First of all we apologise profusely for the late arrival of this newsletter, but hopefully what you are about to read will, in everybody eyes, render all apologies as being totally founded and completely understood by all. Certainly from our perspective, putting the news in this particular edition has probably brought more pleasure than in any other issue over the years.
For weeks now we have all been "sweating" on waiting for various pieces of news to be confirmed to us and it is only now that we have finally got most of the "Jig saw" pieces in place that we have been waiting for, has the newsletter been able to go to print.
How many times has this heading appeared in newsletters over the years? (we've certainly lost count), and how many times has Rick been on the verge of getting the RIGHT deal necessary to produce the sequel to "Journey" only to see it collapse at the final hurdle for one reason or another? (we've lost count on that score too).
The problem has always been the same. Getting record companies interested in Return to The Centre of The Earth was never a problem, but getting them to understand the complexity of putting it all together plus the enormous cost in order to make it a far superior technical recording than the original. Add to this the need to make the whole thing something really special, (as against a cheap follow-up throwaway) well, that was where it always fell down time and time again.
That is until EMI appeared on the scene late last year.
The ball was set rolling by Rick's very close friend, Nic Caciappo in Modesto, California. (Many of you will know of Nic from his days of running the best YES information service and magazine). Once the ball had started moving, Frank Rodgers, (from the Product Exchange), took over the role as management for the project and commenced negotiations in January in London.
From word go, the enthusiasm by all at EMI for "Return" was fantastic. Rick was summoned to a meeting in February for further presentation of his ideas of how he saw everything and also to hear what EMI felt the route to progress should be.
There was never any doubt that at last Rick had found kindred spirits who really felt the same way about "Return" as he did, and in fact had even bigger ideas and plans than even he did himself!
The outcome of this first meeting surprised even Rick (and let's face it, not much surprises him these days!)
For starters all Rick's cost-cutting exercises were thrown into the dustbin. EMI wanted the best.
In came the London Symphony Orchestra, in came the full English Chamber Choir and Rick's dream "guest appearance list" was approved with genuine excitement.
A stunned Wakeman returned to the Isle of Man to sweat and wonder what would happen to destroy it all from happening!
As usual, rumours started flying about everywhere, including on the dreaded world wide web. WHY DON'T PEOPLE SIMPLY READ THE NEWSLETTER OR CONTACT WAYNE ON THE WEB-SITE FOR THE REAL FACTS?!
However it is fun to watch people speculate and whilst nobody actually denied that we were very close to a deal and that we were also very, very excited about all that was hopefully about to happen, it has to be said that we were all very nervous here, as even when this close to the dream becoming a reality, there are still many things that can go wrong and kill "Return" for yet another time.
Draft contracts finally appeared on the respective lawyer's desks in early March but by the second week in April Rick had heard little or nothing back as to how things were progressing, except to hear of one or two stumbling blocks that had appeared, but not to worry!!
NOT TO WORRY! WHO WERE THEY KIDDING!
(In order to help pass the time, Rick purchased as many disaster books as possible in order to prepare himself for the worst. In one day he read Titanic, Scott of the Antarctic, The Hindenberg, The Great Fire of London, The Locherbie Disaster and the most terrifying one of all .... Manchester City - the season 1997/98)
Then on the 23rd of April, (St George's Day), following a very enjoyable game of golf in Buckinghamshire, at Harewood Downs for Fulham Football Club's annual golf day, Rick drove to London in order to arrive at EMI offices in Baker Street by 3.45pm.
At 4.30pm the contracts were signed on the roof of the EMI building. (Shades of the Beatles)
At the signing were EMI representatives world wide, and their enthusiasm for Return to the Centre of the Earth literally show no bounds and everybody without exception is as excited about the outcome as Rick is.
After more discussions on promotion and the general itinerary of the recording of the whole work, Rick then walked out of EMI's office and went to the first available hostelry with Frank Rodgers in order to have a celebratory drink. (For the record, Frank had a large scotch and Rick had a Pepsi Cola)! (Frank then had another large scotch and Rick had another Pepsi Cola)!
The release date is set for the 18th of January 1999. Sound familiar? It should be, as it will be exactly 25 years to the day from that of the live recording of the original concert and production of Journey to the Centre of the Earth and already Marshall Arts, (the agents and producers who handle everybody from McCartney to Michael Jackson), are putting together the final arrangements for the premier concert of "Return" on the same date 25 years on. At the time of going to press it is looking extremely likely that this will be at Wembley Arena but confirmation may well take a few more weeks to come in as negotiations are still taking place.
Further concerts are already being put into place all over the world and will include such exotic locations as Korea, Seoul, Australia, South America, USA, Europe (East and West) and Japan. These performances will take place over a period of twelve to eighteen months.
Some of the guest artists that Rick wants to have on board both for the recording and the live concert have already been approached and all who have replied so far have been very positive about the project. Obviously though, until we have full confirmation of individual availability and associated agreements have been reached with managements and agents, we have been asked not to name any names at this juncture you'll just have to wait for the next newsletter or scour the RWCC site on the internet on a regular basis!
Recording has already begun with the first priority being., that of the production of demos of the main songs which will then be sent to the respective guest artists for their initial input before being called upon to do the final recording.
The main body of the recording "backing tracks" will then be made in Rick's studio, which has undergone a serious rebuild in preparation for the project.
In come new keyboards from E-mu Systems along with new hard disk recorders and more digital recording systems.
Throughout the coming months, Rick will be working on the orchestrations as well as the choir arrangements and in September recording of the orchestra and choir will take place at CTS Studios in Wembley, North London. (All the work undertaken in Rick's studio will be transferred to state of the art 48 track digital machines in preparation for the orchestral and choir sessions.)
Mixing will also be undertaken at CTS with the final delivery to EMI at the end of September. Undoubtedly this is the most exciting musical event for Rick for more years than we all care to remember and because of the amount of work that is required in putting both the recording and concert performance together, a lot of the "usual" annual plans have been kicked into touch, the main one being that there will be no three piece tour at the end of the year. In fact it very much appears that 1997 will turn out to be the very last time that the three piece line up be seen or heard outside of corporate events. Rick had pretty much decided that last year would be the last anyway as financially the shows never made any sense whatsoever. However it is possible that a few solo church dates will appear in November just to keep his fingers working though! These would be additional performances of the "Words and Music" concert that took place at Easter.
Obviously more and more news and confirmation of guests etc., will come pouring in over the next few weeks and for that reason the next newsletter will appear in July in order to keep everybody up to date with all the developments that happen.
You now know as much as we do, so please don't inundate us with questions we can't answer!!
In the meantime, please don't telephone Candy asking her where to get tickets from for the concert on January the 18th, as they haven't been printed yet! However we do plan to get hold of a block of the best seats we can and hold them initially for the exclusive purchase by RWCC members. If you would like to go on this "list" for some of these tickets, then do please fax or write into the office (or e-mail the website) and state your requirements! There is no limit as to the number of the tickets that can be applied for although at this stage please DO NOT send any money.
We know that a lot of you have been waiting for this to happen as long as all of us involved with Rick have, and so we would really like to thank you all for the letters of encouragement and support over such a long period of time, that many of you have sent, whilst we have been striving to put Return to the Centre of the Earth together.
The seventeen date tour of churches in the UK finally took place in March and April, with the final performance taking place on Easter Sunday in Solihull.
It was a miracle that the tour took place at all, as many of you are aware, the agency involved in putting these tours together went into liquidation shortly after Christmas, taking with it deposits that had already been paid by the churches for the tour and also a large amount of outstanding money owed both to Rick and also Nina for her tours last year.
After consultation with Paul Field and also the churches involved, it was decided to go ahead with a many evenings as possible and to that extent Candy did such a fantastic job, that she has made it her own and she will be booking all the church tours from now on.
As it turned out was it was very much the right decision to go ahead. Attendance was extremely high and reaction was tremendous. Both Rick and Paul felt that the evening was far superior to the initial "Piano Tour" and it is planned to do a further twenty one performances at other churches in November.
We would like to thank all those who came along to see the evening and hope that enjoyed it as much as Rick and Paul did.
Yes there's always a spot for the Christmas party in the newsletter!
In a nutshell, it will either be during the "Words and Music" tour in November, or just before or after the "Return" concert in January. We'll let you know!
As mentioned in the last newsletter though, we will have to set a minimum number of people needed to make it cost effective which will probably be around the 250 mark.
Its been a very mixed bag so far this year. one of the highlights being when Rick recorded another seven programmes for COUNTDOWN just before Easter. (He just can't wait for his turn to keep coming around) ! The programmes start airing on the 18th of May ..... another vaguely familiar date!
Of all things, Rick is to be featured on a computer programme. Yes we know! He knows about as much computer TeleTubbies know about speech therapyl Well once you've stopped laughing and regained your composure, read on.
The programme is called "The Computer Doesn't Bite" and is a BBC transmission. (We don't know whether it is BBC 1 or 2 at the moment).
Basically Rick had to review three computers, and then give his verdict on which was the best buy.
We all know that Rick is not the most computer literate man in the world, (he is in fact the only person we know of who has somehow managed to send an e-mail giving details of the London Symphony Orchestra to a garden centre in Norfolk)
So how did he manage to get away with it?
Quite simple really.
Rick has a very good friend called Jonathon Brierley who works for Intel. Two solid hours with him at their head office in Swindon and Rick knew more "buzz" words than a bee caught in a spider's web. He left there knowing an awful lot of words and expressions all currently in use in the computer industry and providing that nobody on the programme decided to ask him what any of them meant .... he'd be all right ...... and luckily nobody did!
We don't have a schedule for the programme yet, so we suggest you just keep your eyes open for "Multimedia Wakeman " when the series appears.
Collector's Lot came over to the Isle of Man and filmed Rick's pen collection and also his Williams books. Both programmes have been aired, and Rick missed both of them! If you caught them, let us know how they went.
Live at Jongleurs looks like being recorded again sometime in August/September which will have to be slotted in somehow so that it doesn't interfere with "Return". There will be another fifteen programmes made bringing the total to date up to sixty.
Some of you satellite television freaks, (like Rick), may well have seen him as one of the presenters for the Monty Python weekend recently. Rick's main task was to introduce The Ruttles although he did pop up elsewhere for some of the actual Python programmes themselves. The one disaster this year, (and let's hope that it is the only one), has been Lineker's Golden Boots. Worldmark Productions, who originally commissioned Rick to compose the music for the series, ended up screwing Rick into the ground over this and once they brought in a new director, who to put it mildly, hated Rick, hated Rick's music and hated anybody who even mentioned Rick's name, the writing was on the wall. The director's main objective in life always seemed to be that of removing Rick from the project and as directors always have the last say, he eventually succeeded.
Incredible amounts of time in the studio, plus a lot of wasted money and energy did not make Rick a happy man!
One of the other sad parts of all this, is that Rick used to have a very good relationship with all at Worldmark Productions, but sadly this has now disappeared forever. As Rick said afterwards though .... "I wish them no ill feeling and I hope they go on to success after success"
Actually, he didn't say this at all. What he did say and call Drummond Challis, (their managing director), is totally unprintable! (and also physically impossible to achieve)!
The only live performances this year are liable to be either the church shows or corporate functions as understandably, "Return" is really taking pride of place over everything.
So far this year the lads have got together just the once and that was at Rick's golf day on the 24th of April at Stockley Park. The actual tournament was followed in the evening by a gala dinner at Savill Court near Wentworth and after the prize giving there was a quite fantastic "cabaret", which those of you who attended I'm sure will agree that you witnessed a pretty unique evening of entertainment. So successful was the evening, that over £15,000 was raised for the SPARKS charity.
The auction alone raised £5,000 which included a signed England shirt which was donated by Glen Hoddle who is a good friend of Rick's. This raised £1,600 alone! Glen also attended the evening bash and spent the entire night signing autographs. Amongst other celebrities who took part in the golf and evening were Jimmy Tarbuck, Kenny Lynch, Anna Walker, Mike Redfern, Ray Clemence, Lance Percival, Eric Sykes, Garfield Morgan, Bruce Grobelar, Duncan Preston and Tony Gubba.
Another interesting auction item was a pair of tickets for the 'Return' concert in January. The two tickets sold for £1,200.
So where can we see the lads we hear you cry? Well on the 31st May, Rick is taking part, (along with Adam and Fraser), in a concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic in order to raise funds for Clatterbridge Hospital, who looked after Rick's mum so wonderfully during her illness. Tickets are now available for this evening to see Rick and along with many other entertainers, (including Stan Boardman, The Flint Male Voice Choir, The Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra and much, more), this should prove to be a very enjoyable evening.
There has been a real drought of 'Wakeman' releases over the last twelve months or so, in spite of quite a stock pile growing in the studio of finished and half finished titles.
In fact there has been nothing!
To counter this drought, and to help you avoid WMWS, (Wakeman Music Withdrawal Syndrome), President Records are releasing an album entitled 'Themes'. It may prove to be quite an interesting collectors item as it also contains some of the music that was written for Golden Boots and never used, including the theme song 'On Our Way'. Obviously the music was rerecorded as soon as it was known that it was no longer needed for the television series.
It's quite a diverse album with vocals from both Fraser Thorneycroft-Smith and Chrissie Hammond as well as lots of extremely interesting instrumental tracks. Look out for a new name on bass. (We're deliberately not telling you who it is so that you'll have to go out and buy 'Themes' in order to find out his name.)
The release date will be sometime later in May/June, so by the time you receive this newsletter it should already be available. If you can't get it through your usual outlet, then please give Candy a call and we'll get it for you. Please do us all a favour though and whenever you go into your local record retail outlet, ask for Themes and then start ordering it. If you really want to ram it down their throats, you can tell them that the label is President and the distributor is Grapevine!
There is also a distinct possibility that at least one of the trilogies will come out before the end of this summer, possibly on a resurrected Ambient Records label. Also, White Rock II may well appear, either on Music Fusion or on President Records. This recording consists of original music used for the 'Reflections of Winter' series for Trans World International, which has already been aired twice on Sky Sports.
It's also interesting to note that Trans World International used the music that was left over from Reflections for their series on Wimbledon and the history of tennis there.
Apart from these possible releases, it is highly unlikely that anything else will be put out this year as everything is understandably gearing toward that magical date in January.
As mentioned in the last newsletter, Hope Records is about to become part of the Music Fusion set up and any new releases will not happen until this has taken place.
The Hope logo will still appear on all of its releases, but technically it will belong to Music Fusion Limited.
The first release after the merger is likely to be that of 'Noah' with the English Chamber Choir.
In the meantime, all Christian distribution has been taken away from STL, where things hadn't worked out at all well and Rick eventually had no option but to withdraw all the stock. Pinnacle, who have been doing a tremendous job in the secular market, continue their good work and the Christian distribution now looks like going to Kevin Mayhew in Suffolk.
For those of you who continually ask us about music, (manuscript) and why we haven't had any out for over twenty years, well things are about to change .... albeit slowly!
Initially Kevin Mayhew will be producing the 'hymn' book produced by Rick and Howard Prior. (This has been mentioned in previous newsletters), the collection will be called HOPESONGS and features two of the songs Rick wrote and performed on songs of Praise. Following on not too far behind will be Noah and possibly The New Gospels. The last two will be dealt with in piano form and also available in more orchestral detail. Discussions are also taking place with them as regards the music for 'Return' and also for other compositions by Rick.
As regards earlier compositions appearing in sheet music form, the situation is extremely complicated. A lot will depend on agreements being reached between Rick and the people who own his past music as to whether anything written prior to 1995 will ever see the light of day in music form.
It's been confirmed that Rick will be recording the music for two pantomimes this year that are being produced by Jim Davidson's production company. Recording will take place in October. Rumour has it that some of the music will be based around The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
The musical HOUDINI, and Effective Productions project with Rick composing the score, is moving ahead at a rate of knots although we reckon that the intended opening in Summer 1999 is a little ambitious.
Well that's about it for this edition. once again we're really sorry for the delay but sincerely hope that you all feel that the main news contained within was well worth waiting for.
Text scanned, OCRd and checked by Jon Hinchliffe