Sonja Kristina started out by wanting to be a folk singer. She learned guitar at her convent school in Brentwood, Essex, about the same time as Hank Marvin and Bert Weedon were the guitar players.
“It took me about a year to get a fair grasp of the basics of guitar and then I started writing a few, little songs of my own and at school I was singing and playing on stage with a girlfriend and doing folk clubs, such as the White Swan at Romford, off my own bat.”
Her brother also introduced her to some friends who ran Jewish folk clubs, and she was kept busy for an ensuing couple of years.
“The first thing I did for them was to sing at a concert where Julie Felix was supposed to be topping the bill. She couldn’t make it, however, and I found myself singing between acts such as The Settlers, The Carlins and the Three Shades of Blue. I was 15 at the time, and it was the first really big thing that I did.”
As the result of one song which Sonja did on a television program called Something’s Coming, she got several letters and an offer to do a schools television series.
It was around this time that she met, and became friends with, Al Stewart who helped her in her learning by giving her a whole load of new material to listen to.
Sonja spent a year at the New College of Speech and Drama in Hampstead and her time at college broadened her whole scope and taught her the basics of stage dynamics. There followed a period of singing on the street, in tube stations and outside London’s Middle Earth club in Covent Garden – the birthplace of the British progressive music scene.
It resulted in her first, real encounter with the rock side of the business. She got a job as vocalist with a blues band called The Piccadilly Line who were resident at the Marquee.
Sonja took over the running of a Wednesday night, mixed-media show at the Troubador Club in Earls Court. There she met many people connected with the business, not least among whom was Dave Cousins of Strawbs fame, who considered her as a replacement for Sandy Denny.
It was not to be, however, and after another period of ‘barefooting it around London’ – at the time of the whole hippie/flower power thing – Sonja auditioned for the Hair musical which was due to open in London. At first, she was to be just a part of the tribe, but her singing at rehearsals so impressed the producer that she ended up with the major part of Chrissie.
Her Hair experience of working with electric music proved a great help when she met Florian, Robert, Darryl, and Francis – the four original members of Curved Air.
“They were dead against the idea of a girl singer at first,” said Sonja in 1973, “but we got on so well together that the whole thing evolved naturally. They were concerned with the music basically, so I got busy with the lyrics.”
Curved Air completed three tours of the States and tours of Europe and became a huge success at home via three albums – Air Conditioning (1970), The Second Album (1971), and Phantasmagoria (1972).
The work and the success all took their toll, however, and Curved Air’s personnel changed completely during 1972.
A short-lived Curved Air reunion in the mid-70’s featured four original band members (Linwood, Way, Monkman and Miksa) and was preserved for posterity on Curved Air – Live (1975), recorded at Cardiff University and Bristol Polytechnic during a three-week UK tour in 1974 put together to pay off a huge unpaid VAT bill.
Sonja Kristina Linwood
Violin, keyboards, vocals
Bass, guitar, vocals