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Rick Wakeman's Caped Crusade: In a word (or several)

An illustration of Rick Wakeman with his mouth zipped

We’ve all been in situations where someone says something and you just have to bite your tongue and reply politely. It happens to me a lot, so I’d like to share some of the things that have genuinely been said to me, along with my original replies and what I really wanted to say. All identifying features have been changed to protect the guilty.

The first came from a mum. “I just have to tell you that my son Terry is only 13, and he’s been learning the piano for a year now,” she said. “He can play every single one of your pieces better than you! Isn’t that wonderful?”

My actual reply was, “You must be so proud. I’m sure he’ll soon be headlining venues all around the world.”

What I really wanted to say was, “You stupid cow! Has this spotty-faced son of yours got three hands, a bionic musical brain and 16 fingers? If he hasn’t, then don’t talk complete and utter bollocks, woman!”

Next, is a common example from the middle-aged guy who tends to hover at signings, waiting for a suitable moment to apprehend me. He’ll usually come out with something along the lines of, “Unfortunately I had to give up playing the piano and keyboards when I was 14 years old, but I know if I’d been able to continue, I could have been where you are now. Count yourself lucky, Rick!”

My usual reply is, “It’s such a shame when people have to give up something they love, but never mind, your loss is obviously my gain.”

What I really want to say is, “Don’t give me all that bollocks! You either weren’t good enough, didn’t practise enough, or had other interests you felt were far more important!”

Another common one is what I call the joint parental bombardment. It usually involves their so-called “highly talented” offspring who they’re trying to get a record deal for. On this occasion I remember the mum told me, “Here’s our son Walter’s new CD for you to listen to. He made it himself and has played every single instrument on it himself too. He’s highly talented. Everybody says so.”

My original reply was, “That’s wonderful!”

But I really meant, “What a prick!”

The dad then asked, “Can you introduce him to a record company? He’s written more than 7,000 songs and he’s only 14!”

I replied saying, “I’m afraid there’s no short cut. He has to send his CD to as many different companies as he can find, and then wait to see what they say.”

By which I actually meant, “Join the real world! By the way, does your Walter know a young piano player called Terry? They really should meet, you know…”