Rick Wakeman

ARTICLE ABOUT Rick Wakeman FROM Sounds, January 31, 1976

I find these interviews with Mr. Wakeman really enjoyable. I think you will too if you give them a chance and are at least a little bit interested in 70s rock.
Have fun!

IMG_0320

Have you heard the one about the tall, blonde geezer in the silver cape?

Rick Wakeman shows Phil Sutcliffe how to make doughnuts.

LADEEZ AND gennelmen! May I introduce to you the one and only, the fabulous, the outrageous, alarming, courageous, charming Mr Rick Wakeman (available for extravaganzas, limousines for hire, knock you up a packing case at the drop of a hat, masonics and barmitzvahs on ice).
To quote Basil Brush and Jimmy Dean your favourite keyboard maestro is a ‘BIG, BIG MAN’. Or if you prefer a more classy source, Christopher Marlowe (who had that chart-topper ‘Dr Faustus’ circa 1593), Wakeman is an Overreacher, a man who having conceived a grand project will commit body and soul to making it reality even if it’s essentially impossible.

Alarming

Which sounds more alarming than charming because it only takes into account the performing face of Wakeman.
Sure he’s the blonde wizard in the silver cape casting spells of astonishing music from his Dalek army of electronic keyboards and carrying that extravagance to absurdity he’s the great, goldskinned god Thor in `Lisz-tomania’ (getting panned by critics, selling albums by the million).
But his fans know the truth that he glitters like a pearly king in a friendly, Cockney way.
The god-wizard is also the mud-clad footballer slogging through the sleet, looking silly and distinctly inelegant in the cause of fun and charity, and most of all he’s the guy in jeans sat behind a pint and a double port at his local, The Saracens, in High Wycombe, enthusiastically discussing any subject you care to mention.
He’s the musical heavyweight who grew up on Kenny Ball and Lonnie Donnegan and now likes Mud for their character, humour and taking care with their music (though he dismisses most teeny pop as ‘pram rock’).
Rick Wakeman is game. He`s Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear both. He’s the kind of character who makes it feel good to be alive and sod the expense.

Tipster

The urgent business before we could get the probing questions under way was the 2.30 at Towcester. Rick had got a horse and he felt Mike Ledgerwood from A&M should not miss this golden opportunity to invest in what could only be described as a racing certainty — and at 25-1.
Did I detect a shade of doubt and resignation in Ledgerwood`s agreement to match the ardent tipster’s bet? Persuasive he was though and I’m only glad I’d lost my shirt the previous week for Rick’s latter-day Arkle, a nag called Cavaltino, trundled in fifth.
“Well, about 50 per cent of my tips do come off,” said Wakeman. Ah, yes.
Rick is also a great “Have you heard the one about…” man and our progress to the portentious was further impeded when he burst forth ever so refined with a “Hello, I`m Johnnie Craddock and I`m going to show you how to make doughnuts just like Fanny’s.”
And then there was the one about the sheep but he said “No, that takes too long. I’ll tell you after we’ve done the serious bit.”
Oh, now what was that question custom-built to bare the Wakeman soul? “Er, what are you doing next?”
“Now you have to promise to keep it under your hat . . .” Of course, would I? “Well, in fact I’m doing a musical version of The Complete Works Of Shakespeare. It will be a 146-album set and it’s scheduled for release in March, 2003, that is. We hope to put it out for the price of a single album.
“Anyway that’s the sort of story that was going round on our tour of the States in the autumn. That could be because I told it to one really nasty American journalist and he swallowed it.
So I kept on getting asked about it and I’d say ‘Oh yes, I wrote it all last night. It’s a hundred hours long’. ‘Gee, have you written it all down?’ ‘No, it’s all in my head’.”
And rock musicians blame journalists for rumour-mongering! It’s no wonder the word is out now that Wakeman is filling in his spare time by writing `The Bible: The Authorised Rock Opera’ and following his meeting in Brazil with Ronnie Biggs, an orchestral interpretation of ‘The Great Train Robbery’ (okay, I admit / started that one).
Rick is quite unrepentant about his addiction to the grand (grandiose?): “I can’t help it. I don’t like my ideas watered down. Like in a journalist’s terms if they tell you to write 500 words and then cut it down to 200 you’re not happy and the person you write about isn’t happy.”
Which doesn’t mean you have to be inflexible. Until the 11th hour of preparations for ‘The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur’ it was set for Tintagel Castle, the fabled HQ of the Round Table.
Wakeman visited A&M’s offices the day before flying out for Japanese tour and talked with Ledgerwood about this, that and nothing in particular and then as he was halfway out the door Mike chanced to ask how things were progressing at Tintagel. Rick said: “Oh we had to drop that idea. We’re doing it at the Empire Pool on ice. Ta-ta.”
Which may have provoked the greatest avalanche of dropped jaws in the history of rock music.

Avalanche

It also suggests why he found a soul brother working with Ken Russell on `Lisztomania’: “Everyone says he’s outrageous.” (Alarming? Courageous? Charming?) “Maybe that means I’m the same. Off my head. Perhaps we’ll share a cell one day in the loony bin.
“In that case when Tintagel fell through Wembley was the only other possibility. They said the ice would still be there from some show so I thought it would be a pity to waste it.
“What I like about Ken is when he gets an idea he doesn`t just talk about it, he does it. The minute you discuss an idea it’s going to change.
“With my projects I see the whole concept at once, not only the shape of the music, but the way it should be presented and played throughout its life-span.”
As with Russell, extravagant creations have led to extravagant criticisms. The only time it disturbed Rick’s bonhomie was when a writer implied he was some kind of con-man laughing up his sleeve at the poor punters who thought his overblown efforts were magnifident.
A year on Wakeman still bridles at the slur and promises to throttle the guy if and when they meet – though I suspect the confrontation would end with Rick buying the misguided fellow a drink.
On the general run of scribblers he’s far more mellow: “Criticism is nearly always helpful in letting you know what a show looks like from the front.
“And I do leave myself open to self-opinionated people who want a vehicle for their style of writing which is generally sarcastic.
“It’s like walking in front of the firing squad. I love that. That’s what it`s all about.
“The funny thing is that at the moment I think I’m heading for where the critics have always wanted me to be. I’ve just gone by my own route.
“After I left Yes I worked with an orchestra because it had worked well on ‘Henry The Eighth’ and my band wasn’t ready to do the whole thing itself at that stage. After the Wembley ‘King Arthur’ concerts I knew exactly what our faults were as a live band.
“You have to learn by the things that go wrong and learn openly. I hate to read of guys going off the road to ‘get themselves together’. You should be getting yourself together in the public eye.
“I agree with what the critics said . . . except about ‘Journey’ and ‘King Arthur’ . . .”
Then he realised what he’d said, that he agreed with his detractors about everything except everything, and laughed at himself because the conflict is insoluble and absurd and evermore shall be. Musicians like Wakeman put maybe a year of their lives into creating what they trust is a beautiful/boogieful album and writers like me put maybe an evening of their lives into deciding it’s rotten and saying so in the most readably pungent way. That’s entertainment/democracy/civilisation I guess.

IMG_0323

Poison

Or as Rick put it: “I wouldn’t put out anything I didn’t like. It’s my life.”
The smaller Rock Ensemble line-up seems likely to please almost everyone, even the faithful millions who took his last two epics to the top of the charts in the UK and the States.
“It’s taken me a year and half to get this band together and now it’s beautiful. It’s exactly what I wanted, though there again it’s a matter of the other man’s poison.
“Even though I’ve been doing all those grand things I get terribly embarrassed. I could do things that sounded clever but I would leave them out even though they were right musically because people might say I was just showing off.
“I was notorious with the band for giving them stinking hard pieces to play but I realised I wasn’t taxing myself as a keyboards player. Now I’m giving myself a tough time and it’s so much more satisfying.”
Apart from the bemused interviewers the States audience seems to have given Rick and the Ensemble a reception that was ‘a thousand per cent’ better than their grim trip with the elephantine ‘Journey’ show in ’74. They average 6-7,000 a night which is I good going these days.
Rick observed: “The kids won’t go to the big stadiums over there any more. They would rather have two nights in a smaller hall where everybody can see and hear properly and that’s a trend I approve of.”
Such restraint is hardly the trend in Brazil which turned out to be one of the most surprising and delightful events of Rick’s life. The Brazilian Symphony Orchestra, who joined the Ensemble for their short tour, had just done a free park gig to an estimated audience of 380,000!
Wakeman played little ole basketball stadiums which sold out twice nightly at 25,000 a time but, being more used to appreciation than adulation even from his most fanatical Anglo-Saxon followers, he could hardly credit the response.
“For some reason we are the biggest international act in Brazil. Apart from our normal age-group of fans there would be 4-5,000 kids waiting at the airports as if we were the Beatles.”
They were so successful that the grateful promoter offered Rick, his wife and two children a month’s free holiday in Brazil any time he would do them the honour . . .
Rick loved the country which “vibes on music and football” where he could visit a samba hall at four in the morning and find 4,000 people having a ball — and where nobody ever seemed to get angry.

Lifeblood

It seemed strange that his ultra-organised and English compositions should be the fave rave where the lifeblood pumps to a fiesta rhythm but Rick found that the Brazilians also loved European Classics.
Rick brought 300 albums back which, he says, make the so-called Latin American played by British dance bands “look like a turd on a roast dinner”.
But there will be no Samba Symphony or Rumba Rhapsody from Rick:
“I can’t imitate music that doesn’t come naturally. Any influences will be just subconscious.”
Which brought me to another penetrating question: “Er, what are you doing next? Wasn’t there talk about a ‘Suite Of Gods’?”
“I had to shelve that for a while. After ‘Arthur’ I still had to think in terms of using an orchestra and I finished the `Suite’. I really like it. But then the band came good and the `Suite’ was er, what’s a better word than no fucking use, er, obsolete.”
Still fortune smiles on the courageous and charming and at the end of the Brazilian adventure Isaac Karebcheski (give or take an eski), conductor of the BSO, asked Rick if he would consider writing an orchestral piece for them. “Funny you should say that . . .” said Rick, and a certain `Suite` he happened to have knocking about the place will be premiered in Rio next December.
Right. Time for the coup de grace, the Parthian Shot, the apogee of the interviewer’s art: “Great Rick, but what are you doing next?”
“I had no problem deciding on the theme for the new album because I had the idea in my head for five and a half years. Then I didn’t have a band or enough experience to know even what instruments I wanted to write it for.
“It’s called ‘No Earthly Connection’ and it’s about various natural phenomena which scientists don’t like talking about because they can’t explain them away: the legend of Atlantis, Stonehenge, the Bermuda Triangle where a million tons of shipping and a lot of planes have been lost without trace.
“I’ve linked this to the idea of a sixth sense, which might be your soul and which I’ve called music. It’s the part of you that can grow and be passed on when you die. The major track traces it through the life of one man from his birth to his old age when he sees others making the same mistakes he made and he can’t do anything about it and all he has to look forward to is snuffing it.”
So clearly Wakeman is not contemplating any retreat from grandeur and hopefully understanding of all this will come with the lyric sheet, an aspect of the enterprise Rick is well pleased with: “I’ve never been happy with my words before but I worked on them for six months and I think they’re good. And we’ve got five singers in the band now for vocal harmonies.”

Charming

A more practical concept could also endear him to his fans before they hear a note: “It’s a double album but I’m trying to get A&M to put it out for the price of one. It’s only an extra piece of wax. It just means double the work for us and that doesn`t matter at all. Nobody’s got the money they used to have and I keep on thinking how in the past couple of years I’ve only done five British concerts and still the people have stuck by me.
“That would be a start to paying them back. Then we plan to do a full tour some time after the release in April. It’s become possible again with the smaller band.
“I just want to show the fans how much I appreciate them. Most sincerely folks. Well, I know it sounds awful but I do mean it.”
Charming and a great attraction everywhere no doubt. But he never did tell me the one about the sheep.

IMG_0322

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!
1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Rick Wakeman FROM SOUNDS, June 7, 1975

A really interesting and long review of this big and very ambitious undertaking from Mr. Wakeman.
Have fun and read on!

IMG_3002

Ice cool Rick!

Mick Brown reports on Rick Wakeman`s concert on ice at the Empire Pool Wembley

In Camelot, nature calls. “These bloody costumes are so authentic they don`t even put flies in them”, grimaces a knight, patting his chain mail in frustration. “They`d just piss `emselves in the Middle Ages. That`s why they smelt so awful…”
His friend stubs out a cigarette, pulls on his helmet and attempts to struggle into his horse – a heavy frame, suspended on straps from his shoulders. “Fall over in this, love, and there`s no way you`ll be able to get up again. That`s what I`m dreading…”
On stage Rick Wakeman is picking his nose for the benefit of a French television crew. The stage is a large, cumbersome tub afloat a sea of ice, its cardboard-battlement sides bursting at the seams with musicians and singers. Wakeman`s keyboards are ranged on a raised dais centre-stage, 14 in number, some £20,000 worth of the most sophisticated wires, patches and circuitry available. Speakers, slung from gantries above the stage, give off a predatory buzz.
“We can`t hear the choir”, says Wakeman. “Can you turn off the buzz please. Can you just… please… bloody hell, TURN IT OFF. Thank you. And these lights. It`s the Empire Pool, not the Empire Stadium. A concert, not a bloody football match.” The lights blink out.
Wakeman turns to his keyboards. David Measham, conductor of the New World Symphony Orchestra, raises his baton. The two vocalists from Wakeman`s English Rock Ensemble step to their microphones. The English Chamber Choir and the Nottingham Festival Group shuffle expectantly in their seats. The music swells into force, rumbling up into the rafters, rippling around the empty stadium. A handful of knights step onto the ice and trace elegant circles around the stage. One scoots the breadth of the arena, executing a series of subtle twists and turns which culminate in an ignominious prat-fall. Oh, bloody hell…
“It`s very dodgy”, Rick allows, “because one man`s meat is another man`s poison. There are people who just want to go along to see a band, hear their songs, clap their hands and go home. I can understand that. And that`s all some performers like to give their audience. There`s others who try to bring, for want of a better word, entertainment into it; the theatrical side of things, but without over-riding the music – which is what we`re trying to do. I want people to leave thinking `we`ve had a nice time, some nice music, a bit of a laugh, a few serious bits`… I want the show to embrace as many emotions as possible, like a film.
“Everybody thinks I`m crackers, and that what we`re doing has nothing to do with music at all. To me it has. It`s like if you play a record on really good equipment and then play it on shitty equipment, you can`t tell me it`s going to sound better on the shitty equipment. The presentation is all important. If something is presented in what you feel is an appropriate way it can only help you to perform the music better.
“What upsets me is that it`s been reviewed by people before they`ve even seen it. It`s been knocked really hard by so many people who`ve already decided it`s a huge joke. I just hope that if some of the sceptics who are coming along really do enjoy it that they`ll have the balls to lay it on the line and say so. Because if it doesn`t work I`ll be the first to own up…”

PYTHON

As it happened, both Wakeman and the sceptics have a bit of owning up to do. For while the show vindicated Rick`s contention that rock on ice is not as incongruous as it may seem, the experiment was far from being an unqualified success.
Wakeman is perhaps the finest exponent of keyboard music in this country. As a composer he has incredible vision and scope, and the technical skills to weave rock, classical and avant-garde themes and ideas into a meaningful fabric. But in his eagerness to equate `entertainment` with `ambitiousness` Rick is in danger of forgetting that the essence of music is its simplicity.
He opened the show with a selection from `The Six Wives Of Henry The Eight` and material from the new Ken Russell movie `Lisztomania` and from the outset it was apparent that the taste of the icing threatened to drown the flavour of the cake. With everybody on stage trying to assert themselves the more subtle nuances of Rick`s music all but vanished in an excess of sound. Only when Rick`s keyboards soared free could his virtuosity be truly appreciated particularly during the quieter, more reflective passages of `Catherine Howard`.
The sound-mix had a lot to do with it; the Rock Ensemble`s rhythm section battered virtually everybody else into a fuzzy mid-distance on occasions, so that half the choir could have taken off for a quick skate around the arena without being missed, and the two vocalists, Ashley Holt and Gary Pickford Hopkins appeared to be projecting their voices from inside a cardboard box.
They are the sort of problems that were doubtless ironed out for the second and third nights, and indeed the sound had improved considerably by the start of the second half. The first came to an amusing conclusion with Rick announcing something `sweet and gentil` – a swirling Wagnerian vignette which capsized into an electric honky-tonk version of the Charleston, complete with ice-skating flappers. The piece de resistance was saved for the second half.

IMG_3003

After a short declamation of people who review shows before they`ve seen them (obviously a sensitive topic that), and a quick joust with his sequined cape (which wouldn`t stay on) Rick launched into `The Legends Of King Arthur`. Let it be said immediately that it was the ice-skaters who stole the show: the duelling sequences were skillfully executed (so was the Black Knight); Guinevere looked appropriately ethereal as she gracefully navigated the arena, while Holt and Pickford Jones sang a particularly soppy ode in her honour; and nobody fell over.
It quite took me back to my childhood, in fact; a feeling reinforced by the fact that I found the plot totally incomprehensible (is there a plot?). For `Merlin The Magician` the skaters moved aside for a movie, shot at Rick`s house in Buckinghamshire presumably, which was derivative in equal parts of Monty Python`s Search for the Holy Grail and Silvikrin Shampoo`s Search for the Ideal Head of Hair (Wakeman`s of course). All of which tended to reduce the actual music to the status of a tricky but forgettable soundtrack.
Rick`s keyboards trilled effectively enough, the Orchestra and band pumped away with great gusto and the choirs were in fine voice, but somehow the sum never fulfilled the promise of all the parts. In fact, only at the climax of the piece did I feel that the music was invested with anything close to spirit – a stirring crescendo of sound which all but drowned narrator Terry Taplin`s valediction to King Arthur and his Knights, and which seemed almost capable of bringing them back from the dead.
`Journey To The Centre Of The Earth` followed. Taplin reading the text as if it were the Ten Commandments and Wakeman performing as if he were the guy who wrote them. No ice-skaters or home movies (not even an inflatable dinosaur which had been pumped up during afternoon rehearsals); just the score, which contains perhaps some of the best material Rick has ever composed, but which, again, suffered from a collective over-indulgence; a howitzer opening a can of beans. By the end of the evening – after three hours music – the energy was beginning to pale somewhat. At its quietest the music was just soporific, and at its loudest and lustiest it could barely stimulate awakeness, let alone emotion.
But the company left the stage to rapturous applause which suggested that the full-house Wembley crowd were more than happy with the evening`s entertainment. Rick himself strode off beaming. Obviously the show had been all that he had hoped for too. I`ve still got reservations about the idea – especially as he now apparently plans to write an album around the concept of Mythological Gods. But isn`t it about time for him to lay such ideas in a peaceful grave, drop the orchestra, chorus, choir and Ensemble and get down to recording the definitive keyboard album? Solo.

IMG_3004

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!
The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!
1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Rick Wakeman FROM SOUNDS, June 29, 1974

A very strange article. I don`t really know what I shall say about this, but it is kind of different. You judge yourself, but don`t expect any deep musical analysis in this one.

img_2204

Is your journey really necessary?

By Bill Henderson

Well, to start with I could tell you what a lousy map drawer Rick Wakeman is. How the bus driver couldn`t follow his map and how we got lost in England`s green and pleasant land. Rick Wakeman`s Magical Mystery Tour or Journey To The Centre Of Nowhere In Particular. So naturally we had to stop at a couple of pubs to ask for directions, which didn`t get us much farther – in fact, back to where we originally got lost from. Or how we asked a policeman who said, “You`re the second coach to ask me that tonight.” And how we finally arrived at the pub.
But while it might have a certain picaresque interest in comparison with, say, “Cobbett`s Rural Rides” or R. L. Stevenson`s “Travels With A Donkey”, it wouldn`t be of much interest to you lot. So instead I`ll tell you how an invitation arrived from A&M Records to go to Rick Wakeman`s local to have a booze-up and a game or two of darts.

CRASS

“Go along,” said Peacock and Mackie in unison, “and come back and write lots of words about it.” “But everyone knows that Rick and Yes aren`t saying anything about anything for a month and I`m not going to be as crass as to ask him about something he doesn`t want to talk about,” I protested. “Well, go and enjoy yourself,” they said, “but still write lots of words.”
So I did.
I can report that Rick is fit and healthy – with a somewhat sunscarlet face. And he seems totally relaxed and happy (which is a good augur for the future): he strode about the crowded pub in an embroidered black velvet jacket (for the benefit of any sartorially-minded readers), smiling and chatting, with his own everpresent, “Rick”-in-scribed beer mug.
But what did he tell you confidentially about his future, about Yes, about the reasons for the split, about the Stock Market slump or the Middle East situation! Nothing. It was neither the time or the place to speak or ask about any of them. Instead Rick told jokes (Not one of which I can remember unfortunately).
He also remarked on our mutual trait at the moment – that of attracting angry, insulting letters from SOUNDS readers. He joked about it obviously, but he does notice, he does pay close attention to such things. He is concerned about what people think.

img_2206

And he`s concerned about his community too, apparently helpfully involved in local affairs. Very much a popular local figure – as well as being one of the lads in the pub, knowing everyone and everyone knowing him (although slightly larger than life in that environment with his long blond hair and standing a head above most people there).
He led the cheerleading in the darts matches too. (“Bring out the Branston” (?)). Oh yes, the darts – I almost forgot about that.
As far as my by then slightly inebriated brain can remember, the A&M Records team (into which I found myself pressganged) beat Rick`s local team twice (no thanks whatsoever to me). Then Rick`s Cripples (as it said on the scoreboard) played a hastily-assembled Press team, including myself. The Press, I`m afraid to say, lost miserably. Though no great thanks to Mr. Wakeman, I seem to remember, whose arrowing ability doesn`t quite match his skill on the eightyeights. (Mind you, he`s a lot better than I am – not very difficult).
Time to leave. As I left the pub I noticed a “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth” sticker on the door of the pub, which seemed quite apt juxtaposition. Then a totally uneventful journey back to the metropolis. But a fine evening. Thanks a lot, Rick.

img_2208

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: Eric Clapton, Bill Henderson, Moody Blues, Laura Nyro, Carly Simon, Eddie Riff, Leonard Cohen, The Rats, Alex Harvey, Dave Edmunds, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Gordon Lightfoot, David Bowie.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Rick Wakeman (Yes) FROM SOUNDS, April 20, 1974

It is always refreshing to read an interview with this man. I think Yes-fans will agree that this is a good one from the days now so sadly long gone.

IMG_2123

Rick Wakeman in the talk-in

Interview: Steve Peacock

Rick Wakeman seems like the one in Yes who you might call an outsider: he is usually fairly outspoken in his criticisms of the band if he feels things aren`t quite right, and he`s been on the point of leaving them more than once.
However, at the moment he wants to stay – despite the success of his “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth” solo venture.
He joined almost by accident, having reconciled himself to making a comfortable living from session work, but they called up and he went for a blow and stayed.
That was back in 1970, and now he`s indeed a rich fellow in one of the biggest-earning bands in the world. Here he talks about fighting with the band and how he overcomes his tax problems.

What did you think of Yes before you joined them?

I`d only seen them once, and I was very disappointed with them. That was at Hull, when the Strawbs supported them, and I remember sitting down after our set and being highly disappointed because their PA was really bad and the sound was awful. But looking back on that, and we`ve talked about it since, they were really trying to do something different technically as well as musically.
They`d just built this giant PA with stacks everywhere that was based on the world`s largest record player – Mike Tait decided that if he got hundreds and hundreds of Quad amps all linked together and put through Marshall cabinets it would be like using a huge stereo hi-fi set on stage. But what he didn`t allow for was the fact that the sound came out beautiful for the first ten yards and then dropped like a stone. Consequently I remember coming away thinking that was a bit of a disappointing band.
But when I joined them we went down to Devon to rehearse after we`d finished the “Fragile” album, and they`d just bought the Iron Butterfly PA for the previous English tour, and then it was blatantly obvious that they were a cut above anything that I`d seen before. Bill and Chris were so incredibly together – drummer and bass player working as one like I`d never ever seen in my life before.
Yes is one of the hardest bands not only to get into listening, but to get into personally. I found because my lifestyle was totally different from the rest of the band, and because in the Strawbs I felt the music suffered because we were such good friends, I vowed when I joined Yes that I`d never let those things get in the way of the music. My lifestyle`s totally different anyway, me being a bit of a lunatic and a drinker, so I kept well away socially from the rest of the band. We`ve all got totally different lives outside the band, which I think  is good, but it made it doubly difficult for me to become really involved in the band.

For the first English tour, my gear was in a bit of a state too, and then we did three American tours on the trot and I then realised that I was going on stage not knowing what was going to work or what was going to stay in tune. So I sat down with the guy who runs our PA in the States and we worked out that for about 14 grand we could get all my equipment re-built and modified, which I could just afford to do, so I got it done and from that point on really all my problems were over and I began to feel part of the band for the first time instead of being just the keyboard player.
It`s funny, when people used to ask me what Yes was doing I`d say “Oh, they`re doing…” but round about the time of doing “Close To The Edge” I started saying “we” for the first time.
I used to row incredibly with Jon in the early days – it was unbelievable. There used to be Fish and Bill fighting, and me and Jon. I could not for the life of me understand where Jon was at and he couldn`t for the life of him understand where I was at, but then round about the same time as I began to feel part of the band we all sat down and sorted it all out. I suddenly realised where he was at at the same time as I realised what I was doing -essentially we were going for the same thing but we just happened to be taking different routes to get there.
Then when Bill left to join Crimson at the end of “Close To The Edge” that was a real downer for me. I`d just started feeling part of the band and got a lot of confidence, and the one person I`d really got friendly with the whole time was Bill, so for him suddenly to go was like shattering my illusions. I really did think the band was going to fold – I couldn`t see anybody coming in. I think it was good getting Alan though, a totally different style of drummer, but it was a strange feeling to start with.

What was it the band used to fight about?

Silly things really, almost selfishly stupid things when you look back at it. Like with the equipment I had at the time you couldn`t play the Mellotron and the moog together and hear them both, and Jon`d come off and accuse me of not playing something, and I`d say I did, and he`d say I didn`t – stupid stuff. We`d be going hammer and tongs in one room and Chris and Bill would be going hammer and tongs in another… but the great thing was once everyone had got it out of their system it was all forgotten about – till the next night.

Is it right to say that – the main aim of the band is to play each piece accurately each night – that accurasy is the main criterion?

Yes and no. It`s partly true and partly not. Accuracy is incredibly important because without it everything just falls apart, but it can lead to dangerous things because – like in the studio – if you`re trying to get something perfectly right once you get to the thirty-eight take although you might be playing the right notes it`s got about as much feeling as a cow with diarrhoea on a summer`s day. I think what we aim for, especially in the early days, is accuracy and then after a lot of performances on stage perhaps then to bring out the musicality.

IMG_2124

Is it loose enough for you to introduce something that the band hasn`t played before, and for everyone to pick up on it and follow it?

To be honest, no. We`ve done things that have free parts within arranged passages, but they tend to end up being arranged after a while anyway. I would say the band wouldn`t be the greatest ad lib band there is – we`re not the ideal musicians to do that. But that`s not what we`ve set out to do: I think every musician should know his limitations and what he`s good at and what he`s setting out to do. I don`t think we`d do rock and roll or play free music very well, because there is quite an art in doing it properly, and I don`t think we`d be very happy doing it either.

True, I suppose, but I know if I was a musician I`d get dreadfully bored playing the same notes in the same way every night. A touch of – to use Alvin Lee`s phrase – the travelling jukebox. I`ve never seen the point of doing live gigs if you`re just going to try to reproduce what you`ve already recorded.

Well, I`d agree and disagree. If you create something as a fixed piece of music… well, this is a very bad comparison, but if Beethoven was alive and doing gigs today, you wouldn`t expect him to write a symphony and then turn to the trumpets and say “forget what I`ve written, just blow what you like”. On the other hand I`d like to see us doing something on stage that we hadn`t already recorded, which there`s talk of us doing. I`d really like to do that because I always find I play things better about 60 gigs after we`ve recorded them.
There`s a heavy rumour that we`ll be doing a co-promotion date with the Who at Charlton Athletic football ground in May sometime, which I think would be really good. I`d like to see English bands like that playing together again without all that horrible old syndrome of “we`re not going on unless we go on last”: it would be great to see a really good festival again when you get something like the Stones, the Who, us, the Faces… that`d be really good. Too much emphasis has been put on this headlining thing, which luckily in America is almost ignored. People tend to pay just as much attention to the first band on as the last – in fact what they love is for the first band to blow the last band off. There are so many bands over here who just won`t play second on the bill to anybody, which is daft because it means they`re often playing to half empty halls instead of full ones.

Is there one person in Yes who tends to dominate as far as what you do and the way you do it goes?

Well, yes and no. Because Jon doesn`t have an instrument to play he tends to be in a very good position to be able to stand and look and take four things in at once while we`re all concentrating on our one thing, which is very useful. As for where we play and when we play, what happens is the management draw up a suggested itinerary for the year and we have one of our famous band meetings which are a complete and utter waste of time, where everything ends up completely undecided. We all have a good laugh though.

Another thing about a band like Yes is the big business angle – you were talking about having your accountant round last night. How does being in a band earning that amount of money relate to being a musician?

The thing we`ve always tried to do is to palm things like the money side and the legal side off onto other people. It`s amazing actually after you start earning some money how the little writs start to pop up from people you knew three or four years ago who suddenly think they`re entitled to something. Ì think it`s quite amusing, though our lawyers don`t, of course. But we put as many things as we can apart from music on to other people. It works relatively well until we find we`ve spent all our money – we`re terrible spenders. Our accountant has heart attacks.

Terrible spenders personally, or as a band?

As a band we spend a lot of money, but he never queries that because he knows it`s going back into the music which is fine, but he has terrible goes at us about our personal expenses. We`ve all tended to go over the edge on occasions. Suddenly from having very little money to being able to have, within reason, anything you want, is a bloody dangerous thing. Because of tax things you have relatively little of your money in England, especially now Mr. Healey`s done his clever thing, and you tend not to understand that even if you`ve got x amount of money in Jersey that you can`t spend the equivalent x amount of money in England. Money things totally confuse me: if I want something now I ask him if I can have the money, and if he says no I know it`s for a reason.

It seems a bit strange talking to you and hearing you have that kind of problem, when most of the musicians I know just don`t have enough money to live on…

Oh yeah, I know. Believe it or not I do think about that. I was talking to Bob Harris about it, and we`re going to start a production company together to try to help bands who`ve really got something to offer, get them deals with record companies and so on. Because there aren`t that many places to play for small bands any more, I think it`s vital that somebody should try and help small bands like that otherwise there`s going to be a large vacuum towards the end of the seventies in new music coming up – there isn`t much at the moment. I think that might be one reason to why some of the major bands` albums haven`t been as good and exciting as they might be: because there`s not that much music coming up from new bands, the well established bands are trying too hard.

Do you find you get very cocooned and isolated in that position? You know you`ve got a lot of bread and that the next album will sell whatever it`s like and that the gigs will sell out. Doesn`t that tend to remove part of the reason for making music?

No, not at all really. But it does worry me sick having all those pre-orders on records. I think it`s very sad that people`ll order a record before it`s even been made, and when it comes out it`ll go in the charts automatically so it`s not a true reflection of whether it`s good or not or whether even people like it or not. It would be very interesting – though totally impracticable – if people could buy records on sale or return. I bet the charts would look a lot different, and I bet you`d find some things in there that normally you`d never see and some of the things that go in automatically might not be there. I think it`s a very dangerous thing for bands to get into.

Do you still feel a bit of an outsider from Yes? Do you find it easy to stand back from it and make criticisms?

No, I don`t feel an outsider but yes it`s one thing that gets me into trouble occasionally that I feel if I think something`s wrong I don`t see why I shouldn`t say so, rather than saying “oh well, we`re Yes, we can get away with that”.

Are there any criticisms of the band you`d make at the moment?

Only silly things, and they get ironed out fairly quickly anyway. (Pause.) Well, I had to think about it and it hasn`t really got anything to do with music, but I do think the band tends to be a little bit removed from everyday life.

Like in the way they react to criticism?

I think the way the band reacts… well, the way the band reacted to criticism over “Topographic Oceans” I thought was childish. It was almost “They`re wrong – what right have they to criticise?”, which I think is a very dangerous thing to do. I think if people say things about you that aren`t silly – not just “this is great” or “this is dreadful” – then you`ve got to take notice.

IMG_2126

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: Procol Harum, King Crimson, Dr. Hook, Casablanca, Carol Grimes, Strawbs, Nektar, Ann Peebles, Graham Nash, Ace, Lesley Duncan, Budgie.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Rick Wakeman FROM SOUNDS, January 19, 1974

Talking about his not yet released live album being recorded the day before this magazine article were printed, it should be fun to read for all of his fans. I don`t think everyone realizes how big Yes and Rick Wakeman was at the time, but I would like to point out that this album went to number one in the UK and to number three on the Billboard 200 chart. So have yourself a listen to this album who were voted number 55 by the magazine Prog in the 100 greatest Prog albums of all time.

IMG_2020

Journey To The Centre Of The Earth

Steve Peacock previews Rick Wakeman`s new solo project

It`s strange – Rick Wakeman joined Yes just after I`d come to the conclusion that they were one of the most stylish and entertaining bands I`d seen, and at the time, after witnessing what I thought was a thoroughly flash and superficial solo during one of their sets, I wondered just how much he was going to contribute to the band.
These days, because of the way he`s developed as a musician rather than merely a deft-fingered technician and because of the way Yes have moved in their musical concepts, I find I`m more in sympathy with him than with the rest of the group. He also has a refreshingly irreverant attitude towards the weightier matters of life, a defiant grease-and-beans view of macro-food, and prefers alcohol to orange juice.
Yet he lives and breathes his music as much as any man, has a broad overall concept of music as both the realisation of personal dreams and ideas and as a medium which must entertain and be understood by people if it is to work, and is almost over-anxious to ensure that people have everything they need to enjoy what he does – right to the hilt.
His first solo project, an album based around the lives of Henry VIII`s six wives, was roundly denounced as baloney by the critics – except by our own dear Penny Valentine. “She said in effect she didn`t understand it,” he says. “Which is great – I wish other critics could be that honest.”

EXTRAVAGANT

But the feeling that people aren`t given as much help as they should be to understand what he, and other people, are up to has led him to make extravagant arrangements for his new solo project. “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth” which gets its premiere at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday.
The music has been written on the inspiration of Jules Verne`s book, and will be performed by Rick, a five piece band formed specially for the occasion, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the English Chamber Choir. The piece is 40 minutes long, and will be recorded for an album.
But he feels that merely to perform a new piece of music, however spectacular, is possibly not enough; he had reservations about the recent Yes tour, where they performed the four sides of what he wickedly refers to as “Toby`s Graphic Go-Kart” straight to audiences who`d not heard a note of it before.
“It`s a bit like baking a huge cake that no one`s ever tasted before and asking them to eat it all at once,” he says, and it`s an approach that he`s doing his utmost to avoid with the “Journey” concert. For a start he has a built-in advantage in that a lot of people will probably be familiar with the story anyway – either from Verne`s book or from the film which was made of it; but he`s presenting the concert with the maximum number of props in an attempt to “help the audience to be as involved in what`s happening as the musicians are.
“So many group things are so self indulgent these days, and I suppose that inevitably to get up on stage and play your own music, especially something like this, is self-indulgent anyway; but you can do that and still try to make sure everyone understands what you`re doing and why.”
To this end, he`s using a number of clips from the film says with unarguable logic. What it is then is a piece of music, inspired by a book that excited him when he first read it, that he wrote for the instruments that he felt suited the feel of the passages best.

IMG_2023

Sometimes the orchestra plays alone, sometimes the group plays alone, sometimes instruments from the group are used in juxtaposition with orchestral instruments to create a specific effect – electric piano and strings, for instance, or the rough-edged voices of Wild Turkey`s Gary Pickford Hopkins and Warhorse`s Ashley Holt contrasted with the rich precision of the English Chamber Choir. In only one section does the full force of electric rock band combine with the orchestra and choir, and that is the ever-crescendoing climax of the whole piece.
He also resisted the temptation to fill the stage for his solo concert with a host of well-known Friends: his only experience of that kind of scene was the recent “Tommy” show at the Rainbow, which left him less than enthusiastic about that way of working. Instead he`s recruited friends from the old days of playing Top Rank ballrooms, and musicians he`s worked with or seen work who he feels will be more interested in performing the piece well than in the loon potential of the evening.
Alongside the two singers are Mike Egan, guitar, Barney James, drums, and Roger Newall, bass. “We`ve done a lot of rehearsing, ten or twelve hours a day, but it hasn`t seemed particularly like hard work. We`re all boozers and lunatics anyway and we`ve managed to get through a lot of work in a sort of light-hearted way.
The idea for “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth” has been around a few years, and he actually started writing the music as long ago as 1971 – before Henry VIII. The Henry project, he says, was a rather more hurried thing, basically building the album from the basis of a number of discrete ideas, while this one was conceived as a whole, but has had to wait until now for the adequate money and pulling power to do it properly. “The book knocked me out when I first read it,” he says, “and then I re-read it and decided how easily it could be put to music.”
Obviously, in 40 minutes the actual story-telling is a trifle on the skeletal side, so what he`s done is to allow the bones of the story to come through the narration, and to be more impressionistic with the music. Specific incidents such as the battle with a sea monster, are highlighted with passages of their own.
Equally obviously, the money to stage such a production (and when you`re talking about employing a top-flight 100-piece orchestra, a 60-voice choir, film projection and the rest, you`re talking about costs of more than £22,000 for just two shows) has come through his involvement with Yes. He couldn`t have done it two years ago, which is why he didn`t.

PLANS

He now plans to take the whole show on the road – provincial cities in Britain, America, Japan – later this year. How does that affect his future involvement with Yes? “We`re doing a tour of the States in February, and then I think we`ll all take some time to do solo projects. I know Steve has got a lot of music he wants to get out, and Chris the same, and I presume the others have as well. So if after the American tour we find we have three months in which people are going to do things outside the band, before we do the next tour or album or whatever, then I`ll grab the chance with both hands.
“I think it`s important to the survival of the band that that does happen – everyone in any band is frustrated in some way, and those frustrations have to be worked out. Yes has always been very much a band, rather than a group of individuals, and I think it`s time we did some things outside Yes so we can go back with fresh ideas.”
Did he feel Yes had become rather incestuous? “I really don`t know. When you`re so close to something, it`s very difficult to tell. You have to rely on what other people tell you.”

IMG_2029

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: Bob Dylan, Jethro Tull, Bryan Ferry, Chris Squire, Nazareth, Paul Butterfield, Sweet, Tim Hardin, Average White Band, Cozy Powell, Robin Dransfield, Andy Roberts.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.