Happy New Year everyone and all of us here hope that all of you out there had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to a healthy and successful 1999.
We're only going to do a short review of 1998 as we think that most of you probably know everything that happened off by heart by now! However there are a few loose ends to tidy up, so here we go.
JANUARY ........... None of us can remember much about January except that there were the first inklings that Return could be a real possibility with EMI.
FEBRUARY ......... Fabulous meeting with EMI and the deal was completed with a handshake at Mossimoms restaurant in London.
MARCH ....... The complete rewrite started! Rick decided not to keep any of his original ideas at all and start from scratch so that he wouldn't be led by the past. To this end he went off to Tenerife where the story was written and the narrative put into form and the first two pieces were written. (Buried Alive and Still Waters Run Deep).
APRIL .... The contract was signed and Rick went off to visit Roger Dean and the artwork was put into place. Rick also contacted the four vocalists that he had spoken to about "Return" previously to ascertain that their interest was still there, (Bonnie Tyler, Trevor Rabin, Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Hayward).
MAY ........ Whilst Rick was writing, Stuart Sawney mixed White Rock II in the studio ready for a Music Fusion release, initially intended to be Christmas 1998.
JUNE ...... Rick still writing and doing the odd television appearance here and there as well as working hard on the orchestrations.
JULY ...... The finished "demo" of "Return" is completed in the studio on the Isle of Man and it is discovered that it runs 125 minutes! The rest of the month is taken up with rewriting the 125 minutes to bring it down to below 80 minutes. This prove to be not a difficult task and in retrospect, the end is much tighter and much better for the "knife". It also solved a problem as regards two further guest appearances.
AUGUST ....... Rick, overweight, unwell and desperately racing against the clock, flies to California to record the narrative with Patrick Stewart. On his return is admitted to hospital and all the planned schedules go out of the window and Rick nearly joins them. Trevor Rabin records his vocals and guitar solos in Hollywood.
SEPTEMBER ...... The final two singers are found for Ride of Your Life and Mr Slow. Katrina and Tony Mitchell respectively. Rick leaves hospital and slowly returns work with a strict, new regime. Ozzy Osbourne records his vocals in Los Angeles.
OCTOBER ...... Rick rewrites loads of the orchestration! (see main article on "Return").
NOVEMBER ....... Rick flies to England for the "final leg" of "Return". Appears on Generation Game where he gets a bigger surprise than the contestants at the end! Orchestra and choir recorded, keyboard overdubs completed and final vocals, (with the exception of Justin), are recorded for the final mix.
DECEMBER ...... Justin comes in to the studio to do his vocals and the final mixes are completed for mastering in London.
We know lots of other things went on during the year, like the Clatterbridge Concert in Liverpool, Countdown and a few other television programmes, radio and the album with Mario Fasciano, but as I'm sure you will all appreciate, the main focus for the year was very much "Return". Let's hope it's very much the focus for the next couple of years at least!
Rick is now fully recovered and is a trim 13st 4lb or 84 kilo if your metrically minded, (a loss of 3 stone or about 18 kilo). He now runs around in the shower in order to get wet! He has also been ordered to keep the weight down permanently around that level, walk a lot, eat healthily and not work stupid hours. Rick is bored rigid.
However, having said all that, he does feel incredibly well and realises that he can't get away with the lifestyle and work rate he was trying to keep up before his illness and so has given himself a new set of rules.
(We are not offering odds as to whether or not he manages to stick to all the rules, although we reckon Ladbrokes would only offer 8/1 on, as regards the work rate being reduced drastically!)
Return to the Centre of the Earth
As you are probably all aware, the CD is finished, mixed, mastered and delivered to EMI, who are extremely pleased with the result, as, it should be added, is Rick.
Two weeks after leaving hospital back in September, Rick was allowed to slowly get back to work, initially for just a couple of hours a day, building it up as the weeks went by.
This presented many problems, the main one being that Rick was pretty much prepared to go into the studio with the orchestra and choir, but because of his hospitalisation the recording dates had been moved on to November, which now gave Rick plenty of time to recuperate and look closely at the orchestration and music that was to accompany Patrick Stewart's narration.
Rick's original plan had always been that the narration would be accompanied by keyboards, leaving the orchestra to perform only on the main pieces. After some serious close analysis, Rick decide that one of the narratives would sound much better with some major orchestration ........ and so he orchestrated it.
He then decided that it looked like working so well that he should orchestrate some more. This made the ones with just keyboard on them sound "weak", and so guess what ....he orchestrated the rest! He also re-orchestrated the piece entitled Dance of a Thousand Lights in order to turn it into a piano and orchestra feature and also tinkered around with the rest of the music making odd improvements wherever he felt they could be made.
The work was actually finally completed just three hours before boarding the aeroplane bound for London to do the main sessions following a final 48 hour stint in his music office!
So much for having time on your hands!
Other illness related problems seriously affected the vocals and drum sessions as Rick was not allowed to fly or travel off off the island until November, which meant either that certain areas of the recording would have to be done without his presence or would have to wait.
All these problems were overcome though and eventually it was time for the three weeks sojourn in CTS Studios at Wembley to begin, and really this was the period Rick had been looking forward to.
Throughout the previous six months, many meetings had been had with David Snell, the conductor of the London symphony orchestra and Guy Protheroe from the English Chamber Choir, but of course, as there were no rehearsals, the first time the orchestral and choir parts would be heard was on the sessions which, to put it bluntly, were costing EMI a very large sums of money. To say there was extreme pressure for Rick on the first day of recording when David Snell raised his baton, would be putting it mildly!
There were very few glitches on the sessions, (nothing that actually couldn't be easily corrected there and then), and everything went even better than could have been foreseen by anyone concerned.
The finished mixes were then mastered in London and delivered to EMI, on time, (as per the rearranged schedule), on December 17th.
There have already been a few articles about the album and a few radio and television interviews as well. These were originally set up when the album was expected to be released in January, but it was felt that there would be no harm done by doing the interviews rather than trying to re-arrange them for a later date. The most interesting of all of these was probably at Talk Radio who actually broke all tradition by playing Never is a Long Long Time, the track featuring Trevor Rabin, as well as featuring a narrative track. Considering it was just meant to be a straightforward interview, this surely has to be a good sign for what is to come.
All media feedback so far, (from those who have heard it that is), has been tremendous, so we've got everything crossed here that their initial enthusiasm doesn't wane.
The UK release date is now the second week in March, the rest of the world in April, except for Japan, which is the last week in February. Hopefully there will not be any difficulty in finding it racked in major outlets everywhere as EMI have a huge distribution network- keep an eye on the website for actual release dates.
We should point out at this juncture that we will not have any in stock at the office for mail order, so please don't call us regards this.
The concert situation is considerably more complicated. The three days booked originally for Wembley before Rick was taken ill, had to be let go and potential sponsorship was lost at the same time through bad handling by various third parties. (The least said about that the better!) Rick has not entirely given up on this though.
To try and concisely report on the situation, the outcome of all the mistakes in this area, is that any performances in the UK are very much in the balance. In a nutshell, if "RETURN" does well in the UK without a live performance, then it should not be a problem to resurrect sponsorship and organise large scale concert performances based upon its "success".
Certainly everybody who has been involved, quite genuinely without exception, and that includes Patrick Stewart, the London Symphony Orchestra and the English Chamber Choir, really want to be part of any live performance, so it is only the financial and "success" logistics that stand in the way at the moment.
The situation as regards performances in other countries is somewhat different though and at the time of putting this newsletter together, California looks red-hot favourite to "host" any initial performances. Negotiations are well under way as regards this and by the end of January we will know definitely one way or another as to what is likely to happen. (If you have written in expressing interest you will get information as soon as we know, please bear with us, as we don't know any more than you!)
Other territories will probably work very similarly to that of the UK, which is to wait and see what the public response to "Return" is, and then take it from there.
In reality, this means that by the end of May we should all have a pretty fair idea of what is going to be possible and what is not and also whether the "dream" will continue it's life.
One subject that now comes very heavily into the forefront is that of management. A project as large as Return needs a high profile and a similarly high level of management and this is probably one of the reasons why the initial negotiations for concert in the UK ended up being unsuccessful. In order to try and prevent this from happening again, Rick is currently talking to two management and agency companies, one in the UK and the other in the USA, with a view to them taking everything on board for the future as regards "RETURN".
This is really the only negative side to all that has happened with "Return" though an so to finish on a positive note, Rick is currently the happiest guy you could wish to meet at the moment, his dream having not only reached fruition, but having surpassed everything he could have hoped for.
Television and Radio
Hopefully some of you may have been able to catch Never Mind the Buzzcocks on the 30th December. They must have been reasonably happy with Rick's contribution as he's recording another one this February).
The Generation Game was shown on January 2nd and this has become the now famous programme where Rick was "nabbed" by Michael Aspel. To many people's amazement, they actually showed Rick getting caught on the Generation Game transmission in spite of This is Your Life already having been shown. A bit of Jim Davidson influence here we think as he also allowed Rick to give a massive plug for "Return"!
For those of you who missed This is Your Life, it really did come as a shock to Rick, and even looking back over the previous six months he has said that there was nothing, even in retrospect, that could possibly have given him the slightest clue as what was being planned.
For those of you interested in trivia, Rick was not actually meant to be caught by Micheal Aspel during the Generation Game. The original plan was apparently to catch him at CTS Studios whilst recording the choir and orchestra during the original recording dates back in September. Obviously when Rick was suddenly taken out of action there had to be hasty behind the scene rethinks. Nina and Candy deserve special medals for not panicking and keeping the situation going so that the programme could eventually go ahead.
Rick was very moved by the occasion and genuinely never ever considered himself a candidate or even worthy of being one. When the Big Red Book does finally get sent through to him though, you can rest assured it will take pride of place somewhere within the Wakeman household.
It was lovely to have the family and friends all together for the evening and to have tributes from his own personal heroes such as Eric Sykes, Norman Wisdom, Howard Keel, John Inman, Robert Powell and Jim Davidson amongst many others was something very special for Rick and something he will never forget.
On the music side of things it was lovely to see Dave Cousins, Richard Hudson, Chas Cronk, Tony Fernandez, .Ashley Holt and Roger Newell there and the satellite link with YES was certainly not something Rick expected! For the record though, Rick did write to the guys thanking them for their contribution ...... and no, he will not be rejoining!
Classic Albums has now become a regular feature on Radio 2 and rumour has it that they have commissioned another series with Rick presenting again.
My Favourite Hymns was televised on January 11th and further televisions are booked including another seven Countdowns which will be broadcast probably sometime around March. (Good timing for the album release).
There is a celebrity Ready Steady Cook in the pipeline and a couple of other quiz shows, namely Slice of Action, Never mind the Buzzcocks and many, many more.
As there will be no more "theatre" performances from Rick with Adam and Fraser, the only live performances that Rick is likely to do in the future are those of "RETURN", (if all goes well), and a small amount of performances on church tours.
The reason for this has been well documented. Quite simply the small theatre tours have been appallingly handled in the past and have subsequently lost bucket loads of money. Although to be completely accurate as regards the financial outcomes of these tours, the musicians, crew, hotels, venues, agents and taxman have actually done quite well as Rick has paid all of the bills and the losses!
It has to be said though that Rick thoroughly enjoyed doing these tours but there had to come a time to say enough is enough.
Hopefully the next couple of years will see live performances around the globe of "RETURN" enabling the possibility perhaps for touring to once again become a viable proposition again in the not too distant future.
At the beginning of January Rick flew to Italy in order to promote the album he recorded with Mario Fasciano exclusively for the Italian market. Strangely enough also to be released by EMI.
In April there is to be a ten day tour planned where Rick will perform the new "Italian" stuff alongside some of his best known earlier instrumental compositions.
It is hoped that this will also give Rick an opportunity to "break in" the band that appeared on the Return album in preparation for future work together both on stage and in the studio.
The CD is unlikely to be available outside of Italy, but if the demand is reasonable , then we will certainly import some copies which will be available on mail order to RWCC members.
The Big Sale
Because of the unforeseen happenings of 1998, everything is running approximately three months late, and so just to whet your appetites, (or not as the case may be), here are some examples of the "for sale "list, as promised last year.
Offers will be invited for anything on the list and although Rick has no reserve prices on anything, he will obviously not let anything go unless what is offered reaches his own personal valuation.
Some of the items are big, (and expensive), such as the Dodge Ram Custom Van that Rick bought in Florida and drove around on the YES Union tour of the USA, before shipping it back to the Isle of Man and last year having it completely renovated.
Other large items include the Hammonds C3 organ that was used on Journey to the Centre of the Earth as well as on the Fragile album, (including the solo on Roundabout). This has also been completely renovated. Rick may also sell the American Hammond C3 that Bob Moog's main man at the time, Greg Hockman, customised and was subsequently used on the Close to The Edge album and all subsequent YES tours of America.
The only other surviving keyboard from the recording and concert of Journey to The Centre of the Earth, is the Hohner Clavinet, which is also on the list.
There are also quite a few old analogue keyboards, tape echoes and a few digital pieces of equipment, most are in good condition, but some of them are not working but are still deemed highly collectable. All will come with letter of authentication as to their individual histories.
There are stage clothes for days, (no capes though as they have all vanished years ago for various charity auctions). Some of the more spectacular items include the outfits from both the Spider and 1984 tours.
Other, more unusual items include the sale of selected individual 24 track master tapes of some of Rick's recordings.
These however are sold on the strict understanding, and a signed agreement accompanies each one sold, that no re-mixing or reproduction of the music can be made that is on the tapes.
With each tape will come a track sheet and as much historical background as possible as to who played on them, when recorded etc.
The complete list will be published both in the next newsletter and also on the web-site.
Sounds strange we know, but the highly successful pantomime in Stoke on Trent at the Theatre Royal featuring Little and Large, Jess Conrad and a cast of millions, was musically based around some of Rick's compositions from King Arthur and The Six Wives of Henry VIII.
A Jim Davidson production, it was superb in every way and on the day that Rick, Nina and the kids went to see it, there was not a seat in the house to be had, and we are pleased to report that it contained all the wonderful pantomime bits and pieces that we all know and love, (correction, that Rick knows and loves), and there was an awful lot of shouting out from the audience, (correction, there was an awful lot of shouting out from Rick), and eventually his children made him sit on his own.
Music Fusion & Hope Records
Legal problems have stopped us progressing with more releases on these labels and also as regards completing the merger that we wrote about in the last newsletter.
We are doing our utmost to resolve these matters and try and get the backlog of waiting unreleased material onto CD and into the shops.
These include White Rock II, and both trilogies, Art in Music and The Natural World.
Major problems have included a change of bank manager, (who unlike his predecessor has an obvious hatred for music, musicians and Rick in general). To counter this, Rick has been looking for outside partnerships in order to get things moving again and to move the companies in every respect from the confines of the Isle of Man, which because of it's tax laws, stifled any progress as regards these companies .......... and you all thought it was a tax haven here!
Negotiations are also still in progress as regards Hope Records in America and it is hoped that a solution may not be too far away there also.
1999 ...... The Forecast
Tricky one this. It's really either going to be a year of "Return", or a year of completely rethinking everything.
It would be nice to think that something special as regards a new composition could be commissioned for the Millenium and also that "Noah" could finally see it's way onto a CD.
Certainly there will be at least one major musical surprise which has been under wraps for about three months now and will certainly raise a few eyebrows, hopefully in an excited manner as against anything else.
Watch out also for Rick's growing involvement with radio.
People also keep saying that Rick is well overdue at being offered a major film sound track, so maybe 1999 could be the year.
Whatever may happen, once again, all of us here would really like to thank you for your continued support and wish you all a very happy, healthy and successful New Year.
Text scanned, OCRd and checked by Jon Hinchliffe