Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People

My teenaged cousin who babysat me introduced me to the Bay City Rollers when I was a lil kid.  Like any other child of the 70s, I had BCR plastered all over my walls.  My favourite member, along with my cousin’s, was Ian Mitchell.  With the recent passing of the group’s lead singer Les McKeown, I purchased his book that he wrote during the early 2000s.  This is my review of Shang-a-Lang by Les McKeown.

Title:  Shang-a-Lang
Author(s): Les McKeown, Lynne Elliot
Genre: Autobiography, Memoir
Length: 224 pages
Publication Date: October 9, 2033
Publisher: Mainstream Publishing

The roller-coaster rise to stardom of Les McKeown, who transformed the Bay City Rollers from a one-hit-wonder boy-band into a super-group, and his subsequent descent into near destitution after quitting the band. It is a remarkable story of extremes, and a no-holds barred account of Rollermania.

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Since I didn’t pay much attention to Les when I was a child, other than enjoying his wonderful singing voice, I was looking forward to this read and getting to know him better.  First, I enjoyed his narrative voice.  He’s chatty.  And he even uses his Scottish brogue throughout the book which I found very fitting.  The accent doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of reading but enhances it.  Well done.

Now, if you’ve read any other BCR books, you will find this book is a rehashing of everything you’ve read about earlier.  The only difference is, Les gives you his POV on the events, scandals, losses, and successes.  I also enjoyed reading about Les’ early years as a child growing up in Edinburgh, and the details about his family and family life.  This is the keeper of the book.

As for the remainder of the pages, it concentrates solely on BCR and Les’ take on what went down.  I will admit I was hoping for more on his personal life, as he shared in the first couple of chapters, but it became a “we flew here and did this and recorded there” sort of deal, which was slightly disappointing.  Having read a few BCR books, I knew all of that stuff already.  He also does a bit of trashing of guitarist Eric Faulkner.  I’m not sure what that was about LOL.  I’m guessing the two didn’t get along and clashed many times, although I didn’t come across any real arguments between the two in the book.

Each time I read a memoir by a rocker, I always end up comparing it to Don Felder’s Heaven and Hell because this book is a keeper and one I still re-read.  Don detailed his personal life and his life in the Eagles.  He owned up to his mistakes, and also pointed some fingers.  It was truly a well-done autobiography.  Unfortunately, Les’ didn’t live up to this.

I’m not saying Les’ book was a terrible read.  Far from it.  As I said, I enjoyed what he had to say, and his take on different events I read about before.  His personality comes across strong in the memoir:  he’s cheeky, confident, rebellious, and extremely independent.  He didn’t have to tell me that.  He shows me it through each event he speaks about.  Overall, he’s quite a likeable chap.

I recommend you give the book a read if you haven’t read any other BCR books.  But if you have, expect a rehashing of what’s already been covered, only this time, told by Les.  On the other hand, if you’re a die-hard Les fan, you’ll love what he has to say, so go get yourself a copy.

Have you read Shang-a-Lang?  If you did, do you agree with my review?  If you didn’t, would you be willing to read the book now?

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