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Desert Island Discs

Andrew Lloyd Webber


Andrew Lloyd Webber is fighting to keep his West End production of Cinderella from closing. Musicals have always been a stressful business, he told Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs in 1999. Take composing. Sometimes melodies are “primal”, sometimes they take years. Memory, his smash hit from Cats, was originally written for a musical about Puccini. For ages it didn’t quite work, but he knew he had to use it somewhere. “I took it to my father, who was a great expert on Puccini, and I said, ‘What does this sound like, Daddy?’ And he said, ‘It sounds like an awful lot of money to me.’”

As for lyrics, Lloyd Webber is hopeless. Thankfully, in 1965, when he was 17, he received a mysterious letter from a 22-year-old called Tim Rice. It read: “Dear Andrew, I have been told you’re looking for a ‘with it’ writer of lyrics for your songs. I wonder if you’d consider it worthwhile meeting me.”

What happened next was luck. The pair wrote Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for a school play. “It was 20 minutes long and done on a wet Friday afternoon to a bunch of rather bored parents” – one of whom was the music critic for The Sunday Times, who happened to have a child there. A rave review followed and the publishers came knocking. They paid £100 for the show’s rights. But in 1991 you bought it back, asks Lawley. Yes, Lloyd Webber grumbles. “For a million.”

🎵 March (from The Love for Three Oranges), Prokofiev

🎵 Some Enchanted Evening (from South Pacific), Rossano Brazzi

🎵 I Want to Hold Your Hand, the Beatles

🎵 Hound Dog, Elvis Presley

🎵 Cello Concerto No 1 in E flat major, Shostakovich

🎵 Matter of Taste, John Cleese and David Frost

🎵 Dil Se Re, AR Rahman

🎵 Pie Jesu (from Requiem), Andrew Lloyd Webber

📕 England’s Thousand Best Churches by Simon Jenkins

🎁 A herb garden

Listen to the episode here.