At the early age of 12 years, I went to the record store to buy my first two albums. One was “Journey to the Center of the Earth” by Rick Wakeman. This began a lifelong appreciation of all the works by this brilliant keyboard wizard. Journey and it’s followup, “The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table” were pure magic to my ears. Deftly blending rock, classical, and theater, these albums fueled my young imagination and continue to provoke wonder today. I played these same records for my own kids, and one of my son’s early first purchases was Rick’s “Return to the Center of the Earth” which sported the exhilarating “Dance of 1,000 Lights.”
Last weekend after a prolonged period making the arrangements, Rick played most of these masterworks on two nights in Cheltenham at the Centaur. The night before these, he gave an intimate performance with three of his children, now young adults, Oliver, Jemma, and Adam Wakeman. I took my son, now 19 out from California to Britain to see these shows – they were everything we hoped and more.
This intimate show held at Black Friars club in Gloucester, part of a restored Dominican Friary, allowed each Wakeman to play a few of their own compositions and covers from their catalogs. Rick played his Nursery Rhymes, Beatles covers, and one from Rhapsodies. Most notably the guys all played “Jemma” from “The Family Album” teasing Jemma about her bedtime ritual, ultimately ending with Rick reading a modified, sweet and humorous bedtime story. The audience was invited to add new lyrics, filling in suggested actions for the bedtime ritual, expanding on ones like “Jemma, Jemma, brush your teeth!” [See an audience video here on YouTube] Many who read this will know of Adam and Oliver’s work – what was a surprise to us is how talented Jemma is – great keys, guitar and beautiful voice. The family shared stories and quite a few barbs at Dad on that Father’s day eve, for his many marriages and other foibles. Heart warming, endearing, and a rare glimpse into the private life of these amazing artists.
Rick and family are now preparing for the upcoming Wakemanfest weekend, taking place this coming 30th October to 1st November at Lincolnshire’s Boston Gliderdrome. Already announced for the weekend are Mike Livesley’s version of Vivian Stanshall’s Sir Henry At Rawlinson End, The English Rock Ensemble, the Strawbs, the Cadbury Sisters and others. Q&A sessions will take place throughout the weekend. It promises to be another opportunity to catch a special concert including Wakeman and guests, a welcome chance to celebrate their work.