• Our Album of the Week features will return in June.

This Masquerade - Richard's incredible piano.

Richard’s namesake

Well-Known Member
I've always loved this song - my favourite part is Richard's magnificent piano solo. I still listen to it and wonder how he did it. It really is a masterpiece.

I've seen (as others will have, no doubt) a video on You Tube by a Piano Teacher who talks us through the solo, deconstructing how she thinks he did it. It's a fabulous video and is really informative for a non-pianist like myself (I'm a guitar player), but there's one part I've always wondered about, where she claims that Richard 'probably didn't improvise' a certain section of it. I've always thought that he did, and certainly Chris and Mike state in the book that he did. Interested to hear everyone's thoughts - especially if @Chris May could confirm it.

My other question relates to something I'm sure I've read - but may have imagined - where Richard can no longer play it. I've just had a quick skim through the book and I can't find it, so I may have dreamt it. Again - any information or thoughts welcome!
 
My other question relates to something I'm sure I've read - but may have imagined - where Richard can no longer play it. I've just had a quick skim through the book and I can't find it, so I may have dreamt it.
I don't think you're imagining that - I think Chris said something about that...where Richard had to use the original recording of the solo for the RPO album because he couldn't replicate it.
 
Not 100% sure, but most of it sounds improvised to me. As a pianist myself I can tell you that when you get to a certain skill level, you can play some pretty impressive stuff in the fly.
This is true, but not for all accomplished pianists, some of whom can't improvise to save their souls...I play a little but would have no idea where to start.

It could very well be that instead of charting (writing out or notating) the Solo he simply practiced versions of it ahead of time over and over and probably improvising it a little differently - and a little better - each time - and the final, recorded version was just another unique iteration in a long series of them...at which point it was so polished it sounded like it was "charted".

I do truly wish he had played more of them on their records - taking nothing away from Bob Messenger (wonder how improvised his solos were?).
 
Last edited:
It could very well be that instead of charting (writing out or notating) the Solo he simply practiced versions of it ahead of time over and over and probably improvising it a little differently - and a little better - each time - and the final, recorded version was just another unique iteration in a long series of them...
Also a possibility…could have been like the outtakes for the Ticket To Ride video where he kept changing how high he went on that little glide up the keys during the song’s intro.
 
Yes - it’s a very neat feeling when you’re “in the zone” like that. You don’t even have to think about where your hands are going, they just go to where they feel they need to.
 
The entire solo was improvised. Richard said that when he attempted to replace it in "stereo" on the RPO, he had a hard time figuring out what he played during one figure in the introduction solo piano. I charted it out for him (sort of as a joke, being the smart aleck I am) and gave it to him. When I saw him again about a week later, he said, That was it! That's exactly what I played ... you took it right down ... sterling ear!

I told him I guess I'd learned from the best and couldn't believe he was having a hard time, because HE wrote it LOL
 
The entire solo was improvised. Richard said that when he attempted to replace it in "stereo" on the RPO, he had a hard time figuring out what he played during one figure in the introduction solo piano. I charted it out for him (sort of as a joke, being the smart aleck I am) and gave it to him. When I saw him again about a week later, he said, That was it! That's exactly what I played ... you took it right down ... sterling ear!

I told him I guess I'd learned from the best and couldn't believe he was having a hard time, because HE wrote it LOL
So the solo we hear in the rpo version is the original?
 
So the solo we hear in the rpo version is the original?
That's correct, yes.

And just for further clarification, in Richard's defense there wasn't a lot of time in the studio given the nature of the project and deadlines for him to take the necessary time to re-learn said figure in the solo. Matt D'Amico at Universal made the suggestion that all of the stereo piano (and drums in many instances) be redone, which is why there are alternate mixes of RPO floating around. In other words, a lot of this stuff was being done on the quick.

I'm quite sure with more time he would have figured it out. :)
 
What was the reason for that Chris, when the piano and drums were already re-recorded in stereo on the remixes done in the 80s and 90s?
With the exception of "Superstar" and "Beasts," none of the drums were redone on any of that early stuff prior to RPO. And Richard reverted back to the original drum take on "Superstar" after 1985 because of all of the leakage issues, opting only to use the original take on subsequent remixes.

"Masquerade" never got a refresh on either piano or drums (the keyboard recorded within the 'track' is a Wurlitzer electric, which is single-channel mono, regardless). So, the updated "stereo" solo on this one would have been unique at this point. :)

As for any RE-retakes with regard to stereo piano, it was more about making everything more sonically cohesive within the (RPO) album itself if that makes sense.
 
With the exception of "Superstar" and "Beasts," none of the drums were redone on any of that early stuff prior to RPO.

Ok makes sense thanks Chris. I’m sure there is one exception though - We’ve Only Just Begun clearly got a complete (assuming stereo?) drum remix in 1985 when Hal Blaine was brought back in to do some re-records. The tom tom fills in the remix just after the first verse line “a kiss for luck and we’re on our way” are completely different to the original. (You can even see this on the Bob Hope clip included on the video compilation - his tom tom strikes don’t match the audio, because he’s playing to the 1970 version in the special but it’s the 1985 remix we’re hearing).

I remember Hal’s re-recording sessions in 1985 because I recall a description of those session, where he was in tears in the studio, along with others, listening to Karen’s voice for the first time since her passing. The 1990 UK compilation below is where I first heard that remix.

CDB4A2EE-6807-48BF-95EB-D60B36CD9AC6.jpeg
 
Ok makes sense thanks Chris. I’m sure there is one exception though - We’ve Only Just Begun clearly got a complete (assuming stereo?) drum remix in 1985 when Hal Blaine was brought back in to do some re-records. The tom tom fills in the remix just after the first verse line “a kiss for luck and we’re on our way” are completely different to the original. (You can even see this on the Bob Hope clip included on the video compilation - his tom tom strikes don’t match the audio, because he’s playing to the 1970 version in the special but it’s the 1985 remix we’re hearing).

I remember Hal’s re-recording sessions in 1985 because I recall a description of those session, where he was in tears in the studio, along with others, listening to Karen’s voice for the first time since her passing. The 1990 UK compilation below is where I first heard that remix.

CDB4A2EE-6807-48BF-95EB-D60B36CD9AC6.jpeg
Actually—you're gonna laugh—but that was an alternate drum fill recorded in 1970. I know, because it's actually on the master that way. Richard opted for the more simple fill in'85 and from there, on. :)
 
I put this together (unpublished) some time ago.

Here are three variations. Variation #1 involves one fill (the simple fill you hear on the '85 mix and beyond), variation #2 is a second fill, and the third variation is both fills mixed together (which is what you hear in the 1970 mix):

 
Actually—you're gonna laugh—but that was an alternate drum fill recorded in 1970. I know, because it's actually on the master that way. Richard opted for the more simple fill in'85 and from there, on.

Well you learn something new every day! 😂

I’ll have to try and dig out that anecdote about the 1985 session with Hal, as I’m now wondering what it was for if he wasn’t re-recording drum parts.
 
Well you learn something new every day! 😂

I’ll have to try and dig out that anecdote about the 1985 session with Hal, as I’m now wondering what it was for if he wasn’t re-recording drum parts.
Oh, it most definitely was related to the sessions to which you're referring! I don't recall him specifically talking about "Begun," but even if there was a re-record of those drum tracks, they were never used. This wasn't uncommon for Richard, especially because he would have to hear it before deciding to use a retake.

It is also possible that I misspoke some number of years ago about this as well. I know now what is actually happening here, so my apologies if I did misspeak regarding the "Begun" drum tracks.

I do know the re-records with regard to "Superstar" and "Beasts" during those sessions were kept.
 
Last edited:
I put this together (unpublished) some time ago.

Here are three variations. Variation #1 involves one fill (the simple fill you hear on the '85 mix and beyond), variation #2 is a second fill, and the third variation is both fills mixed together (which is what you hear in the 1970 mix):


More! More! I love this stuff.
 
Here are three variations. Variation #1 involves one fill (the simple fill you hear on the '85 mix and beyond), variation #2 is a second fill, and the third variation is both fills mixed together (which is what you hear in the 1970 mix):

What still confuses me is why the original drum tracks in this (and other) early 70s tracks sound totally different once they were spruced up in 1985. That’s what made me think some of the drum tracks had been re-recorded. The quality of the snare and toms on those tracks bears no resemblance to the same parts in the 1985 mixes, it even sounds like a different kit was used. What was done to those tracks to create that difference?
 
Last edited:
What still confuses me is why the original drum tracks in this (and other) early 70s tracks sound totally different once they were spruced up in 1985. That’s what made me think some of the drum tracks had been re-recorded. The quality of the snare and toms on those tracks bears no resemblance to the same parts in the 1985 mixes, it even sounds like a different kit was used. What was done to those tracks to create that difference?
The technology had improved significantly in that 10-15 year span … better outboard effects and EQing … not to mention the mastering, made all the difference. Those drum tracks from ‘70-‘73 were still mixed mono just as they were recorded.
 
The technology had improved significantly in that 10-15 year span … better outboard effects and EQing … not to mention the mastering, made all the difference. Those drum tracks from ‘70-‘73 were still mixed mono just as they were recorded.

Dare I say…Passage? 🙈
 
Back
Top Bottom