The story of Wakeman`s first solo album and a little bit about Yes. Worth a read! 🙂
The six wives of a Yes man
Penny Valentine talks to Rick Wakeman
Rick Wakeman was on a plane when the idea came to him. Now you may not think being 25,000 feet in the air between Richmond, Virginia, and Chicago a very good place for inspiration to strike – but stranger things have happened on vast musical treks across the USA, and that`s a fact.
Anyway there was Wakeman with a choice before him. As he has a healthy terror of flying he was either going to get drunk or read. And as he didn`t feel much like arriving at Chicago to be thrown head-first into a ton of black coffee, he somewhat surprisingly chose the latter.
With his reading choice at Richmond airport slightly nullified to yet another book on 49 positions, he embarked clutching “The Private Lives Of Henry VIII” – why, he`ll never know, as he`s always hated history.
But he did and it`s just as well for – like all good stories – this has a happy ending in that it brought our keyboard man extraordinaire to a decision that materialises next week in the release of his first ever solo album, suitably titled “The Six Wives Of Henry VIII”.
The album – on which Wakeman plays everything from moog to harpsichord – brings to life a musical tapestry of the individual personalities of the six tormented and colourful ladies of the court. And it`s timing and content is healthily aimed at yet another extension of Yes and all Wakeman has brought to that band since he joined two years ago.
The idea for a solo album started way back in the latter part of 1971 – just after Rick had put down the tracks for his first Yes album “Fragile”. Contracted as he was to A & M through his time with the Strawbs, Wakeman was to come up with so many albums over a period of five years.
Recording separately for Atlantic with Yes, his position became comparable to that of Rod Stewart`s arrangement with the Faces. The only problem was the increasing difficulty Wakeman had in setting down any tracks he liked:
“I wanted to do an album without vocals because I can`t sing. Well,” he says, screwing up his face, “I can sing but there`s more to it than simply singing in tune. I can`t write lyrics either. Dirty poems yes, lyrics no. So I wanted to take pieces of music and build them up.
“We came back from the first American tour and I was very depressed. It was a good tour for them, but I`d played badly and I was pretty miserable. I thought the best thing was to go into the studios and do some tracks and cheer myself up.”
The result, it transpired, was anything but cheering. Rick took the tapes home, listened to them, and sunk in gloom that one would certainly never associate him with:
“The numbers just weren`t going anywhere, they could have been for a detergent commercial. I really began to panic. I thought `I can`t do an album of any consequence`. What I`d done would have detracted from Yes and wouldn`t have helped me at all. And it was very important for me that this album would be the best I could contribute, and done to the best of my ability.
“But when I opened that book on the second tour I started reading about Katerine of Aragon, and this first theme I`d laid down earlier came into my head. It sounds daft but it really was a surge of excitement, because suddenly I`d found a concept which was what I`d always needed but hadn`t realised. After that it all seemed much easier.”
In February 1972 Wakeman was back in the studios. That year was a heavy one for Yes, full of touring – eight months in the States to start with – and Wakeman`s recording schedule dragged on.
Finally he gave himself a solid two weeks, and last October with musician mates like Dave Cousins and Dave Lambert from the Strawbs; Squires, Bruford and Howe from Yes; and Alan White, he finally completed the work.
“The real advantage of having laid down those first early tracks was that I could see exactly what musicians I needed – people that would enjoy just playing one piece each. I think of all the `wives` Jane Seymour present me with the worst problems because she was so different to all the others.
“In the end I decided to use the church organ at St. Giles, Cripplegate. I`d used it for some parts of `Close To The Edge` and I wanted to go back to record just one chord for Anne of Cleeves – she goes a bit bonkers and I wanted to distort the organ chord. It was lovely when I cut the Jane Seymour track there, the rain pattering on the roof, nice atmosphere.”
In the end result Wakeman, not wanting to make Seymour too ethereal or religious, has broken up the track by putting unexpected flashes of drum, moog and harpsichord where you least expect it. Now the two-year suffering is over, Wakeman is obviously very proud of his album – the only sad note being that it`s unlikely any of its content will be included in Yes`s stage act. An odd fact when you consider how closely much of it is aligned to what the band do.
However, Mr. Wakeman can be seen with his silver cloak flashing in the lights on various TV programmes, and the pressure of time on the band is such that it`s doubtful anyone would have much time to rehearse the new material – especially with a new Yes album about to be cut this summer.
Meanwhile what plans for Yes? Well, they`re currently mixing the live triple album and then they scoot off on their “world tour” of – as Wakeman puts it – “Neasden, Grimsby and Cleethorpes,” although, in fact, it takes in such places as Japan and Australia, both new concert markets for the band:
“That`s one of the reasons for the live album – certainly not because `Close To The Edge` was a difficult one to follow, no, no,” Wakeman shakes that long mane emphatically. “Although `Fragile` and `Edge` both did very well in Australia and Japan, they`re both places we`ve never done concerts in before and we felt it was important for people to really hear what we did on stage. I think we`ll be doing some British dates towards the autumn.
“You know, I had this great idea about renting the Rainbow for a week and laying on special trains from all the other cities, to bring people down and take them back. We have a lot of technical problems touring in England, getting the equipment set up at the right place in time. I thought it was a great idea because it would mean we were assured of a good sound system for one thing, which is very important for the band. But it got blown out – shame really.”
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: Pink Floyd, Tony McPhee, Alice Cooper, John Martyn, Graeme Edge, Jimmy Karstein, Stevie Wonder, Roxy Music, Colin Blunstone, Jerry Lee Lewis, Todd Rundgren, Gerry Lockran, Stomu Yamash`ta, Alan White, Bob Henrit.
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