There is no divide – no ditch, no fence, no wall separates the classical from the contemporary – and no band illustrates this better than Sky. All the members of Sky were classically trained musicians who chose to make pop/rock/classical cross-over music.
The most high-profile member of the band was John Williams, who was already widely admired as a classical guitarist when he and bassist Herbie Flowers founded Sky in 1979. Recruiting Tristan Fry (drums) and Francis Monkman (keyboards) almost immediately, and adding Kevin Peek (electric guitar) soon after, they recorded their first album, called simply Sky. The following year they released, Sky 2, which topped the UK album charts and became the fastest double album to reach platinum status.
You can get some idea of the standing of those musicians from the long, long list of their colleagues and collaborators. Here’s a partial list of associated artists from Sky‘s Wikipedia page:
- The Beatles
- T. Rex
- Lou Reed
- Manfred Mann
- Shirley Bassey
- Back Door
- Brian Eno
Francis Monkman left in 1980 and was replaced by Steve Gray on keyboards. This line-up released another three studio albums (Sky 2, Sky 3, Sky 4: Forthcoming). John Williams returned to a full-time classical career in 1984, reducing Sky to a quartet, which recorded three more albums (Cadmium, The Great Balloon Race, Mozart) between 1983 and 1987. Sky continued to perform until 1995, quietly fading into audio history.
Two live albums and a number of Sky compilation albums have been released over the years. And just this week Crotchety Man’s Release Radar featured the track, Desperate for Your Love, from the recent compilation, Carillon, The Singles Collection 1979 – 1987. This is the 7″ single version of a track from The Great Balloon Race and it’s a little different from most of Sky‘s output in that it was written by Tony Hymas (ex keyboard player with the Jeff Beck band) and it has some vocals, albeit mostly spoken and whispered.
Here’s the longer album track on YouTube:
The title is misleading. There’s no hint of desperation in the relaxed, almost cheery, synthesiser sounds. The lyrics do declare a forlorn desire to be loved but they seem completely at odds with the general feel of the song. This must be a very detached kind of angst, an exquisite ache to be savoured, rather than an unbearable suffering begging to be resolved. And Crotchety Man loves it.
Of course, you do have to wonder why yet another Sky compilation is needed – there have already been four, after all. Could it be that the record company is desperate not for love, but for more sales? Or is it just that putting Desperate for Your Love on CD for the first time is sufficient excuse for spinning the selector wheel again? I guess you’d have to ask the decision makers at Esoteric Recordings (an imprint of the Cherry Red Records Group).
According to one website, Herbie Flowers “met music quite by chance”. Desperate for something more rewarding than square bashing and frying eggs while doing his National Service he turned to his careers officer for help. The occupation that took the young Flowers’ eye was ‘bandsman’ so Herbie said he’d played the tuba at school. That was a lie but it enabled him to draw a tuba from the stores and begin learning how to play it …
And, finally, here’s an amusing quote under a YouTube video of Sky‘s version of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. It sums up their appearance perfectly:
A bass player with the worst jumper you’ve ever seen, a guitar player who looks like a history teacher with halitosis, a keyboard player who looks like his Mum cut his hair in the dark, a drummer who looks nerdier than Bun E. Carlos playing Bach…and they STILL rock harder than most!
– pathdaly, comment on YouTube video for Toccata