It seems incredible and feels like only a few days since taking the decorations down from last year, but amazingly Christmas and the New Year are upon us once again. It seems like just a few weeks ago that "Return" was released and that great launch at the Natural History Museum took place. Rick reckons the years go faster as you get older. (If this is true, the year 2000 should last about ten minutes for him)!
I suppose the biggest surprise for the end of 1999 and somewhat of a disappointment, is that Rick is actually not performing anywhere. Three years ago there were about ten possible offers "on the table" for the Millennium for him ranging from huge projects involving "Return" or "The New Gospels", to small concerts on the east coast of England as the sun rose on New Year's Day. Two years ago this dwindled to about four potential events. Last year to just two and this year, by the summer nothing!
After talking to other people in the business, this seems to have been very much "the norm" for virtually everybody. Apparently the huge losses for promoters with concerts and events that were put on for the eclipse and lost fortunes, were the final nail in many Millennium coffins.
There was talk of pantomime, (Rick as King Rat? We don't really think so), but that dwindled into obscurity by midsummer, then there was the talk of a South American tour, which it has to be said, looked very strong at one time.
There was one promoter based in Argentina who had one tour pretty much organised, but we couldn't agree on actual dates to go.
This was due to the availability of the musicians Rick likes to use and, wait for this one, concert dates in South America that wouldn't clash with a YES tour!
Then another promoter came on board, actually the one who had put on the last very successful tour of South America that Rick did, and he talked about putting on a tour with one of the shows possibly being that of Return To the Centre of the Earth, albeit not with the full "CD" cast.
The dates proposed by the promoter seemed to fit okay and they weren't too concerned about the YES tour either. Things moved ahead at a rate of knots and Rick was actually getting quite excited that there was to be a good end to the "strange" year.
Then the financial package for the tour was proposed, and whilst it probably looked a very attractive package for the promoters and agencies, it would have meant a substantial loss for Rick.
After explaining this to all concerned, neither Rick nor his agent in the UK have heard anything back since!
Then there was talk of a church and synagogue tour with a rock band, plus guests such as Ramon, to take place in California. This looked very exciting and interesting. Rick very politely explained to all concerned that he could not afford to sustain the massive losses similar to those incurred on the ill fated New Gospels Tour in America a few years ago, and so guarantees of payments would need to be put in place before any arrangements could be made.
Rick's still here, any money's still there, and he rates the odds of this tour ever happening as being close to "never", which again is a shame as it had great possibilities. To add to these tales of woe and frustration, the long awaited Christmas Album has not been completed, mainly due to lack of money needed to finish the job properly and so that project will have to wait until another year ..... at least.
There has been a glut of recording on the Isle of Man this year, which was mainly due to the fact that as Rick has not been able to put any live performances together for the latter part of 1999, Rick's engineer, Stuart "Doom" Sawney has been off working solidly with Alan Parson's Project and this has already required some serious rethinking by Rick as regards future recording and touring projects for next year, but more about all that later.
In the meantime, here's a review of 1999 .....as Rick saw it!
Amazingly 1999 was a mixture of the very best ...... and the very worst, of everything that could have happened. Certainly the release of Return to the Centre of the Earth was a highlight and filled so many people with so much hope for things to come and add to that the wonderful launch at the Natural History Museum which was quite spectacular, and we all had reason to be optimistic about what was to come.
There was little doubt that EMI Classics pulled all the stops out and things certainly looked "rosy" around Easter. Sadly all our hopes did not turn into reality as whilst the CD certainly sold considerably more than any of Rick's releases for many years, and was the first to be released world wide for twenty years, it was still not enough to entice promoters on board for any live appearances and it became glaringly obvious by the end of the summer, that the "in house" euphoria as regards "Return" and all the hopes that went with it, would come to nothing and this particular chapter in Rick's musical history was about to close.
It's very easy to look back and say what could have been done, but overall Rick has no complaints. Those who loved the work and supported it, gave everything they had to try and make it the success they all wanted it to be, but sadly it was not to be.
Moving on, Rick undertook the church tour with Ramon in the early summer, which really was a massive success and one of the most enjoyable tours Rick has ever done .... except for the usual downside .... money!
Sadly, three of the churches failed to pay their agreed contracted fees for expenditure, and subsequently the tour made a substantial loss. This has culminated in Rick vowing that he will never ever undertake any involvement with churches as regards live performances except as regards "New Gospels" performances .... which is about as likely as the Pope fitting condom machines in the Vatican!
On the recording side of things White Rock II was finally completed and released on Music Fusion and was generally received very well.
The two "relaxation" trilogies, Art in Music and the Natural World were also released on Music Fusion and again have been well received. White Rock II is about to be released in time for Christmas in America, albeit with limited distribution.
The Official Live Bootleg has been re-released with yet another new cover and early next year: Almost live in Europe will be re-released in the UK with new packaging. Both will be on the Music Fusion label.
A lack of personal appearances on television, apart from those promoting "Return" were saved by and appearance on Norman Wisdom's "Heroes of Comedy" programme and by Countdown where Rick had seven appearances in early September.
One of the major reasons for such lack of television and radio was undoubtedly created by Rick being "unavailable" for such a long period whilst recording "Return" and as request for appearances get turned down and contacts get lost, "regular" spots get offered elsewhere. (No regrets from Rick though as he says return had to have his undivided attention from start to finish and he's give it exactly the same undivided attention even if the clock could be turned back). The rest of the year has been very much made up of offers that have come to nothing as well as some absolutely ridiculous proposals that were really never viable and so Rick's overall verdict on the year .....
"Probably the worst since the early 1980's"
So how does the year 2000 look? .... Well we'll come on to that at the end of the newsletter, but maybe if we say we're still "ever the optimist", then that will at least give you a bit of a clue that all is not lost!
As mentioned in the "review of 1999", Music Fusion did make some progress by releasing White Rock, the two relaxation trilogies, and also the repackaging and re-release of The Official Live Bootleg. (Early in the New Year will see the re-release of Almost Live in Europe).
As some of you are probably aware, there are three further recordings in various states of completion. Amongst these is the ill fated "Christmas Album"! The simple reason that this was not completed was purely financial. It actually could have been finished, but not to the standard that Rick wants the recording to be. He really wants it to be quite a special album and it really would have been nice to have had it as a Millennium project. Hopefully next year will finally see it's release, and Christmas 2000, (it's new working title), will do just as well.
A couple of Rick's tracks have appeared on a , wonderful compilation CD produced by Ashley Franklin, who many of you will know from Radio Derby as a presenter, producer and great supporter of Rick's music. He was also instrumental in promoting Wakeman with Wakeman at the Playhouse in Derby. .
He has a wonderful daughter who suffers from Downes Syndrome and in order to help her school buy a minibus so that the kids could have special trips, he "collared" a load of his friends to donate or record tracks for a brand new CD which he has entitled "The Sky Goes all The Way Home", which are the words that Claire spoke to Ashley and his wife when in the car one day whilst they were lost! Bright kid! The album is truly wonderful and highly recommended both for its charitable causes and fine music. There are a multitude of artists on board of really varying styles. These include Gordon Giltrap, Anthony Phillips, Robert Fripp and John Wetton. Rick's tracks are a Little Piece of Heaven and Hymn of Hope: If you are interested in purchasing this album, then please contact Ashley at Radio Derby whose number is 01332 361111. In September, Rick travelled to his favourite studio in London, CTS, to record on their wonderful 9ft Steinway grand piano. (This piano is currently Rick's favourite piano to both play and record on). Two albums were produced, both over an hour in length. They were engineered by James Collins and Erik Jordan ....two familiar names to owners of "Return".
The first one to be released, entitled "Preludes to A Century" is purely grand piano, with no 'additives' and beautifully digitally recorded. In style it is somewhere between the Heritage Suite and Country Airs. It will be released by President Records early in. the New Year, probably January. Sadly it is not possible-to get it into the shops by Christmas, although Rick is trying to persuade President to release the title track, "Prelude to A Century" as a single CD prior to the 1st of January. Whilst unlikely to happen, mainly due to the fact that most Christmas releases have to be "logged" by August at the latest, Rick is still going to try! .... (He does seem to like lost causes).
The second recording, entitled "Chronicles of Mann" is really meant as the follow up to the Heritage Suite. This will also be released by President Records, probably around March.
Whilst in a similar style to the Heritage Suite, Chronicles of Mann does have a few very subtle overdubs of natural sampled acoustic sounds on selected tracks.
This was done because Rick wanted it to be just slightly different in style to the Heritage Suite so that it could very much stand on it's own. The CD was inspired by the restoration of Rushen Abbey on the Isle of Man where Rick hope to perform a "sort of" "Launch" concert for the CD sometime towards the end of March actually in the grounds when the restoration is complete. As with the Heritage Suite, there will be quite a substantial booklet of pictures from the Island included in the CD Rick is genuinely delighted with the results of both albums and feels that they, contain some of his best piano writing and playing to date and hopes that everybody else will feel the same! He also admits to sweating a bit on the last day of recording, as he seemed to have written himself one or two pieces that could almost be deemed "unplayable"!
"Four Hands", which is the CD that Rick recorded with Mario Fasciano earlier this year on the Isle of Man and in Italy, has finally been released in Italy on MP Records, with a few exports appearing in one or two other countries.
At this moment in time we have no plans to stock any at the office, but there are copies available in the UK, which Mark Jenkins has for sale on his progressive rock label AMP. If you are interested in purchasing this album then his contact number is ..... 0181 889 0616 tel and fax.
The album has already received excellent reviews in Italy and to date Rick has made two trips there for promotion in radio, television, magazines and newspapers. One very respected reviewer actually called it "the Italian CD of the Year".
If only Rick understood the words! ..........
.......... and what Mario is saying when he speaks to him!
Hope Records, as expected, recorded nothing and released nothing, although Rick has quite a lot of written music waiting to be worked on.
There are however still massive problems and difficulties with the label and until things improve it will be extremely difficult to complete the plan to merge the label with Music Fusion. This is still the aim though and hopefully will happen by the end of next year.
There has also been no advancement with Hope in the USA, where a large stock of product lies unsold without a distributor, or even any interest from one. Hope no longer has a Christian distributor in the UK either. All in all it is real "tightrope walking" trying to keep it alive.
For many reasons though (some completely stupid in most people's opinion), Rick refuses to let the label "die" and seems convinced that within a couple of years it will once again be releasing product. (It must be said he does remain the sole optimist though)!
All in all, although there have been some releases this year on various labels, Rick is very disappointed with his output, the major one being the failure, yet again, to get the Christmas Album completed.
Overseas licenses continued to prove difficult to obtain, and although there has been some improvement in exporting finished product Pinnacle Direct, (the export company for Music Fusion), ceases to trade from January which means the search for a new exporter has already started.
As Keith has been on tour in America over the last few months, there has been much progression as regards the joint project that has been much talked about over the last few months.
It is still very possible that either performances or recordings will be made in the year 2000, but it is unlikely that any final decisions will be made this side of the Millennium.
Most of you will be aware of the tremendous financial cost of touring, and of the non financial viability of many of Rick's concerts. The situation has become so critical over the last few years that it really did begin to look like touring days were over for Rick, certainly in the UK.
Rick enjoys playing live though-and has desperately been looking for a way to tour in the Millennium year and putting on a good show, whilst at the same time, managing no to lose money! This is not easy with having to pay tax on any UK tour both in the Isle of Man and in the UK plus Foreign Entertainers tax on top of all that!
In a nutshell after agents percentages, taxes and administration, Rick is left with less than 30$ of the gross income with which to put a show on, pay crew, hotels, trucking etc.
After much thought, and discussion with a few close friends who, for want of a better phrase, are also "Wakeman supporters", Rick has decided to do a piano tour beginning early in the New Year. He has appointed the Johnny Mans Agency to book the tour and already there are four dates booked beginning the 4th February. It will very much be "an evening with" as the tour title suggests. The evening performance looks like being a "trip" through Rick's musical life, with music from all areas plus even a few insights as to how some of the stuff was written. Not a workshop, we hasten to add, but certainly insights into Rick's musical mind that have hitherto remained secret. There will of course be the usual splattering of stupid stories mixed in with all this. (Would a "Rick performance" be complete without them)! it .could prove to be one of the most interesting tours that Rick has ever undertaken. Dates for the tour will be listed on the web site as they come in and a full list will appear in a special edition first newsletter of 2000.
On October 22nd, Rick recorded the quarter finals, semi final and final of Countdown which will be shown over Christmas.
He then travelled to Italy for three television appearances before returning to the UK to record the Christmas "Never Mind the Buzzcocks", where he was not a panellist, but made a short guest appearance.
He then stayed to record a new series for Radio 2 of Classic Albums, where he is the presenter/ narrator. These are due to be aired early in the New Year.
Early in December there will be cameras in the Wakeman household for a programme that we can't tell you too much about, except to say that they will be one of a very few families ever to appear on this programme twice!
Now that's got you thinking!
Rick then has to make a presentation at the annual travel awards at the Dorchester before the final winddown to Christmas and the New Year. Rick also recorded two other television programmes that are shortly due for transmission, although we know neither when or on which channel! The first is the part of the Top ten series, on punk, which could be well worth a watch ...depending on how much they use. He recorded over two hours worth with them, but that is likely to get well edited down .. probably to about two minutes, and then taken out of context! The second programme is entitled "This is Not Your Life", which is about Ozzy Osborne. Again, Rick recorded about two hours worth of stuff with Chrysalis television, which will of course be edited down .. probably to thirty seconds!
This might surprise a few people, but earlier this year, Rick submitted the synopsis for a novel to the large book publishers Harper Collins. They called him in for a meeting at the end of the summer, said how much they liked the storyline and basically commissioned him to write the full blown novel.
There is just one final hurdle for him to overcome though, and that is that a sample chapter has to be approved by the board of editors. They've indicated to Rick that this is very much a formality as they very much enjoyed the writing style of "Say Yes", but Rick is taking no chances and intends to do his favourite "hiding away" for a few days in Tenerife in order to write the chapter and submit it before the end of January.
... and the title of the book... well only Rick and Harper Collins know at the moment, and Rick won't tell anybody. Maybe he'll give the secret away on the tour next year.
So far, apart from the tour, the diary shows that Rick has four days of recording the very last series of Live at Jongleurs. The provisional dates for the recordings are the 31st of January and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of February with the first date of the tour starting on the 4th at Chatham.
Between The 12th and 19th of February it looks like he will be in Spain hosting a televised celebrity sports programme. On the 5th of February he has been booked for a , private function for Warwickshire Cricket Club at the Metropole Hotel in Birmingham.
Obviously the "Evening with Rick Wakeman" tour will fit in around other commitments. The advantage being that with Rick being the only "performer", it is considerably easier to "mix and match" within the diary.
There is also mention of a film score that we have mentioned before, but that has yet to be confirmed.
One of the most exciting possibilities for Rick though is the chance to write and perform a new keyboard concerto that he has been writing, with the Liverpool Philharmonic. If all goes well, this could be ready by the end of the new year.
There is little doubt that the new Millennium year will be crucial for Rick in shaping the direction that his future will go.
Certainly it looks like being a year very much of "ifs" and some good fortune will certainly be needed if Rick is going to achieve all that he hopes to.
Adam has recovered well from his operation following his heart problems, (what is it with Wakeman's at 25 and the old ticker?) and is currently out on tour with an Irish band called "Swans" who are supporting David Essex on his very long UK tour which last well into December. Adam has also been working consistently with the band "Shooter" in America.
Oliver is working on a new project as well as doing quite a few gigs in the North Devon region. We'll give you more news as we get it as regards the two elder brothers.
Stuart "Doom" Sawney is working with the Alan Parson's Project, Ian "Bunter" Barfoot is lecturing at LIPA University in Liverpool as well as looking after the sound at the Liverpool Philharmonic and, would you believe, supplying PA systems for various "raves" all over the country.
Mike "Happy" Holden is working as theatre manager on the Isle of Wight as well as running his lighting company and Malcolm "Ain't I Thin" Welch is obviously doing something ..but we really don't know what.
Fraser Thorneycroft-Smith is currently touring with Tony Hadley and Tony "the Wop" Fernandez has been reported as planning to move to Portugal!
Probably the best news of all to report is that of Chrissie Hammond who has secured one of the lead roles in Andrew Lloyd Webber's production of "Cats" in the West End of London. This follows on from her huge success in "Smokey Joe's Cafe". That's All For Another Year
Well reading back over this newsletter, the New Year could be quite interesting. Just a modicum of good fortune please and all the difficulties of 1999 could soon be forgotten.
Finally, all of us here would like to thank all of you out there for all the wonderful support you continue to give us in our continuing quest to promote good music, good humour and good friendship.
In closing the old millennium year:
We'd like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a wonderfully happy and prosperous New Year
Text scanned, OCRd and checked by Jon Hinchliffe