Andrew Lloyd Webber has revealed how a tax-reduction scheme he participated in went up in smoke, after defending Gary Barlow from calls that he should return his OBE.
The composer produced the Diamond Jubilee anthem "Sing" with the Take That singer, who has been ordered to pay millions of pounds in tax dodged through an aggressive avoidance scheme.
Asked whether Barlow should give back his honour, Lloyd Webber questioned the honour bestowed on another leading music figure. He said: “Shouldn’t Mick Jagger give his knightbood back then? Mick Jagger doesn’t live in England.”
Speaking after being presented with Honorary Doctorate by the Prince of Wales at the Royal College of Music annual awards, the Cats composer recalled his own flirtation with tax avoidance.
“The only tax scheme I ever got involved with was years ago when income tax was 98 per cent and the only thing you could possibly do was go into forestry,” the composer said, recalling the 1974 Labour government’s tax rates.
“Forestry was a tremendous thing and I was very pleased with my forest in Glamorgan somewhere. Then I got a call – and we were in the middle of 'Don’t Cry For Me Argentina' – and it was the Army.
“Why do I want to talk to the Army? There was silence, then they said ‘Your forest is on fire’. After that I thought I’d be better off just paying the tax.”
Lloyd Webber, whose wealth is estimated at £620 million, suggested that Barlow was simply following his accountant’s advice when he invested in the Icebreaker scheme. He added you “just do what you're advised”.
Following the failure of Stephen Ward, his Profumo musical, Lloyd Webber is to write songs for a stage adaptation of the hit Jack Black film School of Rock. “I am going to write the new songs for it and we have a script now which I’m very pleased with. It’s quite a challenge to find someone to play the Jack Black role.”
Evita, his hit musical which dramatised the life of Argentine political figure Eva Peron, might not even be a hit today, he suggested.
Lloyd Webber said: “I think the truth of this is that the public is going for feel-good shows. I sometimes wonder whether a musical about the life of an Argentine dictator, with a song which is six minutes long with an accompaniment by the London Philharmonic Orchestra would have made number one in the charts nowadays - I think probably not.”
“Everything in the end is about zeitgeist. If you think back, Chicago when it opened was a total disaster, it opened in the same season as A Chorus Line; [it was] forgotten, gone.
"And then revived 20 years later and that's the production that today probably if you ask someone which was the big musical of 1970 - something they will say Chicago, and it was A Chorus Line.”
Lloyd Webber, violinist Nicola Benedetti and pianist Murray Perahia were among the leading figures from Britain's musical life who were honoured by the Prince of Wales at the Royal College of Music's annual awards ceremony.