buzzcocks’ singer, Pete Shelley.
“We were so unique,” said Tommy Ramone. “It’s hard to imagine now, but what we were doing was so different from anything anybody had heard before. It was like we were from another world.”
It’s still hard to believe that sound was in part inspired by the Bay City Rollers, but that’s pretty much confirmed by Tommy Ramone – and I take my tam o’ shanter off to the band.
Judge for yourselves, below:
Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php
Bay City Rollers, Saturday night (1976)
And superb live footage of the Ramones playing Blitzkrieg Bop live in London in 1977.