Tuba Smarties (recorded live) (Flowers)
When SKY began, Mr. Flowers was the only bass player to turn
up for the audition. He offered so much to join that they couldn't
refuse. He then proceeded to hypnotize everyone and
managed to force them to sign an agreement permitting him to
play at least one tuba solo on tour.
A light-hearted highlight of the band's live shows, it was penned by
Herbie who had learned to play tuba in the air force. "I wanted to show off
what the tuba could do, and so I devised this as a humourous encore
number for our live concerts. It got such a good reception at our shows
that we realised we would have to record it. So we did, and the version on
this album is from the Dominion Theatre, London.
It's a Boosey & Hawkes tuba (serial no. 587195).
Tristan Fry insists it's not him on trumpet. The rest of the band,
when asked what instruments they play on this work, just
slammed the phone down.
(A word on the title: Are Smarties known anywhere outside the UK? They're chocolates, like the more famous M&Ms, but are sold in cardboard tubes...)
Ballet-Volta (Praetorius, Arr. Williams)
In 1612 a collection of over 800 popular tunes was published
and called Terpsichore, after the Greek goddess of dance.
The composer was Michael Praetorius and he arranged the
tunes in 4 and 5 parts to be played on any instruments
available. One day in the studio nobody turned up except
Kevin and myself...
I think it's John on the left speaker and Kevin on the right
Gavotte & Variations (Rameau)
Rameau didn't call them Variations, he called them "doubles'
(he was French), and it's not really a Gavotte because
according to him, the tune (or "simple") should be played
slowly. Many of his other keyboard works have less sedate
titles ('The Chicken'; 'The Idiots of Sologne' and many more),
but this remians one of his most popular pieces, with both
pianists and harpsichordists.
J.-P. Rameau was also the most famous composer of operas in mid-
18th century Paris, as well as founding our modern system of
harmony in his theoretical writings.
How many rock concerts include the keyboard player presenting a piece of classical music, played entirely straight? And on a harpsichord, of all instruments? Sky concerts always included this kind of strangeness, and here it is on record as well...
Andante (Vivaldi, Arr. Williams)
A transcription by us of the beautiful second movement from
Vivaldi's Concert in G for 2 mandolins.
Tristan's Magic Garden (Fry)
I'm not quite sure how this piece got its title. I think it just
evolved from everybody else after the first time we heard it.
Just as well, because I was going to call it "Half a Pound of
Anyway we start with the vibraphone (without motor)
playing a tune, with a marimba, bass marimba and timps
accompanying. Then we go into a more rocky section
featuring the marimba and vibraphone taking the melody with
shouts from the xylophone and the timps playing a bass line
with drums. Then the last section is ad-lib round the timps;
seven of them. When we play this at the concerts, John and
Kevin are on marimba and vibes and Francis goes on the
drum kit, which only goes to prove one thing - if you can join
'em, beat 'em. T.F.
El Cielo (Williams)
I have always loved Spanish folk tunes - the songs and dances
are so varied in their character and mood. This piece (which
we call "El Thingy") uses two of my favourite songs: it centers
around the two acoustic guitars (of course!) although the first
tune sounds most noble as played by Francis on one of his 397
keyboards - actually the Oberheim synthesiser. Kevin plays
the second tune and I try to sound generally busy. (Something of an understatement, as ever from John Williams!)
Vivaldi (Darryl Way)
Curved Air almost invariably used this as the big
finish to a set. It was written in the style of Vivaldi and conceived really
as a barnstormer for Curved Air's violinist Darryl Way. When Curved Air
split up, it seemed too good a number to lose so it was carried over into Sky,
with John Williams playing a rather more concise guitar cadenza at the
point where Darryl would have had his extended violin freakout (just before the sample included here). F.M.
Scipio is the first piece of music to have Parts I & II running
simultaneously. It is supposed to be a happy little interlude
rather like a musical wedding reception. John is on Ovation
Classic, Kevin the same until the harpsichord solo, then he
goes on to his Gibson LS5. Mr Monkman is on harpsichord,
Prophet 5 synthesiser, Oberheim OB-I and old fashioned
steam piano. H.F.
Note for the eagle-eyed (or -eared!): In order to fit the original (double) album onto one CD, the end of Scipio fades out with fewer repetitions
Toccata (Bach, Arr. Peek, Holmes)
J. S. Bach originally wrote this piece for organ. It has
subsequently been arranged and played in numerous musical
permutations and I'm sure it would be safe to say that the
opening few bars have been heard by just about everybody in
the Western world at some time or another. The arrangement
that we have done was stimulated largely by the use of the
piece as the theme for the film "Rollerball" some years back
which had the main theme played on piano with a traditional
pop rhythm section and strings accompanying. I felt that it
would suit a smaller group arrangement and, in particular,
that the main melody would sit very nicely on guitar instead of
piano (I used a special guitar tuning to do this; the 6th string
down to D and the 2nd string down to A). Francis has the
introduction on harpsichord linked with the Prophet
synthesiser and is soon joined by Herbie on Fender bass.
Tristan then sets the main rhythm and John and I play the
melody in unison and the arpeggios following that in harmony.
I am again on the Gibson L5S and John on the Ovation Classic
guitar throughout. The high synthesiser runs in the middle
section of the piece are played by Francis on the Oberheim. K.P.
I have deliberately chosen a (musically incomplete) section as the sample here which gives classical music purists heart attacks!