This may well be the article that gets my blog 10.000 views, knowing how interested Yes-fans are of reading about past and present members of the band. I will celebrate with something a little stronger than beer. Kind of a strange article this, and I never knew that Mr. Wakeman was so fond of beer. Is he still?
We could have talked about his latest epic “The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare”…we were even ready to discuss his Keyboard Technique…but he preferred to talk about drinking. Accordingly, we preshent-
The RICK WAKEMAN Consumer`s Guide to Beers of the World
The management reserved rights to refuse admission to Chris Salewicz (words) and Joe Stevens (pics)…but they came in anyway
“On our rider for the tour of America – for the seven of us – we had twelve six-packs of Budweiser, two bottles of tequila, two bottles of scotch, two bottles of brandy, a bottle of grenadine and a bottle of orange juice to mix Tequila Sunrises. This is apart from all the ordinary lagers and other beers you get.
“And on the very first gig we had to send out for more at half time.”
Yes, Rick Wakeman likes the old tipple. In fact, one could go as far as to say that he regards himself as something of a connoisseur when it comes to booze. And I`m not just thinking of anything as crass as the fact that there was invariably a pint pot within reach whenever Wakeman was on stage with the Topographic Travellers – or “what Yes eat is what I bring up in the morning after a heavy night`s drinking”. No, that`s all become somewhat unnecessarily over-emphasised.
Because right now we`re going to talk about BEER – A Man`s Drink. So snuggle up close, you big butch creatures, and come on down to the Anglesea Arms, 15 Selwood Terrace, London SW7, which has been specially selected for the Rick Wakeman`s Consumers Guide to this liquid – for the quite basic reason that it`s a Free House (i.e., it`s not owned by an particular brewery) and stocks twenty-seven different brands.
Oh, then, to the first pint: Young`s Special. Wakeman dips his face into the glass and consumes roughly half of it. He seems satisfied: “Very difficult. First of the day, you see. I`ve deliberately been starving myself of liquid refreshments.
“And that first pint always does tend to taste just that little bit watery. It`s a very good bitter, although.”
It`s decided that the various beers to be tasted should be awarded star ratings with a possible maximum of ten.
The artist who is currently transforming the sensitive Arthurian legends into a musical form glugs down the final half of yet another aspect of his heritage.
Froth from the beer delicately mats together the hair of his freshly trimmed moustache.
“It`s a nine,” he declares. “Definitely a nine star out of ten rating.” And he lets forth a quaint belch before telling us that he`d cancelled studio time so that he could keep his appointment. Obviously a man who has his priorities right, is Rick Wakeman, as his reaction shows when it`s mentioned that the pub is rather absurdly crowded and that we could, if it were felt necessary, move on to somewhere with a little more room to breathe.
A look of extreme concern appears on his face: “Yeah, but the thing is they all close at eleven and the more walking about that we do the less alcoholic beverage time.
“One finds this problem a lot,” he adds, before lumbering up to the bar to personally inspect what is available. He returns with a pint of Watney`s Special!
“This, of course, though,” says Wakeman apologetically, “is the kind of beer that I was actually weaned on. Watneys provided me with my very first pint when I was thirteen years old – I can remember drinking it but I can`t remember the aftermath.
“Chemical beer does, of course, lay more heavily on the stomach.
“Now one beer which you can`t actually get there – Ind Coope…”
Ah, but one can, however, purchase Ind Coope`s Double Diamond.
This satisfies our guinea-pig: “While Double Diamond has the sweetness and the glorioso of wandering through a forest on a spring day with the sight of those first leaves and the gentle tweeting of birds…it does make you fart,” states Wakeman, almost with anguish. “Most of the band drink Double Diamond…I do find that if you drink a lot of it you tend to pebble-dash the toilet in the morning. Which can be a bit awkward especially if you`ve got a busy day ahead of you.
“I really do quite like this (Watney`s) actually,” he says a little defensively. “Because you know how you get accustomed to a taste.”
A certain gassiness about it, though.
“That doesn`t worry me because I normally drink light and bitters. I used to drink bitter all the time but I found that going from pub to pub the bitters would vary and I`d find bitters I really liked like…Well, for example I was one of the people who really liked Charringtons Bitter – I think it`s quite a pokey little beer, actually. Quite like Young`s bitter, in fact.
“But then you might go somewhere and have Truman`s Bitter which is really….Anyway I used to play in a little dance band and one of the guys said to me `You`re mad to drink bitter all the time because you can never be assured of a good one. The way you want to make sure that you`ll always have a good pint is if you have a light and bitter because if the beer`s horrible and flat a light ale will always buck it up a bit`.
“So when I was travelling around in bands that`s what I always used to drink because it assured that the pint tasted relatively the same wherever I was.”
There is however, another answer to this admittedly perennial problem: what is known in parts of the North as a pint touch. Now this involves the slightest amount of lemonade being poured on top of the beer. Wakeman`s eyes light up: “Down where I`ve got a place in the West Country they call that a bitter dash.”
At this point, though, the arrival of a pint of every draught beer sold in the Anglesea brings an end to the discussion of the more esoteric aspects of the brew.
“Lowenbrau…,” gurgles Wakeman through a Teutonic mouthwash, “I don`t like lagers…I really don`t like lagers. I always wake up with a headache. It just spoils a good night`s drinking.
“On a star rating…Actually we haven`t graded Watney`s Special yet. On a star rating I`ll have to give an eight to the Watney`s.
“Because I do like Watney`s, you know,” he adds, perhaps noticing my displeasure. “It`s always consistent.
“Now this lager…Extremely disappointing, I`m afraid. The Lowenbrau only gets five stars.”
A pint of Double Diamond (Works Wonders) slides down Wakeman`s Deep Throat: “Always tastes to me – Double Diamond – as it… do you remember the early days at the dentists when they used to give you gas? Actually, it wasn`t so much the gas as the rubbery smell of the mask….But it always reminds me of that. So because of that I can only give it a six star rating, I`m afraid. What`s next?
“Oh, I`m afraid I`ll have to link this with the Lowenbrau,” bellows Wakeman irritably, spilling at least a third of the pint over my jeans. “Once again you get a horrendous headache. It does make you pebble-dash the toilet seat…”
Back to the ale. So the Lowenbrau and the Skol both got no more than a miserable five stars each. So much for internationalism. But what about the Ruddles County? How dedicated drinkers have been known to come from all over London to the Anglesea Arms simply for a mere taste of this rare non-chemical beer. Many would argue that Ruddles County is the very finest beer currently being brewed within these shores.
Rick Wakeman gazes at the full pint for a full five seconds before taking that precious, first swallow: “It`s bloody `orrible,” he screams, turning faintly green. “That is awful.
“That is one of the worst things I have ever tasted in my whole life.”
But it`s renowned for its quality, Rick.
“It`s like an off barley wine.
“I`ll give that a two star. And the only reason I`ll give it that is because there`s a pint of it and I might have to drink it before the night`s out.”
Try the Worthington E.
“Flat. It`s normally quite bubbly. Bit tasteless, that.”
Plainly in a tantrum after his disappointment with the Ruddles County, Wakeman awards the Worthington E the staggeringly low rating of minus three stars, though the Watney`s Red Barrel (“it`s one asset is that it`s the same wherever you go”) fares better with six stars. His comments on the Rigers weren`t exactly flattering and he refused to even attempt an assessment of its worth.
Grabbing at another pint of Young`s Special, Wakeman rinses out his mouth and departs with a crazed look on his face -loudly demanding to know the direction of the nearest Star Of India restaurant.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bryan Ferry, Sparks, Gong, Rolling Stones, Big Jim Sullivan, Dizzy Gillespie, Otis Redding.