Friday 8 October 2010

Air quality

It all started during a family holiday in Majorca when I was 12.

There, I met an "older man" of 15 called Andy from Watford with whom I subsequently corresponded by letter for several years (it was a long time ago) and met up with occasionally. He was into his music and kept mentioning a band called Curved Air which was his particular favourite at the time.

Now, I cannot remember the sequence of events which followed, but what I do know is that a copy of Air Conditioning (alas, not the valuable picture disc version) was passed on to me from him. Then I bought Curved Air 2 - my first ever album purchase - from the proceeds of six weeks baby sitting.

What I do know was I was totally hooked. Even at such a tender age, there was something special about their edgy art prog rock which struck more than a few chords with me. Like all great prog, its leanings were towards the classics so discovering Vivaldi through them was a revelation. And years later, I found out that the spoken sequence from CA 2's epic Piece of Mind was an extract from The Waste Land by T S Eliot.

The exquisite Sonja Kristina was my heroine: she was beautiful, sultry, talented and down to earth judging by a photograph of her I remember at the time in which she was wearing a pair of Scholl sandals! (To this day, men of my acquaint and of a certain age still sigh at the very mention of her name). On top of that, she was surrounded by a group of ethereally lovely men.

And then they had a smash hit with Back Street Luv in 1971 which resulted in the usually quite mainstream Jackie magazine publishing a pin-up photograph of them. That remained on my wall for months.......

Somehow, album three Phantasmagoria totally passed me by, probably because I had by then become infatuated with Yes. (Such is the fickle nature of teenagers!) But personnel changes then ensued and both wonderful violinist Darryl Way and guitarist/keyboard maestro Francis Monkman departed, so Air Cut, their fourth album, possessed a different kind of energy thanks to successors Eddie Jobson and Kirby. For my part, their first two albums remain the definitive testimonies to their brilliance and ground-breaking prog sound.

Anyway, fast forward about 25 years and I was getting over the break-up of my first marriage to a clairvoyant medium who lost his way by doing a David Icke, believing he was a modern day prophet who had come down to save us all. Another long story there.

A few weeks afterwards, I linked up with a group of friends who were going off to a New Age happening in West Sussex. En route in the car, I suddenly had one of my occasional premonitions and said to them I would meet someone there that I knew. My first reaction was that it was going to be my ex and nearly asked them to turn the car around.

We got to the parish hall where the event was being held and went to the kitchen to get a coffee. There, we were introduced to a particularly striking-looking couple, first Christine....then Florian. I heard myself gasp because my premonition was coming true. This was indeed Florian Pilkington Miksa, Curved Air's excellent drummer, last seen on my bedroom wall. And he was flattered when I said I knew who he was. As a result, we talked music on and off throughout the day in between the Reiki healing sessions. I also caught sight of him again a few weeks later at a Peace On Earth Day at Wembley Arena.

Fast forward again to last year and thanks to Facebook, I became a friend of Sonja Kristina. This proved very opportune because around the same time, the excellent Classic Rock Presents Prog appeared and in its first edition, there was an extensive spread about ladies in prog rock. And I was pretty mortified to find it only had a photograph and a brief couple of lines about Sonja, who in my humble opinion, was the first lady of prog.

So I wrote a letter to the magazine to this effect which subsequently appeared in the second edition....and I let Sonja Kristina know via FB.

To bring the story to a conclusion, finally after 40 years, I saw the current Curved Air incarnation play at the Brook in Southampton last Thursday. It was a very emotional evening to experience all those incredible, unique and powerful songs which formed the very early soundtrack of my life. I will never tire of hearing "It Happened Today" or "Young Mother" because they have such a resonance even now.

Sonja Kristina is as vibrant and lovely as ever, looking like a gorgeous gipsy queen with Florian on drums the only other original member. But again, she has surrounded herself with some very distinctive and gifted performers, none more so than Paul Sax on electric violin who attacked Vivaldi full-on while guitarist Kit Morgan provided some excellent fluid lines and flourishes. Bassist Chris Harris and Robert Norton on keyboards were also superb in bringing the Air tradition to life and it was fully justified that they were called back for three encores.

Afterwards, the band came out to sign autographs and having purposely hung back to last in the queue, I finally met the great lady saying I was Alison from Facebook - and she knew who I was! We talked about the band and then shook hands. Andy from our pub quiz team, (not the one from Majorca) who was also there brought along a programme from their gig at Southampton in 1971 which she happily signed.

A true heroine....


  1. Great to read Alison, lovely story...

  2. Great story - its great when people you admire turn out to be nice :)