The Wall Street Journal’s excellent law blog reported this week that the members of the 1970s band "The Bay City Rollers" have filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York seeking royalties from their label, Arista Records.
Those of you who were alive at the time may remember roller-skating, or possibly even driving, to the sounds of the band’s 1975 hit, "Saturday Night," the one with the chorus that went "S-A! T-U-R! D-A-Y! — Night!" repeated many, many times in order to emphasize and clarify to the listener that only that particular day of the week, and indeed only the nighttime portion of the 24-hour period in question, was being lauded. The song, which truly captured all the pain and angst of an America torn apart by Vietnam and Watergate, reached #1 in the U.S., the first song of 1976 to do so. (That was its only week at #1. It was replaced the next week by "Convoy.")
In the complaint, we learn (in a section titled "The Advent of Rollermania") that the plaintiffs "(collectively the ‘Bay City Rollers,’ ‘Rollers’ or ‘BCR,’)" were a Scottish band founded in 1967 as "The Saxons," which is an odd name for Scots to choose, and not surprisingly they soon decided to seek "a less English-sounding name." Two darts thrown at a map later (the first one apparently landed in Arkansas), the "Bay City Rollers" were born. They had a number of UK hits in the early 1970s after which, at least according to paragraph 22, "[C]omparisons of their popularity to the Beatles’ earlier popularity were not uncommon."
Statements like that one are not uncommon in the complaint, as you might expect. Somewhat more surprising are the allegations that the band remains popular today. "In Japan," paragraph 25 claims, "their success has been and remains phenomenal." (Emphasis added.) In the last ten years, according to the complaint, Arista Records has released no fewer than thirty-four separate BCR compilations, pretty remarkable for a band that had six singles total make it to the US top 40 charts. The most recent BCR compilation was Absolute Rollers — The Very Best of [BCR], which was released on January 30, 2007, an event that seems to have escaped wide public notice.
The lawsuit, released on March 20, has gotten more publicity. It claims that BCR is owed tens of millions in unpaid royalties, and that the band was only paid $250,000 by Arista for all its efforts. BCR is represented in the lawsuit by the firm of Holland and Knight. An attorney reached for comment by the WSJ said he really likes their music.