This excellent article is also an example of how I think when I DON`T edit what I think may be a mistake in the text of an article. In this article there is a mention of someone called “Nick Simpler” who I think may be the former Deep Purple man Nick Simper. I don`t edit this in the small chance that there actually was someone called Nick Simpler jamming in Brentford. So now you know – I`m not just totally ignorant of these things.
Have fun reading.
Just another Yes man…
By Penny Valentine
When he was six years old Rick Wakeman`s father dispatched him to a very fine lady piano teacher in Harrow. Two lessons later the infant Wakeman had decided to be a concert pianist. He never actually made it to the concert platform – all kinds of other small diversions like football, girls, and bands kept getting in the way. But he did make it to the Royal College of Music in London, where, at his first clarinet lesson, he stunned the entire teaching staff. Not exactly by his brilliant virtuosity, but because he collapsed at their feet in a drunken stupour.
From such humble beginnings mightly acorns grow and today Rick Wakeman is a fine musician who last week started a new and happy chapter in his life by joining the increasingly talented Yes.
To be honest he didn`t exactly look ENTIRELY happy when I met him on Wednesday, but then it had been an exhausting five days. After 124 hours without sleep our tall thin blonde hero was beginning to wilt – not unexpectedly. His days split between recording his first album with Yes and then rushing off to Trident to complete session work he was committed to and only time for a quick breakfast at home in between.
Musically his joining up with Yes couldn`t have come at a better time. The band had already decided that for their tour of Britain this autumn they would work on a whole new stage concept barring all old material in the act. So Wakeman comes in at the beginning of a new Yes era able to add his ideas and become an integral part of the band from scratch.
As the temperature soared into the clammy 80s in London, and we threw down as many cold cokes as we could. Rick brightened up and agreed that – by pure accident – it had all been a very lucky series of coincidences:
“I think it got to the point with the Strawbs when we just weren`t right for each other. I`m sure we`ll all benefit from the split because we were beginning to compromise a lot on ideas – like we`d use half of my ideas and half of theirs – and I don`t think it was helping what was eventually coming out. We ended up lacking challenge. Complacency set in, and for the last couple of months we just weren`t working. I went back to doing a lot of session work and then three weeks ago, Steve Howe, phoned and asked me if I`d like to go along and play a bit with Yes and see how we all got on.”
For Yes, Rick turned out to be exactly the musician they needed – a man with ideas a very high standard on five keyboards including Moog and organ. For Wakeman, Yes turned out to be the most enthusiastic hard working band he`d ever met:
“I found all the ideas I`d had before but never used, waking up and coming to the surface. And what happened on the first session was that I found the ideas. Yes had about their music and direction were very similar to mine. We have a complete understanding and they`re incredibly enthusiastic. I think Yes are going to get much bigger than they are now and if they don`t, well, all I can say is that it certainly won`t be through lack of work or enthusiasm – I`ve never known a band work so hard it`s a wonder they haven`t all collapsed by now.
Yes, of course, it`s been great coming in now when they`re working on all new material. On the tour I think only about ten minutes out of the hour and a half act will be old stuff. Like they`ll probably have to do “No Disgrace”, and there is a piano solo I did with the Strawbs we`re thinking of putting together with Steve`s guitar solo “The Clap” but that`s all. I don`t think you can integrate old thought and new thoughts.”
On stage Rick plans, for the first time, to use all five keyboards and so Yes`s live sound will have a chance to expand even further:
“I suppose it sounds a bit flash but it`s really for the sake of having exactly the right sound. We`re using four keyboards on the album and I think it`s only fair to an audience to get the sounds over live the same way – I don`t like substitute sounds anyway. If something`s definitely needed than I don`t see why you shouldn`t use it.”
Wakeman`s reputation as a musician has grown so huge over the past couple of years, he`s been one of those people that you think has been around for ever that it comes as a surprise to discover that actually Yes is only the second professional group he`s played with.
He started with semi-pro bands at 14 when he was still at school and the recollection of those halycon days brings him out in a rash of laughter. His first great break came with the “Atlantic Blues”, band where he played a Woolworth`s organ using the speakers from two old radios (“Needless to say the result was – dreadful”) and one of their first gigs was at the Neasden Mental Home.
“I think the crunch came when we were the interval group at the Byron Greenford for 30s. We were so bad it was the shortest interval in the history of the place.”
But things picked up after that. Fast and furious he moved into a trio dance band for gigs at the British Legion Greenford and Rick became the richest kid in his class, then to Ealing Social Club (£12 a weekend); Brent Borough Social Club (£15 a week); his own band at 16; Ronnie Smith`s dance band (£15 a week) where he joined the “ranks of the moth eaten jackets and punch-ups”. After joining the Royal College he worked as a freelance and then started session work for Denny Cordell and Tony Visconti. Then back to Ronnie Smith (£28 a week this time) because he`d just got married and needed the money. By now he`d left the Royal College and had started doing sessions with a band called The Strawbs: “The highlight of my week was at the Red Lion Brentford where jam sessions went on with John Entwistle, James Royal, Nick Simpler, Mitch Mitchell -everyone turned up for these incredible rock and roll evenings, and I was really honoured to be there playing with these great musicians.”
By now Wakeman`s session work was becoming famous. He played the classic mellotron passages on David Bowie`s “Space Oddity”, and was a regular session man for Al Stewart, Ralph McTell, Cat Stevens only recently popping up on T. Rex`s “Get It On”.
The Strawbs, who he`d worked with on “Dragonfly”, one day said why didn`t he rehearse with them? And promptly turned up with a crate of beer and offered him a place in the band on piano:
“We had some fabulous times, there`s no doubt about it. I was knocked out the first time I saw my name in print when I was with them. It may sound flash but it`s great, I just sat there staring at it. But at that time the band were incredibly in debt and the equipment was farcical. I had an old Hammond I`d jumped up and down on for years and was a wreck and we had to shift all our own equipment because there were no roadies. Then we got new management and things picked up. I think the standout point was when we did the Kilby Hall gig it did us so much good it just built up from there.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ten Years After, Elton John, Link Wray, Richie Havens, Tom McGuinness, Terry and Gay Woods, Monty Python, Bo Diddley, Edgar Broughton, Mike Harrison, Sam Charters, Miller Anderson, Allan Taylor.
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