Monday, 20 August 2007

Back Street Luv

I’ll let you into a little secret if you promise not to tell. In the very early 1970s, when I was about 15 or thereabouts, I was terribly in love with Sonja Kristina, vocalist with progrock band, Curved Air (voice from the back: ‘Yeah! You and 10,000 others!’).

In those days, rock bands were a male preserve and they generally didn’t have female singers. Exceptions I can think of were Jenny Haan (Babe Ruth), Maggie Bell (Stone the Crows) and Annie Haslam (Renaissance)…plus Elkie Brooks (Vinegar Joe)…Oh! And Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane)…OK, so there were a few! But not that many. The female led band didn’t really get going until the late 1970s when the configuration mushroomed immeasurably. But for a few years it was a bit of a novelty and in this environment Sonja ruled.

But there was more – Curved Air was a highly innovative band, which included 2 Royal College of Music inmates who used electric violin and synthesizers to augment the classic guitar based set up in general use. In these circumstances Sonja was really ‘one of the boys’ and early videos of the band confirm this feeling as she demurs to the band members for much of the time as their instrumental prowess overshadowed and at times sidelined her vocal talents.

It was only later; when the original line-up had disintegrated that she took control of the franchise, dressed herself up in evermore outlandish costumes and became a star in her own right, but by then the configuration of female led male band was in the ascendancy. Nevertheless, by the mid 1970s, audiences were calling for her the moment the band set foot on stage. Just to tease them, the band would often start with an instrumental piece whilst Sonja remained off stage! Presumably she was still struggling into those costumes.

In truth, the later reincarnations of the band were not much cop and musically, Curved Air’s finest moments are contained on their first three albums with the original line-up (Air Conditioning, Second Album and Phantasmagoria) plus ‘Air Cut’ with a revised line-up. These remain the ones worth investigating, but you never forget first love, do you? (For more about the effect of Curved Air on my life see 'Memoirs of a Music Obsessive')

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