Pilot were a Scottish rock band, formed during 1973 in Edinburgh by David Paton and Billy Lyall. They are best known for their 1974 hit songs “Magic” and “January“.

New for 2017…… Pilot

Joined by drummer Stuart Tosh, the band recorded several demos during 1972 and 1974. 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 Paton,[2] was a No. 11 UK[3] 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.[4] 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 ends of the Hot 100.) However, the group failed to make the Top 30 again.[3] 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“.[5] And then, David Paton, Ian Bairnson and Stuart Elliot played on Kate Bush’s second album Lionheart published in 1978.

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.[6] By 1977, only Paton and Bairnson were left from the original foursome, and they recorded Pilot’s final album (the aptly titled Two’s a Crowd) with session musicians.

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

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. The subsequent issue was entitled, Blue Yonder.

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


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