Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rick Wakeman - 1984

Original LP cover

Richard Christopher Wakeman (born 18 May 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.He purchased his first electronic keyboard, a Minimoog, from the actor Jack Wild. Wakeman was able to buy it for half the regular selling price because Wild thought it did not work as it only played one note at a time.He hosts a regular radio show on Planet Rock.

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 left of his own accord after a year and a half in favour of work as a session musician.

In 1970-1971, Wakeman played with Strawbs, recording with them the albums Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios and From the Witchwood. Formerly, he had already contributed as a session musician to the Strawbs's album Dragonfly (1970).

Especially in 1969-1973, Wakeman was also a very active studio musician, playing with such artists as David Bowie, Cat Stevens and Al Stewart notably playing piano (and/or Mellotron) on Bowie's Space Oddity, Life on Mars, Changes and Oh! You Pretty Things, and Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens. (In 1985, Wakeman collaborated again with Bowie to Absolute Beginners).

Wakeman joined Yes in 1971, after keyboardist Tony Kaye was asked to leave the band because of his refusal to play anything more than the Hammond organ. 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.

During his time with Yes, he released his first solo album, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII (1973), which showcases his skills with various electronic and acoustic keyboard instruments. Some members of Yes played their respective instruments on certain tracks.

His next solo album was Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974), a very successful concept album combining his rock band (the English Rock Ensemble) with a symphonic orchestra and a choir.

In 1975, he released the concept album The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which was supported by a live show featuring ice skating theatrical performances accompanied by a large number of musicians (his rock band, an orchestra and two choirs). The show was very well received, but its cost was extravagant and also caused Wakeman to declare bankruptcy.
Of all the members of Yes, 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. He felt the length of the songs prohibited the band from playing many of their more popular songs of the time. Following the tour, as the band began work on what would become Relayer, Wakeman felt further alienated from the group. Disenchanted with the direction in which Yes was going, and already into a successful solo career, Wakeman jumped ship.

He rejoined Yes for their 1977 album Going for the One, which especially features him in the famous 'epic' Awaken. 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.
In 1989, he joined with three fellow ex-Yes members to form Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (a.k.a. ABWH). After ABWH's first album, some of the completed tracks for a planned second album were merged with tracks from an in-progress Yes album to create the album Union. Wakeman, along with the combined members of both bands then joined to form a Yes supergroup (made up of past and present members of Yes) for the subsequent tour in 1991. When the tour ended a year later, Wakeman left again. 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 such as:

* Alice Cooper,
* John Williams,
* Brotherhood of Man,
* Elton John,
* Lou Reed,
* David Bowie (notably mellotron on 'Space Oddity', piano on 'Life On Mars' and 'Changes'),
* Cat Stevens (including piano on Stevens' hit cover of the hymn "Morning Has Broken"),
* T. Rex,
* Ozzy Osbourne,
* Black Sabbath (playing keyboards on "Sabbra Cadabra" and "Who are You" on 1973's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath),
* Brian May
* Vivian Stanshall (keyboard on Teddy Boys Don't Knit)

Reissue CD Cover

Although Wakeman was a noted player of the Hammond Organ and the Minimoog, he also played a key part in the popularisation of the Mellotron – an electronic musical instrument that used a bank of prerecorded tape strips, activated by each key on its keyboard. It proved too unwieldy and unreliable for regular touring, and Rick eventually doused his in petrol and set fire to it in a field . Undeterred, Rick worked with David Biro to develop the Birotron, which used the then popular 8-track cassette format rather than bare tape strips. Also because of the advent of digital keyboards at that time, the Birotron was not a commercial or technical success. Only 35 Birotrons were produced, and Rick eventually threw his across the stage after it broke down mid-concert, an action he now regrets, as there are only 6 known remaining examples.

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 Dvořák's New World Symphony.

As announced on the official Yes website, Rick Wakeman would not be joining Yes on their 40th Anniversary tour, he would instead be replaced by his son Oliver Wakeman (the tour was cancelled because of Jon Anderson's poor health). In 2008, Wakeman has been touring with a solo show, "Rick Wakeman's Grumpy Old Picture Show", an evening of biography, stories and music.

LP Back


1a. Overture Part One
1b. Overture Part Two
1c. Wargames
2. Julia
3. The Hymn
4. The Room (Brainwash) - Part One And Part Two
5. Robot Man
6. Sorry
7. No Name
8. Forgotten Memories
9. The Proles
10. 1984


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