Last October, in these very pages, I wrote with what is now annoying prescience, ‘Like almost everyone else in the insane world of musical theatre, I don’t know how to create a hit.’ I am now facing up to the grim fact that my latest effort, From Here to Eternity, is folding after a six-month run at the Shaftesbury Theatre. The publicity has vastly exceeded the interest in the show when it opened last September. Never have the words of Bob Dylan seemed so relevant to me: ‘There’s no success like failure, and failure’s no success at all.’
The enthusiasm of the media to report gleefully on Eternity biting the dust has been boosted enormously by the simultaneous, weirdly coincidental, demise of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest effort, Stephen Ward. Both shows end on 29 March. Suddenly this is the end of an era, Webber and Rice are old hat and the musical theatre now looks to — er, who exactly? Well, one great talent that I believe will be fully recognised in the near future is Stuart Brayson, who wrote Eternity’s music; his tunes inspired me to contribute to a new show for the first time since 2000, when my extravaganza with Elton John, Aida, began a four-year run on Broadway. The West End desperately needs successors to the alleged washed-up giants of yesteryear — but I have worrying news for the end-of-an-era merchants; neither Andrew nor I have given up the ghost and I am confident that From Here to Eternity, going great guns in its final weeks, will rise again.
Perhaps it was a problem that I was the only known quantity in the Eternity team and, frankly, my admirers are getting on a bit. Nonetheless, plenty of them turned up and went out of their way to nab me and express enthusiasm. I am very grateful but the problem with senior fans who were bopping in the aisles during the Evita and Superstar days is that they now take quite some time to complete a standing ovation. By the time they’ve got to their feet, the cast are in the pub.
If I feel traduced in the press by some of the entertainment journalists, I have been more seriously misrepresented by their political brethren. I have long been a highly vocal opponent of wind turbines and have seethed at every major party’s cowardice in declining to recognise the vote-losing lunacy of these hideous objects. Not only do they defile our beautiful landscape from the Highlands to Cornwall, they do not work. They make wealthy landowners such as me wealthier at the expense of almost everyone else. The one party who has dared to speak out against these monstrosities is Ukip. Two years ago I gave them a modest sum (nothing like the reported £7,500) solely to reflect my support for this sensible strand of their credo. I have turned down extravagant financial approaches to stick a couple of turbines on my property in Scotland, for which I expect no praise or publicity — just as I was promised none for my donation, which had no strings attached. That confidence seems to have been broken. But in case there is any doubt, I am not a Ukip member, never have been, and will not be supporting them in any capacity. I foolishly never cease to be amazed at some journalists’ skills in making one story appear to be another. I would happily donate to Ed Miliband’s war chest if he were to come up with an intelligent non-wind-turbine environmental policy. I think my money is safe.
The recent death of the great Phil Everly affected me more than I expected. The harmonies of the Everly Brothers, at once angelic and aggressive, relaxed and world-weary, seemed, in 1950s Britain, to come from another planet. I first heard them on a 78rpm jukebox in a transport café near Preston when some insightful trucker inserted threepenny bit after threepenny bit to hear nothing but ‘Bye Bye Love’ during his tea break. My first encounter with Don and Phil — and with bacon sandwiches: a life-changing afternoon.
My less than satisfactory week ended with a doctor’s note that there has been ‘significant progression of the osteoarthritis affecting your right knee which underlines the need to see a knee surgeon sooner rather than later’. Terrific. However I was reminded what a medical problem really is when attending a reception last month celebrating St Albans School (I was a pupil in the late 1950s). There were several speeches during a very hospitable two hours — standing room only. After the sixth turn, I was almost at the stage of slinking off feebly into the shadows to take the weight off my crocked patella but then the seventh and final speaker started up: the most distinguished Old Albanian of all, Stephen Hawking. I stood and listened in admiration and forgot about my trivial discomfort.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to start work on my next musical.