Currently vying with Sir Alan Sugar for the role of the nation’s favourite craggy curmudgeon, Andrew Lloyd-Webber hasn’t always had it so good.
Ill-advised musical marriages with Conservative Central Office, de facto youth training schemes for recalcitrant royals, unseemly spats with purveyors of topical piano-led whimsy… Yes, it’s been a rough old climb to the towering heights of sharing a prime time TV show with Denise Van Outen and Graham Norton.
On reflection, it seems the path to barony, not to mention getting to sit in a pretend throne every Saturday night, involves:
1) Taking credit for coming up with the theme for the Tories’ 1992 general election campaign, which in reality involved “arranging” a piece of classical music from over 300 years ago, which in reality involved adding a bit of percussion and having the trumpet play a bit louder;
2) Taking credit for coming up with the theme for The South Bank Show and The Book Tower, which in reality involved “arranging” another piece of classical music from over 300 years ago, which in reality involved adding a bit of electric guitar and synth drums;
3) Sacking Richard Stilgoe. An unforgivable crime in any circumstances, even if the reason for the dismissal, Phantom Of The Opera, was itself criminal;
4) Hiring Prince Edward. An unforgivable gesture in any circumstances, even if the organisation for which the regal layabout was contracted to work was called (a thousand Spitting Image writers sharpen their pencils) the Really Useful company;
5) Taking out the highest ever mortgage in British history (to pay for the purchase of a dozen London theatres in order to stage ostensibly lauded musicals like Sunset Boulevard);
6) Enjoying the biggest economic failure in theatre history (when the ostensibly lauded musical Sunset Boulevard lost 25 million dollars);
7) Working with Ben Elton (on The Beautiful Game, one of Tony Blair’s favourite musicals);
8) Working with Timmy Mallett (on Bombalurina, one of Anthea Turner’s favourite musical acts);
9) Releasing a Euro-dance hit record under the nom de plume Doctor Spin (‘Tetris’, reaching number 4 in October 1992);
10) Releasing a pissed Pete Waterman to roam loose around his estate in order to kill a few rabbits (“When I got back to his house,” recalls Pete in his autobiography, I Wish I Was Me, “Andrew got his French chef down and made him cook rabbit fricassee”).