Pilot Biography

Formed in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1973, Pilot initially comprised David Paton (29 October 1949, Edinburgh; bass/vocals) and Billy Lyall (b. 26 March 1953, Edinburgh; synthesizer/flute/vocals), two former members of the Bay City Rollers and Stuart Tosh (b. 26 September 1951, Aberdeen, Scotland; drums). The trio won a contract with EMI Records after recording a series of demos in London. Session guitarist Ian Bairnson (b. 3 August 1953, Lerwick Shetland Isles, Scotland) was recruited in the autumn of 1974, playing on one track on their debut album From The Album Of The Same Name and joining the line-up as a permanent member prior to its release. Having secured a UK Top 20/US Top 5 hit with ‘Magic’, the band reached the UK number 1 spot in early 1975 with ‘January’, a simple, but perfectly crafted pop song. Pilot enjoyed two minor UK chart entries with ‘Call Me Round’ and ‘Just A Smile’, but their increasingly lightweight style quickly palled. Lyall left in January 1976 and released a solo album later in the year, which featured several former colleagues. Tosh left shortly before the release of the band’s third album, Morin Heights, and later joined 10cc. Bairnson and Paton completed another Pilot album (Two’s A Crowd) before calling it quits, embarking on studio careers which included sessions for Kate Bush’s debut The Kick Inside (1978) and several recordings for the Alan Parsons Project and Chris De Burgh. In December 1989, Lyall died weighing less than five stone, a victim of an AIDS-related illness. Paton and Bairnson got back together in 2001 to re-record several tracks from Two’s A Crowd and compose some new ones. The results were later released on Blue Yonder.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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