Shepperton Studios - Shepperton 20 August 2006 by Liz Shave

I just returned from a truly memorable event. YES! Another "Wakey" moment in time! I was lucky enough to have been eligible via RWCC membership for complimentary tickets for the recording of "The Piano Tour", to be released on DVD next Spring. This tour was undertaken on the east coast of America in June. Also present were competition winners from Planet Rock where Rick hosts his show, "Rick's Place". I will not attempt a complete rundown for fear of spoiling anticipation of the release date! I was sitting with Maureen and Derek Wales, Paul Chandler and his fiancee, Jo Stevens, all members of the RWCC. We were all in good spirits outside of the legendary Shepperton Studios, being handed our tickets by Mike "Happy" Holden (as ever in his baseball cap). Veronica, his wife and stalwart assistant, wasa little under the weatherbut smiling and as friendly as she always is.

Inside the recording area, it was electrifying. Lights, props, everything was set up ready for our man's appearance. Boy, did it get hot in there!! Rick appeared looking casual but "En Vogue" with a long, dark coat, dark T shirt, and jeans along with a shining cross around his neck. He was looking well - it was obvious that he had lost the weight as requested by his doctor. The evening's format was run through, and Rick stated that there would be a section on the DVD for those who were not smiling! A Planet Rock competition winner was awarded the prize of Rick's DW 6000 keyboard with Rick commenting, "I shall miss this little piece!" An Executive committee of the radio station were alongside. We were warned there may be the odd stop and start as this was to be under controlled conditions, though I was impressed by the smooth running of the proceedings. His time with The Strawbs was represented and he clearly valued his time spent in the group. Rick has in the past made lighthearted references to his marriages. When talking about Henry VIII's wives in comparison with his past wives, Rick said he had drawn the line at chopping off their heads!! We then heard "Henry's Suite", a mixing of all of the "Six Wives" tracks. He requested a towel to mop his brow and was thus handed a miscellany of sizes. A joke about Pavarotti; the "Big and Tall" shop on Tottenham Court Road. We learned of the different categories of the "Sessions", but never before..."The Mating Call of the Wildebeest"?! He rambled at length on moving house, recently coming across original notes for "Life On Mars". This was how Rick had first played it witnessed by David Bowie. On his recent piano tour it is no secret that he played on both good and not-so-good pianos. Tonight's model was great! "Morning Has Broken" was followed on and we were informed, contrary to general knowledge, that the "pay" part of the story of this session has a happy ending. AH! Proof in case we had forgotten, this was being filmed and we were jerked back into reality ... walkie-talkie over my shoulder ... "Get a nice, wide shot".

I loved "And You And I" (missing chord version) and the definitive reproduction of "Gone But Not Forgotten", which Rick dedicated to his mother. "A testament to the people we have lost". We were let in on a secret - YES had rehearsed in some surprising locations. The band had been like a jigsaw; Everyone having their role. "Wondrous Stories" was beautiful and happy memories were as always shared with us of "Jon and Rick". "The Meeting" has a special place in the heart of a friend of mine and I can now see why; a most emotional piece. Thanks were extended to us for sitting through everything as we were given a tutorial on the "X - Factor", this was NOT concerning the TV show. "White Rock" was spoken of, "After The Ball" was delivered - this with our input! Rick recounted how, when recording "Birdman Of Alcatraz", the winged creatures were recorded in Switzerland. Never before have I imitated a bird - this time I was the feathered variety. Warblers! Finches! Linnets! Everyone having a go. A sound to behold! We all laughed out loud as Rick told a tale involving his height,cold Japanese Saki and a desperate dash!

We were then treated to The Beatles' "Help" and "Eleanor Rigby".Rick then told of his son Adams' new venture which is going successfully, it sounds fascinating! Good thing Adam has his dad's sense of fun. Our chosen encore material was "Guinevere", "Merlin", and lastly "The Children Of Chernobyl". A special mention was madefor "Samuel" and we were rightly reminded of the horrors of the disaster. After that, one might conclude that the evening was ending on a sad note, but on the contrary! We felt upbeat - along with the melodies. After the taping, Rick kindly and tirelessly signed everyone's merchandise, as well as having snapshots taken.

On a final note: I can hear Rick now, as I compose this article ... "Robert, can we do that again??"!