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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Leslie McKeown's Ego Trip, 1979 - 1982.

 
By spring 1978 all was not entirely well within the Bay City Rollers camp...
For starters, people just weren't getting along.  On top of that, the Rollers were far from being the hottest ticket in town.  Punk and her much nicer sister new wave were making some serious waves back in the U.K., while disco was all the rage pretty much every-elsewhere.
Meanwhile in Rollerland, Alan Longmuir had rejoined the band he'd left two years prior for being too old!  And instead of seizing the day and making a bold artistic statement by doing something musically challenging and creative, the band went ahead and recorded their least successful - and least interesting - album to date, the aptly entitled "Strangers in the Wind".  Although, to be fair, they probably had their U.S. parent company Arista Records breathing down their necks as well.
An ill-advised, pre-teen-aimed, T.V. series, The Bay City Rollers Show - A.K.A. The Krofft Superstar Hour Starring The Bay City Rollers - on the NBC television network in the U.S., was an unmitigated disaster.


So, amidst internal bickering and, as a result, not altogether unsurprising overall turmoil, lead singer Les Mckeown took off and left the band.  Or, depending on whose version of events you believe, was sacked.  And that finally left all involved parties to their own artistically creative devices.
And while the Bay City Rollers morphed into The Rollers with a new lead singer, Duncan Faure, Les got together with one Scobie Ryder (Real name: John Wright), a former Glasgowegian folkie turned pop performer who was all too eager to make a proper name for himself as a song writer extraordinaire.

Les & Scobie, 1978.

Some years back, Scobie told me the story via several e-mails:
At that time he (ED. Les) had never really written any songs to speak of (not that I know of anyway).  He was very unhappy with his career.  The Rollers had almost disintegrated on a personal level; in-fighting and a few bruised egos.
 I told him I could teach him about writing and in fact wrote my (ED. later, solo) single "Radio WROK" as a demonstration of how I could write on any subject.
 
I was also an accomplished writer with some 200 songs under my belt (not all great songs by any stretch of the imagination ;-)   .... but the word prolific comes to mind.
Les and I made a secret deal together,  for me to work with him on his solo career from then on, applying my skills to his career.  
 
I became overnight...art director...stylist and his main writing force...
 ...and pulled the LRM's EGOTRIP band together to record (ED. Mighty Micro single) "Replaced by a Microchip" at Konk sudios: Tony Bear; Alan Darby; Gary Barnacle; Alan Park -  they were all long-time friends of mine and I knew Les needed a dynamite band.  So, a few phone calls later.... 
EGOTRIP!  Once again, it was my concept to name the band that, due to all the negativity surrounding Les leaving the Rollers.  One article read: "Lead singer goes on Egotrip!".  So I thought, Bollocks, let's use it to our advantage.  My old chum Ricky De Tomaso (a top graphics designer) designed the logo and the glass head. 

Scobie Ryder, circa 2000.

And so Egotrip was up and running, although their first appearance on record was under the pseudonym Mighty Micro for the WEA U.K. single "Replaced by a Microchip" (1979). 
A far cry from "Shang-A-Lang", it's nonetheless an imminently catchy little pop number not altogether dissimilar in style to other songs of the day, such as M's "Pop Muzik" and the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star".  However, unlike those, "Microchip" never got its fair shake and unduly sank without a trace....


Debut album proper "All Washed Up" was issued later that same year on Ego Trip Records.  The single "Shall I Do It (One More Number One)" preceded it, although it didn't exactly live up to its title.



The Japanese immediately took to Les and his Ego trip.  The response elsewhere though seems to have been somewhat lacking in exuberance.  For instance, "Long Distance Love" became the second and last Ego Trip single to be issued in the U.K.



A shame, really, since the second Ego Trip L.P., issued exclusively in Japan in 1980, was actually excellent.  From it, the single "Sayonara" was culled for an equally exclusive Japanese release.



Further album releases "100% Live" (1980), "The Greatest" compilation (1980) and "Sweet Pain" (1981), Les' last album with Scobie Ryder by his side, were all received rather rapturously in the land of the rising sun.
However, Scobie having left the fold, Les seemed to have run out of steam.  Ego Trip was disbanded and the record deal with East World/Toshiba-EMI also ran its course. But Les recorded one last solo album for the Japanese market with "Heart Control" (1982).  Mostly made up of covers of '60s and '70s hits as well as - what else - a "Rollerdays" medley of Bay City Rollers hits, which was the lead off single.

 

And, aptly enough, a Rollers reunion was just around the corner.  In the spring of 1982 the fab five reformed and played concerts in Asia during the summer and the fall.  Ego Trip, however, was gone for good, leaving a legacy of rather decent pop music.
 
The reformed Rollers in 1982.

    
LRM: EGO TRIP-ERA DISCOGRAPHY 1979-1982
Singles:
As Mighty Micro:
“Replaced By a Microchip”/”Everything with Chips” (1979, U.K.  WEA K 18134)
As Leslie McKeown:
“Shall I Do It (One More Number One)”/”Do it All Again” (1979, U.K.  Ego Trip EGOS 7)
“Shall I Do It (One More Number One)”/”Do it All Again” (1979, W. Germany.  Metronome 0030.179)
“Shall I Do It (One More Number One)”/”Do It All Again” (1979, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWR-20571)
“Long Distance Love”/”Kings Road Chelsea” (1979, U.K. Ego Trip EGOS 9)
“Long Distance Love”/”Long Distance Love” (Live version) (1979, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWR-20627)
“Sylvie My Love”/”You’re the Woman for Me” (1980, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWR-20693)
As Leslie McKeown’s Egotrip:
“Sayonara”/”Dedicate This Record” (1980, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-17044)
As Leslie McKeown:
“Tender Love”/”Love Shine on Me” (1981, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-17101)
“Roller Days”(Medley/Single Version)/”Heart Control” (1981/2, Japan.  Kenwood Trio Records/Trash AW 713) 
Albums:
As Leslie McKeown:
“All Washed Up” (1979, U.K.  Ego Trip EGO 001)
“All Washed Up” (1979, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-81220)
As Leslie McKeown’s Egotrip:
“The Face of Love” (1980, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-81334)
“100% Live” (1980, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-81365)
“The Greatest” (Compilation) (1980, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-91007)
As Leslie McKeown:
“Sweet Pain” (1981, Japan.  Toshiba-EMI/East World EWS-81411)
“Heart Control” (1982, Japan.  Kenwood Trio Records/Trash AW-28003)
 The mega-rare second - and last - U.K. Ego Trip single, "Long Distance Love".
With special thanks to Peter Stern :-)

6 comments:

  1. Great article! Any idea who has written micro chip? The label says "Mean Hymn". Thanks

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    1. Thanks! Must be McKeown/Ryder. I think the Mean Hymn thing must have been some sorta wordplay/joke.

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  2. "Shall I Do It (One More Number One)”/”Do it All Again” has some catchy synth beats. What is the "Supersound" effect on the UK pressing of "Long Distance Love"?

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  3. Yes - "Mean Hymn" = Me & Him, meaning Les and Scobie. Thanks for your great blog! Always entertaining...and often a drain on the wallet. :)

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