1976

ARTICLE ABOUT Ritchie Blackmore (Rainbow) FROM Sounds, January 31, 1976

There are some very interesting bits in this, one of them a comment about the lute, and the other begs the questionif Dio was in an illusion about whose band this really was.
A really great read from the legendary writer, Geoff Barton.
Read on!

IMG_0320

The view from the top of the Rainbow

The Blackmore proclamation

`It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or whether the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… who spends himself in the worthy cause… and whose place shall never know neither victory nor defeat.`

as read to Geoff Barton

IT’S BEEN a matter of the merest months, but even now , the original publicity shots are stacked in useless piles; already your just slightly scratched, only marginally over played album is outdated.
There’s been a second shower and the fading, at once suddenly jaded Rainbow has been replaced by another. One with newer, and probably brighter colours than before.
Gary, you see, has made way for Cozy. Craig’s place has gone to Jimmy. And for Mickey Lee, now read Tony.
Once again Ritchie Blackmore has moved on.
But it was callous, the way he kicked out most of Elf to further his own ends. Well, wasn’t it?
“The first album was recorded very quickly,” Ritchie relates. “I’d written some songs with Ronnie Dio, Elf’s vocalist, and the rest of his group were available for recording. We tried to get together as a band, we really did, but certain things were found to be lacking.”
Maybe callous ‘is too strong a word. Intolerant or unfeeling would have been better terms to use. Or perhaps none of them at all. Still, it’s true to say that to the average punter, the typical Deep Purple – Blackmore – Rainbow fan, however, the adjectives probably do ring true.
It does seem, on the surface and without a degree of insight, that Ritchie Blackmore has conducted his solo career rather ruthlessly: leavink Purple to join Elf, as some inaccurate reports would have it, recording an album as he did, and then, in the wake of its commercial success, ousting all the band’s personnel save one and drafting in replacements of his own.
Whatever your opinions on that score, I feel sure that you’ll renounce them soon enough. The new Rainbow, comprising carefully selected musicians, pulses with a seemingly boundless enthusiasm and almost fanatical verve, something that you rarely find in bands these days. After being in the company of the whole outfit for a few short hours, you can`t help but realise that Blackmore, even with all his wheelings and dealings, his acquisitions of new members, is infinitely right.
And it’s not just an initial freshness and excitement that the three of them feel, being in the band. It’s got permanence.

Urchin

Munich’s snowbound Arabella hotel: conveniently sited above Musicland studios, fast becoming a veritable European recording Mecca, despite its comparative infancy. Rainbow are in Germany rehearsing, preparing to lay down their second album in a few days time. But meanwhile, we’re all packed tight in Blackmore’s room. Medieval music of his own choosing, full of lute, harpsichord and suchlike, is filtering through modest speakers, and we talk about the past, present and future.
I wondered, nonetheless, if Ronnie Dio felt saddened about the, shall I say, disbanding of Elf – which was, ostensibly, his band – to form Rainbow.
“Yes, I do. A little,” he admits, tonight looking more of an urchin than an Elf. “Three of us, myself, Mickey Lee Soule the keyboard player and especially Gary Driscoll the drummer, had been together for years.
“We knew each other so well that we dearly wanted to rise with Ritchie together. We fought the odds and we thought, ‘yeah, we’re all going to do it’.
“It was only when I saw myself progressing and the rest of them standing still, then gradually falling off by the wayside, that I realised that Elf had finished. It was a problem. It was sad. It was like cutting off a part of myself as opposed to just breaking up a band.
“But the joy of it was knowing that everything was going to be better for me — you have to think of yourself at some point. That offset the sadness a lot.”
And certainly, Rainbow’s remoulding puts paid once and for all to the aforementioned rumours that Ritchie Blackmore had left Rainbpw to join Elf.
“That was silly,” says Blackmore in his customary, if initially disturbing, monotone. “That was for silly people. In every interview I did at the time I made the point that I had not become a member of the band — but it didn’t seem to make the slightest difference!”
“It would have been obvious to anyone who had heard Elf’s music and had then listened to Rainbow that there was a vast difference,” interjects Ronnie, anxious to make his point. “Elf’s style was firstly moulded around Ritchie’s ideas and, secondly, my own. Ritchie and I had written some songs and we had a definite idea as to what our band
would be like.
“Really, I think that you have to consider the rest of Elf very fortunate in that Ritchie actually said, ‘all right, I want to use you on this album I’m going to do. I don’t want you to join, but I`ll use you because I think you’re capable of doing it.

Direction

“But recording is an entirely different thing to rehearsing, gigging and banging out songs. So it was that the various members of Elf left, over a period of time. It wasn’t anything to do with a lack of talent, it was just a lack of talent in the right direction. What I’m trying to say is Ritchie formed the band Rainbow, gave the others a chance, but then, being true to himself and true to the music he believes in, found out that it didn’t work.”
First to leave was the bassist, then, soon after, the keyboard player and drummer. Replacements are Jimmy Bain, Tony Carey and Cozy Powell respectively. Cozy’s tale was chronicled with fair accuracy in a recent SOUNDS interview:
a one time Jeff Beck sideman, late of Bedlam and Hammer, he was about to leave the musicbiz for motor racing when he got a call from Blackmore, who was in the States, asking him to come over. Cozy was the thirteenth drummer Rainbow auditioned. But they got lucky.
Neither Bain’s nor Carey’s stories have been documented so far, however.
Jimmy Bain is Scottish and, true to the saying, is is proud of it, even though his accent is already becoming tinged with an inevitable LA influence. Long haired, slight, friendly and an ex-Harlot.
“Ronnie saw me playing with Harlot at the Marquee when he and Ritchie were over in Britain doing interviews, just before the release of the first album. He sort of approached me, we drank 18 pints of Stella Artois, I went along with him to jam with Ritchie, managed to get my guitar out of the case, never actually played a note… but I found myself in the band!”
Were Harlot near to splitting up, when you were approached to join Rainbow?
“No, actually the band were doing quite well. In fact, we got more offers after people heard that Ritchie was interested in me than we ever did at any time in the past. People who totally ignored us before began trying to sign us up. They were all too ready to jump in when there was a name involved, but previously, when we were struggling, they just didn’t care. That wasn’t for me, it was too late. The band had been together for 18 months and nothing had happened during that time — I decided to move on and further my career.

IMG_0327

“So I sat around with Ronnie and Ritchie and found them to be so totally compatible, totally professional people, in their atitudes, in everything. It worked.”
Tony Carey, meanwhile, is a 22-year-old, half Cherokee American Indian. Classically trained, he started playing piano when he was 12, and majored in string bass at college. He’s great. Jimmy Bain came across him when he, Ritchie, Ronnie and by that time Cozy were back over in the States.
“I was with a kind of Country and Western band, signed to ABC Dunhill, called Blessings at the time,” Tony recalls. “Jimmy bumped into me and said, ‘Hey, want to have a blow?’ I say, `Sure’.
“So I go down and there’s all this gross equipment and this big, huge soundstage. I took to some keyboards and played. It was the loudest thing I ever heard. I loved it. Oh, I loved it.” His voice is laced with exhilaration as he’s reliving that exact moment. “I played for about half an hour, then Ritchie says, ‘OK, let’s jam’. So he brings in Cozy, this monster, and asks, can you play this?’ — ratatataratatata! he goes. I guess I kept up. That’s the last thing I remember,” he admits, looking at me with suitably glazed eyes.
Now … back to the regularly scheduled interview. My first conversation with Ritchie Blackmore was, very much a feeling-of-the-way affair. I`d heard of his temperament, his mean and moody, ‘man in black’ image – true or not, who hasn’t? – and, although the victim of the inevitable practical jokes, I got through relatively unscathed. Second time around was more comfortable. Slightly.
“I was very pleased with the reaction to the first album,” Blackmore says, genuinely, “very pleased. My only criticism was that it could have had a little more zest.
“A lot of critics, I seem to recall, complained that it sounded like just another Deep Purple LP. Well, I wrote most of Purple’s music, so it’s obviously going to sound similar. I’m not going to start to play the classics or take up the lute,” he cocks an ear towards the continuing time-worn background recording, “just because I’ve started a new band and the critics want me to. The way I play is hard and heavy and I can’t alter that.

“I wrote something about critics once.” He stands up to rustle in a nearby briefcase and finally discovers what looks like a piece of scrap paper. On it, however, he has painstakingly written some sort of ode or proclamation. He reads it out loud and, curiously, it fits in with the quietly playing music, even though the subject matter appears to belong much to the present and is obviously close to his heart. ‘It is not the critic who counts,’ it runs, `not the man who poihts out how the strong man stumbles, or whether the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena … who spends himself in the worthy cause … and (whose) place shall never know neither victory nor defeat.’
Think on it.
To less enigmatic matters, I wondered how Ritchie felt about Deep Purple at present. Are they just clinging to the name and past glories? Or have they still something valid to offer?
The answer was predictably evasive: “Ahhh … I don’t know. I don’t take much notice of what they’re doing. I only listened to their new album once and, I suppose, they’re doing what I expected them to do. They’re just … awww, it’s not fair. I can’t be objective. Maybe in four or five years I’ll be able to. I wish them well, and that’s it.”
“Donny and Marie said it all didn’t they?” jibes Jimmy Bain.
Rainbow’s first LP was naturally, a formative effort, and while being unmistakeably Blackmore, had it share of rough edges. For the next album, which will be released in April, the band are striving for a more striking, more aggressive sound.
“All the songs on the first album were written at my own house,” Blackmore says, “then I put them down on tape and said to the band, ‘play this’. But now, with the new line-up, it’s every man for himself. We’re writing, funnily enough, in the same way that Purple used to write — if they used to write at all — during rehearsals and in the studio.

“It’s very hard, very much like early Purple in ‘In Rock’ days. There are some involved tracks, but I don’t think we ever lose sight of our original objectives. We’re not playing to musicians, we’re playing to the people,” he concludes, not sounding cliched, surprisingly enough.
Rainbow’s long-awaited British debut tour won’t be until August, when about ten dates are scheduled. There are plans to gig in the States two months after the album is released and then to play Europe. Blackmore hopes to bring the band’s entire stage show over to Britain: “We’ve taken a lot of trouble with our lighting,” he reveals, “we use as a backdrop the picture of the guitar-cum-castle, as on the album cover. We have a rainbow, as well”
A rainbow?
“Yeah. It was made in New York, took four months to make and takes six hours to erect. It’s run by a digital computer. It’s a vast thing, it changes colours like a real rainbow and eats up electricity like nobody’s business. We may even have to take our own generator, when we play Britain.”
As a final question, I asked Ritchie how he felt about the fact that both he and the band have figured strongly in the SOUNDS poll.
“Dynamic. I think that’s the right word. I haven’t thought too much about the people over the past few years, I’ve just been content to play the sort of music I like to hear. But obviously, others want to hear it too. It’s really nice to know that they’re listening.”
And he means it, kids.

IMG_0328

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 Chris Squire (Yes) FROM Sounds, January 31, 1976

This one may be a bit too technical for those of you who aren`t musicians, but it still may be a good read. PersonallyI have a lot of love for the bass. I even have one laying around my house without the time to properly learn to play it. Oh well, maybe someday…
Read on!

IMG_0320

Fuzz to phase with Squire Superbass

By Tony Mitchell

I’D LIKE to say ‘Thank you very much, SOUNDS readers’ ” said an evidently flattered Chris Squire when I told him a short while ago that he’d been voted number one bass player in our poll. He added that it meant much more to him that it had been you, the readers, who had put him top of the list rather than some panel of pop pundits. Chris, of course, is probably more responsible than any other single musician for championing what some of us call the `Rickenbacker’ sound. The fact that many people just call it the ‘Chris Squire sound’ shows just how important his contribution has been. So I asked Chris what he thought about the obviously renewed popularity of the Rickenbacker bass guitar.
“It’s interesting to talk about that because they do seem to be more popular now than they ever were,” he said. “There were definite phases when a few people were using them, then there were hardly any around at all, but now you’ve only got to turn on Top Of The Pops and you see half a dozen.”
Chris first came across the instrument when he was about 17, working in Boosey & Hawkes in Regent Street. He was learning to play bass on a cheapish guitar, but had the opportunity to buy a better bass through the company’s ‘electric’ branch which was then in Piccadilly Circus. At the time B&H were main agents for Rickenbacker, and, says Chris, at that time “it just looked like the best machine available.”
“I had been to see the Who and Entwistle had used a Rickenbacker, and I suppose you can say in a way he turned me on to the sound of it.

Pick-ups

“So I bought one, and I must admit I’ve never come across another one that sounds quite like it. I still mainly use that first one, and although I’ve bought others since then, I’ve never quite found one that achieves that same colour.
Did he, then, prefer older instruments in general?
“Undoubtedly there are new instruments which do have different advantages because there obviously is a greater understanding of pick-ups, phasing and all that kind of stuff. So I wouldn’t say, as some people do, that it’s impossible to pick up a good new instrument.
“If all some of the big manufacturers were interested in was swelling their quarterly profits, at the expense of quality, then in the long run I think they’d lose out. I mean, look at our car industry …”
Preferring not to, however, we moved on to discuss strings, and the appearance of Chris’s name and picture in ads for Rotosound strings, made by James How.
“I’ve met James How and he really is interested in developing new strings and better things for musicians,” Chris said. “He’s really dedicated to that sort of thing. He made a fantastic set of strings for the Rickenbacker whereby you don’t have to have the signal travelling through all these cables when the effect is switched out. It’s a special switch box, and when you press in the control, not only does it bring into circuit the wah-wah, but it also switches a switch in a box behind the amp which sends the signal to the wah-wah, so when you switch it off again it cuts out the feed and it goes straight through to the amp again.”
In other words a by-pass control! But there’s more … “Apart from those I’ve got a Hammond reverb unit and a tremelo that I had made by a guy, and a Mutron, and another little box called a Compact Phaser which is definitely the best phaser going in my opinion — it gives such a wide range of sounds. It’s a very clean, neat, quiet unit.”
Despite the quality of this device, which is actually a studio phaser, Chris still maintains that there is only one way to get the genuine tape phasing sound, and that is by doing it with tape. “It’s a very broad spectrum — a different kind of phasing. And then of course there’s flanging …”

Wah-wah

“As well as those things,” Chris continued after an unsuccessful attempt to put into words the exact difference between the two, “I’ve got a nice echo unit which I got from the States.’ It’s operated on a foot eight-string bass which I designed.”
How did Chris come to design the guitar?
“Well I put to them that I wanted an eight-string bass and I also had a few criticisms of the standard bass that they were making, so I asked them to make this eight string bass very similar to my original four-string bass.
“However, when they made it, it was strung like they string their 12 strings, with the thick string first in each pair, and we experienced teething troubles with that arrangement. I had to take it to Sam Li and he changed it all round so that you hit the thin string first. I believe they’re making them like that now.
The reason for having the strings round that way, Chris explained, was that when fingering with the left hand, it was natural to ‘aim’ for the nearer string of each pair. If that string were the thinner of each pair, you would naturally hold down the thicker one as well, but if the thinner were behind the thicker, you would tend to hold down only the thicker one properly. Simple, isn’t it?
“They did tell me at one time that they were going to name it the Chris Squire bass. I have used it quite a bit now and it’s very nice.”
Had he had any basses custom-built by anyone?
“Actually I haven’t. I’ve been approached a few time by Alembic, and people who used to work for Alembic, and people who were going to work for Alembic, who all of course promised that they could make a better one than you could get from Alembic. But in fact I haven’t ordered anything yet.
“I already have quite a selection of bass guitars. Gibson, Fender; a couple of six string including a Danelectro, which is a very good guitar. It feels like it was made of toughened hardboard or something, and it only cost me something like 100 dollars in the States three years ago, but it sounds great.”

IMG_0325

Talking of sounds, it must be pretty widely known that Chris is well into effects. I asked him to describe some of the equipment he uses, and why.
“In my opinion the best fuzz-box for bass is the Maestro Brassmaster. I’ve used it for a couple of years and haven’t come across anything better. One of the main characteristics which I like is that it has a mixer control which allows you to let through a certain amount of the straight-through sound and put the amount of fuzz you want on top.
“I think the Cry-Baby wah-wah is the best one ever made. Admittedly mine has been specially doctored so that, again, you can let through a certain amount of straight-through sound and use the wah-wah at the same time.
“I have quite a complicated stage set up actually. It’s worked out on the theory that if you are going to use effects, the amount of lead you have to use with them is fine when you’re using them, but when you’re not, you don’t want the signal travelling through miles of cable.
“So I worked out a system pedal and it works on a revolving disc principle, but you actually use the foot pedal to control the amount of echo. I can’t remember who makes that, I`m afraid.”
“Another thing which isn`t available here that I’ve been using for the last four or five years is a set of Dutron bass pedals. It’s a simple one-oscillator device but it produces a very nice sound through a Fender amp and a JBL 2×15 cabinet.
“But on my last trip to the States I got from Moog one of the sets of Taurus bass pedals that they now produce. I’m really excited about this development because although it’s basically the same technique, you’ve got a lot more facilities. My road manager has built both sets of pedals into one unit. That way I can have either the old ones or the new ones or both!

Brightness

“Of course bass pedals have a limit to what they can do — the best use for them is sustaining notes; you can’t play anything very fast on them. I use them to add some bottom to a particular chord or something. It gives me the advantage of being able to play something high on the bass guitar and put in a low note with them … so it works for me.
“It’s almost as if Moog developed the Taurus bass pedals with me in mind, though I’m sure he didn’t.”
Presumably Chris was fairly choosy about the amplification he used for this set up?
“Funnily enough most things work — I can get a sound out of most amplifiers. I use Sunn speaker cabinets with a mixture of JBL and Gauss speakers, the reason for that being that the JBLs are harder and you get more brightness out of them, but I can’t take everything JBL – the Gauss have got more of a roundness to them.
“I think there are about four Gauss and two JBLs in each cabinet. I know I could get a lot more sophisticated about it if I wanted to — a W-unit with horns and crossover unit and all that — but I really don’t know if I’d be any better off.
“Most of the time I use a Marshall 100 watt amp, which is something else I’ve had for a long time. I stopped using it for a while when Yes first went to America and started using Sunn transistor amps which I got a very good sound with. But for me they did just lack that singing valve quality which is hard to achieve with transistor amplifiers. Mind you, solid state stuff is improving all the time.
There’s one other thing I’ve picked up in the States called the TMI Frequaliser. You use it as a pre-amp with a power amp, and it has such a wide range of tone controls with boost and cut that you can balance the sound — the volume of any string or particular note — according to the hall you’re in.”
Basically this unit is a sophisticated graphic equaliser, and Chris was so keen for people in this country to hear all about it — with the possiblity of an arrangement to import it being made in the near future — that he offered to let us give one a thorough going-over. Naturally we took him up on this offer, and so, thanks to our number-one pollster, an exclusive review of this device will appear shortly in SOUNDS.
Thanks again Chris, and as the saying goes, keep on plucking!

IMG_0326

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 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 Freddie Mercury (Queen) FROM Sounds, January 31, 1976

It is always a joy to read old interviews with our dear Freddie. He is still a treasured frontman and very respected all over the world even so long after his death. A true icon!
Read on!

IMG_0320

Mercury rising

“Your `Cock Opera` piece has done me more harm than good. I`ve got to live up to it now. The insinuations of hosepipes and things, it`s gotten really amazing. My God! A day hasn`t passed when someone hasn`t had a comment on it.”

Interview by John Ingham

AND SO it came to pass that the Santa Claus single this Yuletide season was a spaghetti-melodrama of Love and Death. By that most British named of groups, Queen. (Ignore that in the early days it caused snickers due to its, uh, fag connotations so fashionable at the time. Times change.)
And lo, it came to pass that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was joined in enthronement at the top of the charts by its parent album ‘A Night At The Opera’, And verily, the people showed these waxings and the group indeed special unto them and voted them Best Group, Single and Album in the SOUNDS Poll. And it came to pass that Freddie Mercury of the mighty larynx spake unto the tape recorder.
The only gossip that emanates about Fred comes from his record company. It’s sparse at that, but the dominating feature teeters to be an excess of ego and a style on the raconteur’s part that is at the warmest condescending. And Lord knows Freddie can humiliate you with an effectively blunt savagery when he wants to. Which is okay — if it takes that attitude to produce the goods, so be it.

Illusions

But then he bounds through the door into what must be the only room in stately Rocket Records Mayfair offices that looks like an office (and in so doing makes up for the lack of it elsewhere), and you’re so overwhelmed by his ebullience and verve that you immediately warm to the guy. He’s spent the afternoon talking to a pencil ‘n’ pad from Fleet Street and apologises for his tendency to ramble in subject.
With ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ enjoying its eighth week at Numero Uno, it seemed a logical subject.
“I’m going to shatter some illusions,” he smiled. “It was just one of those pieces I wrote for the album; just writing my batch of songs. In its early stages I almost rejected it, but then it grew. We started deciding on a single about half-way through. There were a few contenders — we were thinking of ‘The Phrophet’s Song’ at one point — but then ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ seemed the one.
“There was a time when the others wanted to chop it around a bit, but I refused. If it was going to be released, it would be in its entirety. We knew it was very risky, but we had so much confidence in that song — I did anyway. It was a good representation of what Queen were doing at the time. I felt, underneath it all, that if it was successful it would earn a lot of respect.”
He takes a fresh breath and continues. “People were all going, ‘You’re joking, they’ll never play it, you’ll only hear the first few bars and then they’ll fade it out’. We had numerous rows. EMI were shocked. ‘A six minute single? You must be joking!’ The same in America. ‘Oh, you just got away with it in Britian.'”
It transpires that although `BH’ is leaping up the American charts – 59th in its third week – it is acceptance of the album (48 in its fourth) that is more important. Not that Fred wouldn’t be overjoyed if `BH’ got to Number One.
“What its success means to the band is acceptance,” and then breaking off: “Ooh, what a lovely Christmas gift. I didn’t open any others!” He laughs naughtily.
If nothing else, Queen have only Todd Rundgren to beat in utilising the full capacities of a studio: “I do enjoy the studio, yes. It’s the most strenuous part of my career, to be honest. It’s so exhausting, mentally and physically. It drains you dry. I sometimes ask myself why I do it. After ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ we were insane and said never again. And then look what happens!”
Were you wanting to get into a studio badly in your early days?

Berserk

“I think that is the basis of Queen, actually. We were very, very meticulous. That has now become an obsession in a funny way, for want of a better word. It’s subconscious now, but we feel that we have to better that past standard we’ve created. Otherwise they’ll say, `God, look at what they did on ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ and look at what they’re churning out now.’ And you have to supercede it for your own satisfaction.
“But I did discipline myself… Take vocals, because they’re my forte — especially harmonies and those kind of things. On ‘Queen II’ we’ve gone berserk: But on this album I consciously restricted myself. That’s brought the songwriting side of it across, and I think those are some of the strongest songs we’ve ever written.”
Suddenly, he changes track. “I’ve just heard we’ve sold out the first three days in New York. We were going to do a big one, but John (Reid) decided it would be better to play several small ones. Because our stage act works well in that size hall just now, and it’s nice to take it over to America in that capacity …”
He flounders for words and just as suddenly plucks at his jacket. “Isn’t this outrageous?” he asks with glee, “I got it in Florida.” ‘It’ is skeins of wool the thickness of swollen spaghetti utilising what appears to be every tint and shade of every colour in combinations no doubt pleasing to a Turkish hop head. It looks great. “I just bought it on the offchance; I`m usually a black and white person.”
Speaking of which, what about the ever present black nail polish gracing your left hand?
“I’ve always worn it. Why one hand? I can’t think of an answer.”
Because you’re right handed?
“That’s it! Exactly.”
(A lady friend has subsequently assured me that getting those right fingernails is a true test of artistry.)
“It started in the early days when the black and white thing was really strong. That was, for want of a better word, a concept, and we thought we’d take it that one stage further. We did like to dress in black a lot, but then we got into white because we became very aware of projection and all that.”
Which reached a climax of sorts with ‘Queen II’. “It just evolved to where there was a batch of songs that could be considered aggressive, or a Black Side, and there was the smoother side.”
Such concepts, he continues, extend to all areas, such as the airbrushed crest which graces the cover of ‘A Night At The Opera’, and from there to T-shirts, posters and etc. “I think each — we look upon it as a campaign and project — should have a label and a stamp on it. It has a nice tying-up quality about it. The advertising side of me comes out in that aspect. It’s not just music, it’s whatever’s interesting. Why not? Why just stick to music?”

IMG_0321

Snobbish

This thinking has developed with experience. In the early days “it was much more general. Can the four of us really — we weren’t going to enter into it if we weren’t really serious enough to actually go the whole hog. When Queen was formed and we were still in university, we decided to finish our courses first, which meant one and a half years. If we were still together then it meant we were serious.
“At that time we said, ‘Okay, but let’s try to make it interesting, let’s try to incorporate all the different background that we’ve acquired’. We weren’t snobbish but we were very careful. We did want to appear tastefully. Even though we weren’t anybody we felt we should appear that way. We shouldn’t do the club circuit and . . . well, it was snobbish really. We didn’t want Queen to be just everybody’s band but a select few to start with.”
Speaking as you were all those paragraphs ago about the new album containing strong songs, was ‘Death On Two Legs’ written in a strong emotional mood?
“Ooh, yes!” Freddie laughs nastily. “The words came very easily… Let’s say that song has made its mark.” He chortles again.
“I decided that if I wanted to stress something strongly I might as well go whole hog and not compromise. I had a tough time trying to get the lyrics across… I wanted to make them as coarse as possible. My throat was bleeding, the whole bit. I was changing lyrics every day trying to get it as vicious as possible.
“When the others first heard it they were in a state of shock,” he laughs. It gives him great amusement to recount these anecdotes. “When I was describing it they went, `Oh yeah`, and then they saw the words and they were frightened by it. But for me the step had been taken and I was completely engrossed in it, swimming in it. Wow! I was a demon for a few days. “The album needed a strong open and what better way than to have the first words, ‘You suck my blood like a leech`? Initially it was going to have the intro and then everything stop and the the words, ‘YOU, SUCK, MY – but that was going too far.”

Elsewhere on the platter, of course, are those tunes that sound straight from George Formby, a curious aspect for a group whose reputation has built on flash and show and volume and imagination.
“Do you like those songs?” he asks. Sure, but they’re not exactly `I’m In Love With My Car’.
“It’s a sign of transition. We could probably have done them on the first album but you can’t have it all, and it’s taken until this fourth album to try to put it across. There’s so many things we want to do — there’s not just one area we want to delve into. I’ve always wanted to write something like that. I’ve become more piano orientated anyway. `Ogre Battle’ was written on a guitar but I’ve given that up. I’m getting into ‘The Love Of My Life’ and ‘Lily Of The Valley’ type things. I’ve always listened to that kind of music.”
(`Bad Boy Leroy Brown’, the first recorded evidence of these musical tastes, goes down a bomb in concert, so the band aren’t alone in their appreciation of the form.)
Inevitably, talk turns to their Christmas TV show. Both Freddie and Brian (who was downstairs autographing pix for a contest) opined that they felt the show was fantastic while they were doing it but were horrified when they saw a videotape immediately afterwards.
“It’s not up to you anymore. It’s up to the cameras, the lighting people. You can’t help getting Mycroft images (those coloured lines that obscured the show half the time) when a camera’s that close to me. I knew that was going to happen.
“It’s also very hard to decide what audience to cater for. The people in front of you have paid money to see you but at the same time you’re doing a very prestigious concert and you have to try to make sure you come across on television.”
Both Fred and Brian felt they had failed in that respect. But then, it did come in the middle of business meetings delayed by their recent tour and preparations for four months in America, the Far East and Australia. They had two days to “precis the repertoire and what do you choose and what do you leave out? Also, we were used to pacing ourselves for an hour and a half…
“I wouldn’t want to do live TV again. Film is much better because you have more control over it.”

Twitches

The case in point being, of course, the film that accompanied `Bohemian Rhapsody’ on ‘Top Of The Pops’. Worked out by the group while rehearsing at Shepperton, they called in Bruce Gowers, who has worked with them before, and filmed it in four hours the day before the tour started. Freddie concedes that it was instrumental in the single’s success.
He has been talking almost an hour and from the rapid increase in body twitches it’s obvious he’s wanting to leave. He gets up to go but then thinks of something else.
“You know, your ‘Cock Opera’ piece has done me more harm than good. It was a wonderful piece, but my God, I’ve got to live up to it now. The insinuations of hosepipes and things, it’s gotten really amazing. My God! A day hasn’t passed when someone hasn’t had a comment on it.”
I was reminded of Lillian Roxon interviewing Tom Jones and wanting to poke her pencil there to see if it was all Tom.
I guess only Fred’s tailor knows for sure.

IMG_0324

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.