Chris Rainbow RIP

February 26, 2015

On 25 February 2015, the world lost Chris Rainbow, a fine singer and producer who made some brilliant records in the 1970s and worked with the Alan Parsons Project and Camel as well as Runrig. But you will be forgiven for never having heard of him; his records did not sell in large numbers and his credits were often hidden away in the small print, but this in no way diminishes his talent.

One of his finest records was the album, Home of The Brave, which may be obscure, but it is also brilliant. It came out on Polydor in 1975 in the wake of a couple of UK singles that Kenny Everett constantly played on Capital Radio in London – but sadly few other radio programmers thought them worth airtime. ‘Give Me What I Cry For’ and ‘Solid State Brain’ are both wonderful pop records that both deserved to be hits, but for some bizarre reason weren’t. This album was produced by Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff, who had both worked with Stevie Wonder on his brilliant albums  Music of My Mind and Talking Book.

Neither of the singles were on Home of The Brave, but his third, ‘Mr. Man’ is included; it wasn’t a hit either. The album opens with the wonderful ‘Tarzana Reseda’ – other highlights from the album are ‘On My Way’, ‘In Memory’ and the title song.

The best song on the album is the beautiful ‘Glasgow Boy’ – a song that would be a standout on many albums. It has shades of the Blue Nile about it, only ‘Glasgow Boy’ has a melody to match the atmosphere. The song tells the story of Glasgow gangland warfare and its poignancy is just as relevant now as it was nearly forty years ago. From an era when singer-songwriters ruled, Chris is one of those that inexplicably missed the attention of most record buyers. Listening to it today, it still sounds fresh and is worth a listen – if you can get a hold of it. It’s long been out of print and a recent limited edition Japanese repressing seems to have sold out. You can listen to it here on Spotify

Chris’s real name was Christopher Harley and he changed it to Rainbow to avoid confusion with Steve Harley of Cockney Rebel fame. After Home of the Brave he released Looking Over My Shoulder and White Trails – both excellent albums. The standout tracks on second album is 'Dear Brian', a tribute to Brian Wilson – arguably the greatest Beach Boys tribute record of all time.

Share this story

30 comments

  1. Ewen
    Reply

    A wonderful musician and a great talent. He also played on Jon Anderson’s (of Yes) album ‘Song Of Seven’ and toured with him in the New Life Band. Although mainstream success evaded him he was much respected by many top musicians, had a long, happy career in music and was a contented family man.

    A great talent and a lovely bloke (with a terrific sense of humour!).

    RIP Chris. Sleep well.

    1. Frank
      Reply

      You made me getting goosebumps with “A Hearts Desire”on Camels Single Factor album.
      I just did not know what was happening with me when I heard that song first.

      Chris,
      RIP

  2. Bobby Neal
    Reply

    I am so sorry to hear of Chris’ passing. I loved his vocal work with Camel, & his Alan Parsons work as well. I have copies of all his solo work…I will miss him in the music world! God bless.

  3. Graham
    Reply

    Another wonderful talent sadly passed away, he had such a recognizable tone in his singing voice especially on the Turn of a friendly card APP songs

    RIP mate and rest easy

  4. Geoff Martin
    Reply

    So sad to hear Chris Rainbow has left us. He was the master of the pop record in the 1970s but sadly his singles were ahead of their time and perhaps too sophisticated for the charts. His singles ‘Solid State Brain’, ‘All Night’ and ‘Living In The World Today’ did not follow the traditional verse- chorus-verse-chorus format but ambitiously dived around a more complex format . ‘Give Me What I Cry For’, however, did, but none of them sold well. His second album ‘Looking Over My Shoulder’ contains these 4 singles, as well as another 7 superb tracks and the album will never be surpassed as a pop album. His music will, one day, be picked up and get the public recognition it deserves, either in its original format or recorded by someone else. RIP Chris. (Geoff Martin, UK)

  5. Barry Phillips
    Reply

    Cannot believe Chris has left us. I remember living and working in London in the 70s listening to Chris on Capital Radio. He had the voice of an angel and now he sings with the angels.
    Thankyou for the wonderful music Chris, i for one will keep on listening for a very long time to come. Sleep well my friend. x

  6. DOUGLAS HOWAT
    Reply

    I met chris once in Glasgow where he was working as a graphic artist he showed me some songs he had written, before he went on to be a singer songwriter he went on to be one of the best ever to come from Scotland. loved his solo work and his contribution to the alan parsons project. eric woolson said his singing of Gemini was the best he had heard

    RIP CHRIS

  7. Steve Tickner
    Reply

    Saddened to hear of the passing last week of Chris Rainbow, I discovered his music in the early 70s and bought all his early singles starting with ” Mr Man” , I also have his albums, He was a major contributor to the Alan Parsons Projects series of Albums , a few years ago Chris was selling some of his demos and copies of his greatest hits CDs on a well known auction site, I contacted Chris and received a couple of really nice replies, he also had a brilliant studio on the Isle of Skye which is in a fabulous setting, His music will live on
    RIP Chris 5/03/15

  8. Richard Hopkins
    Reply

    A very sad loss to the music business. I saw him live with Camel in the 90s.Stationery Traveller tour. A good musician with a great voice RIP

  9. Ian Logan
    Reply

    I grew up with Chris early doors. Visited him in his Skye home several years later. He was such a friendly guy, complemented by his lovely wife Ibby. Such a talented combination of singer / songwriter and producer. So grateful to have known him. I will always remember his “Summer Radio on the…..Show. “Jingles. Never surpassed. RIP Chris Harley….you were a legend

  10. Bob Heatlie
    Reply

    I’ve known Chris for almost thiry years, but because he lived in Skye, plus his touring, and myself in Edinburgh, we didn’t get many opportunities to actually meet. However, when we did, it was laughs all the way. He did a great impression of Leanord Rossiter’s Rigsby from Rising Damp! A lovely guy, and a talent that was never fully recognised. When I heard the news, I put on Dear Brian, and wow, that’s when it really hit me!
    Farewell old chum! x

  11. Steve Ellis
    Reply

    I first heard Chris’s Solid State Brain on Capital Radio, playing on Kenny Everett’s morning prog, Kenny became his friend and Chris recorded jingles for the station. I became fascinated with Chris when I heard him interviewed by Sarah Kennedy, his stutter was very prominent but endearing and as a fellow stutterer I could identify with him. I bought all his records and tried to get my friends to do the same, to no avail. His songs and singing are wonderful and I will be a fan for the rest of my life. ‘Give Me What I Cry For’ will be played at my funeral. I managed to conquer my stutter in my mid 20’s, I wonder if Chris overcame his.

  12. Alan reid
    Reply

    As with all the other comments I can still hardly believe of Chris’s passing – so terribly sad. I can still remember getting the vinyl LP of ‘Home of the Brave’ from Ards Records in Leith – it was even in their window way back in 1975 – the music press at the time had a great ad saying “thanks to this man Glasgow just might be renamed surf city”. Perhaps because of where it was recorded it still remains a timeless classic for long summer days. Looking over My Shoulder and White Trails elpees also had some memorable tunes and wonderful vocals and it took some considerable time (and cash) to eventually track them down on CD – from Japan – where Chris was quite rightly revered. Perhaps there may be a renaissance but alas it will be sadly too late for a quite unique and special talent. Dear Chris – you held us so long, to ride on the wave of a song…RIP

  13. Mark Braxton
    Reply

    So very sad to learn of Chris’s passing. His was the voice of my youth: the superbly arranged jingles for Capital Radio, Kenny Everett radio shows, the underrated gem that was the Home of the Brave LP, the genius Brian Wilson tribute, the harmonious backing on Alan Parsons and Camel records… A sweet voice and a phenomenal vocal arranger. Chris, you made a lot of people happy.

  14. chris barker
    Reply

    SO SAD!!
    What a wonderfull guy.
    I toured as the bus driver on Camels’ “Stationary Traveller” tour in the 80′ for approx. 3 months.
    Chris and I struck up an unusual friendship (much treasured) spending many hours chatting on the bus. I would very often, embarrassingly, offer help over a word that he would be stuttering over. He would laugh, saying that any help would speed the conversation.
    He had an amazing sense of humour that would ease any difficult days passing and speed the good ones.
    God bless him and the world (that doesn’t know it) is a poorer place for his passing.
    “LONG GOOD BYES MAKE ME SO SAD”.

  15. CHRIS
    Reply

    One of my favorite albums of all time, is home of the brave, thankfull
    for all you gave to me on those 3 solo albums, I love you eternally, music never dies!

  16. Raymond McCarthy
    Reply

    To say he was a one-man Beach Boy is true in many ways, but his voice and his production and vocal arrangements set him out as being something very original. White Trails has a wonderful suite of songs on side one for me, and Looking Over My Shoulder is just full of wonderful songs, and to me they never date because they are just priceless. I almost met him when he was recording ‘Shoulder’ at the CBS studio in London when I was in there with Sailor in an adjoining studio, but not to be.
    It’s so sad to learn of his passing and much sympathy goes to his family, in an odd way I found this about by surfing the internet.

  17. Kuba
    Reply

    R.I.P Chris. I’m so sad that you are not longer wit us. I am proud of so many of you so warmly recalls. I love your songs from Stationary Traveller. We will remember you.

  18. CHRIS VD WIJK
    Reply

    Hi Chris, so sad to hear the news,
    Looking over my shoulder, is one of my favorite albums ever, one of those
    albums where every song is perfect,
    Music is love, and you will give love forever, even after you’re gone
    Hope your solo albums will be re-discovered , although inspired by the Beach
    Boys, i think looking over my shoulder is the best album the beach boys never made

  19. Rob Stride
    Reply

    He was a huge influence on myself and my best friend and song co-writer.
    His vocal arrangements were excellent
    his voice simply beautiful
    and he was one hell of a writer and producer
    we are saddened by his early departure
    from this world, he was honest with his music
    and melodically uplifting.
    sing with the angels Chris
    you always sounded like one

  20. Jez
    Reply

    Very sad to hear this news – ‘Home Of The Brave’ is a fabulous album and deserves many many more listeners – a fine singer and songwriter who perhaps was just too far ahead of his time for us all – a unique talent who will be very much missed.

  21. Wim
    Reply

    “Is the summer really over now?” (track 7, Home of the brave) … Yes it is, Chris will be missed.

  22. Peter Hoskins
    Reply

    it’s been months now but I still can’t get over his death. I was in the recording business for 45 years and Chris was the most lovely person I ever had the pleasure of working with. He recorded White Trails at our studio. No ego, incredible talent and sense of humour. Just a lovely person. He deserved many more years of life.

  23. Chris T
    Reply

    Chris went to school with my cousins George and Louis and George sang on a number of his singles including Solid State Brain. I first met Chris in 1961 when I was just getting into blues harmonica. Chris would play his guitar left handed ‘upside down’. I kept in touch with Chris throughout his career. When I told George (who now lives in South Africa) of Chris’s passing, he was in absolute bits.
    Chris was pure gold and a lovely bloke. I miss the days when we hung around his pad and just jammed and had fun. I have not had a chance to catch up with Ibby and her son but plan to do so with George when he returns to the UK

  24. Steve
    Reply

    Hi,
    Really sad that I could never share that Chris bought myself and my wife together with Solid State Brain when I was a D J and we lasted married for 35 years. My son who is an amazing drummer in a band call Morton Valence list Chris as his greatest influence. Of my 3 other sons oner is a pianist, one is an actor and one is a d.j. all motivated by Chris. So sad it is not true. A true talent sadly missed. xxx

  25. SarfEastCaff
    Reply

    I only found out today that Chris had died. It’s a sad loss – his music was wonderful.
    RIP Chris x

  26. Bob
    Reply

    I learnt of Chris’ death fairly soon after it was reported, so apologies for my own tuppence worth of thoughts and reminiscences a year and a half later.
    The first song I heard from Chris was ‘Give me what I cry for’ which I first heard played on Radio Caroline by the late Tony Allan (an equally huge loss to broadcasting). It was such a highly commercial tune that I am still surprised it never charted in the UK. ‘Solid State Brain’ was also a popular number on the station. I bought both singles but, as others have observed, the mainstream sales eluded him. Equally, his undoubted talent eluded the mainstream, although I’ll never understand why the airplay failed to result in any significant chart success.
    I have never read a bad word said about Chris – he seemed to be one of those few chaps in the business who combined extraordinary talent and ‘normal-ness’, so it is with a heavy heart that I pass on my condolences to his wife and son. I would have loved to have met this great talent, seen his studio, and learnt more about his work – But alas….
    In the years ahead, I hope his wife and family can be thankful for having been close to, and a part of, the beautiful combination of songwriting, production and singing that Chris brought into our lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *