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I still have a lot of hits on this blog from Yes fans, so in this edition it was an easy choice to choose a interview with Rick Wakeman. Enjoy!
Rick Wakeman embarrassed by success
By Spike Taylor
Rick Wakeman is self-conscious about Yes` last American tour. The reason is that the recent coast-to-coaster was such a howling success that Wakeman is slightly embarrassed to talk about it.
“It was a riot”, he says, looking ashamed. “Fantastic. We got caught on the hop, you see. When we came back from the previous tour on December 30, the Yes album was motoring nicely around the 30 mark. We thought that `Fragile` would need promoting when we got over there.
“Well, `Fragile` came out and it went to No. 4 in three weeks. The day we arrived it was at 4, which, as I said, caught us right on the hop. The actual weekly progression was 151, 51, 4”.
Wild scenes followed. “The New York Academy of Music – for which we`d been booked for just one date – actually sold four days. We were a bit worried, actually, because although the act was a hell of a lot tighter, we hadn`t really got any new material. So we went on and, as you know, they play `Firebird Suite` as our theme.
“We`re all standing there in the darkness, having a quiet tune, and then `Firebird` played and the place erupted. I know it sounds as if I`m on a big ego trip, but I`m not. They just went barmy. This happened all over the States.
“We did one gig where there was a hotel next door. The hotel part was about fifteen stories up, and some of the people from the hotel hoisted ropes and ladders to try and get in the hall where we were playing”.
For Wakeman these tremendous scenes were difficult to handle – because, at the same time, his wife was expecting a baby and was having to cope with moving house. She was in fact, safely delivered of the child while Rick was somewhere in the midwest, and mother, child and new house are all doing well.
This was a worrying period for Wakeman, but another bummer for the lad was the rumour – started in New York and circulated in an ever-changing manner to the West Coast – that Wakeman was leaving Yes.
“That hurt a lot,” says he. “When you`re on tour, the minute you get into a hotel, everybody phones wives and girlfriends and says `Howya doing` and all that, and when I spoke to my wife she said `You`re leaving`. I said `What?` and when I put the phone down and went into the corridor all the group were coming out of their rooms having heard the same thing. They were very uptight.
“What happened, I think, was that at the Academy of Music gig the Mellotron packed up, and the amp as well. Somebody in the audience must have noticed, and the story that `Wakeman refused to play` soon became `Wakeman`s leaving` when it got to California. The band, of course, didn`t know what was happening and they freaked out”.
But California does have its compensations, and for Wakeman, a self-confessed car freak, Los Angeles – the only city in the world designed by the Automobile – proved a goldmine of wheeled joy.
“I saw this classic fifties Cadillac rotting in a car lot on the last tour,” he recalls with pleasure, “and I couldn`t believe that such a vehicle could be falling apart like that. It was 300 dollars.
“Anyway, A & M bought it for me as a Christmas present. It cost them 300 to buy it, but I`m afraid they got caught, because when it needed re-building they had to pay another 6,000 dollars. And when it came through Customs last week they enclosed a slip saying it cost 300 dollars, but it was in such good nick – completely rebuilt and with a brand new engine, that the Customs got on to Cadillac who told them it was worth about 6,000 dollars. But it`s incredible, it`s beautiful and it`s outside my house now. It does four miles to the gallon.”
Reports also reached Britain during the Yes tour that Wakeman was planning a solo album. Was this true? “Although I`m obviously into the Yes thing, there are certain things inside you as a musician which aren`t suitable for the group in which you work.
“It hasn`t anything to do with musicianship or anything like that. It`s just something you have to get out. They`re all instrumental pieces – I can sing in tune but my voice is horrible and my lyrics are even worse – and I used the guys from Yes on the opening and closing pieces. Most of the middle is me on the various keyboards I use.” When will the Wakeman album be released? “I hope around July or thereabouts.”
“The album will be based round a book I read on a plane – you know you read a-book-a-plane on tour? – called `The Private Life Of Henry VIII.`
“I`ve always been duff at history but this really fascinated me. I couldn`t believe that all these women could have such different personalities – from Anne Boleyn to Catherine Parr who outlived Henry. So the album will be based around them and their characters and will be called `The Six Wives of Henry VIII`.”
Such a theme should prove a strong showcase for the flourishing, graceful style of Wakeman`s keyboard work – which has evolved markedly since he joined Yes last year after a long period with the Strawbs.
From Strawbs to Yes to magic tour to sell out album to solo album is a series of hefty giant strides for the genial blond pianist. And Strawbs keep coming into the conversation. Wakeman is happy with their latest success, and considers that “Grave New World” is probably the best thing they`ve done.
“I said so at the time. I was sure that if I left it would be the best for all parties – including them. And now they make this album which proves it. I don`t want to sound egotistical or anything, but in Strawbs I was never really musically challenged.
“Dave (Cousins) would bring me songs and I`d say `Yes` or `We could change that` and they`d accept it. In Yes it`s completely different. Everybody`s at least as good as me which is much more of a challenge.
“If we don`t like things we say so. And we`re all completely co-operative when writing. Like, I might listen to some words of Chris`s (Squires) and they might spark off eight bars that I was fooling around with a few months ago.
“Then Steve (Howe) might say `I`ve got a bit that`s better than the last four bars of yours but not as good as the first four`. And Bill might suggest a time change or something. That`s how we do things – we spark each other off”.
To say Wakeman is modest about his success would be a gross understatement. As i said earlier, he`s positively embarrassed by it. “I consider myself extremely lucky. I just can`t believe how lucky I`ve been. It wasn`t so long ago that I was bumming the price of a Wimpy off my publishers.
“Now I`m in Yes, I`m financially secure, I`m playing what I want to play, I`ve got a baby son… It just can`t go on. I`m so lucky”.
I found this ad on the last page of the newspaper. Nice enough to frame!
This number of the NME also contains articles/interviews with these people: Curved Air, Juicy Lucy, Mick Abrahams, The Osmonds, Fairport Convention, Moody Blues, Claire Hamill, Edgar Broughton, Genesis, Allman Brothers, Stud, Wishbone Ash, Graham Bell.
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