Monday, April 9, 2007

Rick Wakeman

@ Wiki
Richard Christopher Wakeman (born May 18, 1949 in Perivale, London) is an English keyboard player best known as the keyboardist for progressive rock group Yes. Originally a classically trained pianist, he was a pioneer in the use of electronic keyboards and in the use of a rock band in combination with orchestra and choir.

Wakeman was born in the suburb of Perivale, West London, and attended Drayton Manor Grammar School. He initially studied piano, clarinet, orchestration and modern music at the Royal College of Music, but he was expelled due to neglect of his studies in favour of work as a session musician.

In 1970, Wakeman played with The Strawbs and David Bowie. He joined Yes in 1971, following keyboardist Tony Kaye's departure. His first album with the band was Fragile released 1971 in the UK and 1972 in the US, and very nearly his last was Tales From Topographic Oceans, released in 1973. He also played on the studio album Close to the Edge (his favourite Yes album) and his live performances with the group were released as Yessongs. He left the band following the Tales from Topographic Oceans tour.

Of all the members of the band, Wakeman is the only non-vegetarian, a difference which contributed to his first departure from the band. The primary reason for that initial departure, however, was musical differences. Wakeman felt Tales From Topographic Oceans was thin on substance and did not connect with its themes. Further, he did not enjoy the experience of reproducing the entire work on stage each night. Following the tour, as the band began work on what would become Relayer, Wakeman felt further alienated from the group. Disenchanted with the direction Yes were going, and already into a successful solo career, Wakeman jumped ship.

During this time, he released his second solo album, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, which showcases his skills with various electronic and acoustic keyboard instruments. Some members of Yes played their respective instruments on certain tracks.

He rejoined Yes for their 1977 album Going For The One. He remained until their next album, Tormato, a year later. He is reputed to have given the album its name by throwing a tomato at a showing of the art used for the album's cover. He rejoined the band in 1991 but left a year later. He then returned in 1996 for the Keys to Ascension albums but left before the band could tour. In 2002, he rejoined Yes and has been with the group ever since, but also enjoys a successful solo career.

He has also performed as a guest or session musician for artists as disparate as John Williams, Brotherhood of Man, Elton John, Lou Reed, David Bowie (notably 'Life On Mars' and 'Lady Stardust'), Cat Stevens (including piano on Stevens' hit cover of the hymn "Morning Has Broken"), T. Rex, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath (under the nickname Spock Wall),Brian May and played piano on "There's no one quite like Grandma" a follow up to Clive Dunn's hit "Grandad"

Wakeman played the temperamental Mellotron – an electronic musical instrument that used a bank of prerecorded tape strips, activated by each key on its keyboard. He invented the Birotron, developed with David Biro, to overcome the quirks and challenges of the Mellotron. The Birotron was not a commercial or technical success.

He has written the soundtracks for two films by Ken Russell: Lisztomania (1975), which features vocals from Roger Daltrey and which takes as its starting point the music of Liszt and Wagner; and Crimes of Passion (1985), much of which is built around themes taken from Dvorak's New World Symphony.

Personal life
A self-confessed former alcoholic, he had several heart attacks in his twenties. The first of them occurred just after he left Yes in early 1974, during the release of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. He married former Page Three model Nina Carter, although they have since divorced. He has had a renewal of his Christian faith, which began around the time of their marriage.

Children include Adam Wakeman, Oliver Wakeman, Oscar Wakeman, Jemma Wakeman, Ben Wakeman, and Manda Wakeman, who have inherited their father's interest in music.

A passionate football fan, Wakeman has supported Brentford F.C. and Portsmouth F.C. since he was a child, and later on he also became a director of the West London club. After a disagreement with the board, he now supports Manchester City F.C. He was also involved in the ownership of the American soccer club Philadelphia Fury in the late '70s, along with other rock celebrities such as Peter Frampton and Paul Simon.

He is a strong supporter of the UK's Conservative Party, and performed a concert in September 2004 for the benefit of the party. His Arthur section of his King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table suite is used as the theme tune to the BBC's Election Night Coverage since 1979 (with the exception of 2001). Wakeman's album Fields of Green '97 featured the track Election '97/Arthur, which was used by the BBC for their coverage of the 1997 General Election. The music was further revamped for the BBC's 2005 Election Night Coverage.

Rick can currently be seen as a contributor on BBC Two's series, Grumpy Old Men. He has also appeared in a number of episodes of Countdown; about twenty per year, according to Wakeman. He currently (2007) presents a weekly programme on Planet Rock. He has also appeared on the satirical panel show Have I Got News For You as a guest.

Rick appeared as himself in "Journey to the Centre of Rick Wakeman", the last episode of season two of Mitch Benn's Crimes Against Music, a BBC Radio 4 comedy programme. The episode detailed a fictional war between England and Wales in 2009 which only Rick could stop. The majority of the episode was set inside Rick where Mitch and his team are sent to rouse him from a coma and thus stop the war.

In December 2006 Rick was the guest host for an episode of The Personality Test, a BBC Radio 4 programme where the panel stay the same and the host changes each week. The questions set in the programme are all about the host. Rick set a challenge for a new concept album idea, and the comedian Will Smith suggested "Spiders and Other Invertebrates". Rick said he liked that idea so much, he would include a track of his next album called "Spiders and Other Invertebrates", and would include a sleeve credit to Will. Will responded by saying that Rick had "...just made my life"

Rick has been President of the show business charity The Heritage Foundation (formerly Comic Heritage) for the past two years. The charity erects blue plaques on the homes and/or work-places of late entertainers and sportspeople.

Wakeman is also Honorary President of the highly acclaimed 'Classic Rock Society', founded by Martin Hudson in 1991 and based in Rotherham, near Sheffield. Rick has performed many times for the CRS, including at Martin Hudson's 50th Birthday Concert, where 'the Oakwood Centre' (the CRS's largest venue) was nearly filled up with loyal fans. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Rick Wakeman Keyboard Solo

Rick Wakeman @ You Tube

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Rick Wakeman - Yes, But...

Ben Hogwood @ Music Omh
Rick Wakeman, Grumpy Old Man, pianist par excellence and sometime wearer of willowy yellow coats as a member of proggers Yes, is in jovial mood.

He's halfway through a rehearsal for his acoustic tour with long time, on-off musical partner and fellow sometime Yes member Jon Anderson, and is painstakingly copying music onto manuscript paper with a pencil.

Now and then mild admonishments spring forth, muttered along the lines of "Wakeman, you pillock", followed by intense sessions of rubbing out.
"It's the way we write", he says, "I send him bits of music and he picks out the ones he likes, and sometimes I have to put them back together in a different order. It's the best way to do it, and you'll have to excuse me but if I don't do it now, I'll lose where I am."

Several dominant eleventh chords later, and he's done, seemingly satisfied with his morning's work. Anderson, meanwhile, sits out in the open studio, dreamy acoustic guitar riffs and snatches of vocal drifting through the control room monitors, taking him far away from a rainy Surrey afternoon.

Anderson's health has not been good of late, with sinus problems confining him to hospital at times, but the eyes still sparkle and the mid-Atlantic twang talks enthusiastically of the material the pair are currently working on. "We started off by doing small acoustic sets in the middle of all the other stuff, and they became popular so we expanded them, sometimes even to an hour. This tour is an extension of that, with Rick just playing piano, and me on guitar. We've got four new songs plus all the other pieces."

His keyboard cohort is particularly enthusiastic about the new arrangement. "I like revisiting, and sometimes it's difficult to do that within a band format. There isn't one piece we perform in the same way ("there's a reggae version of Time And A Word" chimes in Jon), and everything has been revisited to give it a proper acoustic feel. There are moments of head explosion though, and there are some songs where verses have been cut, with some of them will reappearing unexpectedly!"

Warming to his task, Wakeman notes that "What's pointless is doing acoustic versions of the song." Anderson nods in agreement. "As a band that's OK, we heard each other very well, but when you get on stage everyone's on eleven. Acoustic is good, with me and Rick going through the songs, it's a lovely dance." Rick takes over, the two duetting now as if in performance. "You're not just rearranging, it's like taking a book, which can become a stage play, a radio play. That's what we've been doing with this."

"If I had a choice, I'd just play piano, but it's far more difficult than playing keyboards. It's one of the ultimate forms of musical expression." - Rick Wakeman

Whilst Wakeman made his name playing electric keyboards, his first love remains the piano. "If I had a choice, I'd just play piano, but it's far more difficult than playing keyboards. It's one of the ultimate forms of musical expression."

Anderson's challenge, meanwhile, has been to keep his instantly recognisable voice fresh. "I've just been lucky over the years, with not so much screaming. The best thing that ever happened to me was ear plugs, I don't have to push the voice so much. I sing at home every day."

Classical music continues to exert a strong influence on the pair. "As you grow older you tend to listen more to the structure of how things are created" says Jon. "I'm listening to the Rite of Spring at the moment, it's just amazing." This is clearly something close to Wakeman's heart - after all, he was groomed on classical piano. "All the Eastern European composers were absolutely amazing, what they were doing was clever, and in a lot of their music they would hide what they really thought. Tchaikovsky got a lot of his real feelings poured out in the music. Benjamin Britten's another classic example, it was a way of releasing the inner self. I think there was a period from the turn of the century to the mid 1950s where there was this outpouring. We never had that - we had Harold Wilson!" "I guess our revolutionaries were The Beatles and Bob Dylan," adds Anderson, the more thoughtful of the two today.

The talk turns towards the newer bands around, and Wakeman takes up the baton. "I championed Muse six or seven years ago, when the first album appeared it was absolutely brilliant. I love Muse, Air, Tool, the Mars Volta too. To their credit you listen to a track and then you have to go outside and say "what the fuck is this?!" My daughter went to see them and they basically did a jam for an hour! There's so many different types of progressive rock, there always have been." "It's cross-pollenisation" adds Anderson, "we always listened to Buffalo Springfield and were learning from Vanilla Fudge."

Wakeman has a few concerns about the industry climate these bands find themselves in however, not to mention the plight of Yes artists and their contemporaries. "People didn't expect there to be rockers in their fifties, sixties and seventies. Back in the 70s there wasn't any of that. Most record companies were run by music fans, and now it's a lot more corporate - you can't blame them for that though. The problem is the vice-presidents are thirty five or so, they don't know about us!"

"There's two jobs I'd like actually, one is to be an MEP, the other would be to manage the seniors PGA within a record company." - Rick Wakeman

Rick's mind is on permanent overdrive. At the moment he has two ideas in his head. "In golf, people found that the players were no longer physically able to compete but were still very good, and so they created the seniors tour. I think there should be something like that in rock music. There's two jobs I'd like actually, one is to be an MEP, the other would be to manage the seniors PGA within a record company. In 10, 20 years' time there's gonna be another batch of 50, 60-somethings. But the young musicians will always be evolving; they've started to realise now that they can make good business by giving their own stuff away."

Rick, in demand as an after dinner speaker, can switch to anecdotes at the drop of a hat, and while draining an instant coffee recalls an amusing incident with Elton John. "We had this chat where he was saying to me, "I've always wanted to write a piece of music that's really substantial, like a big piece, and I thought I'd cracked it - and it clocked in at three and a half minutes." To which I responded, "Well I've always wanted to write something that's a really good three minute pop song, and I thought I'd cracked it - but it was eleven minutes ten!"

He reflects on his new found popularity as a grouch. "Sometimes because of Grumpy Old Men they just want me to go along and moan. But in reality I'm thoroughly boring now, I have six girls and two boys, both of whom are musical - Oscar's a drummer. I've calmed down a lot over the years, but I am getting married for the fourth time early next year - I like the cake, you know."

And now there are photos to be posed for and numbers to be rehearsed. As I leave the enduring image is of Anderson giving a cheery wave, while Wakeman gets expansive on the piano. The two seem blissfully happy with their lot - a musical married couple.
- Ben Hogwood, 12/2006 =>>>>>>>>>>>

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