RICK WAKE­MAN

Paint­ing a pic­ture with mu­sic

Let's Talk - - Contents -

I t was the un­prece­dented re­ac­tion to his per­for­mance of David Bowie’s Life on Mars on BBC Ra­dio Two that prompted Rick Wake­man’s al­bum, Pi­ano Por­traits. Now, fans in East Anglia have the chance to hear tracks from the al­bum played live, as Rick per­forms at The Apex on May 25, as part of the Bury Fes­ti­val.

Rick, who is known as a mem­ber of pro­gres­sive rock band Yes and as a suc­cess­ful solo artist, re­calls how he has been do­ing pi­ano shows for more years than he cares to re­mem­ber. Mostly, he says, they have been one-offs where he has played pieces of his or that he has been in­volved with, and told “lots of lu­di­crous anec­do­tal sto­ries” in be­tween.

“I’ve re­ally en­joyed them. I’ve played The Apex a few times which has been great,” he says. “I wasn’t go­ing to do any dates this year be­cause I’m very busy with the An­der­son, Rabin and Wake­man shows (en­ti­tled An Evening of Yes Mu­sic and More). We’re all over the world and it’s lu­di­crously busy there. So, I thought: ‘Well, I’ll give that a rest this year be­cause I’ve got so many other things to do.”

He adds: “Then, I have to go back to Jan­uary last year when my dear friend David Bowie passed away. I did quite a few in­ter­views at that time, hav­ing worked with him for such an im­por­tant pe­riod of his life.”

One of those in­ter­views was on Simon Mayo’s Ra­dio Two show. After speak­ing about David, Rick played Life On Mars, a song which he recorded the orig­i­nal pi­ano parts for. The re­sult­ing we­b­cam had more than two mil­lion hits. In­ter­est was so high that Rick went on to record the piece, with David Bowie’s Space Odd­ity, and an­other track en­ti­tled Al­ways To­gether, at The Old Gra­nary Studio in south Nor­folk. Roy­al­ties from the sin­gle were given to Macmil­lan Can­cer Sup­port.

That led to de­mand for a ded­i­cated pi­ano al­bum. Recorded at The Old Gra­nary, Pi­ano Por­traits fea­tures a var­ied se­lec­tion of mu­sic, in­clud­ing clas­sic songs that Rick orig­i­nally per­formed on. Its 15 tracks range from Life on Mars, and Space Odd­ity to which Rick con­trib­uted mel­lotron; through The Bea­tles, Yes and Led Zep­pelin, to clas­si­cal pieces com­posed by De­bussy and Tchaikovsky.

Rick says: “I was re­ally happy with how ev­ery­thing came out. Ev­ery piece ended up as a per­for­mance. Some­times we got two done in a day that were per­for­mances we could lis­ten to; some days we got noth­ing. It was like that, which was fine, un­til I got ev­ery­thing that I wanted.”

Rick re­calls how record label Univer­sal re­ally liked it and ex­plains how the ti­tle for the al­bum was cho­sen.

He says: “They went back over an old interview I had done years ago when I’d said at my very first pi­ano les­son my mu­sic teacher Mrs Symes, I was only five, said: ‘I’m go­ing to teach you to be a painter’. I re­mem­ber think­ing, aged five, ‘I don’t want to be a painter - I want to play the pi­ano.’ She said: ‘What you’re go­ing to do, ev­ery time you learn a piece, you’re go­ing to close your eyes and paint pic­tures to it’.

“That’s still what I do to this day. Any­body who comes to The Apex will see I spend most of my time with my eyes closed be­cause I’m paint­ing pic­tures. I go into my own lit­tle world and away I go.”

So the sug­ges­tion was made to call the al­bum Pi­ano Por­traits. Rick re­calls: “I said: ‘That’s a lovely ti­tle’, but I can’t claim that I came up with it be­cause I didn’t.”

From Yes to Grumpy Old Man, Rick Wake­man has a huge range of fans.

Rick Wake­man has a wealth of anec­dotes to share from his long ca­reer in the mu­sic busi­ness. Pic­ture: Lee Wilkin­son.

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