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Rick Wakeman's Caped Crusades: Heaven Can Wait

An illustration of Rock Wakeman

I’m often asked if I will retire one day and my answer is always that true musicians don’t retire. At worst, we might have to change the way we work a little if, for example, we have a debilitating illness, but in general we all want to make music until our final breath. In my will, it states that I want my tombstone inscription to read: ‘It’s not fair, I haven’t finished yet,’ and I’m sure that a great many other musicians feel the same. I can’t help but wonder about the massive amounts of fabulous music that great friends have taken to musical heaven after departing this mortal coil. There’s so much we’ll never hear.

Of course, musical taste is such a personal thing and I, like many others, have met people who love what I do, as well as those who can’t stand my musical contributions. I remember encountering one of them on an evening some years ago.

It was around eight o’clock when the doorbell rang, and I found myself face-to-face with a soldier in full uniform. He was accompanied by a woman, who he introduced as his wife.

“I’m on weekend leave,” said the soldier, after clicking his heels and saluting, “and I was hoping you might sign some albums for me. I wasn’t expecting you to answer the door so I apologise for disturbing you.”

His wife politely smiled at me and added, “He’s a huge fan.”

I smiled back and said it wasn’t a problem. I took the half a dozen or so albums from him and started signing. To break the silence, I asked his wife if she liked my music as well.

“I can’t stand it,” she said, wrinkling her nose. “It’s rubbish. You can’t dance to it and the words don’t make sense. My favourite band is ABBA.”

I stifled a smile and carried on signing, but the soldier was less than impressed. I was horrified when he turned to his wife and bellowed: “You ignorant cow! Don’t you realise you’re in the presence of a musical genius? He makes proper music, not the crap you listen to!”

“But you can’t dance to his stuff,” she said, jabbing a slender finger in my direction.

I interjected: “To be fair, your wife is quite correct. It is very hard to dance to prog rock.”

“You shut up and keep out of this!” the soldier retorted. “She’s an ignorant cow and doesn’t understand musical genius!”

“I like dancing though,” she replied.

I handed the albums back, and left the couple arguing on my doorstep.

Although the soldier’s wife probably won’t give a toss about the music I take to musical heaven, she’ll certainly have something to say if heaven’s idea of a knees-up turns out to be a prog dance-a-thon!

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