Saturday, August 11, 2012
‘Caped Crusader – Rick Wakeman in the 1970s’
How I first met Rick Wakeman and went on to write his authorized biography
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
LONDON, UK (ANS) -- More than 40 years ago, I sat spellbound in the front room of the Northolt home of Rick Wakeman, as I watched his long fingers racing across the ivories on his upright piano as he played an amazing version of the beautiful hymn, “Morning Has Broken.”
I had first met Rick a few days earlier in a musical instrument store in South Ealing, West London, which was one of the places I had stopped to try and gather stories for the Middlesex County Times, a weekly paper I had just joined and that covered the London Borough of Ealing.
I went from shop to shop, but no one seemed interested in giving me a story. That was, until I reached the Musical Bargain Centre, my last call of a fruitless morning.
“Hi, I’m Uncle Ernie,” said an older man with a Newcastle accent standing behind the counter. “Would you like some coffee?” I sat down at the counter in this friendly shop, packed full of musical instruments.
As we talked, I could hear someone making sounds on an electronic keyboard that I had never heard before.
“Who is that?” I asked Uncle Ernie.
Uncle Ernie then popped his head around the corner and asked him to come and join us which he quickly did. I told him that I had recently joined the staff of the local paper and was on the lookout for stories.
“I’ll give you a good one,” he said brightly. “I earn some extra money playing as a session musician and I’ve just played piano on a track for Cat Stevens called ‘Morning Has Broken.’ It’s quite beautiful. I also played Mellotron on David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity,’ which I think is destined to be a number one.”
I groped weakly for my notebook and jotted down what this six-foot-two-inch teenager told me.
I then rushed back to the office to write up a story about this young musician who was “watching the charts” to see if any of the sessions he had played on went to Number One.
This turned out to be the first-ever press story on Wakeman, who later went on to play with the British super group YES!
Wakeman was right about the Bowie space record which in 1975, on its second release, was number one on the British charts. And “Morning Has Broken” also became a hit classic around the world.
During out times together, we had many opportunities to discuss his Christian faith and he later told me that he had been a Sunday school teacher at the South Harrow Baptist Church and had also been baptized.
“Why did you get baptized?” I asked him on one occasion.
“It was before I started full time in the music business. It was like an insurance policy, a protection against the nastiness and trouble I feared could happen once I plunged into the business,” he explained.
As the years passed by,
Rick continued a brilliant solo career in which he composed and played on a whole series of albums, including “The Six Wives of Henry VIII,” “Journey to the Centre of the Earth,” “The Myths & Legends of King Arthur & The Knights of the Round Table” and “The New Gospels,” a beautiful oratorio on the life of Christ.
In fact, he has produced over 100 solo albums that have sold more than 50 million copies.
Our long friendship has continued until this day and now I am pleased to say that the book that I wrote about him all those years ago, has been slightly updated and released with many photographs by Gonzo Media Group in the UK under the title of “Caped Crusader – Rick Wakeman in the 1970s.”
Why the title? Well, it comes from the fact that the blond figure of Wakeman would wrap one of his glittering shimmering capes around his giant frame and head on stage at arenas around the world to start another incredible performance on his battery of electronic keyboards.
And, even today, the “Caped Crusader” continues to push back the limits of music with his extraordinary talents. But I will never forget the concert he gave me in his home right at the start of his career.
To purchase a copy of “Caped Crusader” just go to: http://www.amazon.com/CAPED-CRUSADER-Rick-Wakeman-1970s/dp/1908728302
Note: Dan Wooding is available for interviews about the book. Just send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, with details of your show or network, and he will get back to you.
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