Wondrous Stories

I first met Rick Wakeman on the TV set of Jounglares Live and Unleashed.  I arrived at the rehearsal completely unprepared.  In my defence I had had a tough week with a death in the family and then on the day before the show, when I had planned to prepare, my son broke his arm.  On the day of the recording I just grabbed my most recent trick – the levitating cigarette, and drove to the set.  It wasn’t until I got there that I realised I hadn’t gotten permission for the music that I used during the trick.  There was no way I could get the rights in time.  I asked them if they had any copyright free music and the TV company said, no.  I didn’t know what to do.  I needed some spooky music but it was four in the afternoon on a Sunday.  The producers and the director couldn’t come up with a solution, that’s when Rick came over.  I had been an avid fan of Yes and owned all of Rick’s solo albums.  One of the main reasons I did the show was to meet him.  But instead of a proper introduction the first thing I ever said to him was, “If I can find a little Casio keyboard will you play some Bach behind me?” I meant it as a joke but he replied, “No but I can do a little Rakmoninoff.”

So off I dashed to find a keyboard.  The only thing open was a car boot sale.  I found all manner of flutes but no keyboards -then I found a Stylophone.  The Stylophone was a tiny electronic toy  keyboard that came out in Britian in the 70s.  It was sold on TV by a famous personality in the UK named Ralf Harris.  It came with one of those floppy 45rpm records to teach you how to play songs like: Greensleeves and When the Saints Come Marching In.  The one I found in a market stall was in mint condition, in the original box with a perfect floppy record.  The guy wanted a fortune for it but I didn’t care.

When I got back I showed Rick the flutes – he wasn’t enthusiastic – then I showed him the Stylophone.  I’ve never seen a man so excited.  Rick apparently bought one of the original Stylophones as he was walking down Oxford Street on the way to a recording session where he was playing keyboards for David Bowie.  You know that sliding electronic sound in Space Oddity of the rocket launching?  That was Rick on a Stylophone. He said, “I’ve been looking for one of these for ages.”

I told him if he played for me on stage he could have it.  The big man (Rick is like 6’3″) wandered on stage in his full glittering robe and with his hair-swishing best he played Rachmaninoff on a tiny tinny Stylophone while I levitated a cigarette.  How cool is that?  We’ve been friends ever since.

Rick has just published a memoir called Grumpy Old Rockstar and other Wondrous Stories.  It’s a delight.  When you are not laughing out loud, you are whispering under your breath, “Oh my god.”  It’s like sitting down with the great man himself.  Buy a copy today and then eagerly wait for volume two – cause this ain’t even half of the wondrous stories that this guy has got.

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4 Responses to “Wondrous Stories”

  1. Andy Taylor Says:

    I met Rick Wakeman when he played a festival I was working at. He came to the festival radio station (where I was working) to do an interview and I had the pleasure of looking after him. He stayed for nearly 2 hours talking on air and then had to go backstage to prepare for his set. Walking him through to the backstage entrance we chatted and as he reached the steward guarding the entrance reached into his bag for his all-areas wristband. “No need for that, I know who you are” said the steward. After his performance, Rick returned to the radio station and spent the rest of the evening sitting in our production area drinking tea and chatting.

    Based on that evening alone, I think there’s at least another 10 volumes of memoirs to come after this one!

  2. Anda Says:

    Great story.

    I clicked on the book image hyperlink to Amazon and noticed they also sell his Grumpy Old Picture Show tour on DVD. Anyone seen it? It sounds good too, from the description.

  3. Mark Says:

    I’ve seen the “Grumpy Old Picture Show” DVD, Anda, and can heartily recommend it. Rick is brilliant!

  4. momo Says:

    i heard the song Oboe round,,, from Moondog, this song is performed by clinic that uses the Stylophone to optimize the sample of this song and show in the video the advertisment with Rolf Harris that took me to this site… were i read about Rick Wakeman, who also contribute to the space Oddity song one of my favorites,,, song that was wrote by Bowie to Syd Barret who was outspace,,, Just to add,,, Rolf Harris worked with George Martin,,, we all know who was he… so Beatles have part of this story also.,,
    Guillermo, Mexico city.

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