Alan Parsons pays moving tribute to "genius" Ian Bairnson

Ian Bairnson
(Image credit: Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Alan Parsons has paid a moving tribute to guitarist Ian Bairnson, who has died aged 69.

In a post on social media, which you can read in full below, Parson's stated that "I have always considered Ian a musical genius." Bairnson featured on every Alan Parsons Project album, as well as four of Parson's solo albums.

"It was a great pleasure to have him participate on every album by The Alan Parsons Project and several other albums under my name since," Parsons said. "He has played with many other talented artists as well throughout his incredible career.

"He was a true master of the guitar - he knew every possible playable guitar chord and how to describe it - for example “G Minor Sixth Add 9” or "C Sharp Major Ninth Add 13", but amazingly, he never took the time to learn conventional musical notation. Another indication of his incredible talent was when he picked up the saxophone and played it like a pro on stage with the British incarnation of The Alan Parsons Live Project, he had only spent a few short weeks of learning the instrument.

"Another vivid memory I have of Ian - I was somewhat unenthusiastic about Eye In The Sky, when we recorded it in the early 80s, and tried to drop it. Ian however, thought the song was going to be a huge hit, and clearly, he was right!

"I recommend anyone reading this to play The Very Last Time from the album The Time Machine. It’s a beautiful song and was written by Ian to commemorate the death of someone in his personal life. It was sung by Beverly Craven, with whom Ian played many concerts. It now seems incredibly appropriate as a musical obituary to all those who, like me, loved him dearly."

Born in Lerwick in Shetland, Bairnson learned to play guitar aged six and initially started out as a session guitarist. He joined the power pop band Pilot in 1974, having turned down an offer to join Cockney Rebel, and with whom he scored with the evergreen hits Magic and January, both of which were produced by Parsons. Alongside his fellow Pilot members David Paton (bass) and initially Stuart Tosh (drums) and Billy Lyall (keyboards), he would be a musical mainstay of the Alan Parsons Project.

Bairnson also played guitar on Kate Bush's first four albums, The Kick Inside, Lionheart, Never For Ever and The Dreaming, notably playing the breathtaking guitar solo on Bush's No. 1 smash hit Wuthering Heights, of which social commentator and television personality Clive James once said you found yourself "turning up the radio to catch every last note of that exultant solo."

Bairnson also worked with Jon Anderson, Mick Fleetwood, Chris De Burgh, Neil Diamond, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Sting and Bucks Fizz.

He was a member of the 80s prog 'supergroup' Keats, produced by Parsons and also featuring Peter Bardens, Colin Blunstone and David Paton. In 2013, along with Paton, he recorded A Pilot Project as a tribute to late Alan parsons Project member Eric Woolfson.

Paton said of his old bandmate: "It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Ian Bairnson. Ian was the finest guitar player I have ever worked with and also a long time friend. We shared many happy and successful times together. We lived the dream of many aspiring musicians."

Bairnson had been diagnosed with a progressive neurological condition which led to him stepping back from live performance, and more recently had been battling dementia. His wife Leila announced his passing on her Facebook page.

Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.