Here are ten extraordinary tracks from a career that included two of the greatest rock albums of all time.
Rainbow - Stargazer (From Rising, 1976)
Once voted the greatest heavy metal release of all time by Kerrang! magazine, Rainbow’s second album is of course a bona fide masterpiece. Side Two of its original vinyl format is filled by two epic, eight-minute pieces – debatably the most grandiose and sensational songs that genre has ever known. ]
The distillation of Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar solos, the symphonic keys of Tony Carey and the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra provide Stargazer’s bedrock, along with Ronnie James Dio’s incomparable vocals, but Bain’s precision bass playing locks in tightly with the human octopus once known as Cozy Powell.
Quality-wise it’s a toss-up between Stargazer and its marginally less celebrated bed fellow A Light In The Black, but both tracks are definitive.
Thin Lizzy - With Love (From Black Rose: A Rock Legend, 1979)
Despite his close association with Phil Lynott, Bain was never a member of Thin Lizzy though he did get to play bass on this extremely underrated track from the Black Rose album.
Its charming lyric plays up to Lynott’s reputation as a lothario, deploying the clever and ever-colourful wordplay (My mademoiselle I must make my farewell/You see senor, I know she don’t want me no more/I’d like to make that fraulein mine, mein fraulein/So I’ll depart sweetheart and leave you with this line) that made him so unique.
Roy Harper - You (The Game Pt II) (From Unknown Solider, 1980)
Unknown Soldier is sometimes cited as Harper’s most commercial album, and for that reason alone Roy purists tend to avoid it at all costs.
The track we have selected here, You (The Game Pt II), is a duet with Kate Bush, and David Gilmour’s haunting guitar work is another reason to investigate its underrated delights. Call Bain a one trick pony at your peril.
Wild Horses - Flyaway (From Wild Horses, 1980)
The mix of two of rock’s most combustible characters, Jimmy Bain and Brian Robertson, was never going to last for too long and sure enough the pair of über-hell-raisers fell out during the recording of a second Wild Horses album.
Robertson was never completely happy with Bain’s role as the group’s lead singer, especially as the band had apparently spurned overtures from Journey’s Steve Perry (“I’m not kidding,” he once told me, “we turned him down, we were so up our own arses!”). Flyaway was the winsome single from the group’s self-titled, Trevor Rabin-helmed debut album.
The advert’s claim that “the guitar solo you’ll remember all summer will be Brian Robertson’s” was perhaps a little farfetched – Robbo stretches out more on this live clip – but it’s a great tune.
Kate Bush - Sat In Your Lap (From The Dreaming, 1982)
Proving his versatility on the instrument, Bain played bass on several tracks from Bush’s fourth album, The Dreaming.
The record was well named. It is dreamlike, though the use of what was then cutting edge technology, Fairlight synthesisers et al, now dates it a little. An entertaining slice of avant-garde pop, Sat In Your Lap (which also features Geoff Downes of Asia/Yes fame) is pure, whimsical, unpredictable Kate Bush.
Its promo video is trippy and also a little bit on the scary side.
Philip Lynott - Old Town (From The Philip Lynott Album, 1982)
Later covered by The Corrs, Old Town is another example of Philip Lynott’s romantic alter-ego, a brilliant reminder of the duality that made him such a star. In its promo, Lynott wanders the Dublin streets, winking and flashing boyish smiles at ladies who flutter their eyelids in response, before taking a seat at the bar.
The scene with the trumpet is just irresistible. Bain not only co-wrote the song in tandem with the Thin Lizzy leader but also performed most of its instrumental parts.
Gary Moore - Nuclear Attack (From Dirty Fingers, 1983)
Recorded by an all-star line-up that included Bain, Don Airey, Tommy Aldridge and ex-Ted Nugent singer Charlie Huhn, yet mothballed for several years before finding the racks, Dirty Fingers attained semi-legendary status among Gary Moore’s fans.
And yet when it finally became available, those same followers found themselves wondering what the fuss was about. Previously recorded during a spell in Greg Lake’s band, the raw and furious Nuclear Attack is its undoubted highlight.
Moore would go on to refine and clean up his act as the years passed by, and Bain’s place in the live band was later filled by ex-Whitesnake man Neil Murray.
Dio - Rainbow In The Dark (From Holy Diver, 1983)
Ronnie would often state with pride that he had sung on three of the most important hard rock records ever recorded – Rising, Black Sabbath’s Heaven And Hell and this, the debut from Dio. It speaks volumes that Bain was alongside him on two-thirds of that sainted trilogy.
Although Bain was sometimes portrayed as the clown of the group, maybe even encouraged such a perception – “I was famous for being lit up [inebriated] and still being able to play. I even fell over a few times. It was like it was part of the show” – let’s not overlook that he co-wrote Rainbow In The Dark and was a crucial element of the line-up.
Scorpions - Rock You Like A Hurricane (From Love At First Sting, 1984)
Bain performed uncredited on this album from the Scorpions, as the Teutonic rockers ironed out kinks with their rhythm section of bassist Francis Buchholz and drummer Herman ‘Ze German’ Rarebell.
It became the group’s most successful album in America, peaking at number 6 on the Billboard chart. Buchholz and Rarebell would remain in the group and Jimmy had no real interest in trying to muscle into the action, revealing: “The only guy [in the band] I could communicate with was their English roadie.”
It was of no consequence that his name didn’t appear on such a hugely popular record. “I didn’t care. They paid me a lot of money to do it.”
Last In Line - Devil In Me (From Heavy Crown, 2016)
Eyebrows were raised at the news that Jimmy, guitarist Vivian Campbell and drummer Vinny Appice were working together again on an album very much in the style of Dio (the band).
Following a handful of shows in which the protagonists revisited material from the Dio catalogue, Campbell later related the “great joy” derived from the reunion of that group’s instrumental players.
A relative unknown, lead singer Andrew Freeman has the unenviable task of stepping into Ronnie James Dio’s platform shoes… and he does a sterling job on this chest-beating, mid-paced riff-rocker.