AUDIO: Wakeman’s journey to centre of Sheffield

Rick Wakeman
Rick Wakeman
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Keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman will take Sheffield fans on a magical journey that almost never happened when he performs his landmark concept album, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, writes Graham Walker.

The Sheffield City Hall date - Thursday, May 8, 2014 - with full orchestra and choir, celebrates the album’s 40th anniversary and the 150th anniversary of Jules Verne’s classic book, on which it was based.

AUDIO: Listen to Graham Walker’s full chat with Rick Wakeman - CLICK HERE.

But for more than 30 years the original score went missing, before turning up as a “water damaged block of paper mache” at the bottom of a box, Rick revealed in an exclusive chat with The Star.

Conductor Guy Protheroe, from the English Chamber Choir, helped him to piece it back together and get it onto a computer in a workable form to re-record at Abbey Road Studios.

Yet as the original vinyl offering only allowed 36 minutes of recording, many songs never appeared on the original album, but are being included for the first time on a CD version due out next month.

And when word go out his web site was inundated with requests to tour the new album live. The original was only performed three times in the UK back in 1974.

He will be joined by The New World Symphony Orchestra, English Chamber Choir and English Rock Ensemble, for a state-of-the-art dramatic, live presentation of his classical-rock crossover work.

The former Yes keyboard, who has featured on songs by artists including Black Sabbath, David Bowie, T Rex, Elton John and Cat Stevens, will in the first half of the show tell the story behind the album, which sold 15 million copies.

He has produced over 100 solo albums that have sold more than 50 million copies.

He said all the orchestral music for Journey has been put in storage but was missing when her tried to find it in 1980.

“So for 30-plus years, it was never played again. Then about seven years ago a package arrived at my home in Norfolk. The box came from Australia. Right at the bottom was the original conductor’s score for Journey To The Centre Of The Earth,” said Rick, also a star of BBC comedy series Grumpy Old Men.

“It had been badly water damaged and was like one block of paper mache. I phoned a great friend, Guy Protheroe, who conducts for me, and told him what I had found. He’s a clever musicologist. They’ve got special liquids and fluids. It took him six months but he got everything separated and managed to get all of the music put onto a computer.

“He pointed out that when we did the original, we cut out a lot of music because you could only fit 36 minutes onto a vinyl album. It was meant to be around 60 minutes long. But the additional songs and solos were taken out. So what a great opportunity now, with technology, CDs, downloads and whatever, to put it back in. We went into Abbey Road Studios, with an orchestra, choir and basically we did it as a studio version. It took us nine months. We put in all the missing music and narration. So it’s all of the original plus all that was missing the first time around.

“We’re thrilled to bits with it. We’ve been very true to original sounds in every respect. The album actually comes out in the middle of June. But we mentioned it on the web site and it went nuts. We had thousands of people bombarding the website saying we must do it live. One fan said he was 45 and was too young to see it the first time around. I said what do you mean. Then thought blimey, he was five.

“It just became something we had to do. This has also been nine months in the planning. Each stage is a different size. It’s so complicated we knew this would be the one and only time to do it.,

“I’m thrilled we are able to do it and with the new version. But there is a little tinge of sadness because we know it won’t be done again.”

* Tickets to see Rick Wakeman’s Journey To The Centre of The Earth at Sheffield City Hall on Thursday, May 8, at 8pm, are £45 and £40, subject to booking fees. Buy in person, call 0114 278 9789 or book online at

Also see The Star’s entertainments listings site at

Remaining tour dates include Sheffield City Hall, Thursday, May 8; Liverpool Philharmonic, Friday, May 9; Llandudno Venue Cymru, Saturday, May 10.

Tickets also available at or by calling 0844 8718803.