Chris Rainbow

It would be quite easy to dismiss Scottish-born singer/songwriter CHRIS RAINBOW as just another budding pop star struggling to find that elusive hit – or two. For several years between 1974-1981, Christopher, or indeed Chris, could well have been preferred over similar acts 10CC, GILBERT O’SULLIVAN and fellow Scots PILOT. With a stage name one could hardly forget, fans of former prog acts ALAN PARSONS PROJECT and CAMEL became very familiar with the dextrous frontman CHRIS RAINBOW.
Born Christopher James Harley, 18th November 1946 in Glasgow, he went from graphic artist to lead out his own HOPESTREET act, releasing two pop 45s (`Iron Sky’ and `Wait Until Tomorrow’) for Parlophone in 1972 and 1973 respectively.
In order not to be confused with another HARLEY – Steve, the pop scribe launched himself as CHRISTOPHER RAINBOW, hoping that Polydor Records would support him in his quest for pop stardom. Initial airplay from a Kenny Everett ad couldn’t quite reach his target pop audience for his bright beginning, `Solid State Brain’. Several months on, there was a sense of SEDAKA deja vu on follow-up `Give Me What I Cry For’, while a promo flexi for Ladbroke Holidays proved the man was a go-getter.
Making soft-rock into an art form, his West Coast (of Scotland!) surf music was prominent on his debut set, HOME OF THE BRAVE (1975) {*6}; `Mr. Man’, `Tarzana Reseda’ and the rainy-day 6-minute `Glasgow Boy’ were unfairly overlooked at the time.
Stirred but not shaken, and now as CHRIS RAINBOW, the man at the grand piano duly sprung up with flop after flop until that elusive sophomore set, LOOKING OVER MY SHOULDER (1978) {*5}, just had to be released before it was canned.
Impressed by his “wall of voices” studio techniques, which saved on hiring backing singers (no doubt), E.M.I. gave Chris one last chance to shine on 1979’s WHITE TRAILS {*4}. Sadly for him, the pop world had turned over a new leaf, and quirky material like `Ring Ring’ was more in line with Eurovision that new wave fans.
A solo career that might’ve blossomed with Lady Luck on his side, Chris continued to work within the pop/rock community, subsequently performing for the ALAN PARSONS PROJECT (on `Eve’ 1979 onwards), JON ANDERSON (`Song Of Seven’ 1980) and CAMEL (`The Single Factor’ 1982 to `Pressure Points: Live In Concert’ 1984). In the meantime, he and keyboard player Max Middleton surfaced as a one-off singles act, Maximum Penetration (1980).
Spreading his soft sounds as far afield as the continent, Chris and PILOT’s Ian Bairnson helped form German-based PANARAMA, but bailed out after 1982’s `Can This Be Paradise’ proved unworthy of its title; the Weindorf brothers (Hermann and Berthold) strolled on regardless.
RAINBOW reconvened his career as Chris Harley, producing fellow Scots RUNRIG as they sailed up the charts (from 1987’s `The Cutter & The Clan’ to 1993’s `Amazing Things’) from his base in the Isle of Skye.
Surprised by a growing legion of followers in Japan, compilation sets and CD re-issues of original LPs led to RAINBOW attempting a post-millennium comeback – but not in Britain. Sadly after years in the musical wilderness of sorts, Chris died on 25th February 2015.
© MC Strong/MCS Feb2015

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