Well what a year it's been. If I'm really honest with myself then I have to admit that I can't wait for it to finish as it's been pretty awful if the truth be known. I thought 2000 was bad, but 2001 takes the cake! Having said all that though, there have been some high spots amongst all the disasters and so I suppose that should give us all some encouragement to carry on and give 2002 a try!
Anyway, ever forward, ever onward as they say and so now for the news, and as this is pantomime season, we'll start at the end and work backwards, just to be awkward!
Many of you will by now be aware that Candy is sadly leaving at the end of January after nearly ten years at the helm, to concentrate more on the marquee business that she has with her husband John which, as it continues to expand, (that's the marquee business not John), it is taking up more and more of her time and as we all know, there's only so much one human being can do, even if at times you've had to be superhuman like Candy has.
I'm sure all of you will join me in wishing her every future success and we will all miss her greatly. She has been by far the best p.a. I have ever had, and her and John have become great personal friends of mine and I'm sure we will keep in regular touch and they will appear at the odd concert here and there, and let's be honest, most of our concerts are pretty odd!
At the same time on January 31st the office on the Isle of Man will also close down for good and from February 1" all matters relating to the RWCC will move to another Island, this time the Isle of Wight where Mike Holden will take over the somewhat dubious honour of holding this side of things together.
Mike is already handling all the merchandise sales both on and off of the web-site and so to take over the running of the RWCC is a natural progression. I know he has new ideas he wants to bring in and having beard some of them I'm sure you will all approve, although his main idea of having two naked female secretaries just for himself have not been approved by either myself or his lovely wife Veronica.
I'm going to have them instead.
In the final newsletter from the Isle of Man, which will be sent out at the end of January, a new address for the RWCC will be printed along with a new dedicated telephone number and fax number. There will also be a new email address. (As everything as regards the RWCC seems to be new, I will probably buy Mike some new underwear so that he doesn't feel completely out of it).
It is not planned for anybody to take Candy's place and from February 1st all music, television and general entertainment business will go through an office at Shepperton Studios thus closing down the Isle of Man connection for good.
Bajonor House is having its name reverted back to Carlton House, which was its original name. The reason for this is that the name Bajonor is no longer relevant as regards my business here on the Island. (For those of you who are unaware, the letters in Bajonor spelt out the name of those in my family......... Ben, Adam, Jemma, Oscar, Nina, Oliver and Rick). As you are all aware, we are back to six people now and it has to be said that Bajonor was hard enough to pronounce, but with the "n" removed we are left with Bajoor, which sounds more like an Indian restaurant, so I have decided that it is time to say goodbye to it once and for all and the company has in fact now had a name change to Sound Aim Ltd complete with a new logo designed by Jemma.
The Newsletter will continue but after the January issue will be sent for the Isle of Wight and with new printers will obviously have a new look. I'm sure if you like it you will let Mike know. I'm equally sure that if you don't like it you will also let him know!
It had been hoped to have had the Christmas party again this year, perhaps down in Cornwall to coincide with the panto, but sadly this is not to be. We had a pretty decent response to the questionnaire from both the previous newsletter and also on the site, but sadly nowhere near enough "positives" to take a chance I'm afraid, so Candy leaves us without a final "jolly-up" which is a bit of a shame, but that's life as they say .... any ideas out there on how we can try for next year?
Therefore we are not saying that the Christmas Party is dead and buried for the future and those of you who are dead keen on having them, (and there are quite a few of you), have my full permission to bombard Mike in the future with your ideas on how perhaps we can reinstall these bashes back into the agenda.
The best way to describe the shows this year, or rather the lack of them is, I suppose is to say we had a mixture of disasters and triumphs. South America was brilliant as was the wonderful Return To The Centre Of The Earth in Canada. It was great to get the lads back together for a couple of one offs in the UK at the Classic Rock 10th Anniversary bash, (where it was also great to play three numbers with my old mate Dave Cousins), and also a great time was had at the Limelight in Crewe. I'm really very proud of this band and these "warm ups" in the UK were meant to set us up nicely for the Central American, Portuguese and Russian shows in November which we had all been looking forward to.
Then in the space of a couple of weeks, and to coin a phrase well used over the years by Stuart Sawney, "It all went horribly wrong"
Just four days before we were due to fly out to Mexico we were bit with the bombshell that the tour had been cancelled because of bomb threats. We were all left holding our tickets and visas, flabbergasted by what had happened and wondering what to do next when Mike realised that the gear was being loaded at that very moment in time to fly down to Mexico City.
He thoughtfully managed to get it taken off the flight in time and then hastily went to his warehouse on the Isle of Wight, climbed a ladder, (for reasons unknown), fell off and broke the heel of his left foot and also his right knee. Major surgery followed with a lengthy stay in hospital and he is now in a wheelchair and answers to the name of "Ironside". (Those of you who know who Ironside is will now have to own up to their age).
The Portuguese promoter then also cancelled because he had a disagreement with our agent in the UK.
I then went looking for the same ladder that Mike had climbed. (I wasn't going to attempt to break my legs because I thought a nice thick noose could probably break my fall ok).
So in one week I had been hit with Candy leaving, the office closing, the studio closing down, (more about that later), Mike breaking his legs, losing the funding for OUT THERE, the new English Rock Ensemble album, (more about that later as well), the Central American tour and the Portuguese shows being cancelled plus all the usual nasty telephone calls from banks, accountants and lawyers and so, as you can probably imagine, I was at that moment in time desperately trying to find Mike's ladder. (The only thing that stopped me was that I could now no longer afford the noose)!
I suppose the writing had been on the wall ever since we had been out
to Italy to perform a one off gig. We had a few months earlier travelled
out to Jesi in Italy for a one off show that sadly Adam couldn't do with
us as he had a prior commitment. (He was washing his hair I think or
washing a lettuce or something really important or maybe he was on his
honeymoon). Anyway, we had a little meeting and decided to do a few re-arrangements
of the pieces and perform as a five piece. We all agreed that if nothing
technically went wrong on the day we would be fine.
(I suspect you are already a few sentences ahead of me).
The gear arrived safely.
We arrived safely.
We were royally looked after and shown round the beautiful old town before some of the band and crew went out on a little drinking spree. (8 out of 9 of us to be factually correct). I can't say who was the good boy who stayed at the hotel but suffice to say that I am the only tee-totaler and Alina was with me, and we were tired.
On the day of the show, which was in a huge town square in the open air, we were all raring to go and looking forward to a nice sound check and rehearsal.
However the people of Jesi were looking forward to their weekend market
in the square with hundreds of stalls selling just about everything except
for my CDs.
The gear was finally set up at about 5pm whereupon we discovered many things. Many things that didn't work.
The band and crew were troopers to the end. They could see I was concerned about having no rehearsal to re-arrange the pieces to allow for Adam's absence and they responded magnificently with encouraging statements such as......
"It'll be alright boss, don't worry, we can do it" (Lee
"We've been in worse scrapes than this Dicky Boy" (Tony Femandez).
" They'll love it, I know they will" (Damian Wilson).
"Have you seen the size of the knockers on that bird over there" (Ant Glynne).
"The sound systems crap, but I'll do my best)" (lan Barfoot).
"I've just seen that bird Ant pointed out" (Mike Holden).
"Is there any food about" (Malcolm Welch).
"It's all gone horribly wrong" (Stuart Sawney).
The reality at the end of the day was that there were a lot of technical problems and the show did not adapt well to being played by a five piece as the music is quite simply arranged for a six piece and only a complete re-write will make it any different.
None of us were happy with the performance at the end of the day and we left the town square a little bit downcast. Some of the lads went for a pizza, Malcolm went for three pizzas and Ant went in search of the girl with the "mammari colossi". I was pretty miserable as Italy has become very much my second home and I desperately wanted the show to be a cracker, but that's life as they say and we all learned a few valuable lessons, including Ant who tells me that the swelling has only just started to go down.
Prior to Italy we had also had another one off performance, this time in Poland. The people there were fantastic with their hospitality but the attendance was disappointing for which many reasons were given but those who were there were very enthusiastic and we had a great time. In fact it was the very first, and only show that the English Rock Ensemble has not sold out. I think that makes it 32 sell-outs out of 33 performances, but I'm sure if I'm wrong somebody will correct me on the actual amount of shows we have done!
Looking to the future all is possibly not lost, as we have been offered alternative dates for the Central American shows and they now look like taking place next April]. We have also been offered two performances in Jakarta for February and four shows in Germany for July, so there is hope still that the minimum of seventy shows that I always hoped we would have for next year has at least got off to a promising start!
Still to come this year are the two shows in Russia. There is one in Moscow and one in St. Petersburg. I am really looking forward to these so much. I love Russia and the Russian people very much indeed. Although I've been there a load of times I have never played live there and so this will be pretty special for me. A full report will appear in the next newsletter. Let's hope we finish the year musically on a high.
This year, and in fact 2001 as well have not been at all satisfactory for me as regards recordings. I was delighted with OUT OF THE BLUE which I think is a cracking live album, (with a great cover .... ok I'm biased), and the DVD of the Argentinean show I am also well pleased with, but there has been no new material released as a studio album and this has been a let down for me.
There are a few reasons for this of which I am wholly responsible. To be truthful I haven't felt very inspired to write over the last year and a half and when you don't feel inspired it's best not to try to write. I have also not had a decent piano to write on and so I very much threw myself into the world of "live performance", which was actually very good for me as it helped gel a great band.
I suppose that the major disappointment for me as regards studio recording is that I have been unable to finish the studio album OUT THERE with the English Rock Ensemble that is stuck on being half way to completion.
A lot of great work has already been done by Ant and Lee, and it is very frustration not to already have the album completed ready for release around Easter when the new batch of touring starts, but sadly this is not to be. I am really excited about this album and realise that it needs a record company who can give it worldwide release if it is going to help the progress of the band and I'm also aware that a considerable sum of money is still needed in order to finish the album off, as it should be done.
There were two major players as regards record companies who wanted the album badly and had both committed themselves, but both pulled out at the 11th hour, would you believe using the disaster of New York as their excuse. (I have now heard this used by so many people for some of the most ridiculous reasons which have included the late delivery of the milk in the morning and the fact that there are now fewer sheets on a toilet roll)!
What transpired though after that was inevitable though and the album sadly had to come to a standstill, as I could no longer afford to finance it. I did have a choice to just finish it off "on the cheap", but this was never in the equation as I feel that this has the potential to be the best prog rock ERE album ever, even surpassing No Earthly Connection, of which OUT THERE is very much a twenty first century sequel.
It's not easy to have patience when you get to my age as frustration seems always to be the order of the day, but as far as this album is concerned I will make an exception and hang on in there.
Getting it finished is not a matter of when, but how. I am determined to get it finished and have further meetings with other interested parties in order to try and work out how to bring OUT THERE to fruition. An Easter release is still not entirely out of the question; it's just a matter of with whom it gets released.
It also suddenly occurred to me that there had been no studio release this year from me, (something almost unheard of), and although OUT OF THE BLUE has been really well received, it is a live album and not something containing new material and so I decided to set about putting that right.
The problem was that I was still not writing and so I had to try and come up with an idea of a new studio album that didn't involve coming up with the inspiration to create completely new material.
I have a folder that I keep in my desk that is simply marked "ideas" and basically every time I come up with an idea, whether in the car, on a plane or even on the loo, I write it down and when I get home, pop it in the folder. A couple of times a year I take the folder out and have a look at the contents. Seventy five percent gets thrown away straight immediately, (it's amazing some of the things that seem a good idea at the time that on a second look you realise are either impossible or ridiculous. (The rock pantomime and the rock concert on an aircraft carrier spring immediately to mind as those that ended up in the bin).
This time though I discovered a piece of paper listing thirty of my all time favourite classical themes and melodies and a short note describing how each one could be adapted and arranged with variations on the individual themes purely for the grand piano.
I really liked this idea and it fitted perfectly with what I felt I needed to do in creating a new studio album. It is a different form of "inspiration" when it comes to adapting already existing themes and something I really enjoy and so I spent the next few days finding the music concerned and chose the ten pieces I wanted to record. As Stuart was away on tour working with AI Stewart I contacted Erik Jordan who had worked on Return to the Centre of the Earth and a plan was hatched as to how the recordings could and would be done.
It was decided that the initial part of the recording would take place on the Isle of Man, which would also probably become the last recording there in Bajonor Studios and then further recordings would be at Phoenix Sound which is based in the old CTS studios at Wembley which was opening up under new management.
I then went out to Italy where I have a beautiful new piano which I obtained from GEM keyboards who are a huge Italian keyboard manufacturer and then spent a week setting about putting the variations together ready for the recording.
Recording has now been completed and the pieces turned out better than I had hoped, so all in all I am delighted with the end result. Bajonor Studios has now been as good closed down, and the finished CD, which is being released by President Records, has been entitled Classical Variations and will hopefully be available in time for you all to purchase for your Christmas stocking!
The master and all the sleeve notes have all been delivered and the art work is currently being done by President Records, but for those of you who can't wait to find out what the pieces are I've chosen, here they are: -
The CD runs for just over 57 minutes.
The recordings I would like to do for next year are already planned. One will somehow be OUT THERE once it is completed and for next summer there will be an unusual album of piano and the English Chamber Choir which will have some live concerts to support it in selected national Trust Stately Homes around the UK. There may be one or two other surprises as well, but more about those in the next newsletter.
It's not been a great year for television appearances and for some reason I seem to be out of favour with some of the shows that I used to do regularly, such as
Countdown, on which I have not appeared now for nearly two years. This is actually a feature as to how television works with producers coming and going on different programmes who use their own "favourites" and tend to ditch the favourites of the previous producer. Hopefully that situation will improve next year.
No Generation Game either this year and just a handful of other appearances which include Under Offer, TV Scrabble, Through the Keyhole and a Banzai Christmas appearance as well as one on Songs of Praise. There have been the odd other appearances here and there but all in all it has been a very disappointing year.
Three pilots were produced for the new BBC digital radio network with Ashley Franklin sitting in the producer's chair. It is hoped that when the station is launched next year that there will be a regular once a week "Rick Wakeman Rock Show", but we'll just all have to wait and see.
Adam has been very busy. It started with him and his lovely wife Teri going on their long awaited honeymoon. (That was actually where he was when the rest of us were in Jesi).
Most honeymooners go to a nice romantic hotel somewhere and ... well er....you know.
Adam and Teri went backpacking up a mountain in Peru. They came back with more than 200 bites between them. Teri had 187 of them from tropical insects and Adam had 13, of which Teri said 12 were self-inflicted.
You can read all about Ad's exploits at his web site: www.adamwakeman.com , which also include details of his YES tribute album that he produced which has had great reviews. (Great organ solo on Roundabout by the way .... I wonder who did it?)
Oliver launched his new album The Age Of Magick which has been really well received and even better news is Oliver announced his engagement to the beautiful Lisa, (which meets with tremendous approval from dad). That's two out of two as far as I'm concerned. By next summer I will be lucky enough to have two wonderful daughters-in-law. Again you can follow Oliver's musical exploits on his website which can be linked from Rick's website
Ben, who is currently living in Lausanne in Switzerland, has been writing songs with his "half" brother Charlie. I haven't heard any of the music yet, but I'm sure I will.
Jemma has signed a three-year publishing and production deal with Arena Music and is currently recording loads of songs at a studio near London.
Oscar is still playing the drums and wants a lesson from the Greasy Wop!
Alina has launched her website to rave reviews, which was wonderfully put together by Wayne Smith and you can visit it at www.alinabencini.com
Stuart Sawney has been out on tour with AI Stewart and lan Barfoot, amongst a very busy schedule, was responsible for the sound at this years Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.
Mike Holden has been busily preparing for his "Christmas job" as company manager at Truro where I am in panto at the Hall For Cornwall, (more about that later), and Malcolm Welch has been off selling merchandise for Grace and Gordon Giltrap as well as helping me compile a very unusual set of recordings. (More about that in the "End Of An Era" newsletter at the end of next January.
Erik Jordan has started his own studios with an editing suite that amongst other things was responsible for Classical Variations.
The press have been pretty kind to me this year, as far as the music goes anyway. (I have continuously refused to reply to articles about the divorce and to answer the grossly inaccurate rubbish and downright untruths from the stories that were sold to the press as I do not wish to be dragged into gutter money journalism or to upset my kids anymore than they have been by the unnecessary articles).
More importantly, we've had great reviews for all the DVDS, (Classic Pictures have done a fantastic job with all of these), and also the CDs have had great reviews as well and this has certainly resulted in sales exceeding expectations. I just hope this trend continues into next year, although the key to it all is getting the product out in other countries around the world.
As I'm sure most of you are aware, after seven years of turning it down, I have finally succumbed and agreed to do panto! To be honest it didn't take much persuading as last Christmas was a pretty miserable affair and this seemed like a really good idea.
I'm playing the part of Abanazer in Aladdin at the Hall for Cornwall in Truro which is a beautiful modern 1000 seater theatre and there are more than forty performances scheduled to plough through which I'm really looking forward to. At the time of writing this newsletter more than 50% of the seats had already been sold and that with six weeks still to go before opening night, so we could be finishing on a really nice high. Roy Hudd has written a brilliant script and I'm learning my lines and songs, (yes that's right, songs), at every opportunity I get.
This is a new part of the newsletter where we throw in useless pieces of information that if you don't like things like golf and football, you might as well turn the page now!
I am very pleased to announce as an opener that I won a television at the Tim Healy Golf Classic at Ramside Golf and Country Club near Sunderland by being in the winning team. (I am so pleased about this; I might repeat it again later on in this newsletter)!
Rumours of my joining YES in Amsterdam for the filming of their current tour were always a non-starter as I would be in Russia at the time.
I played 72 very enjoyable holes of golf in one day in Scotland with Vinnie Jones for charity. Great fun being transferred by helicopter from course to course. For the connoisseurs amongst you we played Skibo, Gleneagles, Turnberry and St. Andrews.
Adam has written the music for a new television sit-com although he hasn't told anyone what it's called yet!
Oliver will be getting married next summer in Devon.
Who else is getting married I hear you cry? Could The Greasy Wop be next? All will be revealed in a forthcoming newsletter?
Lee Pomeroy beat them all by getting married a few months ago to the lovely Roz, and we understand the reception party has still not finished! 2002?
I really am frightened to make any predictions anymore as looking back over the years I have not had a great success in predicting what the year ahead is likely to bring, but tradition says I have to have to so here goes with the top ten predictions for 2002.
This time though I'm going to be a little more cautious and give each prediction a percentage number out of 100. The higher the number, the more chance I think it will have of happening. Here goes............
And in joint tenth position....
Well that's about it for 2001.
I for one will not be sorry to see the back of it but one thing is for certain, I couldn't have got through the last couple of years without real friends, true support and genuine encouragement, and between your good selves, the English Rock Ensemble, the crew, Candy, my kids and Alina, I would quite seriously have quit by now, so thank you all from deep in my heart and make sure you all have a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Years celebration to hopefully give you all a great kick start into 2002.