Gillan (band)

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For people named Gillan, see Gillan (disambiguation).
Ian Gillan in Barcelona.jpg
Ian Gillan, frontman and leader of the band in 1983
Background information
Origin London, England
Genres Hard rock, heavy metal
Years active 1978–1982
Labels Virgin, RSO, Acrobat, Edsel, Angel Air
Associated acts Deep Purple, Ian Gillan Band, GMT, McCoy, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, White Spirit
Past members Ian Gillan
John McCoy
Colin Towns
Steve Byrd
Liam Genockey
Pete Barnacle
Mick Underwood
Bernie Tormé
Janick Gers

Gillan were a rock band formed in 1978 by Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan. Gillan were one of the hard rock bands to make a significant impact and commercial success in the United Kingdom during the early 1980s, with 5 albums in the Top 20.


1978: The Ian Gillan new band[edit]

In July 1978 Ian Gillan had become dissatisfied with the jazz fusion style of his band Ian Gillan Band and dissolved it, retaining only keyboard player Colin Towns, and formed this new band entitled Gillan. He added Steve Byrd on guitar, Liam Genockey on drums and John McCoy on bass, and initially pursued a progressive rock direction, releasing their eponymous debut in September 1978, although they could only get a record deal in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. This recording has subsequently become more widely available as The Japanese Album as a CD re-issue by RPM Records in 1994. However, the RPM CD issue replaces the original opening instrumental "Second Sight" with another instrumental, "Street Theatre". Genocky was unable to commit to the band beyond the recording of the album and the band's live debut at the Reading Festival in 1978. He was replaced for the subsequent tour by Pete Barnacle.

1979–1981: The Glory Era[edit]

The album was sufficiently successful to attract more attention and in 1979 the band secured a European deal with Acrobat Records. Before a new album was recorded, Byrd was replaced by Bernie Torme and Barnacle by drummer Mick Underwood, Ian Gillan's former colleague in Episode Six. Torme's "screaming guitar" sound fundamentally altered the dynamics and Gillan took a more heavy metal direction. This line-up's first album was released as Mr. Universe and contained many re-worked songs from The Japanese Album. The album went straight into the UK album charts but stalled as Acrobat Records went bankrupt. This led to a multi-album deal with Virgin Records.

Meanwhile in Japan, Australia and New Zealand an alternate version of Mr. Universe was released with a different track selection to avoid repeating the Gillan tracks used on the Mr. Universe album. Several of the alternate tracks are included on the The Japanese Album release.

The band caught the rise of the NWOBHM at just the right time and the group gained popularity in Europe. An important aspect of this rise in popularity was Gillan's recognition of what his audience (mainly teenage males) wanted to hear; an example of how this affected the band was in the lyrics: "Bright casino lights flicker as you dance. Warm Arabian nights, atmospheres of chance" from the Ian Gillan Band days became "Keep your hand on my lever. Watch it whilst I stab your beaver" on the Mr Universe album.

At Christmas 1978, Ian Gillan turned down an offer from Ritchie Blackmore to join Rainbow,[citation needed] but Blackmore did make a guest appearance for Gillan at their Christmas show. It was the first time Ian Gillan and Blackmore had performed together since 1973.

In 1980 Gillan reached the peak of their success, releasing the album Glory Road, with initial copies containing the free album For Gillan Fans Only. However, the band remained unknown in North America and were unable to raise any interest there despite several tours.

By 1981 the band members had become disgruntled that their European and Japanese success was not translating into increased financial rewards,[citation needed] and after the Future Shock album, whilst on tour in Germany, Torme left just before the band were due to fly back to the UK to appear on Top of the Pops.

1982: Struggles and final shows[edit]

Tormé was replaced by White Spirit guitarist Janick Gers (who would later join Iron Maiden) and this line-up released the live/studio double album Double Trouble at the end of 1981. In August 1982, the final album Magic followed. By this time, tension over money had reached fever pitch and Ian Gillan needed time to have nodes removed from his vocal cords.[citation needed] After the Magic tour, the band performed a final show at the Wembley Arena on 17 December, and then Ian Gillan dissolved the group while he underwent surgery. He then accepted an offer to front Black Sabbath to the incredulity of the Gillan band members, particularly McCoy, and the acrimony remains to the present day.[citation needed]

McCoy subsequently released compilations of studio out-takes to which he had the rights, known as The Gillan Tapes, and ensured that revenues were distributed fairly amongst the band.[citation needed] Bernie Tormé and John McCoy collaborated on the GMT band project, releasing two albums in 2006 and 2009.

According to at least one interview, Gillan did not have nodes removed as British doctors recommended, as he was afraid that would adversely affect his voice.[citation needed] A German doctor diagnosed infected, enlarged tonsils with nodes on them, and Gillan had a history of that. He had a complete tonsillectomy instead, which also removed the nodes on the tonsils. Prior to surgery, he asked the German doctor if the surgery would affect his voice. The doctor said "Yes it will make it better, since the sound was having to come around the tonsils before then".

Band members[edit]

Ian Gillan Band/Gillan Timeline[edit]


Studio Albums[edit]

Year Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
1978 Gillan (aka The Japanese Album) Date: September 1978
Label: East World
1979 Mr. Universe Date: October 1979
Label: Acrobat
1980 Glory Road Date: August 1980
Label: Virgin
3 BPI: silver[2]
1981 Future Shock Date: April 1981
Label: Virgin
2 BPI: silver[2]
Double Trouble Date: October 1981
Label: Virgin
1982 Magic Date: September 1982
Label: Virgin
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.
  • All Gillan albums recorded between 1979 and 1982 (excluding The Japanese Album) have been re-released as remastered editions with bonus tracks in 2007

Live Albums[edit]

  • Live at Reading '80 (1990), Raw Fruit
  • The BBC Tapes Vol 1: Dead of Night 1979 (1998), RPM
  • The BBC Tapes Vol 2: Unchain Your Brain 1980 (1998), RPM
  • Live At The BBC - 79/80 (1999), Angel Air
  • Live Tokyo Shinjuku Koseinenkin Hall (2001), Angel Air
  • On The Rocks Live in Germany, June 1981 (2002), Angel Air
  • Live Wembley 17 December 1982 (2002), Angel Air
  • Mutually Assured Destruction Glasgow 1982 (2006), Angel Air
  • Live At The Marquee 1978 (2008), Angel Air
  • No Easy Way CD:Live Hammersmith 1980, DVD:Live Edinburgh 1980 (2008), Angel Air
  • Triple Trouble (2009) (Recorded live 1981/1982), Edsel

Compilations Albums[edit]

  • The Gillan Tapes Vol. 1 (1997), Angel Air
  • The Gillan Tapes Vol. 2 (1999), Angel Air
  • The Gillan Tapes Vol. 3 (2000), Angel Air
  • Unchain Your Brain: The Best Of Gillan (2007), Music Club
  • The Gillan Singles Box Set (2007), Edsel


  • Live Edinburgh 1980 (2006), Angel Air
  • The Glory Years (2008) (Recorded live 1981), Eagle Rock


Year Title Peak chart positions Album
1979 "Vengeance" / "Smoke on the Water" Mr. Universe
1980 "Sleeping on the Job" / "Higher and Higher" 55 Glory Road
"No Easy Way" / "Handles on Her Hips" / "I Might As Well Go Home (Mystic)"
"Trouble" / "Your Sister's On My List" / "Mr. Universe" (live) / "Vengeance" (live) / "Smoke on the Water" (live) [Double Single] 14 Non-album single
1981 "Mutually Assured Destruction" / "The Maelström" 32
"New Orleans" / "Take a Hold of Yourself" 17 Future Shock
"No Laughing in Heaven" / "One for the Road" / "Lucille" / "Bad News" 31
"Nightmare" / "Bite the Bullet" (live) 36 Double Trouble
1982 "Restless" / "On the Rocks" (live) 25
"Living for the City" / "Breaking Chains" 50 Magic
"Living for the City" / "Purple Sky" [Picture Disc]
"Long Gone" / "Fiji"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


  1. ^ a b "Gillan". UK Top 40 Hit Database. Retrieved 2013-12-30. 
  2. ^ a b

External links[edit]