Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Q & A with Rick Wakeman

The amazingly talented keyboard player Rick Wakeman was on This Is Your Life once and Micheal Aspel quipped: "You'd had three heart attacks, two marriages and lost £10 million by your early thirties ... but then things got better"
You can read his biography and find out about the 50 or so records he's been involved with by visiting his "communications centre": http://www.rwcc.com/
I remember one afternoon in the early 90s I was feeling really low and I turned on the TV and saw a chat show where the guests were Wakeman and Eric Sykes. I remember watching them clown about for a few minutes and then cheering up and deciding that life wasn't so bad after all.

The Rebel: Were you still a fan of Viv Stanshall after you worked with him.
Rick Wakeman: "Absolutely... the man was a poetic genius with all the trappings of depression that goes with such talent. I often wonder what else he may have achieved had he lived. He's left loads of amazing memories though and that's good enough for me."
(Above: The Bonzos - Viv is 2nd from right)
Do you have a favourite lyric by him or a favourite Bonzo record?
"Strangely enough, Jollity Farm is my favourite, which of course is not a Bonzo composition . I love Canyons of your Mind and Trouser Press... My kind of humour!"

I've always loved the David Bowie song Absolute Beginners. Can you tell me a bit about the session? Which bits did you do and which bits did Steve Nieve do?
"I played the classical paino/ Rachmaninoff type stuff. I did all this long after the track was finished. David invited me on board to add these touches and we spent a very pleasant few hours reminiscing..."
(Above Steve Nieve photographed by Keith Morris in 86)
Steve Nieve recorded a cover version of Russians by Sting. I read that you also admired this track. What is it about this song that touches you?
"With apologies to Sting, I'm not a great fan of The Police but I do admire what they do and Sting's writing, even though it is too Jazzy for my taste. When I first heard Blue Turtles and The Russians track, I fell in love with the song. Beautifully constructed and beautifully done. I've not heard the cover version so I can't comment on that."

Can you remember much about recording Going Down by Lou Reed? That first solo record of his is quite curious. Did you get the feeling it would be a hit or that there was much of an audience for Lou waiting in the wings? How did Lou Reed come across?
"I never met him. He stayed in the control room and spoke through the headphones. I finished what he asked me to do and left!"
Are there any Yes songs that have the power to move you to tears?
"Awaken... the live version from Boston if I recall. Another step on from the studio version."

I really like the you tube footage of you and David Patton performing Eleanor Rigby and I really like the footage of you playing Life on Mars. When you perform a piece of music like that what goes through your head - are you like a method actor trying to bring up painful emotions or try in an attempt to connect with the story?
"I never plan anything as regards what is going on in my head. I close my eyes and go where the music takes me... And for the record...I am one of the few who hate Youtube."

When do you think Pink Floyd were at their most interesting? Which of their records are you most likely to play?
"Early stuff when Syd was around.GG"

McCartney had help from friends like George Martin but do you think (on the whole) a songwriter needs to train classically to be any good
"No , not at all. Training just helps somewhat I suppose as your imagination is limited by your knowledge."

Do you ever cross paths with the artist formally known as Cat Stevens? Were you interested when he changed his name to Yusuf Islam and do you have many muslim friends?
"I had a chat with Yusaf a few years back and it was lovely to meet up... I was pleased that he found his personal path in life as indeed I am with anybody who finds their own pathway as regards a faith... I have no idea if I have many Muslim friends to be honest as quite simply when I meet people I don't ask them what faith they are. I merit friendship on the person, not their faith."

What's your favourite Eric Sykes sketch / what do you like most about him?
"Erik is a comedic genius and I'm proud to call him a great friend... my favourite sketch is probably V.E Day when he took over the pub... but there are so many genius moments in all of Erik's work."
What are you working on now?
"I have a radio production company that produces shows for Ireland and America. I have a spot on Watchdog coming up in the new series. I am working on two short films. I have two albums to finish by the end of the year and a third book in the Grumpy series. I have concerts of all kinds, solo, band, orchestral scattered throughout the year and loads of stuff as patron to the charities I support... no free days in the Wakeman camp."

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