SIR Tim Rice is associated with writing the lyrics for many of the world’s great musicals - including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Chess and Disney’s The Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast.

Next month Sir Tim comes to Bradford with his show My Life in Musicals – I Know him so Well, in which the multi-award winning, internationally renowned lyricist reflects on a career at the heart of musical theatre, sharing anecdotes behind the songs, hits and misses, and stories of his life. There will be live performances, by West End singers and musicians, from his catalogue of songs including Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, Any Dream Will Do, Circle of Life and All Time High, the theme from Bond film Octopussy.

“I’ve had the good fortune to work with some of the greatest composers of our time, including Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson and Elton John, without whose wonderful melodies I’d be at home watching television,” smiles Sir Tim.

“You’ll know quite a few of the songs, and will be relieved to hear I won’t be singing them. All musical aspects of the show I hand over to the outstanding Duncan Waugh Band and West End Singers. There will be plenty of stops in between the hits during which I’ll tell you how they happened - and, in some cases, nearly didn’t.”

He will be singing one song though... "I sing when I talk about I Don’t Know How to Love Him, which is a romantic song from Jesus Christ Superstar. Its original title was Kansas Morning. The tune existed way before the show. Andrew and I wrote it hoping to get a hit record with it. Music publishers quite liked the song, they said, ‘We’ll send this out to various artists’ but it never got recorded. And the reason, I now realise, is that the words weren’t good. They were a bit stupid. But the tune was fantastic. I talk about this in the show.

“I make the point that a bad lyric can kill a good tune. But if you have a good lyric and a good tune, both can shine. Equally, if you have a great lyric and a tunesmith doesn’t come up with a great tune, that could also kill the song. The key thing is that both halves have got to be good. The Beatles’ song Yesterday was originally called Scrambled Eggs. That would not have been very commercial!

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A bad lyric can kill a good tune, says Sir Tim RiceA bad lyric can kill a good tune, says Sir Tim Rice (Image: Nicky Johnston)

“Most of the stuff that’s gone well has come from a very good initial idea, which in turn usually means a great story. And if you have a great story, like Jesus or Joseph or Eva Peron or Hamlet for The Lion King, it inspires you to write something better than if you were just writing a random, out-of-context song. I like to have a character in a certain situation.”

When you’re working on a musical, is the story always paramount then? “Yes. When we were creating Evita, both composer and lyricist had to say, ‘Right, in this scene Evita is trying to seduce Peron. Therefore, we don’t want an oom-pah-pah song’. I think Evita is Andrew’s best score; time and again he’d come up with a melody and ideas for orchestration which would suit the storyline at that point. Story is always king.”

Is that the secret to writing successful musicals? “With any great musical, you’ve got to have a great story. Look at Oliver! It’s a great story, and Lionel Bart wrote wonderful songs. All the great musicals - My Fair Lady, West Side Story - have terrific stories.”

You’ve had success with pop songs too. “The best ones have something to hang the song on, like The Winter’s Tale which I wrote with Mike Batt. It was rather a sad song with a Christmas setting. It was a big hit for David Essex, who interpreted it brilliantly.”

What’s it like working with like Sir Elton John? “It’s amazing because I gave him the lyrics and he composed the music on the spot. Sometimes when I’ve written a lyric without a tune, I have to be careful not to get too long-winded. But if you’ve got a tune ready, it keeps you precise. It’s nearly always better to say something in nine syllables, rather than nine words, or nine sentences. Elton just took the lyrics, and it worked. On Circle of Life, he made it even better.”

What did you do before becoming a writer? “I did a couple of summers working at a petrol station. The forecourt manager asked if I’d fancy becoming a car salesman because he thought I had potential. I thought, ‘No, I don’t think this is the career for me’.”

How did you meet Andrew Lloyd Webber? “I’d had one pop song recorded by a group called The Nightshift. It wasn’t a hit. So I was looking at other opportunities. A publisher I knew said he was working with a young man who was very talented and wanted to write for the theatre and maybe I’d be interested in working with him. I went round to see Andrew and that was it. We hit it off. I didn’t know much about theatre, which was perhaps a plus because I wasn’t tied down by a feeling that I had to do a show in a certain way. I think the combination of my ignorance and his expertise worked well. I’d always wanted to write. I enjoyed writing songs and poems.

“Andrew already had a show in mind. The idea didn’t work out in the end, but it was enough to show us that we could work together. We were very lucky. We found each other, and it just worked.”

* My Life in Musicals - I Know Him So Well is at St George’s Hall on Saturday, April 20. Call (01274) 432000 or visit