Solo albums: Soundtracks credited to him: Library albums: Great keyboardist with a classical education. He studied three years at The Royal Academy of Music (organ, and mostly, harpsichord), and started doing sessions while he still was studying there. He also plays guitar and several more instruments.

Francis was born on June 9, 1949, at Hampstead, London, England.


His first band was Sisyphus. Francis Monkman and bassist Rob Martin started playing together around 1968, and they were joined by Florian Pilkington-Miksa. Sometime later, they were joined by Darryl Way and a friend, and this was the first real lineup.

Francis Monkman (guitar)
Rob Martin (bass)
Darryl Way (violin)
Nick Simon (keyboards)
Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums)
In 1969, the keyboardist left the band, and they turned into Curved Air.


A superb band! The peculiar band name comes from a Terry Riley album, "Rainbow in curved air". Around March 1970, Sonja Kristina joins, and the band starts its succesful career.

Sonja Kristina (vocals)
Darryl Way (violin)
Francis Monkman (keyboards, guitar)
Rob Martin (bass)
Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums)

(scan courtesy of Alex Gitlin)

Their first album, Air conditioning, was a big success. With a stunning track, 'Vivaldi'. It was one of the first picture disc albums ever released.

Very soon, Rob Martin leaves the band, and starts a long list of bassists in their lineups.

Sonja Kristina (vocals)
Darryl Way (violin)
Francis Monkman (keyboards, guitar)
Ian Eyre (bass)
Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums)
(from left to right: Darryl Way, Francis Monkman, Florian P-M, Ian Eyre, Sonja Kristina)
(click here to get a bigger image, 57 Kbs.)

(scan courtesy of Alex Gitlin)

They release Second album (with a great hit included, 'Back street luv'), but Ian Eyre leaves the band in January 1972.

Sonja Kristina (vocals)
Darryl Way (violin)
Francis Monkman (keyboards, guitar)
Mike Wedgwood (bass)
Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums)
(from left to right: Darryl Way, Mike Wedgwood, Sonja Kristina, Florian P-M, Francis Monkman)
(click here to get a bigger image, 74 Kbs.)

(scan courtesy of Alex Gitlin)

After a 3rd album, called Phantasmagoria, Francis, Darryl and Florian leave the band in October 1972. The band continued with Sonja a bit more (with Eddie Jobson), until finally splitting.

There is a live album, released in 1995, called Live at the BBC. It includes 13 tracks from three different concerts: April 1970 (3 tracks - with Rob Martin on bass), January 1971 (5 tracks - with Ian Eyre on bass) as well as 5 more tracks from January 1976, although, of course, Francis doesn't play in these tracks from 1976.


In December 1972, the great Robert Wyatt (from Soft Machine, he had just dissolved his own band Matching Mole) recorded some tracks for BBC program Top Gear. He sang with the only backing by Francis Monkman.

Robert Wyatt (vocals)
Francis Monkman (keyboards)
They performed 3 tracks. Fortunately, one of these tracks can now be found, in the Flotsam and Jetsam (May 94, Rough Trade) album. This is a sort of compilation of rare tracks performed by Robert. It was sold with a book.

Wyatt and Monkman were supposed to keep on playing together, as a new lineup of Matching Mole, but Robert's accident at home prevented him to play drums anymore (he became paralyzed following a fall). :(


He's a prog Italian singer. Francis plays in one of his albums, Come un vecchio incensiere, and he also was part of the live band that toured to promote it, along with great sax player Dave Jackson (from Van Der Graaf Generator).

Alan Sorrenti (vocals)
Francis Monkman (keyboards)
Dave Jackson (sax)
+ others unknown to me

And then? 

Then, Francis concentrated on session work, as we can read in the sessions page.

He has also played with The Shadows, but don't know when. Help, please!

CURVED AIR (again) 

But in September 1974, everybody reunites again under Curved Air name (with a new bassist again!)

Sonja Kristina (vocals)
Darryl Way (violin)
Francis Monkman (keyboards)
Phil Kohn (bass)
Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums)

(scan courtesy of Alex Gitlin)

They did a UK tour during three weeks, and Live album was recorded then, at Cardiff and Bristol. After the tour, Francis and Florian leave the band again, in November 1974.


Steve Harley had dissolved his band, Cockney Rebel, in the summer of 1974. He assembled a new lineup to play at Reading Festival:

Steve Harley (vocals)
Jim Cregan (guitar)
George Ford (bass)
Francis Monkman (keyboards)
Stuart Elliott (drums)
Francis Monkman had been called only for that gig. When Harley searched for a permanent band, he called Duncan Mackay.


This band was assembled in August 1976 by Phil Manzanera, who was guitarist in Roxy Music. Roxy band was 'frozen' for a while, so Manzanera started this project. Originally intended to be only a live event, Manzanera has put different 801 lineups every time he wasn't too busy. But to me, their first lineup was really incredible.

Phil Manzanera (guitar)
Lloyd Watson (guitar, vocals)
Bill McCormick (bass, vocals)
Brian Eno (keyboards)
Francis Monkman (keyboards)
Simon Phillips (drums)

They played three concerts: Cromer, Reading Festival, and Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, where they recorded the material for 801 Live, a fantastic album. In September 1976, the members were involved in their own projects. Manzanera joined Bryan Ferry Band (with Chris Mercer), Brian Eno kept on doing his solo thing, and Francis went to his new project.



(Francis (just visible), after Herbie Flowers)

John Williams is a great classical guitarist who has a long discography. In the early 70s, he started making some mixtures between classical and rock in his albums, using great sessionmen. His second 'crossover' album was Travelling (check the sessions page), where Francis played, also playing the title track. The success was so big that they finally decided working as a stable band in 1978. The lineup was:

John Williams (guitar)
Kevin Peek (guitar)
Herbie Flowers (bass)
Francis Monkman (keyboards)
Tristan Fry (drums)
(from left to right: John Williams, Kevin Peek, Francis (just visible), Herbie Flowers, Tristan Fry)
(click here to get a bigger image, 74 Kbs.)
Probably, one of the bands with more perfect musical skills ever. All of them play in hundreds of albums, and Herbie Flowers will also have his own page in my Olympus someday.

Their first, self-titled album, Sky, included several tracks written by Francis: 'Cannonball', 'Westway' (co-written with Herbie) and the great, long (19:22) track 'Where opposites meet'. A fantastic debut album. It also includes modern arrangements on works by Erik Satie or Pipo. Some CD releases include an additional track written by Francis, 'Dies Irae'.

After a very succesful tour in 1979, they release their next album, Sky 2. It was a 2LP. Beware, it has been reissued on CD, but it misses two tracks: 'Gavotte & variations' (by Rameau) and 'Andante' (based on Vivaldi), as well as the very interesting liner notes written by the members. What can I say about this album? This is the album that turned me into Francis work. Again, a long (17:12), fantastic track, 'FIFO', written by Francis. Ah, it also includes a new rendition of Curved Air's classic tune, 'Vivaldi'.

But after a new tour, Francis leaves the band, around summer 1981, after the recordings for their third album were scheduled.


From his session days, Francis recorded a library album. Sometime later, it was released under the Energism name, although it was never intended to be release on its own.

After leaving Sky, Francis has never belonged to another band, although he has been always playing, of course. First step was releasing a solo album, Dweller on the threshold. Recorded with help from Andy Latimer (guitar, from Camel), Dave Dowle (drums, vocals, from Streetwalkers and Whitesnake), Darryl Way (violin), Juan Martin (guitar), Mike Giles (drums, from King Crimson), Tom Nichol (drums), Tristan Fry (percussion), as well as some featured vocalists: Graham Layden, Jools Rathbone, Peter Plant, etc. It was recorded at Abbey Road Studios on May 1981.

He has recorded two more library albums, one in 1984 and another one in 1992 (Virtual classics, including Tristan Fry. Most tracks are from Francis, but some other are by Graham Preskett). They aren't available for now.

After the album, he returned to his classical roots. He has been playing with flamenco guitarist Juan Martin, as well playing solo concerts featuring works by Mozart or Beethoven.


Together again! Not only they had been playing together in Sisyphus and Curved Air. They also released a joint album, as we can read in the sessions page.

In 1986, they performed together again, classical stuff with a string quartet, amplified, at Glastonbury Festival.

Darryl Way (violin)
Francis Monkman (keyboards)

CURVED AIR (again) 

It was 1990, and Curved Air re-forms again just to play for a TV program.

Sonja Kristina (vocals)
Darryl Way (violin)
Francis Monkman (keyboards)
Rob Martin (bass)
Florian Pilkington-Miksa (drums)


As I've said before, Francis got more involved with classical music, having played several recitals (mostly all-Bach), including one in 1996 at Westminster Cathedral.


That's where the good news arrive! Francis has just released a brand new album! It's called 21st Century Blues, and it's credited to Francis Monkman & The Virtuous-Realiti Band. With help from Julia Rathbone on vocals (in the 'Another day' track). It comprises 14 tracks, and it's a very interesting, innovative, surprising and unusual album. It can be ordered from Francis Monkman's own web site, at

Still shocked about the great quality, I've decided to write (and publish) my own review for the album. That's my opinion:
21st Century Blues - my own review 

The tracks: 

“Poisonality” (9:42) 
A tremendous track, a killing start for an album! Being 9:42 long, its content varies lots of times. It starts with a vocal part, followed by a fantastic, extended guitar solo (sounding like keyboards), while other instruments (pianos, bass, drums) establish the climax. When the songs seems to start fading, it starts with the opening part again. The guitar parts are very evolving, they seem to be everywhere. When the song is over, it’s like you’ve heard a big band playing. Special mention to drum work. 
I’ve listened to this song dozens of times, and it always get better. First times, I found the vocals tracks a bit ‘obscure’; but when you get into it, it’s when vocals and instruments make a perfect ensemble. A superb song. 

“Train dun gone crazy” (5:47) 
It starts with some train effects, followed by very nice guitar parts. At the end of the track, there is a sort of a reprise. Very interesting track. 

“Delta bitstream blues” (3:43) 
A terrific song, with strange vocal parts. It’s not a real blues, I’d say. It has two very good guitar solos. One of my favourites. 

“Another day” (7:08) 
The calm after the storm (I believed that for a while!). Including haunting, beautiful female vocals by Julia Rathbone. After two minutes as a ballad, then it changes completely, as a frantic track. Finally, the quiet female vocals part appears again. A superb work by Julia! 

“Heard in dreams” (4:50) 
Great, killer guitar “layers”. Again, a terrific track! The vocals are quite 'normal' here. I love this song!! Scaring use of wha-wha guitar pedal in the crescendos. You can't say how many guitars you're listening to. The slow parts are very, very beautiful. I think it's one of the most commercial songs here, although I know I shouldn't use this adjective here... 

“21-bar blues” (7:02) 
This is an ‘obscure’, slow blues. It reminds me a bit to early Pink Floyd. Another one of my favourite tracks from the album, with a fantastic, very beautiful guitar solo, full of feeling. 

“At the court of the King” (1:50) 
Probably, this is the track more resemblant to Francis work in Sky band. A short, very lovely instrumental, full of keyboards. This was taken from “Section 43” by Country Joe McDonald. The only track not written by Francis. 

“The four guitarists of the Apocalypse (you got to admit)” (6:32) 
I have to admit, my favourite track! You can guess by the title what you find here. It starts as it was a live track, with applause. Then, the killer guitar riff starts, smashing your ears. The vocals are heavily processed. Full of guitar tracks, solos, etc. The track is constantly changing. Superb drum work. 

“Harvest time” (4:45) 
A softer tune. On the background, you can hear what it seems like Scottish pipes (probably keyboards). Haunting keyboards too. 

“Rinky-dink public school” (4:42) 
A techno rhythmic pattern, with male & female vocals. It’s a funny song, with a strange solo (which instrument is it? I can’t tell!). 

“Acid casino” (3:05) 
Straight from previous track, a heavy riff, with powerful guitar, keyboards and drums. A smashing song, with a good and extended guitar solo. The song ends quite abruptly, with some percussion marking the end of the track, that is linked to the next one... Some reminiscences of Cream & Clapton here (the riff of “Sunshine of Your Love” always comes to my mind). 

“Found in space” (6:06) 
A superb, peaceful instrumental (well, it has some vocals, but to me it's like an instrumental, as vocals are so integrated into it). I love it! Lots of sounds of different instruments, but mainly keyboards and guitars. 

“Dispossession blues / Small planet blues” (9:28) 
A complex song, with processed vocals. Again, with smashing, superb guitar parts. It's surprising how songs with more than 9 minutes are so interesting, no fillers inside. 

“iftruth” (4:41) 
Another magnificent blues, with fantastic guitar parts, especially the solo. Another one of my top favourites. How can I explain the feeling? While you're listening to the album, it's like you're in another dimension; and when you arrive to 'iftruth', it's like landing on Earth again, you're back home, to your room, to your world. A peaceful end for the whole trip. To me, this song only fits as the final track, it wouldn't have its place between songs. And I'd say the same for the other tracks, none of them is so suitable for finishing the album (or the listening). 

And now, some conclusions: 

The album is fantastic, although it needs to be listened carefully many times before starting “recognizing” the songs. That is, it’s NOT an easy album, but it is definitely worth the effort. You're getting more and more from it every new listening, and that's something that you can't say about many 'instant', 'fast-food' albums. 

For people that usually consider Francis Monkman as a keyboardist, the biggest surprise comes when you realize the album is guitar-based. Lots of guitars flow through the tracks. Of course, there are many keyboards, as well as bass and drums and some other instruments, but this shows how clearly Francis has rediscovered his love for guitars. We shouldn't forget he was the one who played all the guitar parts on Curved Air first albums, sharing both tasks (keyboards and guitars) live on stage. For quite obvious reasons, Francis didn't use guitar while in Sky (even though he also played guitar in their great suite, "FIFO", written by Francis), and although he invited Andy Latimer (from Camel) to play guitar in his first solo album, the magnificent "Dweller on the threshold" (I'll also write a review for it soon - great songs, and great guest players: members of King Crimson, Whitesnake, Camel, Curved Air and Sky), now he has decided it was time to play guitar again. Believe me, you can't but being happy for this decision, after listening to the album.



He has lots of projects on the way. He has also worked up an idea he'd started working on in the early '80s, originally sequenced on synth, for orchestra and synth. It's called 'Urdance', something of the sound/harmonic world of Sacre. A reworking is due, this time with less 'live instrumentation', it's quite a piece (the orch version expanded to 33 minutes -- an 'internal ballet', he subtitled it).

He also has some recorded works, and they'll probably be available some day from his website, so check it often (


In 1979, long before he quit Sky, Francis composed and played the music for the British movie The long good Friday. Directed by John MacKenzie. Starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren, you can also find Pierce Brosnan (Bond ... James Bond). The musicians who play here are: Francis Monkman (keyboards), plus his bandmates in Sky: Kevin Peek (guitar), Herbie Flowers (bass), Tristan Fry (drums). Also with Tommy Eyre (keyboards), Ron Aspery (sax, from Back Door with Colin Hodgkinson).

He also wrote the music for The Innocent, another movie directed by John MacKenzie. Starring Liam Neeson (from 'Schindler's List' fame, although I'd bet he'll be more known from now on because of appearing in 'Star Wars, episode I'), Jennifer O'Neill (Summer of '42) and Miranda Richardson. Unfortunately, it wasn't released as an album, so you can only listen to the music while watching the movie.


Press here to read about Francis Monkman sessions

Related links: From the always interesting Alex's Picks (by Alex Gitlin), we have:
Musicians mentioned in this page that I have projected to cover in my site someday:

Family tree

Coming soon (I hope so!).

Thanks section

Very special thanks to: Francis Monkman, for his patience, kindness, help and support.

Special thanks to: my friend Alex Gitlin, for lots of scans, and many other things; my friend Boris Shnitzer, for info and backup, Tony Mortlock, for his kind messages and well as for some scans (check his lovely Curved Air site!).

Thanks to: Jon Hinchliffe, for support.


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Page created by Miguel Terol on: 03/January/1999. Last modified on: 26/May/1999. 1