See Rick Wakeman's Piano Odyssey tour at Ipswich Corn Exchange October 26
PUBLISHED: 13:47 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:49 25 October 2018
Music maestro Rick Wakeman talks the success of his Piano Portraits and Piano Odyssey albums, his latest tour, living in East Anglia and why it's good to make mistakes.
Following last year’s successful Piano Portraits, in support of the album of the same name, Rick Wakeman returns with a new show based on the follow up Piano Odyssey.
It features a collection of music, old and new, that includes some particular favourites of his.
With Piano Portraits, the YES keyboardist made chart history, becoming the first solo piano album to enter the UK’s Top 10, eventually reaching number six.
Inspired by the reaction to Rick’s cover of David Bowie’s Life On Mars on BBC Radio 2, the album features instrumental versions of hits Rick was originally involved with, like Space Oddity and Morning Has Broken, as well as others which he chose for their melodies including Stairway To Heaven and Help!.
This year’s concerts – including a visit to Ipswich Corn Exchange on October 26 - will be based on a selection of tracks from both albums and showcasing music that has a special connection with Rick’s own musical journey, accompanied by hilarious memories and anecdotes about the tunes, plus a few musical surprises.
Q: What are you up to today?
I’ve got quite a lot to do this morning; then I’ve got quite a lot of music to sort out. When I’m not actually touring, playing or in the studio recording there’s tons of stuff to do and prepare for the tour, all that kind of lark. Every day is a nice full on day but I like talking to people so it’s always nice to start that way before I sit down at the piano and start working out what I’m doing.
Q: In terms of East Anglia shows, you’ve not got far to travel?
No, it’s great. One of the lovely things that happens so seldom is after the show I just have a 45 minute, half an hour or hour drive home that’s brilliant. In some places it can be three hours.
A lot of places now I don’t bother to even try to drive home afterwards, mainly because of that wonderful road called the A14 which is an absolute nightmare. It’s the worst road I’ve ever known in my life; especially when you’ve got four or five diversions and a lot of time they seem to assume you know exactly where you are in the countryside and you don’t get any more signs. You have loads of other drivers at two in the morning keep passing each other because nobody’s got a clue where they’re going. That three hour diversion home becomes five so I tend to stay overnight.
Q: Why did you settle in East Anglia?
It was an interesting thing. I’d come back from the Isle of Man, I’d got divorced yet again and I came back and a couple of years later I met my wife Rachel. We finally got married in 2011 but we met in 2002 and when we decided to move in together we wanted, ideally, somewhere where neither of us have ever lived before so it was a sort of adventure.
We looked around different areas, rented a place in Hertfordshire for a bit and a few other little places. I’ve got a quite a lot of friends over in East Anglia and two of my dearest friends here are Ian Lavender of Dad’s Army fame and Roy Hudd.
They kept inviting us over to have a look round here. The more we came to visit - especially when we stayed with Ian and his wife, who lived in Woolpit at the time - we went “oh we really like this around here”.
We started looking at houses and went out to the coast and places like Aldeburgh and Southwold and went for walks at Dunwich and thought “yes, this ticks some boxes, we like this”. It works really well on paper, it’s very commutable although I regularly tweet about Greater Anglia because it doesn’t always work that way (he laughs).
We saw what I call the top drawer of estate agent stuff, stuff they can’t get rid of that they tried to palm off on us. In the end I said to one “look, I’ve lived in 21 homes in my life, I know how it works, at least go to drawer two or even drawer three”.
They started showing us better stuff and we were actually beginning to wonder if there was anything that would suit what we wanted. In fact it was Ian who found the house we’re in. We were in Tring, in Herts and this package arrived. He just wrote “I think I’ve found what you’re looking for” and he had.
We’ve been here (in Scole) 13 years and I think we will move because we need other things now for what we do, but there’s no doubt we’ll stay in East Anglia and in Norfolk or Suffolk.
Q: Tell me about the new tour?
I’ve been doing piano shows of different sorts for a long time now but it rose to a new level last year with the Piano Portraits album and that was quite genuinely a surprise. I’m quite pleased with the album, but it went nuts, it sold through the roof and it was top 10 in the album charts for 11 weeks and it was almost bewildering.
I was really chuffed because it was the first piano album with just piano to ever get in the top five in the UK and that created a lot of interest. I did a tour which sold out everywhere which was lovely. Ten people said they wanted more please so I said okay. I recorded Piano Odyssey and that’s again piano pieces of different sorts. This time I’ve added a string orchestra and a choir, no singing.
The tour is just piano, if I go out again next year I’ll take the strings and choir and do some special shows. This is almost like an extension of the Piano Portraits tour interspersed with stupid stories.
I’ve had a couple of books that have done quite well, grumpy old men books and I tell stories from that because I’ve lived a relatively idiotic life. It’s quite nice to share it with people. So it’s a mixture of stupid anecdotes and music , you go through a series of emotions from feeling quite… I won’t say sad but certainly laughter, certainly thought-provoking and perhaps sometimes music that’s pertinent to people as well.
Q: You’ve had such a long career, is there anything professionally or personally still left on the bucket list?
I was asked a couple of years ago “what do you want on your gravestone”? Without thinking I said “I want it’s not fair, I haven’t finished yet”. I’ve actually got that in my will, that’s I want if there’s a plaque anywhere.
The truth is you never finish. Your list goes on forever. You know I look at great musicians, friends of mine; the likes of David Bowie, Jon Lord, Keith Emerson, gosh if they were still here what music would they take with them. I have a massive bucket list. If I could manage to get to the end of it I’d be about 112.
If I look back, which I don’t that often, but if I do, yeah, I’ve made and some things I would do again. One of the things I learned from my late father is it’s alright to make mistakes if you learn from them. He said then they’re no longer a mistake and you can move forward and not do it again.
I like to think I’ve learned from them all and I wouldn’t let them happen again so would I go back and change them? No. Only one slight little thing has to change and then your whole life changes and the truth is if I went back and changed something who knows, chances are I wouldn’t be talking to you now.
Q: Our choices make us who we are?
Absolutely; nobody’s perfect and I’m far from it. I’ve made some horrendous mistakes in my life, in my music and everything I’ve done. I like to think that’s been countered by things I got right and also countered by things I got wrong, I said in retrospect “mm, won’t let that happen again”.
Q: What gets you up in the morning?
Every day is different, so much to do. Music is never-ending. I love what I do, I’m lucky I get to write books, to write music, to play music and I was very lucky TV was very kind to me, radio was kind to me. I can’t think of any day where I’ve woken up where I’ve ever said “oh what can I do today”? And long may that live. I love what I do, I feel very privileged to be able to do it and I don’t want to waste a minute.