I've been having a quick flick through my diary to see if I can find two weeks marked “holiday”, but it seems that I've screwed up yet again and won't be having one! They say that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Well if that's the case, then I must be the most boring person on earth!
2004 is certainly racing by. It seems like only yesterday that it was Christmas and I was doing pantomime...wait a minute...pantomime was more than three years ago...so what happened to 2002 and 2003?...
...well now it's the summer of 2004 and looking at the dairy once again it would appear that very soon I'll be writing the Christmas newsletter and asking where the summer went, (and Autumn for that matter).
I packed my bags for the umpteenth time in my life back at the end of March, and set off for Heathrow Airport in order to fly to Seattle for rehearsals prior to starting the first leg of the 35 th Anniversary tour in America. Whilst the traveling can get tiring, there is always a sense of expectation before the start of any tour, and this one was no exception and I was certainly looking forward to it.
Rehearsals went really well and over a period of a couple of weeks a pretty radical set was put together incorporating such pieces as Mind Drive, Sweet Dreams and Every Little Thing, none of which had ever been played live by the band before. An acoustic set was added to open the second half and an encore playing Soon was welcomed by me as a very pleasant change from the usual choices that we pick when trotting back on for the encore.
At the end of the second week we moved from the rehearsal studio to a small arena in upstate Washington where we were to see the Roger Dean staging for the first time. Initial impact was amazing. It was absolutely brilliant and we all loved it in spite of the fact that only two thirds of it had arrived. We were promised the remaining staging within a week and so everybody was happy.
The tour got off to a great start and the “new style set” seemed to go down well with everybody. Not all the band were entirely happy with the musicality of the set and in true YES democratic style the encore of Soon was given the “heave-ho” with just three shows to go. A sad loss as far as I was concerned but certainly not the end of the world!
The highlight of the tour for me was undoubtedly the show in Philadelphia and playing at the “old” Spectrum. I class this venue as truly YES's spiritual home and the reaction and feeling there is nothing short of astonishing. Madison Square Garden was also pretty amazing but it has to be said that overall the band gave it's all everywhere it played and audiences gave their all back to us. A winning combination all round.
The show was filmed in Boston which certainly for me was a disappointing concert for many reasons . For starters I had been told by the producer that I couldn't where any of my “trademark” long coats as they were all too bright . I mentioned politely that that was how I dress and it had never been a problem before, but was told once again I couldn't wear any of them. I ended up wearing a black tee-shirt and black trousers.....hardly very me, but I went along with it to keep the peace.
Performance wise, for me , and I suspect some of the other guys, it was not one of the highlights of the tour, but I am told that everything can be fixed in the mix!!.....(now where have I heard that old saying before)?....Sadly, some bright spark, (who refuses to own up to this day) , turned off the air-conditioning on stage and in the arena because it was affecting the recording and filming, (or so they say) , and the temperature shot up to well above that of a sauna in the middle of the Sahara Desert. We were all ringing wet with sweat, Jon could hardly sing. The keys on the keyboards were like trying to play notes covered in ice they were so slippery, which severely hampered what I was able to physically play and the mini moog “sweated” so badly inside the workings it finally had no option but to “electrically short out”. By the time we finished I had lost three other keyboards as well as the mini moog. I was not exactly a happy boy.
The tour was now over and I trundled off to New York for a few days before returning to Europe. The gear set off for Norway to await our arrival for the European leg, and that strange surreal feeling that comes over you whenever a tour comes to an end, started to set in.
Sometime way back at the beginning of the year, I had been asked to perform at Moogfest, a celebration of 50 years of the Moog Synthesizer in the honoured presence of Dr. Bob Moog at a club called Ben E Kings on 42 nd Street in New York. By pure coincidence the show was to take place on my birthday and, as I had nothing else planned for my birthday, (well when you reach 55 you start trying to forget how old you are) , it seemed like a really good idea.....and so it turned out to be as well.
The world and his uncle seem to be taking part in the evening and it was brilliantly organized as well. There was a wonderful party atmosphere and the camaraderie was amazing. I was playing just the one piece, (a very long version of Catherine Parr), and had a pretty amazing band performing with me containing some of the top New York session boys and to say they were “good” would be the understatement of the year! Jason from Dream Theater joined me as well to play the parts that Adam used to play years ago and all went swimmingly well. Korg were amazing in sorting out keyboards for me to go with the mini-moog and my great friend, ex NYPD detective Billy Burns, was on hand to “look after me” and keep me out of trouble, which he certainly did!
As I went on stage I was unexpectedly followed by Bob Moog and Keith Emerson, the latter playing Happy Birthday on the Moog synthesizer and then in front of a very enthusiastic crowd I was presented with a huge cake on a huge stand by a very pretty scantily dressed young lady with huge........well, some things are best left to your imagination I think!
Unfortunately I had to leave before the end of the evening's celebrations as I had to get up really early the following morning in order to catch a flight to London, and after just three hours sleep, that's exactly what I did.
After a few meetings in London, I flew back to the Isle of Man to collect some clean clothes. My flat there has it's own way of telling me that it doesn't like being left empty for long periods and on this occasion it's “welcome home” included such niceties as various light bulbs not working, more sewerage effluence in the basement, damp in the bathroom wall and a pile of bills on the mat that made it virtually impossible to open the front door.
Nevertheless, I did the dirty laundry, packed a suitcase of clean clothes and set off for Italy, where I spent two days with Alina whilst doing various interviews for the upcoming Italian dates.
At the end of May I flew from Milan to Helsinki and the following day we rehearsed an alternative set from the one performed in America. This was brought about because many of the shows were either festivals, had small stages or had support acts and therefore at best we could only play for two hours and in some cases just one and a half hours. Some stages were really small and so the first thing to get the “axe” was the acoustic set. There was little or no room for the Roger Dean stage set, (mind you, the missing third had still yet to arrive), and so with a couple of other musical pieces removed, I suddenly found myself with not very much to play as regards what went on in the keyboard department. I gave it my all as always, but it was not a satisfying set to play although towards the end of the tour a few changes were made and I stuck in Jane Seymour for good measure which was good fun.
In contrast to the shortened shows, Wembley Arena, the NEC, the Manchester Evening News Arena and the SEC in Scotland were great shows as at each one we were able to do the full 35 th Anniversary Show with all the Roger Dean staging and the acoustic set. At Wembley, Classic Pictures hosted a party for the band and celebrity friends which went on until the early hours of the morning and great fun was had by all, especially “me” as I was able to spend a very long time talking to one of my heroes and fellow Grumpy Old Man, Jeremy Clarkson.
Sadly, at the end of the Wembley show, our back stage assistant, Wade, was taken ill and was rushed into hospital. Whilst in hospital we learned the tragic news that his mother had died back in America and so upon leaving hospital, he left the tour with all our thoughts and prayers. His position was filled for the remainder of the tour by non other than Mike “Happy” Holden.
We were in fact about the only band that were on tour during the European Cup, (surprise, surprise), and this came to the forefront when a few days into the tour, the Spanish shows were given the heave-ho and we all found ourselves with a week off! (Amazing to note that the Madrid show was actually scheduled for the quarter final day that should Spain have got through, then that was the day they would have been playing!!)
After the “enforced” weeks break, we all returned for some shows in Italy, Switzerland and two further shows in England. The first Italian show was an open air affair about an hour out of Milan and was attended by about 2,000 people and 167,000 mosquitoes. We could only play for about an hour and a half because it was so late by the time we went on but that was enough time for Alan and I to be bitten to death. (It really is amazing the places these mosquitoes can get to in order to suck some blood)!
We then moved on to Sardinia which truly is a most beautiful Island and 95% of it is absolutely stunning.
We stayed in the other 5%.
True one day when it is finished, this 5% will also be beautiful, but at the moment, it isn't.
We then flew to Milan and drove to Lugano in order to play at the Estoval festival there. This was truly the highlight of the European Tour as far as I was concerned. Many friends showed up which gave it a real party atmosphere and my son Ben and his girlfriend Ana came in from Montreux to see the show as well. The show was shown live on Swiss Television and although it was not the full 3 hours, but a two hour show, it was fabulous and the TV company did a fantastic job....(now there's the show that should be released on DVD)! The rain was torrential but the enthusiasm of the audience could not be dampened and their enthusiasm certainly spread to us on stage and it was a truly amazing night.
The next day we all flew to England and set off for the beautiful county of Devon where we were due to play at a festival at Powderham Castle, which is a real beautiful setting just outside of Exeter. The weather just about held off and the show was most enjoyable. During the day I had been asked to open a big classic car event, (boy did I enjoy that....2000 classic cars strewn across the grounds of Powderham Castle), and once again it was good to meet up with old friends whom I hadn't seen for years since living in the area in the mid seventies.
The next day was something really special.
Back at the beginning of the year, I had “fronted” a television programme for BBC 1 entitled Jesus Who? One of the many places we visited whilst making the programme was Helen House.
Helen House is the most wonderful hospice for children and is situated in the heart of the city of Oxford. Founded and run by the most amazing nun you could ever wish to meet, I was deeply moved by getting to meet her and to witness first hand all the wonderful work that Sister Francis and her amazing team do day after day. After leaving there back at Easter time, I privately vowed that if ever given the opportunity I would like to try and do something to help.
For reasons too complicated to go into, YES suddenly found themselves with Sunday July 11 th free. With less than a month to get things organized I asked the guys in YES if they would do a charity performance of the acoustic set on this day in aid of Helen House. Without hesitation they all agreed and arrangements were hastily put into action.
I have to say that everybody just voluntarily pitched in amazing fashion to make this wonderful night happen. Our agent, Keith Naisbitt, in co-ordination with AAA, the promoters of the UK dates, managed to secure the New Theatre at Oxford. Classic Pictures pitched straight in and organized fund raising events for the night, calls came in from loads of show-biz friends of mine who wanted to take part and an astonishing evening started to take shape which eventually would include the likes of Jim Davidson, Steve Rawlings, Paul Boardman, Roger de Courcey with Nookie Bear and a young lad called Alistair who stole the show.
I had met and interviewed Alistair at Helen House and his strength of character, musicianship and talent had shone through all that he has had to cope with throughout his life. He came on stage and played and sang one of his songs that completely brought the house down. Truly a magical moment for us all and a reception that Alistair richly deserved. I know he has recorded many of his songs and he should record a lot more.....I may just have to have a word with him about that.
The final show of the tour was at Braintree in Essex in an Equestrian Centre. It was a “muggy” and “humid” evening and any doubt that we were playing in a place more usually frequented by our equine friends was soon dispelled as the staging seemed to have been conveniently built over an area where apparently the horses stopped at regular intervals to relieve themselves as often as possible. Hot air rises as you are all aware, and by 10pm the rancid smell had truly risen to head height on stage.........and it stayed there throughout the entire performance.
Strangely enough, this place has the potential to be a really good venue and I wish them lots of luck in making it so, as there is not much in the way of places to play of this size east of London and this could be a funky little winner.
And so the tour came to an end and I set off to spend the night at a hotel at Gatwick Airport before catching the morning flight back to the Isle of Man....in order to pick up some more clean clothes!
I stayed in the flat for just four days, during which the lavatory fell off the wall, the cooker packed up, the effluence in the basement rose by another couple of inches and the holes in the roof allowed another few gallons of rain water to enter the property via various internal walls.
I think it's about time I moved.
Television and Other Media
With so much of my time revolving around the YES schedule, television has been a bit thin on the ground, although one or two “highlights” have managed to fit themselves into the busy schedule.
Top of the list has to be the filming of the new series of Grumpy Old Men. Most enjoyable and another great opportunity to get things off my chest...
....and once again.....I did!
This really is a “must watch” series as will be “He Says, She Says”, a new series from the same production company, Liberty Bell. Loosely based on what women and men say, but what the true meanings of what they say really is, it can only be described as hilarious. I found myself being rather forthright on this subject having had reasonable experience of this area of verbal confusion. To say that Charlotte, (the producer), was somewhat shocked, bemused, stunned and lost for words at some of my observations, would be putting it mildly......one to watch.....(and hopefully for my own personal safety I will be out of the country when it is aired) !!!!
I also spent the most pleasant day at an amazing steel works in Sheffield called Magna and I can highly recommend it for a family visit if you're in the area as well. I was actually there to front a programme celebrating the 25 years of the heavy metal band Saxon and it was really interesting and a lot of fun to do as well. In order to deliver my lines, I was positioned in front of mechanical wizardry that hissed, exploded, showered sparks everywhere and made noises I'd only ever heard before in sci-fi movies. All in all it was great fun and certainly a programme to watch if it gets shown in your region.
In late September and early October, after the YES US tour is over, I will be hosting a new television reality show based upon the ideas set out in the film School of Rock, which starred Rick's friend Jack Black, and in which I gets a nice mention regarding the organ solo in Roundabout.
This looks like being a cracking good television show and should be quite a challenge to say the least.
It looks like being pretty busy for the rest of the year. On August 16th I leave to start rehearsals for the US outdoor tour where we are supported by Dream Theater.
Sadly YES are only able to perform for 2 hours as against the 3 hour show we like to do, and subsequently we will be trying to make it a little different from what we have done already this year. The phone lines and e-mails between myself and my fellow compatriots in the band have been red hot over the last week or so as we try and come up with a set that we are all happy with. We are almost there and I'm sure it will be a cracking good show.
The tour finishes on September the 22 nd in Mexico and then I return to the UK to do a fund-raising show at Berkley Castle on the 25 th with various guests who have yet to be confirmed.
It is possible that YES will tour Japan and other territories in that area from mid-November until mid-December, but that has yet to be confirmed.
The 13 th of August sees my annual golf day at Burgh Hill in Surrey. An amazing array of celebrities are turning up for this event, so if you're in the area and want to bring your autograph book along, please feel free to do so. Entrance is free.
From the 9 th until the 16 th of October Rick will be taking a band to Cuba for some charity fundraising shows in aid of an orphanage there for terminally ill children. There looks like being three shows during this period. The band will be a changed line-up from the Out There tour due to financial and travel restraints. More details in the next newsletter.
Very shortly Vicky will be moving into a small office in Ipswich from where she will be running Rick's affairs in her capacity as his PA. This will mean that for the first time since closing down the office on the Isle of Man, there will be an address that people can write to. This will be printed in the next newsletter.
Adam is currently out on tour with Black Sabbath and thoroughly enjoying himself in spite of the fact that people keep telling me that he's pretty well hidden behind one of the PA stacks!
Ashley Holt and his family have joined the exodus started by Tony Fernandez and have moved to Portugal and are loving every minute of it.
The YESACOUSTIC DVD reached number one in the UK dvd charts and number 8 in Italy.
The OUT THERE dvd is now freely available around the world and has received some really good reviews too.
The compilation album “REVISITED” seems to be doing pretty well in the USA and in certain European territories and I have to say that the record company concerned have done an excellent promotional job.
Mascot records who handle the Music Fusion label have released OUT THERE and OUT OF THE BLUE throughout Europe.
At the moment there seem to be no fixed plans for any recordings from either YES or myself for the near future. CD sales have all but collapsed over the last few years and are virtually loss makers these days and so everybody is thinking of alternative ways to present music. DVD is an obvious example but with the visuals can become expensive. Down-loading is another possibility but is difficult to control. It's certainly sad that YES have released nothing new for more than three years and it is more than a year now since I released a solo project.
The business has certainly changed and it is hard to see where some of us “oldies” fit in. It may well be that we don't and therefore it necessitates us creating a niche, much in the way that we did in the early seventies, in order to present our music. It will need industry support though and that is where I see the problems starting.
Well that's about it as regards what's happened and what is likely to happen. You can rest assured that the next newsletter will contain some quite surprising stuff too.....How do I know this?........
...........simply because I write it!
Love to you all.......................Rick