Curved Air

Curved AirFrom: London, England

Curved Air are a British progressive rock band formed in 1970 by musicians of various artistic backgrounds, including classical, folk, and electronic. The band’s sound was a blend of progressive rock, folk rock, and fusion with classical elements. Along with High Tide and East of Eden, Curved Air were one of the first bands after It’s A Beautiful Day and The United States Of America to feature violin. Curved Air released eight studio albums and had a hit single with “Back Street Luv” in 1971. The song reached #4 on the UK Singles Charts.

The band evolved out of the group Sisyphus which was formed by Darryl Way and Francis Monkman. The two met at an outlet store of the Orange Music Electronic Company, where Monkman was intrigued by the sound of Way testing out his first electrically amplified violin. The two began talking and discovered they had a lot in common. In late 1969, the pair invited pianist Nick Simon. The remaining members of Sisyphus were Rob Martin (bass) and Florian Pilkington-Miska (drums). Darryl and Nick were big fans of the band Spirit, and early Curved Air highlights this influence.

Sisyphus was hired to provide accompaniment for Galt McDermott’s new play, Who The Murderer Was, at the Mercury Theatre in Notting Hill Gate, where they served as the pit band. Aspiring band manager Mark Hanau saw the play and decided he wanted to manage Sisyphus. He felt that Sonja Kristina, an aspiring folk musician, was just what the band needed. On January 1, 1970, Hanau contacted Kristina through singer Guest. Kristina liked what she heard and joined the band. At this time, Nick Simon departed. The band changed their name to Curved Air at this time, named after the album A Rainbow In Curved Air by composer Terry Riley. The band’s new sound came together extremely quick, and the five-piece was born with Kristina being the band’s voice and sex symbol.

The band held a series of intensive rehearsals in Martin’s family home in Gloucestershire. Ian Eyre replaced Martin on bass and Curved Air launched a well-received UK tour, supporting Black Sabbath at one point. The band signed with Warner Bros. in the summer of 1970, becoming the first British band on the company’s roster. They received a much-publicized advance of £100,000 and their debut album Air Conditioning was released in November. The album was released to enormous hype as being issued as the first commercially available LP picture disc. The album went all the way to #8 on the UK Album Chart, even though the accompanying single, “It Happened Today,” failed to chart. Curved Air then released “Back Street Luv” which went to #4 on the UK Singles Charts, becoming the band’s first successful single. Their next album, The Second Album, peaked at #11. A non-LP follow-up single, “Sarah’s Concern,” went unnoticed.

Curved Air went on three tours of the US but never achieved more than a cult following there. As a result of the constant touring, drummer Pilkington-Miksa fell ill in late 1971. For several months, Barry DeSouza, who the band knew from studio work, sat in for him. It was DeSouza who played with Curved Air at the 1971 Beat Club German TV performance of “Back Street Luv.” Later in 1971 Curved Air joined The Faces, Soft Machine, Mar Bolan, and David Beford to do a Christmas radio show for the BBC.

By the time of Curved Air’s third album, there were serious musical differences with the band. This division was apparent in the arrangement of tracks on The Second Album and Phantasmagoria. While in the studio, the band was in dire condition. At the end of the second US tour, Eyre collapsed in Hollywood. He lost his health shortly after Pilkington. Eyrer’s vegetarian, yogic lifestyle was compromised by overwork, ‘spiked’ food and prescribed Valium to balance sleep, management and control freaks.

Phantasmagoria was recorded with bassist/guitarist Mike Wedgwood, who replaced Eyre. The album was named after the Lewis Carroll poem of the same title. It was released in 1972 and reached number 20 in the UK. The band then split up.

Kristina and Wedgwood maintained a good working relationship and formed a new band with Kirby Gregory (electric guitar), Eddie Jobson (keyboards, violin), and Jim Russel (drums). Jobson had been in the band Fat Grapple who had been one of Curved Air’s support acts on tour. The new band played much more conventional rock music than the former Curved Air. On the suggestion of manager Clifford Davis, they continued using the name Curve Air, helping give them a commercial leg up. However, maintaining the name was not enough. The band’s first three albums broke the top 20 in the UK, the new band’s lone album, Air Cut, didn’t even chart. Gregory and Russell both left the band to form the group Stretch as a result of artistic differenced with Jobson. Warner Brothers realized the current Curved Air was not the same band they signed. Soon, Warner Brothers discontinued the contract. Curved Air broke up in the summer of 1973. Jobson replaced Eno in Roxy Music and Wedgwood joined Caravan. The band reunited in 1974 when Chrysalis sued the band for breaking their contract.

Artist Info: Wikipedia

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From the 1972 album Phantasmagoria

  • Melinda (More Or Less)