RWCC Mid Year Newsletter - June 2001

First of all, may we offer a huge welcome to all the new members who have come on board since the last newsletter. Many of you obviously succumbed in a moment of weakness after reading the tour programme from the last lot of shows. You're all sad like the rest of us but welcome aboard anyway!!!!

So much has happened recently, that it's almost impossible to know where to start with this newsletter, so we'll begin by looking at the end of the year just to be different!......and where better to start the proceedings than by bringing up that wonderful "old chestnut": the Christmas Party!

For those of you who are relatively newcomers to this "wonderfully unique" collection of Wakemanites and the RWCC, then you will not have had the pleasure of experiencing the Christmas Party. These unique and oft talked about events, continually defied belief and very few hotels where the evenings have been held have ever welcomed us back!

There were very few rules. The Christmas Party could take place at any time, and very often did, with one extremely memorable event which took place on May 25th in a hotel near to Kidderminster where the hotel were asked to supply, (amongst other things), a Christmas tree, Christmas decorations, Christmas dinner and of course, Father Christmas.

In spite of the genuine enjoyment all round and the fun that was had by all, sadly the Christmas Parties came to an end a couple or so years ago as they were just no longer financially viable. There were many reasons for this. For starters it was difficult to find a venue that was accessible for all who wanted to attend the bash. If it were too far south then it was difficult for those living up north to attend and vice versa for those living down south. We always reckoned on 350 attendees being the break even figure for us but the last couple of parties struggled to get attendances of even around the 200 mark and so they became no longer sustainable ....and then the letters started coming in! "We want a party"! "Where's our party gone" and some other comments that are unprintable! OK, let's see how badly you want a party! Here follows a questionnaire for those who are interested in having the Christmas Party again, to fill in and fax to us, or post to us, or even send by carrier pigeon! It will also be posted on the website so you can fill in the questionnaire there as well and then when the results are in, we will decide on your responses whether or not the madness of the annual party will be resurrected!!!! At least the result will not be a forgone conclusion like the general election!

Questionnaire Deleted

There you go. Pretty straight forward we think. Of course this questionnaire is not binding in anyway so don't worry on that account. Guests do not have to be RWCC members either. We also don't know what the hotel costs are likely to be, as most people like to stay over for the night. RWCC members would obviously get a discounted rate anyway and can bring as many guests as they like. (But as you know we always aim to get around £25/£30 B&B rate. In reality we have always tried to keep the tickets around £30 per head but it does depend on how many people express an interest to join in. if we do get a lot of positive response then we can certainly have a look at getting something organized for much later in the year.)


The UK Tour

The UK tour said a final farewell to the one man theatre shows although it wasn't strictly a one man show as for the majority of dates Ramon Remedios was on board, which gave many of you a chance to see and hear the infamous "Barber of Wigan"! Unfortunately Ramon was suffering from almost day one with various throat and chest infections and with just three shows to go his voice finally "gave up the ghost" and he was forced to call it a day and leave Rick with somewhat of a dilemma as pieces like Nessun Dorma and the Barber of Wigan were important integral parts of the show, as indeed was the banter between Rick and Ramon. To add to the problem there was the special arrangements that Rick had done for No Earthly Connection. After a hasty meeting of band, (just Rick), and crew, (Ian Barfoot, Stuart Sawney, Malcolm Welch and Mike Holden), it was agreed there was only one solution.

Ashley Holt.

Great idea, except nobody had his number! but we knew a man who did!

The Greasy Wop, alias Mr. Tony Fernandez.

He was duly called and he in turn he duly called Ashley, who in turn duly called Rick and less than 24 hours later he was on stage with Rick at Harlow rehearsing Make Me A Woman, Fool On The Hill, No Earthly Connection and Summertime. That evening saw a performance of a virtually new set that went down really well and that just left the final show to do, ironically in Ashley's hometown of Chesham.

It was pretty tragic that this pairing only managed two shows, but that's life and who knows what the future holds. Rick certainly doesn't anymore!

Rick is genuinely sorry to see these "small" stage shows come to an end, but he really feels that there is no way that they can move forward anymore. He claims to have now used up all the best stories he has collected over the years and also there really is a limitation as to what he can play entirely on his own with the keyboards and he has also exhausted that avenue. As many of you will be aware, Rick did put together a whole new presentation of a one-man show and the agent booked venues accordingly but when the contracts arrived at Rick's office they were for fees that would not even come close to covering the cost of the new presentation and so the show utilizing Ramon as a guest was hastily born in order for the tour to go ahead. This signaled the start of the change in direction and also a change in agent! It was definitely time to move on!

Having said all of this, it has been wildly misquoted that Rick is quitting touring altogether, which really couldn't be further from the truth. As you all know, Rick loves performing on stage but doesn't want to appear to be "standing still" or just going through the motions and so a total rethink was necessary if live performances were to continue.

Returning to the tour, there were some wonderful highlights and all in general had a lot of fun. Guildford and Harlow spring to mind as being particularly special musically and one or two places also spring to mind for just the opposite reasons but Rick refuses to put these venues into print! There were the usual sell-outs and the odd few that were sparsely attended with not a poster in sight. The audiences all around the country were marvellous and even where the attendances were not as hoped for, (mercilessly only a few of these), the people who came made the evenings very worthwhile. Many old acquaintances were renewed as well as new ones being made, so all in all the "final fling" was well worth it. Rick has always claimed that it is the people who come to a show who determine how much better than good the performance will be, and this has certainly been borne out by the reviews which overall have been really excellent.


Holland

Amazingly enough, the one man show has never travelled abroad until just a few weeks ago when it found itself in Holland, just outside Amsterdam at the AlfaCenturi festival of electronic music.

This was an invitation that arrived last year and that actually initially came through an e-mail enquiry on the website which also highlights another very useful purpose of the RWCC site. The festival was incredibly well organized and with a wonderful mixture of music on offer, Rick found himself closing the festival on the Friday night. The audience were really enthusiastic and when Rick discovered that most of them spoke better English than he did, well guess what? ....that's right ...the stories began!

It was actually a wonderful way to bring the one man shows to an end although it was tinged with a certain amount of sadness that the show had never been performed in any other countries as there are many that really could have accommodated it. America and Canada immediately spring to mind, but no agents from anywhere else in the world were ever interested in booking it and so the oneman show now rests peacefully in the home in the sky for unwanted performances!


South America

Almost immediately before Holland, Rick and The English Rock Ensemble found themselves back in South America for the second time in less than six months, and they loved every minute of it!

As many of you are aware the tour that was done at the end of 2000 was fraught with difficulties but in a strange way served as a great showcase for the band and that enabled the new shows in Brazil, Peru and Argentina to be arranged so soon after the tour of last year. This tour was extremely well organized and kicked off in Rio de Janeiro with two shows that had only been added with less than one week to go due to a cancellation at the venue! Amazingly they were both virtually sold out and the feeling that emanated between what was going on on stage and what was happening in the audience was quite incredible. This is hardly surprising though as it has to be said that for much of the performances throughout South America the band seemed to spend equal amounts of time out in the audience as they did on stage! So much so that Adam was actually asked for his ticket on three occasions!

More shows followed in Brazil and then it was off to Argentina again where a further two shows were performed in Buenos Aires. Here the show was recorded live and many old acquaintances were again struck up. Next stop was Lima in Peru where it was discovered that whilst all the band and crew and equipment had arrived safely .... Rick's suitcase hadn't! However much thanks must go to the ground staff of Varig Airlines who located the missing case within the hour, (it was only four thousand miles away as it happened and it had Tony Fernandez' bag for company, so wasn't entirely alone), and got it to Lima by the following morning well in time for the show. They were duly rewarded with tickets for the evening performance show, which was sold out, and so it all ended happily ever after! Following the usual shopping trip around the markets, followed by trips to the luggage shops to buy more suitcases in which to pack the many items purchased from the market, the band and crew, along with Aquiles Sojo, our agent for South America, settled into a plush suite on the sixth floor of the hotel and there the "tour awards" began!

For those of you unaware of this rather unique event, it happens at the end of every tour and the awards are both given and selected by Rick and it is standard practice that they are accepted without question by the recipients! (Damian still hasn't quite got the hang of this bit yet, but he's slowly coming round)!

Then the long trek home began which meant flying back to Sao Paulo before taking the evening flight back to Heathrow. Ant and Damian didn't quite get the hang of this and missed the flights back to England. They got the hang of it just over a week later when they reappeared in good old Blighty! What did they get up to? I'm afraid you'll have to ask them that yourselves! (Adam will probably tell you though if you buy him a drink)!

The gear was sent directly to Holland to await Rick's arrival for the one-man show at the Alfa Centuri festival, and thanks to all concerned within the organization this was executed without a hitch.

A further tour of both South and Central America is planned for October and is already halfway to being booked and confirmed by Aquiles Sojo. A full list of dates should be available by the time of going to press of the next newsletter.

What was pretty exciting on this tour was that a high quality multitrack recording was made that will be mixed and be ready for release in early August at the latest.

The album will have no "cheating" involved. It will be live in every respect with no added vocals or instrumentation recorded over the top. The show was recorded in Rio and also Buenos Aires but unfortunately there were a lot of problems with the recording equipment in Rio and so the live performance on disc is likely to be that entirely from the Buenos Aires shows. The quality is excellent and it is expected that approximately one hour will be chosen for the single CD which is to be called "OUT OF THE BLUE" and which will also feature the first cover painted by Alina Bencini, who many of you will know is Rick's young lady from Italy who has had exhibitions displaying her paintings in galleries in Milan, London and Lugano amongst other cities.

This will actually be the third cover that will feature Alina's work, the other two being the upcoming studio album, (more about that later in this newsletter), and as the centre piece for the Italian release of Tribute on MP Records.

There is no doubt that South America is proving to be the catalyst that has really helped the band to blossom and it is really hoped that this just proves to be a springboard for the English Rock Ensemble to be able to appear in as many places as possible around the world ... ... ... including the UK!


Poland

This trip should have been labeled the "Back Down To Earth" show as after every show that Rick had done with the English Rock Ensemble both in the UK and around the world had been either sold out or very close to it, sadly one of the two shows in Poland was cancelled by the promoter due to not enough tickets being sold to make it viable. This was a great shame as Rick was really looking forward to spending some time there as he has a very soft spot for the country having visited there many times before the collapse of Communism and has since witnessed the most remarkable changes there first hand. He genuinely loves the people for all they have achieved, but obviously that was not reciprocated as sadly the large theatre which housed the one remaining show in Warsaw was only one third full, although as an audience they were wonderful people and as enthusiastic as if it were a full house and as a "reward" the band played tremendously once again proving that an audience really plays it's part in making a show happen. The organization was excellent as well, and although the trip was short, it was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Hopefully there will be opportunities for Rick to return to Poland with the English Rock Ensemble in the not too distant future although it has to be said that with the poor attendance this time around, it is unlikely. They have so many wonderful castles there and Rick always dreamed of doing a castle tour around Poland which now seems very much doomed to remaining a just that ... ... a dream.


Italy

Next stop on the "playing trail" will be the Jesi festival in Italy. This will be on the 28th of July and twill be with the 5-piece band, ie. with Adam missing as he will be half way up a mountain in Peru on his "delayed" honeymoon with his lovely wife Teri!

It was hoped to add some more shows in Italy around this time but with Adam and Teri being stuck up some mountain in the middle of nowhere, and Lee Pomeroy, Rick's bass player, getting married on the 10th of August, it became impossible to route shows amongst the complicated domesticity of the band and so July and August have now been officially declared recording months, although there will be the odd performance and appearance scattered here and there we suspect.

Rick is spending a lot of time in Italy at the moment, (surprise, surprise), and there could be some very interesting projects to announce in the next newsletter, if not before, that will all be centred around Italy in one way or another now that's got you all thinking!


Russia

The country of the greatest musical influence for Rick plays host to two shows in September, the 19th and 21st in Moscow and St. Petersburg respectively. Rick is thrilled about these two shows and is saddened that there aren't more. There are no further details at present as regards these two shows, but if any of you have not blown all your money on your summer holidays and are looking to have a trip that's a bit different, then this is the one to go for. Rick has visited Russia many times and has "mimed" at various events, mainly for television though and so it is a real thrill for him to actually be able to take the English Rock Ensemble out there to play live and "show off' the show and what they can do. The agent concerned is also trying to add other dates in Eastern Europe around this period of time and Rick and the lads have their fingers crossed that this can be achieved.


Fowey

The Daphne Du Maurier festival played host to Rick and the lads as they played at the festival the day before Rick's birthday in May. (Thanks to all who sent the ageing soul cards by the way). Again the band performed magnificently to a packed "marquee" and were on top form. It was lovely for them to be able to play in England and all wished there could be more shows, but it is not the cheapest setup to take around and so UK shows with the band will be pretty limited at this juncture.

The hospitality was fantastic, the food was fantastic, (eaten mostly by Malcolm from the crew), and the warm reception set Rick up nicely for his birthday dinner the following night at "Nutters" which is a wonderful restaurant near Rochdale out on the moors. (Yes, you're quite right, [as we see you rushing for your road atlases], it was one hell of a drive from Fowey to Rochdale, but if your hungry and want a great meal, and it's your birthday, and your girlfriend is Italian and loves good food, then that's what you do)!


Studio Recording

After almost twenty-five years, (or is it more), there is to be a studio album of Rick and the English Rock Ensemble. The CD already has a title, "OUT THERE" and recording should finish in the middle of August in time for a release around October. The album will contain all new original material except for two tracks, both of which may come as a surprise to many, but hopefully a pleasant one!

The band will be popping over to the studio on the Isle of Man throughout July and August and Rick is pretty excited about what the end result will be. He is saying that it is the true sequel to No Earthly Connection which was the last true studio album from the English Rock Ensemble.

To try and pre-empt some of the questions we know we will get asked about, here are the answers in advance! ....and of course the questions as well!

1. Will the line up be the same as the band that has been touring?
Yes, and although Adam's role will not be anywhere near as "up front" as it is in the stage shows, there will still be the "odd bits" for him to do, and to alleviate confusion on the album, the instrumentation that Adam will use will be clearly stated on the sleeve and easily identifiable on the recording.

2. Will the CD be available outside of the UK?
We sincerely hope so. There are some offers in place already and outside funding is desperately needed for this album, as it is not an inexpensive project by any means!

3. Will "Da Vinci", (the song that was sung at a few places on the tour with Ramon), be featured on the album?
No. There will be a "home" for this song on an album sooner or later, but this song would not fit in with this particular musical style as this CD will be a true "new progressive rock" album, thematic and full of (hopefully) good performances, melodies and solos.


Pantomine

Yes, as has been previously rumoured in many circles, he's finally gone and done it! (Oh no he hasn't) (Oh yes he has).

See, it's started already!

The wonderful city of Truro will this Christmas play host to Rick as he takes on his first pantomime role as Abanazer in Aladdin.

Rick has already traveled down to Truro for the press launch and was made unbelievably welcome. The theatre is wonderful and the script, by Roy Hudd, is fabulous and a lot of fun for all the family. Rick will be dutifully booed throughout as well as being totally despised by the audience who even have the opportunity to throw things at him.

Just like the one-man show really!

It is a Hiss and Boo production and we will be giving more details in full in the next newsletter. Already we know of people preparing to travel vast distances in order to witness this unique event and this includes people from the States who don't even know what a pantomime is!

Oh yes they do!

Oh no they don't!

(It's started already and it's only June)!

Rehearsals start in early December and the pantomime goes on way into January. Rick is really looking forward to this as since his divorce, Christmas celebrations in the true family sense have been cancelled anyway and this could prove to be the long running answer as to what Rick does at Christmas now! Mike Holden has been taken on as theatre stage manager as well and so it will be a real friendly occasion all round. Rick has taken on a little terraced cottage close to the theatre for the duration and so it will be just like home, or actually better as Rick doesn't actually have a home anymore! ! ! ! !


DVDs

There will soon be three DVDs of Rick's both in the shops and on the RWCC website, and, with a fourth to follow soon after that. Already in existence there is the digitally enhanced version of the original Journey to the Centre of the Earth which was filmed in 1975 in Australia, plus a fabulous recording of Rick's last true one man show filmed at Marlborough College in 2000. Add to these two the shortly to be released film of Rick and the English Rock Ensemble in Argentina and a specially made DVD to accompany the new studio album with the band, and there is suddenly a very nice collection of DVDs spanning more than a quarter of a century of Rick's work. There are also plans to try and reclaim other filmed work of Rick's for release on DVD in years to come as well if the demand is there.


Canada

On the 24th of June, Rick, Tony, Lee, Ant and Adam along with their trusty crew, will set of for Trois Rivieres in Canada in order to perform the premier of Return to the Centre of the Earth with an orchestra and choir plus Canadian/French singers and narrator.

As undoubtedly this event will have been and gone by the time this newsletter plops itself on your doormat, we've decided not to go into too much detail as to how Rick is expecting it all to go! He claims he has prepared as best as he can. The music has been adapted where necessary to allow for the narration in a foreign language and along with the choir parts has all been sent in advance for rehearsal purposes.

The band have been studying what they have to do from the CD and the crew have been on holiday! Rick has been trying to remember what he's forgotten and now just wants to get out there and do it! It is always exciting when a new challenge such as this appears and Rick and the lads are really looking forward to the event and hope that it can be a real springboard for possible future performances perhaps in other countries around the world. Although it will be a very basic performance, (by this we mean a stage full of musicians, no effects or surprises), it is still very challenging in every respect especially that of sound balance both on stage and out front. We know of many people traveling from both the USA and from Europe to see the show and Rick is really quite touched at the interest that has been shown in this event and hopes that it lives up to everybody's expectations. A full report will appear in the next newsletter.


Radio And Television

Rick continues to appear on television and radio wherever and whenever possible and to this end he has just recorded another six Through The Keyholes as well as having made a couple of live appearances on Late Night Live for Radio 5. He also continued to display his ignorance about the industry he works in by being totally useless in a recent recording of A Question of Pop for the BBC. For the record Rick was on Sugs' team and we're not telling you if he won or not!

Television has been a bit thin on the ground since the divorce proceeding became public knowledge and the accompanying lies that were printed in a couple of newspapers that Rick refused to reply to have certainly been very damaging indeed and so maybe the television side of things is coming to an end. Certainly the first half of 2001 has been particularly quiet on this front and there appears to be no change in sight for the second half. Rick hopes this will not remain as such as he "loves his tele" as you all know!


Golf

Yes we know that for most of you the whole golf bit is a pain in the rear, but Rick insists! His golf day at Stockley Park and the evening dinner and cabaret, which was beautifully organized by his great friend Graeme Slocombe, made a profit of around £27,000 for the Sparks charity and it was nice to see some of you turning up to support the event as well. We reckon that it was Brian and Pam Towler's third year in a row. (About time you entered the golf now Brian)!

The evening's entertainment came from the king of the one liners, Joe Goodman, plus Rick and Ashley doing a turn before the evening was rounded off by a great performance from Bobby Davro. A good time was had by all and although playing nowhere near his handicap, Rick claims he only lost two balls out on the course. (No rude comments PLEASE)!


Bootlegs

All the major record stores in South America in particular, plus the world wide web, seem to be littered with hundreds of bootlegs of Rick's stuff. Almost anything and everything is available from No Earthly Connection to a compilation of stuff entitled Wakeman Gold which includes tracks taken directly from Return To The Centre of the Earth.

There are two ways of looking at this "problem". Firstly Rick gets no income from sales of these CDs and in truth they are illegal. If Rick could have 50p from the sale of every one of these bootlegs then he could have cured all his problems financially years ago! These sales now outstrip the legitimate sales.

However to be realistic, the second way of looking at them is that if the record company that has the original recording won't release the product in CD format, then what do they expect? They lose out and Rick loses out even more. Therefore you have to lay the blame for this happening firmly at the feet of the record company. In this case A&M or Universal who now own most of them.

As regards EMI and Return to the Centre of the Earth, then it has to be said that in England, Germany, France and Spain they have done a particularly fine job. In South America they have done nothing except for import a few copies and with Rick and the lads playing more than twenty shows in that continent over the last eight months, with more to come, it's not been surprising that demand has been high for this recording. EMI in Brazil and Argentina have not cottoned on to this at all and still haven't released it properly down there.

Rick has never even seen anybody from the company at any of the shows either ....but he signs over two hundred bootlegs a night after every show and virtually all the people who bring them for signing say they would rather have the real thing .

Are you listening EMI in South America? ....we doubt it!

All Rick can do is throw his hands in the air .

. . . ... . .. . . . ... . .. .. . Food for thought huh? RELATED NEWS Oliver is currently completing his new solo album The Hound Of The Baskervilles and there is a launch planned for the early summer in London, which Rick and Alina hope to attend. Adam has been working extensively with Lisa Stansfield and the Artful Dodger and is currently contemplating moving to a larger house somewhere in Bedfordshire. Lee Pomeroy gets married to the lovely Ros on August 10th and all the lads are looking forward to the ceremony and the bash afterwards once the invites come that is!

Ant Glynne recently announced his engagement to Sophie from Venezuela and has bought a cottage in Berkshire.

Jemma has just signed an exclusive world wide publishing and production deal for three years which starts immediately so there will be yet another Wakeman in the studio somewhere throughout this year.

Alina Bencini's website alinabencini.com will be launched sometime in July/August and will feature her paintings as well as a shop selling limited edition prints of her work. The first two available prints will be Only A Dream, (inspired by Rick's piece from the Preludes CD), and Blue Rondo which is the painting featured on the Out Of The Blue CD cover.

Tony Fernandez is in the middle of completing his move to Portugal with the lovely Jackie and in spite of Rick's suggestion, will not be calling his new house "Wop's Place"!

Rick wishes it to go on record that he is convinced Man City will go straight back to the Premier League at the end of next season .

.............. see you all soon!

And finally an email received through the website

We are writing in the hopes that you can pass this on to Rick. We know that you can't possibly forward along every fan letter, but we thought this situation might make him smile, and he could probably use that these days. We would like to thank him for choosing Trois-Rivieres as the city for the Return concert, as it has turned out to have tremendous personal significance far us: it will be a "return" of our own. W wife Stephanie and I travelled from Boston to Chatham to see Rick in January of 2000. (Attached is a photo of him with the two of us). When we heard about the Return concert, we decided to drive to Trois-Rivieres. Stephanie mentioned this to her parents, who told her that they believed that she had ancestors who originally settled there. She was intrigued by this fact, and did some research over the Internet. She discovered a web site with her family tree which dated back to a Nicolas Rivard, who emigrated from Normandy, trance to Trois-Rivieres in the early 1600's. She also found a message board consisting of distant relatives of hers. She posted to it with her information, and they began emailing one another.

They gave her a very warm welcome into the fold, and told her lots of info about her family's origins in Quebec. She has nor begun studying her genealogy, and is having a wonderful time contacting relatives around the world.

We just wanted to thank Rick, because if the Return concert had not been scheduled for TroisRivieres, Stephanie may never have had this opportunity to "return" to her roots. We are really looking forward to the concert, and we are thrilled that Rick has come to North America. We sincerely hope that this will not be the last time he plays on this side of "the Pond."

Gratefully,

Craig and Stephanie Smith


Text scanned, OCRd and checked by Jon Hinchliffe