Pilot


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1973-74)  

- Billy Lyall (RIP 1989) - keyboards, synthesizers, piano, 

  backing vocals

- David Paton -- vocals, bass, guitar, percussion, backing vocals

- Stuart Tosh - drums, percussion, backing vocal

 

  supporting musicians: (1973)

- Ian Bairnson (RIP 2023) -- guitar, bass, percussion, backing vocals

- David Mason 00 trumpet

- Nick Heath -- backing vocals

 

  line up 2 (1974=77)  

NEW - Ian Bairnson( RIP 2023) -- guitar, bass, percussion, 

  backing vocals

- Billy Lyall (RIP 1989) -- keyboards, synthesizers, piano, 

  backing vocals

- David Paton -- vocals, bass, guitar, percussion, backing vocals

- Stuart Tosh - drums, percussion, backing vocal

 

  line up 3 (1977)  

- Ian Bairnson (RIP 2023) -- guitar, bass, percussion, backing vocals

- David Paton -- vocals, bass, guitar, percussion, backing vocals

 

  supporting musicians:1977

- Trevor Spencer -- drums, percussion

- Henry Spinetti -- drums, percussion

- Steve Swindells -- keyboards

 

 

 

 

- Bay City Rollers (William Lyall and David Paton)

- Beagle Hat (David Paton)

- The Boots (David Paton)

- Camel (David Paton and Stuart Tosh)

- Christyan (David Paton)

- Dollar (Billy Lyall)

- Keats (Ian Bairnson and David Paton)

- William Lyall (solo efforts)

- Panarama (Ian Bairnson)

- The Alan Parsons Project (Ian Bairnson and David Paton)

- David Paton (solo efforts)

- Scotch Mist

- 10 c.c. (Stuart Tosh)

 

 

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Pilot

Company: EMI 

Catalog:  ST-11368
Year:
 1974

Country/State: Edinburgh, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $40.00

 

 

Having fallen in love with the song 'Magic' the parent album "Pilot" was one of the first albums I ever purchased.  I can remember riding my bike into town and finding a copy at my local Penguin Feather head shop/vinyl emporium.  I seem to recall the teenaged sales clerk being slightly dubious of my purchase.  Definitely got my investment back on that $4.50.

 

 

Keyboardist Billy Lyall and singer/guitarist David Paton had been early members of The Bay City Rollers.  They'd actually been "substitute" members of the group,  parting ways prior to the group's commercial breakthrough.  The pair began writing material and with the addition of drummer Stuart Tosh, began recording  demos.  The trio attracted management and financial support with Nick and Tim Heath (their father Ted was a well known British band leader).  Shopping their demos around, the eventually signed a recording deal with EMI Records.

 

 

Teamed with Alan Parsons (taking on his first project as a producer), EMI apparently had considerable faith in the trio, allowing them to showcase a collection of all-original compositions.  With all twelve songs written by Lyall and Paton, today the album's remembered for on performance - the single 'Magic.'  Clearly Pilot's moment in the spotlight, the song offered up a near-perfect slice of '70s pop and went top-20 in the UK and top-5 in the States.  And that success brought out the critics who savaged these guys accusing them of pandering on their youthful, good-looks and selling lame, disposable pop to an audience of young girls.  Yes this was a pop album, but shame on the critics for not acknowledging it was high quality pop that wore it's inspirations (think Fab Four), proudly on its shoulders.  As lead singer Paton's dry, occasionally shrill voice was a bit of an acquired taste, but his delivery was enthusiastic and there was no denying his ear for a good hook. The album's secret ingredient came in the form of sessions guitarist Ian Bairnson whose tasteful solos improve every track he played on.  A good example of Bairnson's contributions to the album - check out the collection's toughest rockers 'Sooner or Later' and 'Never Give Up.'  It's easy to see why he was offered a chance to join the group for their next album.  Admittedly 'Magic' was the album's standout performance, but that overlooked the fact the entire album was worth hearing with about half of the songs having high commercial potential.  And as I pointed out earlier, these guys could rock and were actually at their best on those tougher numbers.

 

 

 

 

Throughout most of the world the collection was released with the title "From the Album of the Same Name" (EMI catalog number EMC 3045).  Who knows why, but in the US it was released as "Pilot."  Same track listing and running order, but slightly different cover art.

 

 

 

 

"Pilot" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Just a Smile (David Paton - Billy Lyall) - 3:17  rating: **** stars

Paton's shrill, dry, slightly flat vocals are instantly recognizable and while they may not appeal to everyone, when slapped on top of a glistening melody like 'Just a Smile' it momentarily returns me to my childhood.  As a kid of the '70s this one sort of captures the "Euro-pop" sound for me.  My only complaint came in the form of Richard Hewson's orchestration which threatened to overwhelm the band.  The track was released as the album's second 45:

- 1974's 'Just a Smile' b/w 'Don't Speak Loudly' (EMI catalog number 4135)

 

YouTube has a clip of the band lip-synching the tune for an appearance on the British ITV television show Supersonic:  Pilot- Just a Smile HD (youtube.com)

2.) Magic (David Paton - Billy Lyall) - 3:06 rating: ***** stars

Yes, 'Magic' is the song that exposed me to Pilot and I dearly love it, but it's one of those songs that suffers from dreaded over-exposure.  I've certainly heard it hundreds of times over my life.  As such, some of it's charm has started to rub off.  About all I can say is the track comes as near to radio perfection as possible.  When I hear it the stupid thing stays with me for days.  As for the song's meaning, Paton' has said it was inspired by an Edinburgh sunrise and by a discussion with his wife where he mentioned she had never seen a sunrise. 

- 1974's 'Magic' b/w 'Just Let Me Be' (EMI catalog number 3992)   YouTube has a bunch of performance clips.  Here's a link to the best of them; a lip-synch appearance on the Dutch TopPop program:  Pilot - It's Magic TopPop (youtube.com)

3.) Lucky for Some (David Paton - Billy Lyall) - 3:15 rating: **** stars

Opening up with strumming guitar and Lyall's piano, the breezy 'Lucky for Some' had a couple of things going for it - great melody; Lyall's flute solo was one of the few  I can stomach; interesting lyrics and a killer Bairnson guitar solo. One of the album's hidden treasures.

4.) Girl Next Door (David Paton - Billy Lyall) - 4:03  rating: **** stars

Powered by Lyall's piano, the ballad 'Girl Next Door' featured kind of a music hall flavor.  Actually it sounded like the kind of "cutesy" track Paul McCartney would have tossed off for an early Wings album.     The refrain should have guaranteed radio airplay.  The other highlight came in the form of David Mason's piccolo trumpet solos.

5.) Lovely Lady Smile (David Paton - Billy Lyall) - 3:40 rating: ** stars

Yeah it's a pretty song and fans rank it high, but the bossa-nova flavored ballad 'Lovely Lade Smile' has just never done much for me. No idea when, or where but YouTube has a clip of Bairnson and Paton performing the song, complete with a brief set of Spanish lyrics): Pilot - Lovely Lady Smile (LIVE 1976) (youtube.com)

6.) Sooner or Later (David Paton - Billy Lyall) - 4:15 rating: **** stars

Momentarily toughening up their sound (well, relatively), 'Sooner or Later' served as a showcase for hired gun Ian Bairnson whose tasteful soloing kicked the tune to a new level.  This is one of the songs I would have released as a single.  (Easy to see why Bairnson subsequently came onboard as a permanent member.)

 

(side 2)

1.) Don't Speak Loudly (David Paton - Billy Lyall) - 4:44 rating: **** stars

Acknowledging 'Magic' has been played to death, 'Don't Speak Loudly' was my choice for the standout performance.  Catchy as flypaper, this one had a fantastic Badfinger-esque melody, great Bairnson solo and energetic delivery that made it an obvious choice for a single.  Sadly it ended up on the "B" side of their 'Just a Smile' single.

2.) Over the Moon (David Paton - Billy Lyall) - 3:44 rating: *** stars

'Over the Moon' started as another pretty ballad before shifting into a cutesy, McCartney-flavored pop tune.  Extra star for Lyall's cheesy ARP synthesizer washes.

3.) Never Give Up (David Paton - Billy Lyall) - 3:56  rating: **** stars

Like so many pop bands, these guys were actually at their best when they tightened up their song.  Witness 'Never Give Up/'   Powered by Bairnston's fuzz leads (which reminded me a bit of David Gilmour's work), the track was the album's hardest rocking tune, but incorporated an "ear candy' refrain spotlighting Paton's instantly recognizable voice and making the tune highly radio-friendly.  One of the album's standout performances.  The song subsequently appeared as the "B" side to their 'January' 45.

4.) High Into the Sky (David Paton - Billy Lyall) - 3:18   rating: **** stars

The album's most unusual track, kicked along by Lyall's ARP synthesizer, the jittery 'High Into the Sky' sounded like the band had been listing to a lot of The Mael brothers.  It didn't do much for me at first, but was so quirky that I kept coming back to it and now I think it's one of the album's hidden gems ... doobie, doobie, doobie, doobie-on ...  Courtesy of YouTube, here's another Supersonic performance with Bairnston and Lyall getting a little spotlight time: Pilot - High Into The Sky (youtube.com)

5.) Auntie Iris (David Paton - Billy Lyall) - 1:49  rating: *** stars

Another tune with sort of a McCartney-styled cutesy factor.  Kind of a miss for me.

6.) Sky Blue (David Paton - Billy Lyall) - 5:25  rating: *** stars

'Sky Blue' closed the album with a highly orchestrated "big" ballad.  It has a pretty melody and trots out the group's sweet harmonies, but once again Hewson's heavy orchestration threatens to drown the band.  

 

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Two's a Crowd

Company: Arista/EMI Electrola

Catalog:  LC 3484
Year:
 1977

Country/State: Edinburgh, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $50.00

 

 

Produced by Alan Parsons, 1977's "Two's a Crowd" served as Pilot's fourth studio album and their final release for what would be some twenty-five years.  With the departure of the drummer Stuart Tosh (who promptly reappeared as a member of 10c.c), the collection found Pilot down to a duo showcasing singer/multi-instrumentalist David Paton and guitarist Ian Bairnson.  Additional support was brought aboard in the form of keyboard player Steve Swindells and drummers Trevor Spencer and Henry Spinetti,  Interestingly with Paton and Bairnson splitting writing chores, the results weren't a major change from the band's patented brand of commercial pop, but it made for their most consistent and enjoyable (if least successful) album.  With Parsons producing, ballad heavy tracks like 'Library Door,' 'The Other Side' and 'Monday Tuesday' were melodic and quite commercial - occasionally reminding me of their forthcoming work as members of The Alan Parsons Project.  For the most part their more up-tempo numbers were stronger.  'Ten Feet Tall' and 'Mr. Do It or Die' were great while the single 'Get Up and Go' was a clear successor to their earlier 'Magic' and 'January' chart successes (though it did little commercially).  All told it made for an album of well crafted, adult oriented pop music.  Unfortunately their timing could not have been worse.  With audiences diving headlong into punk, new wave and disco, sweet ballads like the teen tragedy tale 'One Good Reason Why' and glistening should've-been-a-hit 'Get Up and Go' were uniformly ignored by the public and radio.  Even the band's occasional nods to popular tastes such as the disco-tinged 'There's a Place' were greeted with disdain.  

 

With the album quickly vanishing into cutout bins, Bairnson and Paton joined The Alan Parsons Project, while also finding time to play with Keats and on a myriad of albums including working with Kate Bush, Chris de Burgh, and Alan Parsons Project side-kick Lenny Zakatek.

 

"Two's a Crowd" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Get Up and Go    (David Paton) - 3:33  rating: **** stars

Sporting a glistening ear-candy melody, Paton's instantly recognizable nasally voice, and those handclaps, 'Get Up and Go' was a classic slice of Pilot pop.  In fact, it seemed to share the same roots as their classic hits 'Magic' and 'January.'  Shame that in an era of punk, new wave and disco, radio had no interest in the group.  YouTube has a live performance from a 2016 appearance in Japan: Get Up and Go / Pilot - YouTube  Arista tapped it as the album's second single:

- 1977's 'Get Up and Go' b/w 'One Good Reason Why' (Arista catalog number AS 0259)

2.) Library Door    (David Paton) - 3:34 rating: **** stars

Built on a mesmerizing Bairnson acoustic guitar riff, 'Library Door' was another pretty ballad.  I'm not a Pilot fanatic so the band's inner workings and relationships are largely a mystery to me.  Perhaps urban myth, but the song was supposedly inspired by Paton and the late Billy Lyall's first encounter.  The lyrics were certainly personal and yes, they first met at an Edinburgh library.

3.) Creeping Around at Midnight   (Ian Bairnson) - 2:50  rating: **** stars

In a much needed change, 'Creeping Around at Midnight' found the band upping the rock/good time quotient a touch.  The lyric was a bit creepy, but I've always loved the baritone backing vocals and Swindells' cheesy keyboards and synthesizers.

4.) One Good Reason Why   (Ian Bairnson) - 3:34  rating: **** stars

One of the prettiest ballads they ever wrote, 'One Good Reason Why' was a nice addition to "teenage tragedy" catalog / car accident victim subcategory.  You can just hear sensitive young English majors losing it on this one.  Always loved the Beach Boys styled harmonies that ended the track.  Brian Wilson would approve.

5.) There's a Place   (Ian Bairnson) - 3:38  rating: ** stars

The first disappointment, 'There's a Place' was certainly radio friendly, but found the group steering a little too close to a disco-flavored sound.  

6.) The Other Side    (David Paton) - 3:54  rating: *** stars

Another pretty ballad on an album awash in them, 'The Other Side' showcased Paton's sweet voice and Bairnson's acoustic guitar work. Here it just kind of got lost amongst the rest of the set, though Bairnson's solo was awesome.

 

(side 2)

1.) Monday Tuesday   (Ian Bairnson) - 4:07 rating: ** stars

Cloying and saccharine, 'Monday Tuesday' offered up the album's sappiest ballad.  Imagine Eric Carmen at his best, or Paul McCartney at his absolute worst.  YouTube has a live performance from a November 2016 performance in Osaka, Japan: Pilot - Monday Tuesday Live@AbenoRockTown - YouTube   Gawd only knows why it was tapped as an English single.

 

 

 

 

 

- 1977's 'Monday Tuesday' b/w 'Evil Eye' (Arista catalog number ARISTA 139)

 

 

 

 

 

2.) Ten Feet Tall   (David Paton) - 3:21  rating: **** stars

Given the band's penchant for ballads, anything else was a welcome change of pace.  Interestingly, the quirky, up-tempo 'Ten Feet Tall' has always reminded me of something out of the 10c.c. catalog.  Perhaps somewhat ironic given drummer Stewart Tosh had just left Pilot to join 10c.c.  Another track tapped as a single:

- 1977's 'Ten Feet Tall' b/w 'One Good Reason' (Arista catalog number ARISTA 155)

3.) Evil Eye   (David Paton) - 3:48   rating: *** stars

Maybe I'd been listening to too much Al Stewart since 'Evil Eye' has always reminded me of a Stewart performance.  Interestingly Paton chimed in about the song on a YouTube post: "Im not gay, I never have been, if I was gay Id have no trouble saying so. Evil Eye is about Pilots corrupt managers. The first verse of this song describes my wife and I being very happy together despite the worries created by the management. I then go on to sing about Pilots managers and how they were evil and only saw Pilot as a money making machine, they used us to build their empire, but their empire collapsed because of their greed and evil minds. I managed to take control of my Pilot earnings and my contract with the management expired. I stumbled blindly for my goal and achieved it despite them sending me chain letters and telling me Id never work again."

4.) Mr. Do or Die   (David Paton) - 3:31   rating: **** stars

Pilot trotting out their dancing shoes with some surprisingly biting lyrics.  Always wondered if the song was aimed at former member Billy Lyall.  This was another one where Paton discussed the track via a YouTube posting: "Ok, Billy was upset that only my songs were released as singles, didnt bother me whos songs were singles. So he left the band, I lost the guy whos songwriting inspired me to write better songs. I tried very hard to convince him he was making a mistake, he wanted to prove he could be successful on his own and the evil management encouraged him because they saw another record deal and advance they could get their hands on. I was bitter and upset because I could see the end of Pilot when he left. He did become a bit of a monster with the success of Pilot. Billy was gay, Im definitely not. He stayed in his closet for a while (hide your lover). In 1986 After realizing his mistakes, he asked me to get the band back together again, I said no."

5.) Big Screen Kill   (Ian Bairnson) - 4:30  rating: *** stars

With a distinctive Beatle-esque vibe I always felt 'Big Screen Kill' was a not-so-subtle comment about needless on-screen violence.  I'm sure I'm reading way too much into the lyric.

 

 

 

 

Who knows what the marketing concept was, but in 2002 the Japanese Cool-a-Pop label an album entitled "Blue Yonder" (Cool-a-Pop catalog number COAP-501).  The CD was also released in the US by the Jak label (Jak catalog 2202).  The album featured rerecorded versions of most of the songs from "Two's Company" - the new versions stripped of much of Andrew Powell's elaborate orchestration.  The album also featured different cover art and a slightly modified track listing.   Dropped were 'There's a Place', 'Mr. Do or Die' and 'Big Screen Kill.'  Added to the album were 'I Wonder', 'When the Sun Comes' and a live version of 'Hold Me.'

 

 

 

 

BACK TO BADCAT FRONT PAGE

BACK TO BADCAT CATALOG PAGE

BACK TO BADCAT PAYMENT INFORMATION