Saturday, 28 February 2015

Chris Rainbow

Glasgow born singer Christopher James Harley aka Chris Rainbow was born on 18th November 1946. Originally a graphic artist, Chris formed his first band Hopestreet who would release just two singles, "Iron Sky" b/w "Never Mind" on the Regal Zonophone label in 1972 (which may have been a demo only pressing) and the highly enjoyable "Wait Until Tomorrow" b/w "Ladies (At The Bottom Of The Garden)" on Parlophone in 1973.

Soon after the release of the second Hopestreet single in 1973, Norman Jones, a friend of Chris, passed on a tape of his new demos on his behalf to Polydor Records who subsequently signed him up on a four year deal. It was around this time that Chris changed his name from Harley to Rainbow to avoid any confusion with Steve Harley who was very popular at the time.

The debut solo Chris Rainbow album was "Home Of The Brave" in 1975. It is a very slick affair, well produced AOR with hints of 10CC ("Funky Parrot", "A Woman On My Mind") with an emphasis on Chris' angelic Alessi Brothers-esque angelic vocals. The highlight of this album for me is the Reggae-lite "Mr Man" (think "C-Moon").

The follow up album, "Looking Over My Shoulder" appeared in 1978 and this is where the real pop gems hide. This LP was my introduction to CR and I was an instant fan and could see why he was given the nickname The One Man Beach Boy. Much like Chris White's Mouth Music, the very seventies production (courtesy of Rainbow himself) might put off some people, but if you can get your head around it, you're rewarded with an album of killer pop, multi tracked harmonies galore, instant choruses and hooks that will stay in your head for weeks. There are too many great tunes on this to pick a favourite.

1979 saw the release of the third and final album as a solo artist. "White Trails", this time on EMI, might not be as instant as it's predecessor, there's plenty to sing along to on here, particularly "Ring Ring" (not the ABBA song) which is possibly the Chris Rainbow masterwork, unashamedly indebted to the Beach Boys. Pop duo Dollar had a minor hit with their version of it in 1982.

Just after brief foray into disco funk with Max Middleton on a one off single under the worrying banner of "Maximum Penetration" (be careful googling that at work!), Chris was one many artists who was dropped by EMI in their turn of the decade clear out.

The 1980's saw Chris do stints in bands like the studio-only Alan Parsons Project, Camel and Panarama. This was the decade that also saw him move into session work and production for other artists including Runrig. In 2001, now using his birth name, Chris Harley, he came back with his first solo album for over twenty years. I've looked but I can't find it anywhere so would love to hear what it sounds like.

Sadly. today I heard the news that Chris Rainbow had recently passed away. Still, he leaves a legacy of well produced pure pop of the highest order. RIP.


  1. Sorry to hear Chris Rainbow has passed away.Only found out after stumbling on this great blog.
    Thanks for leading me to Manfred Manns Cubist Town by the way...great !
    Love The Junipers !

  2. Guy was a genius. RIP. Thanks for the blog post.