Pilot (band)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

OriginEdinburgh, Scotland
Years active1973–1977, 2002, 2007–present
MembersDavid Paton
Past membersBilly Lyall
Stuart Tosh
Ian Bairnson
Steve Swindells

Pilot were a Scottish rock group, formed in 1973 in Edinburgh by David Paton and Billy Lyall. They are best known for their songs "January", "Magic", "Just a Smile" and "Call Me Round".


Paton and Lyall had briefly been substitute members of the Bay City Rollers before that band's breakthrough. Joined by drummer Stuart Tosh, the band recorded several demos during 1972 and 1974 at Craighall Studios, Edinburgh, where Billy Lyall was the resident engineer.[3] They were signed to a management contract with Nick Heath and Tim Heath, sons of British bandleader Ted Heath, and John Cavanagh. In due course they signed to a worldwide recording deal with EMI Records. After the recording of their debut album, From the Album of the Same Name, guitarist Ian Bairnson (who had played on the album as a session musician) joined the band permanently.

The 1974 single "Magic" from their first album, produced by Alan Parsons and written by Lyall and Paton, was a No. 11 UK[4] and No. 5 US success. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in August 1975.[5] The song "January" gave them their greatest success in the UK, securing the number one spot in the UK Singles Chart on 1 February 1975. It stayed at number one for three weeks. It also went to number one in Australia where it stayed up top for eight weeks; in the United States, it reached the lower end of the Hot 100. However, the group failed to make the top 30 again.[4] The arranger of "January", Andrew Powell, went on to record Kate Bush, and both Paton and Bairnson played on her debut album, The Kick Inside, which included "Wuthering Heights".[6] Paton and Bairnson also played on Kate Bush's second album Lionheart (1978).[7]

The band's other singles chart successes were "Call Me Round" and "Just a Smile" (both 1975), which each hit the top 40 in the UK and nowhere else.[8] By 1977, only Paton and Bairnson were left from the original foursome, and after switching labels to Arista they recorded Pilot's final album Two's a Crowd with keyboardist Steve Swindells (later of Hawklords).

By 1978, all of Pilot's members had begun other projects, with Tosh, Paton and Bairnson becoming members of the Alan Parsons Project, and Tosh also working with 10cc.

Lyall left Pilot and in 1976, as William Lyall, released a solo LP, Solo Casting, which included contributions from Paton and Bairnson, with Phil Collins drumming on all but two tracks. Lyall wrote all the songs, played keyboards and flute, and wrote all but two of the orchestral arrangements. Lyall died of AIDS-related causes in 1989.

Paton and Bairnson reconvened in 2002 to re-record the original Pilot album Two's a Crowd, which was no longer available. The subsequent issue was entitled Blue Yonder. Arista BMG subsequently re-released the original on CD for the first time.

As they approached the 40th anniversary of Pilot's debut album, Paton, Bairnson, and Tosh reunited as Pilot. They released A Pilot Project in August 2014 as an homage to The Alan Parsons Project mastermind Eric Woolfson.

In 2019, David Paton released a follow-up to A Pilot Project, The Traveller - Another Pilot Project.[9] With a few exceptions, he recorded all the instruments himself.

In 2020, the label Cherry Red (Rough Trade) released a 4 CD box set containing all 4 albums of the band plus some rare recordings as bonus tracks.

In July 2021, Pilot (Paton and Bairnson) released The Magic EP, which features 4 completely re-recorded older songs: "Magic", "January", "Just a Smile" and "Over the Moon". "Over the Moon" was completely rearranged for this purpose. A compilation of Pilot's greatest hits The Magic Collection was released on 21 March 2022.

Ian Bairnson died on 7 April 2023, aged 69. He had been diagnosed with dementia.[10][11]

Band members[edit]

Current members
  • David Paton – lead vocals, bass, Spanish guitar (1973–1977, 2002, 2007–present)
Past members
  • Billy Lyall – keyboards, flute, vocals (1973–1976; died 1989)
  • Stuart Tosh – drums, percussion, vocals (1973–1977, 2007–2015)
  • Ian Bairnson – guitar (1974–1977, 2002, 2007–2016; died 2023)
  • Steve Swindells – keyboards (1976–1977)
Touring members
  • Calais Brown – guitar, vocals (2007–2017)
  • Kenny Hutchison – keyboards, vocals (2007–2017)
  • Irvin Duguid – keyboards, vocals (2016–present)
  • Dave Stewart – drums, percussion, vocals (2016–present)


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Chart positions
US Pop
1974 From the Album of the Same Name 82
1975 Second Flight 48
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
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Best of Pilot (1980)
  • The Magic Collection (2022)
  • A's B's & Rarities (2005)
  • The Craighall Demos 71:76 (2007)
  • Anthology (2007)
  • The Magic Collection (2022)


Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications
US Hot 100
US Cash Box
1974 "Just a Smile" 49
"Magic" 12 1 39 6 8 11 11 5 5
"Ra-Ta-Ta" [20]
1975 "January" 1 21 1 28 1 87 87
"Call Me Round" 34
"Just a Smile" (new version) 31 90 75
"Lady Luck"
1976 "Running Water"
"Penny in My Pocket"
1977 "Get Up and Go"
"Monday Tuesday"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.


  • Happy Gilmore (included in the soundtrack) (1996)
  • Herbie: Fully Loaded (included in the soundtrack) (2005)
  • The Magic Roundabout (included in the soundtrack) (2005)
  • Eve and the Firehorse ("Magic" included in the soundtrack) (2005)
  • Ozempic ("Magic" melody used as a jingle in pharmaceutical TV commercial) (2018)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greg Prato. "Pilot | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  2. ^ "Glam Rock". Ooocities.org. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  3. ^ The Newsroom. "The "magic" career of Pilot's David Paton". Edinburgh Evening News. Retrieved 4 October 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b Roberts, David (2001). British Hit Singles (14th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 45. ISBN 0-85156-156-X.
  5. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 362. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  6. ^ Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 166. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
  7. ^ "Lionheart - Kate Bush | Credits". AllMusic. 13 November 1978. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 426. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  9. ^ "Official website of Another Pilot Project".
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Willix, Pierra (8 April 2023). "Kate Bush's guitarist Ian Bairnson dies aged 69". Metro. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  12. ^ "Pilot - Awards". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2022.
  13. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, New South Wales: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  14. ^ "RPM - Library and Archives Canada - RPM - Bibliothèque et Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 1 August 2016. Retrieved 9 August 2019.
  15. ^ "Suche - Offizielle Deutsche Charts". Offiziellecharts.de.
  16. ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie.
  17. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Rock.co.za. Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  18. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1991). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990. ISBN 0-89820-089-X.
  19. ^ "Cash Box Top Singles - 1974". Cashboxmagazine.com.
  20. ^ "Suche – Offizielle Deutsche Charts". Offiziellecharts.de. Retrieved 12 October 2016.
  21. ^ "Pilot - January". bpi.co.uk. Retrieved 8 September 2022.

External links[edit]