Top Of The Progs: Sky - Toccata

Frormer Curved Air keyboard player Francis Monkman played Top Of The Pops back in 1971. Nine years later he was back with the prog/classical cross over group Sky…

Toccata b/w Vivaldi

(Ariola, 1980)

Highest UK Chart Position: No. 5

This was Sky’s version of Bach’s Toccata And Fugue In D Minor. From their second album Sky 2, and it led to the band’s only appearance on Top Of The Pops, in April 1980. The B side was the band’s version of Curved Air’s Vivaldi, and the original had itself been released as a single nine years previously.

Where did the inspiration for the song come from?

“I had heard this piece on the soundtrack for the Rollerball movie [which came out in 1975]. At the time, I thought this could be done by a band, if it was properly adapted. So when Sky got together I suggested we should try it, and this worked out well enough for the label to decide it could be a hit single.”

What was the reaction to it?

“There might have been some classical music fans who hated what we did, especially as we popularised it. But for the most part the reaction we got was very encouraging. In fact, I’d say that we introduced a lot of pop fans to classical music and we got some people into that side of music, who might otherwise have never thought of listening to it.”

Did you feel like pop stars?

“Ha, ha. Well, we did when doing Top Of The Pops. We were on the same show as The Undertones, David Essex and Buggles [April 10, 1980], and it was hilarious watching all these cool kids trying to dance to Toccata. I wasn’t new to appearing on the show, of course. I’d done it with Curved Air when Back Street Luv was a hit in 1971. But, I wasn’t exactly used to it. However, we in Sky never thought of ourselves as pop stars.”

Was having a hit a blessing or curse?

“It helped to sell our second album, Sky 2, and probably got us some new fans. So, it was a blessing from that point of view. I can’t think of any down side.”

Malcolm Dome

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica, published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009. He died in 2021