Andrew Lloyd Webber almost wrote a James Bond-themed musical, his longtime collaborator says
Andrew Lloyd Webber nearly wrote a James Bond-themed musical instead of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the work that launched his career, only to be told that “Bond will be forgotten in five years”, his longtime collaborator has revealed.
Lloyd Webber’s attempts to become a musical theatre composer had proved unsuccessful until in 1967 a family friend, who was the choirmaster at Colet Court school in London, commissioned him to write a piece for the school's choir.
That 15-minute piece eventually became Joseph, the worldwide hit performed by tens of thousands of schools across the world.
However, Sir Tim Rice, who has co-written many of Lloyd Webber’s biggest hits, said in a podcast that the duo had initially been inspired by the widespread popularity of the Bond series in the late Sixties to write a piece based on the fictional spy.
The choirmaster asked the duo to write a piece for his choir after hearing some of their early demos.
Rice told The Rockonteurs podcast: “He said, 'but choose a subject that won't date too much'. We said 'we could do a James Bond musical'. And Alan said 'no, James Bond will be forgotten in five years' time'.”
Thunderball, the fourth James Bond film had come out two years earlier, with You Only Live Twice starring Sean Connery as Bond, still months away from release. No Time to Die, the 25th film in the franchise, was released in September and has grossed more than $460 million (£334 million) so far, despite the effects of the pandemic.
Instead, Rice, said he suggested a biblical theme.
“I thought probably the Bible would be a good idea, and Joseph was my favourite Bible story as a kid,” he told the podcast. "When it came to the end of term school concert it went down so well with the parents, the headmaster said we've got to do this again in a bigger hall."
By chance, the father of one of the school's choir boys worked as a music writer for a national newspaper and wrote up a rave review of the next performance by the children from Colet Court school in London in a church.
It was then performed for a third time at St. Paul's Cathedral – a performance that was put on record and released.
That release then led to Rice and Lloyd Webber’s controversial but equally successful hit, Jesus Christ Superstar.
Sticking with the biblical theme
"Because of our connection with the Dean of St. Paul's, we had this weird idea to do something on the life of Jesus seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot,” Rice said. "But nobody wanted to stage it. They all said no, no, this is an outrageous idea – or religion won't work.
“The only guy who wanted to do it was a guy at MCA Records called Brian Brolly. We were therefore forced in a way out of desperation to make an album rather than go for a show."
That, however, turned out be a stroke of luck, claimed Rice.
"Thank God we did, because then we could make it more rock, we had to aim for the radio.
"And Andrew was able to put huge forces together like an orchestra and a choir and a rock band, which you would never have done in those days in the theatre."