How do you measure success? Artists through the ages have insisted that what matters most is their expression: whether they feel they have successfully created or transmitted an idea into the mind of the person experiencing the art. Others have quantified success in relation to other projects; they often become critics.
If one listens to the critics, Rick Wakeman’s solo project in 1975 was an utter failure. In the eyes of Wakeman (keyboardist and songwriter for the rock band Yes), it was arguably the highlight of his career, even more than getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The project was a concept album, The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
1975 was a banner year for the legend of Arthur. It was the year that Monty Python and the Holy Grail was released, forever melding a killer rabbit and limbless Black Knight with the traditional stories of the young king. Wakeman’s contribution has been overshadowed over time, but it was in its way just as ostentatious as Holy Grail; the concept album was only part of his vision. He used it as the basis to create: Arthur On Ice.
The full progressive rock work was used as the soundtrack for a performance in which Wakeman rented Wembley Stadium, hired more than a dozen professional ice skaters, and arranged to have an ice ring created around a center where he and supporting musicians played live.
If you’re having trouble picturing this, you’re in luck. While the stadium packed with curious people wanting to see Wakeman’s odd concert, the show was also recorded for posterity. Like many older recordings, parts of it are now on Youtube.
Despite three sold out nights, the production went slightly into the red. Whether his vision was worth it is dependent entirely on your point of view.
Question of the night: Do you have any skating stories?