The story behind the record cover – The Last Forest (1980) – Edward Reekers

 

“He was just a clown, in white and red”. Where have I heard this before? The clown is one of the twelve archetypes, the prototypes with which everyone can identify. They are used in movies and in books because they are utterly recognizable. The clown represents entertainment. Pleasing people. Make them laugh and take them out of their daily grind or life’s misery. The clown makes jokes and is clumsy. He slips on a banana skin or attempts to play a song on a fake violin. And yet there is always this big smile. A clown must never be sad.

The image of a clown is beautifully depicted on the cover of “The Last Forest” by Dutch artist Fred Hansen. His work is characterized by magical realism. The (former) singer of the Dutch prog rock band Kayak, Edward Reekers, came into contact with Fred Hansen for a reason: after the success of Kayak’s album “Phantom of the Night”, he was allowed to make a solo album. He received carte blanche and was also allowed to decide for himself what the cover would look like.

Reekers was impressed by an earlier cover of Kayak’s “Starlight Dancer/The last encore”, also made by Fred Hansen. Reekers contacted him and a friendship developed. Fred Hansen turned out to be a special artist. As an artist, he called himself ‘Le Marquis’. Whether this was meant as a joke or whether Hansen really lived in some sort of higher realm was never made clear to Reekers. He did predict that Reekers would not sing for a while, but would eventually perform again. Because that’s what he prefers to do. Performing in front of packed venues. Entertaining the audience. Kind of like the clown archetype.

The question with a clown is whether there is a sad face underneath that smile. (Again the lyrics of a song haunts my head: “The memory remains….”.) Does this also apply to Edward Reekers? He has had an extraordinary career. Suddenly things went fast when he was about twenty years old. Kayak was looking for a singer because current singer Max Werner wanted to focus on drums. Friends of Reekers urged him to send in a cassette tape after an appeal from Kayak in an English music magazine. He was allowed to audition; Reekers pulled out all the stops for the song Ruthless Queen. Everyone involved with Kayak was immediately sold. Reekers was chosen and the recording of “Phantom” started. But something wasn’t quite right. Somehow the engineers couldn’t get the sound under control. Something kept creaking and squeeking whenever Reekers started singing. He had to endlessly repeat the vocal parts. It turned out to be static electricity; eventually Ruthless Queen was recorded. It became a mega hit.

After that, Reekers was allowed to make a solo album. He traveled to England to the Farmyard Studios of well-known producer Rupert Hine. Reekers had a great time in England. But as is so often the case with solo albums, it was not really a big success. The collaboration with Kayak became also increasingly difficult and Reekers decided to withdraw from the music scene in 1982. Yet the sadness of the entertainer, the clown? Nothing can be farther from the truth. Reekers ended up in the film world, with dubbing. He has, among other things, directed all voices in the Dutch versions of the Harry Potter films. But his passion for singing and prog music also remained. And Fred Hansen was right. Edward Reekers picked up singing again and still performs regularly throughout the Netherlands. He is a welcome guest at ‘De Boerderij’; on December 18 he will perform with his project ‘ProgProms’.

The original painting of the clown was a gift from Hansen to Reekers. It is featured prominently above the piano in his living room; the happy clown with eyes closed serenely. “He was just a clown, but now he’s dead,” goes through my mind once again. Ah, now I know: Ben Cramer. This Dutch singer has had a smash hit with the song ‘De Clown’ (*), one of those earworms you can’t get out of your mind. Last night I dreamed that Reekers sang this song on December 18, but I sincerely hope I’m wrong.”

* ‘De Clown’ (the clown) is a hugely successful hit in Holland from 1971, sung in Dutch, by local hero Ben Cramer. The song is a first class tearjerker, based on an original French song, with lyrics featuring the universal theme of the sadness of a clown.

By Gerrit-Jan Vrielink

Thanks to Edward Reekers

Translation: Alex Driessen