Roger Dean and Rick Wakeman
Saturday, 3rd November 2012
Trading Boundaries, East Sussex, the UK
Article By Alison Henderson
and photos By Alison Buchanan
Located deep within the wood-lined lanes of East Sussex is the most extraordinary musical venue.
A cross between a furniture showroom and a shopping village, the imposing period façade of Trading Boundaries’ headquarters belies its other occasional role,
as a place where prog legends such as Carl Palmer, Steve Hackett and John Wetton come to play.
It is also just down the road from the home of the artist most associated with prog so it was only natural that he should choose this venue
to stage a third exhibition of his iconic works.
The Tales of the Edge Exhibition 2012 is a showcase for the 40 plus years that Roger Dean has been creating the artistic landscape
which has helped to shape the image of bands such as Yes and Asia, Uriah Heep and Greenslade, and latterly Focus for whom he has designed the cover for their latest album X.
So, in this delightful setting, you have the perfect opportunity to see what a Roger Dean epic would look like hung above your bed, by the staircase or in the study.
The exhibition is a timely reminder of the impact Dean, who very understatedly describes himself as a landscape artist, has had on the world of prog.
The works on show date back to one of his first, Black Bat designed for Clear Blue Sky in 1970. The rest, as they say, is history.
Among the most familiar on display is Awaken, the third in the Yessongs sequence; the huge complex labyrinth of Journey to the Centre of the Earth for Rick Wakeman;
the painstakingly detailed Alpha cover for Asia for which Dean said he needed all his skills as a draughtsman and of course,
Tales From Topographic Oceans, the defining image in which endless sea, land and infinite sky appear to become one.
The suites of exclusive logos for Yes and Asia show how important a brand can be for a band’s identity and how a truly great image
can evolve to incorporate other elements such as, in the case of Yes, dragonflies without losing its shape or integrity.
So to view his works “in the flesh” was quite an emotional experience after cherishing them in all their glory on LP sleeves and then miniaturised on CDs.
It is useful too that he has some pretty distinguished friends on which to call for such occasions, in this case, Rick Wakeman.
Having seen Rick reduce his musical sidekick Jon Anderson to hysterics on their recent tours together,
it was going to be interesting to see how the self-effacing Dean would cope with the ribaldry of Wakeman during their informal soirée held in Trading Boundaries’ intimate,
candle-lit Elephant Café.
With just a couple of comfy chairs and what Wakeman mock-indignantly described as a “school piano”, so began an evening of anecdotes and reminiscences,
all centred on their respective terms of office spent as part of the Yes dramatis personae.
They met in September 1971 and as Rick recalls, when Roger first showed him one of his works he hoped the band would use.
However, he had to tell Rick he was holding it upside down!
Rick, who left the band in September 1974 and rejoined again in November 1976, pulled no punches about what he thought of the cover of Going For The One
which he described as “ridiculous buildings and a guy’s a*se”.
Roger revealed that he had designed a cover for the album which surprised Rick as much as the audience itself.
Many of the recollections were to describe the life and times of Jon Anderson,
the most hilarious story being when the diminutive singer agreed to do an interview with a journalist from the local paper in San Luis Obispo,
the Californian city where Jon lives and from where his wife Jane comes.
Rick recalled how he and the rest of the band tried to keep the paper away from Jon after it was published.
This was because, touching on where the couple met, Jon was quoted as saying “in the lost city of Atlantis where she was a mermaid and I was an underwater goblin.”
The upshot was Jon was thrilled with the story because, as he said, “it was a pleasure to meet a journalist who writes what you say to them.”
Asked what their favourite Yes covers were, Rick went for “Toby’s Graphic Go-Kart”, ironically,
the album which prompted him to leave the band the first time, while Roger went for Relayer, which he described as looking like it had been “painted with dirty water.”
And quizzed on whether the classic Yes line-up will ever get together again, Rick replied that in his opinion,
the period between 2002 and 2005 was the time when, in his words, “the band was playing the best I had ever heard.
We were like a team of Premiership footballers all reaching maturity at the same time.”
So he thought it highly unlikely this would now ever happen.
However, he did reveal that the collaboration between him, Jon and Trevor Rabin was coming along nicely.
And of course, Rick played. Against projections of some of Roger’s finest works, Rick introduced And You And I playing the original chord sequences of the song.
Whatever the reasons for changing the sequences, it still sounded beautiful as a simple piano piece especially when played so lovingly.
Rick’s next choice was The Meeting, that prog hymn on ABWH which he explained came about at George Martin’s studio in Monserrat where the album was recorded.
He and Jon were discussing the concept of creating instant music and The Meeting was the result, the first take being the one we hear on the album.
Finally, he played The Nursery Rhyme Concerto comprising Baa Baa Black Sheep in the style of Mozart, Hickory Dickory Dock in the style of Ravel,
Three Blind Mice in the style of Debussy, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in the style of Dawson, Les Dawson and Pop Goes The Weasel in the style of Rachmaninov.
Well, you had to be there to believe it but it was telling that Rick said his Desert Island Disc would be Peter and the Wolf,
so the classics remain the cornerstone of his career.
Watching those breath-taking works of art materialise as Rick played showed how the two mediums could so seamlessly become a single entity.
It was such a defining moment especially for someone who has been a fan of both artist and artiste for forever and a day.
Both Focus and Yessongs Italy will also be appearing at Trading Boundaries during the run of the exhibition which ends on November 18.
If you cannot make it to see either of the bands, then the exhibition (free entry) is worth a visit alone.
Roger Dean Official Website
Rick Wakeman Official Website