Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Rick Wakeman - Edinburgh Book Festival, 22 August

To me, Rick Wakeman will always be the guy with long hair playing keyboards with Yes, or the Strawbs, or on The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Also the session musician with the second-highest number of sessions to his credit (beaten by Pentangle's drummer Terry Cox). However, since those days he has become something of a TV personality via his appearances on Countdown and Grumpy Old Men. Having never watched either of those shows I was probably one of the few people in the audience who was surprised by what a great raconteur Wakeman is. Ian Rankin, who was hosting the session, didn't need to draw him out, simply point him in the right direction. We had tales of his schooldays, music college, session work, playing with the Strawbs (including a gig in France where he pushed a chap off the stage who turned out to have been Salvador Dali) and with Yes (marvellous story of a tunnel affair they used to enter through until one night in Chicago the crew - who hated it - routed it out into the street instead of onto the stage). Tales of session work including David Bowie's Hunky Dory album and the piano bits on Cat Stevens' Morning Has Broken. The time passed very quickly. I got to ask a question, which was "Which were the best and worst sessions you ever played on?" Best was Hunky Dory, worst was an advertising jingle for a German brand of toilet paper.

Afterwards he was signing copies of his memoirs Grumpy Old Rock Star, and his best anecdote concerned a book signing. He was expleing how you look ahead and see people approaching in the queu, and once he saw a mother and teenage daughter followed by two old ladies. He signed for the mother, and the daughter was obviously trying to get her mother to ask something. Eventually she said that she'd seen Rick about twenty years previously and he's signed a pair of her knickers. Would he mind doing the same again? OK, he said, expecting her to fish a pair out of her bag. But no, out came a pen but then she turned round, up went the skirt and she bent over. Rick commented that he was glad his name wasn't too long as the pants weren't very big. Anyway, as he was manfully doing his duty, one of the old ladies waiting next in line said "Oh Doris, I do hope we don't have to do that!"

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