|1973-1977, 2002, 2014|
|The Alan Parsons Project|
Both 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. 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, was a No. 11 UK 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. 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. 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". Paton and Bairnson also played on Kate Bush's second album Lionheart (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. 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.
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.
In 2003 and 2006, the band co-wrote the Irish pop band Westlife's singles "Obvious" and "Amazing", which both peaked at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively in the UK Singles Chart. Both were released as the third singles from their number one studio albums, Turnaround, and Face to Face.
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 singer Eric Woolfson.
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