Ian Bairnson

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Ian Bairnson
Bairnson, 1982
Background information
Birth nameJohn Bairnson
Born(1953-08-03)3 August 1953
Lerwick, Shetland Isles, Scotland
Died7 April 2023(2023-04-07) (aged 69)
GenresSoft rock
Instrument(s)Guitar, saxophone, keyboards
Years active1968–2019

John "Ian" Bairnson (3 August 1953 – 7 April 2023) was a Scottish musician, best known for being one of the core members of the Alan Parsons Project.[1] He was a multi-instrumentalist, who played saxophone and keyboards, although he was best known as a guitarist. He was also known for preferring the sound of a sixpence to a plectrum.[2] In addition to his work with Parsons, Bairnson was also a member of the band Pilot and played guitar on four Kate Bush albums, including the guitar solo on her 1978 debut single, "Wuthering Heights".

Early life[edit]

Bairnson was born in Lerwick, Shetland, on 3 August 1953.[3][4] He grew up in Levenwick, also in Shetland, before his family moved to Edinburgh, Midlothian, when he was nine years old, following the death of his father. Bairnson learned how to play the guitar when he was six.[2]

Pilot and the Alan Parsons Project[edit]

He was a session guitarist before joining up in 1973 with former Bay City Rollers musicians David Paton and Billy Lyall in the band Pilot, contributing the harmony guitar parts to their hit single "Magic". During this time with Pilot, he first collaborated with Alan Parsons, the record producer on their debut self-titled album.[1] It was this relationship that helped incorporate most of the band's members (bassist/lead singer Paton and drummer Stuart Tosh) into the Alan Parsons Project. He played the distinctive guitar solo on the track "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You" from Parsons' I Robot (1977) album.

As a guitarist, he was featured on every Alan Parsons Project album, including the 1984 side project Keats.[5]

In 2019, Bairnson added guitar solos to two songs from Alan Parsons' new album, The Secret, specifically the tracks "Years of Glory" and "I Can't Get There from Here".

Additional work[edit]

Bairnson played on Kate Bush's first four albums The Kick Inside (1978)[5] (notably playing the guitar solo on "Wuthering Heights")[2] Lionheart (1978), Never for Ever (1980) and The Dreaming (1982).

Bairnson also played with the band Bucks Fizz[5] for whom he co-wrote two of their Top 20 hits, "If You Can't Stand the Heat" (1982) and "Run for Your Life" (1983).

In 2009 he appeared on the album of the German bass player Chris Postl, Parzivals Eye. Chris Postl played in RPWL, a German band. He toured with a number of different bands, the latest being Junk[5] (Bairnson, Pau Chaffer, Sarah Rope and Ángel Celada). During his session career he played on more than a hundred albums in different styles, for artists such as Yvonne Keeley, Joe Cocker, Jon Anderson, Chris DeBurgh, Mick Fleetwood, and Neil Diamond. He played live with Sting, Eric Clapton, Beverley Craven and many more.

After moving back to the UK in 2013, Bairnson got together with David Paton and produced an album called A Pilot Project where they paid homage to Eric Woolfson’s legacy. In November 2016 Paton and Bairnson got together again, touring Japan with a Pilot revival and some Alan Parsons Project songs as well.

Personal life and death[edit]

Bairnson lived in Spain from 2003 to 2013, where he had a recording studio and continued working as a session guitarist.

His wife, Leila, announced on her Facebook page in 2018 that Bairnson had been diagnosed with a progressive neurological condition that affected his communication skills, so he would no longer play in public.[6] On her Facebook page, she subsequently announced that Bairnson had died on 7 April 2023, following a long battle with dementia. He was 69.[2] Before his death, Bairnson was living at Frimley Park Hospital and the Lynwood care home.[7]


With Pilot[edit]

Year Album
1974 From the Album of the Same Name
1975 Second Flight
1976 Morin Heights
1977 Two's a Crowd
2002 Blue Yonder
2014 A Pilot Project
2019 The Traveller - Another Pilot Project
2021 The Magic EP


Year Title
1974 "Just a Smile"
1975 "January"
"Call Me Round"
"Just a Smile" (new version)
"Lady Luck"
1976 "Running Water"
"Penny in My Pocket"
1977 "Get Up and Go"
"Monday Tuesday"

With The Alan Parsons Project[edit]


Title Album details
Tales of Mystery and Imagination
  • Released: 25 June 1976
  • Label: Charisma (#CDS-4003)
  • Formats: LP
I Robot
  • Released: 8 July 1977
  • Label: Arista (#AL-7002)
  • Formats: LP, CS
  • Released: June 1978
  • Label: Arista (#AB-4108)
  • Formats: LP, CS
  • Released: 27 August 1979
  • Label: Arista (#AL-9504)
  • Formats: LP, CS, 8-track
The Turn of a Friendly Card
  • Released: 7 November 1980
  • Label: Arista (#AL-9518)
  • Formats: LP, CS
Eye in the Sky
  • Released: May 1982
  • Label: Arista (#AL-9599)
  • Formats: LP, CS
Ammonia Avenue
  • Released: 7 February 1984
  • Label: Arista (#AL8-8204)
  • Formats: LP, CS
Vulture Culture
  • Released: 15 February 1985
  • Label: Arista (#PD-8263)
  • Formats: LP, CS, CD
  • Released: November 1985
  • Label: Arista (#AL9-8384)
  • Formats: LP, CS, CD
  • Released: January 1987
  • Label: Arista (#AL9-8384)
  • Formats: LP, CS, CD
  • Released: 11 October 1990 (not published by The Alan Parsons Project, only as a side project for Eric Woolfson)
  • Label: EMI (#198-795415 1)
  • Formats: LP, CD
The Sicilian Defence
  • Released: 23 March 2014
  • Label: Arista
  • Formats: CD


Year Title
1975 "The Raven"
1976 "(The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether"
"To One in Paradise"
1977 "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You"
"Don't Let It Show"
"Day After Day (The Show Must Go On)"
1978 "I Robot"
"What Goes Up"
1979 "Damned If I Do"
1980 "You Won't Be There"
"The Turn of a Friendly Card"
"Games People Play"
1981 "Time"
"Snake Eyes"
"Gold Bug"
1982 "You're Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned"
"Eye in the Sky"
"Old and Wise"
1983 "You Don't Believe"
1984 "Don't Answer Me"
"Prime Time"
1985 "Let's Talk About Me"
"Days Are Numbers (The Traveller)"
"Vulture Culture"
1986 "Limelight"
1987 "Standing on Higher Ground"
1990 "Freudiana"


  1. ^ a b Martin, Steve (15 September 2004). "Biography: IAN BAIRNSON". TheAvenueOnline ! The ALAN PARSONS Fan Club. The Avenue / Avenue Communications. Archived from the original on 31 July 2002. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d Michael Astley-Brown (8 April 2023). "Ian Bairnson, guitarist for the Alan Parsons Project and Kate Bush, dies aged 69". guitarworld. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  3. ^ "The Alan Parsons Project". musikalske.net (in Swedish). Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  4. ^ "The Sensual World of Kate Bush". katebush.proboards.com. 27 November 2004. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d "Ian Bairnson Official Site Discography". Ian Bairnson Official Site. 20 June 2009. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  6. ^ Leila Bairnson, Facebook post, June 20, 2018; accessed March 22, 2023; Steve Cardownie, "Music lessons are vital if Scotland is to produce musicians as talented as Ian Bairnson," Edinburgh News, December 1, 2021; accessed March 22, 2023.
  7. ^ Badsham, Nadeem (9 April 2023). "Ian Bairnson, guitarist with Pilot and for Kate Bush, dies aged 69". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2023.

External links[edit]