The Alan Parsons Project

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The Alan Parsons Project
Eric Woolfson (left) and Alan Parsons
Background information
OriginLondon, England
Years active1975–1990
Past members

The Alan Parsons Project were a British rock band active between 1975 and 1990,[1] whose core membership consisted of producer, audio engineer, musician and composer Alan Parsons and singer, songwriter and pianist Eric Woolfson. They were accompanied by varying session musicians and some relatively consistent session players such as guitarist Ian Bairnson, arranger Andrew Powell, bassist and vocalist David Paton, drummer Stuart Elliott, and vocalists Lenny Zakatek and Chris Rainbow. Parsons and Woolfson shared writing credits on almost all of the Project's songs, with Parsons producing or co-producing all of the band's recordings.

The Alan Parsons Project released eleven studio albums in its 15-year career, the most successful being I Robot (1977), The Turn of a Friendly Card (1980) and Eye in the Sky (1982). Many of their albums are conceptual in nature and focus on science fiction, supernatural, literary and sociological themes. Among the group's most popular songs are "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You", "Games People Play", "Time", "Sirius"/"Eye in the Sky" and "Don't Answer Me".


1974–1976: Formation and debut[edit]

Alan Parsons met Eric Woolfson in the canteen of Abbey Road Studios in the summer of 1974. Parsons was Assistant Engineer on the Beatles' albums Abbey Road (1969) and Let It Be (1970), engineered Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), and produced several acts for EMI Records.[2] Woolfson, a songwriter and composer, was working as a session pianist while composing material for a concept album based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe.[3]

Woolfson's idea was to manage Alan and help his already successful production career. This was the start of their longstanding friendly business relationship. He managed Parsons' career as a producer and engineer through a string of successes, including Pilot, Steve Harley, Cockney Rebel, John Miles, Al Stewart, Ambrosia, and the Hollies.[2] Woolfson came up with the idea of making an album based on developments in the film industry—the focal point of the films' promotion shifted from film stars to directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. If the film industry was becoming a director's medium, Woolfson felt the music business might well become a producer's medium.[4]

Recalling his earlier Edgar Allan Poe material, Woolfson saw a way to combine his and Parsons's talents. Parsons produced and engineered songs written and composed by the two, and the first Alan Parsons Project was begun. The Project's first album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976), released by 20th Century Fox Records and including major contributions by all members of Pilot and Ambrosia, was a success, reaching the Top 40 in the US Billboard 200 chart.[2] The song "The Raven" featured lead vocals by the actor Leonard Whiting. According to the 2007 re-mastered album liner notes, this was the first rock song to use a vocoder, with Alan Parsons speaking lyrics through it, although others such as Bruce Haack pioneered this field in the previous decade.

1977–1990: Mainstream success and final releases[edit]

Arista Records then signed the Alan Parsons Project for further albums. Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Project's popularity continued to grow. However, the Project was always more popular in North America, Ibero-America, and Continental Europe than in Parsons' home country, never achieving a UK Top 40 single or Top 20 album.[5] The singles "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You", "Games People Play", "Damned If I Do", "Time" (the first single to feature Woolfson's lead vocal) and "Eye in the Sky" had a notable impact on the Billboard Hot 100. "Don't Answer Me" became the Project's last successful single in the United States; it reached the top 15 on the American charts in 1984.

After those successes, however, the Project began to fade from view. There were fewer hit singles, and declining album sales. 1987's Gaudi was the Project's final release, though it had planned to record an album called Freudiana (1990) next.

The musical Freudiana[edit]

Even though the studio version of Freudiana was produced by Parsons (and featured the regular Project session musicians, making it an 'unofficial' Project album), it was primarily Woolfson's idea to turn it into a musical. While Parsons pursued his own solo career and took many session players of the Project on the road for the first time in a successful worldwide tour, Woolfson went on to produce musical plays influenced by the Project's music. Freudiana, Gaudi, and Gambler were three musicals that included some Project songs like "Eye in the Sky", "Time", "Inside Looking Out", and "Limelight". The live music from Gambler was only distributed at the performance site in Mönchengladbach, Germany.

The Sicilian Defence[edit]

In 1979, Parsons, Woolfson, and their record label Arista, had been stalled in contract renegotiations when the two submitted an all-instrumental album tentatively titled The Sicilian Defence, named after an aggressive opening move in chess, arguably to get out of their recording contract. Arista's refusal to release the album had two known effects: the negotiations led to a renewed contract, and the album was not released at that time.

The Sicilian Defence was our attempt at quickly fulfilling our contractual obligation after I Robot, Pyramid, and Eve had been delivered. The album was rejected by Arista, not surprisingly, and we then renegotiated our deal for the future and the next album, The Turn of a Friendly Card. The Sicilian Defence album was never released and never will be, if I have anything to do with it. I have not heard it since it was finished. I hope the tapes no longer exist.

— Alan Parsons[6]

In interviews he gave before his death in 2009,[7] Woolfson said he planned to release one track from the "Sicilian" album, which in 2008 appeared as a bonus track on a CD re-issue of the Eve album. Sometime later, after he had relocated the original tapes, Parsons reluctantly agreed to release the album and announced that it would finally be released on an upcoming Project box set called The Complete Albums Collection in 2014 for the first time as a bonus disc.[8]

Parsons' and Woolfson's solo careers[edit]

Parsons released titles under his name; these were Try Anything Once (1993), On Air (1996), The Time Machine (1999), A Valid Path (2004), The Secret (2019) and From the New World (2022). Meanwhile, Woolfson made concept albums titled Freudiana (1990), about Sigmund Freud's work on psychology, and Poe: More Tales of Mystery and Imagination (2003); this continued from the Alan Parsons Project's first album about Edgar Allan Poe's literature.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976) was re-mixed in 1987 for release on CD, and included narration by Orson Welles recorded in 1975, but delivered too late to be included on the original album. For the 2007 deluxe edition release, parts of this tape were used for the 1976 Griffith Park Planetarium launch of the original album, the 1987 remix, and various radio spots. All were included as bonus material.


The band's sound is described as progressive rock,[9][10] art rock,[10][11] progressive pop,[9] and soft rock.[12] "Sirius" is their best-known and most-frequently heard of all Parsons/Woolfson songs. It was used as entrance music by various American sports teams, notably by the Chicago Bulls during their 1990s NBA dynasty. It was also used as the entrance theme for Ricky Steamboat in pro wrestling of the mid-1980s. In addition, "Sirius" is played in a variety of TV shows and movies including the BBC series Record Breakers, the episode "Vanishing Act" of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and the 2009 film Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Vocal duties were shared by guests to complement each song. In later years, Woolfson sang lead on many of the group's hits, including "Time", "Eye in the Sky", and "Don't Answer Me". The record company pressured Parsons to use Woolfson more, but Parsons preferred to use polished proficient singers; Woolfson admitted he was not in that category. In addition to Woolfson, vocalists Chris Rainbow, Lenny Zakatek, John Miles, David Paton, and Colin Blunstone are regulars.[2] Other singers, such as Arthur Brown, Steve Harley, Gary Brooker, Dave Terry a.k.a. Elmer Gantry, Vitamin Z's Geoff Barradale, and Marmalade's Dean Ford, recorded only once or twice with the Project. Parsons sang lead on one song ("The Raven") through a vocoder and backing on a few others, including "To One in Paradise". Both of those songs appeared on Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976). Parsons also sings a prominent counter melody on “Time”.

A variety of session musicians worked with the Alan Parsons Project regularly, contributing to the recognizable style of a song despite the varied singer line-up. With Parsons and Woolfson, the studio band consisted of the group Pilot, with Ian Bairnson (guitar), David Paton (bass) and Stuart Tosh (drums).[2] Pilot's keyboardist Billy Lyall contributed. From Pyramid (1978) onward, Tosh was replaced by Stuart Elliott of Cockney Rebel. Bairnson played on all albums, and Paton stayed almost until the end. Andrew Powell appeared as arranger of orchestra (and often choirs) on all albums except Vulture Culture (1985); he was composing the score of Richard Donner's film Ladyhawke (1985). This score was partly in the APP style, recorded by most of the APP regulars, and produced and engineered by Parsons. Powell composed some material for the first two Project albums. For Vulture Culture and later, Richard Cottle played as a regular contributor on synthesizers and saxophone.

Alan Parsons Live Project, Congress Centrum, Ulm Germany in 2017

The Alan Parsons Project played live only once under that name during its original incarnation because Woolfson and Parsons held the roles of writing and production, and because of the technical difficulties of re-producing on stage the complex instrumentation used in the studio. In the 1990s, musical production evolved with the technology of digital samplers. The one occasion the band was introduced as 'The Alan Parsons Project' in a live performance was at The Night of the Proms in October 1990. The concerts featured all Project regulars except Woolfson, present behind the scenes, while Parsons stayed at the mixer except for the last song, when he played acoustic guitar.

Since 1993, Alan Parsons continues to perform live as the Alan Parsons Live Project to be distinct from The Alan Parsons Project. The current line up consists of lead singer P.J. Olsson, guitarist Jeffrey Kollman, drummer Danny Thompson, keyboardist Tom Brooks, bass guitarist Guy Erez, vocalist and saxophonist Todd Cooper, and guitarist and vocalist Dan Tracey. In 2013, Alan Parsons Live Project played in Colombia with a full choir and orchestra (the Medellin Philharmonic) as 'Alan Parsons Symphonic Project'. A 2-CD live set and a DVD version of this concert were released in May 2016.

In popular culture[edit]

In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Dr. Evil devised a plan to turn the moon into a "Death Star" using a "laser" invented by Dr. Alan Parsons. He called this "The Alan Parsons Project".


Official members
Notable contributors



  • The Philharmonia Orchestra Plays the Best of the Alan Parsons Project (1983 – orchestral album by Andrew Powell)
  • Ladyhawke (1985 – soundtrack by Powell, produced and engineered by Parsons)


  1. ^ "Alan Parsons – Bio FAQ Discography". Archived from the original on 12 December 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 729–730. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  3. ^ "History @". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  4. ^ Vare, Ethlie Ann (15 March 1986). "Parsons' Latest Project – 'Stereotomy': Wide-Range Personality". Billboard. p. 76. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  5. ^ "Alan Parsons Project". Official Charts. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  6. ^ "". 20 December 1948. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  7. ^ "Eric Woolfson on Facebook". Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  8. ^ Mansfield, Brian (14 February 2013). "Alan Parsons on the road again". USA Today. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
  9. ^ a b Wilson, Rich (25 November 2015). "Alan Parsons Project: "I think we were part of the punk rebellion"". Team Rock. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  10. ^ a b Houle, Zachary (3 December 2013). "The Alan Parsons Project: I Robot (Legacy Edition)". PopMatters. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  11. ^ "The Alan Parsons Project | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  12. ^ Stuessy, Joe (1990). Rock and Roll: Its History and Stylistic Development. Prentice Hall. p. 380. ISBN 0-13-782426-2.
  13. ^ John Miles, Laurence Cottle, Ian Bairnson, Contributed to The Alan Parsons Project Archived 31 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]