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Songs...to sing whilst they're wearing unitards adorned with clumps of yak fur and their faces painted like Ziggy Stardust if he were a chimney sweep

2.09.2009

EXCERPTS FROM

THE COLLECTED

ANSWERING-MACHINE

MESSAGES OF LYRICIST TIM RICE.

BY JULIE KLAUSNER AND RACHEL SHUKERT

- - - -
August 12, 1967
Timothy? Is that vous? Fetch the crayons, Timothy. It's Andy Lloyd Webber. Guess what I have? A ghastly idea for a show. I'll need you to make some sketches. Crayons, Timothy! Now: Joseph. Not Stalin! The Jew, from the Bible. Yes, Tim, I read the Bible every day. But this is new! I mean old! Old Testament. Ahem. Do you know what Joseph had that we don't? I'll give you a hint. A waistcoat? No! A dreamcoat! A coat made of dreams. It was red and yellow and green and brown and purple and gold and ochre and green and blond and black and poop and pee and cinnamon red and red and red and dragons and bugs and teeth and teal and lemon and black and white and mauve ... Where was I? Oh, yes. Dictation, Timothus! We need to discuss the Joseph Stalin musical set in Jewish times with Jews, remember? Get out your grease pencil. There will be a narrator. The narrator will be played by a sprightly he/she in harem trousers and a fez. She—or is it "shim"?—will look exactly like Markie Post. Who is Markie Post? I don't know, Tim! I don't know! But the name came to me in a dream. Do you know what this means, Timaphus? I'm a prophet! A prophet! A—
(Speech is drowned out by the sound of rushing water. A bloodcurdling scream, then silence. Beep.)


June 16, 1969
(Prolonged coughing fit. Spitting.)
Tim? It's Andy. Good news, old chum! Guess where I am and guess what I'm reading! The desert! And the Bible! You see, I've been eating peyote, Tim-Tim, and I have a terrible idea. Are you ready? Write this down. Write my vision down! Jesus, Tim. Have you heard of him? Oh, you have? Fine, fine. But have you ever noticed that he and Jim Morrison are the same bloody chap, Tim? Tim! Think trousers, Tim! Tight, tight unguent trousers. "Unguent" not the right word, you say? Well, you're the bloody lyricist—act like it! Mary Magdalene needs a headband and a song about ointment. Or unguent, if you like. The tune should go like this: "Dah ... dah dah dah dah ... daahhh dahhh!" Get out your typewriter. This is a real parable, mate. Jesus was betrayed—tragically betrayed!—by Ben Vereen. And now, thanks to the me-people, the you-people will finally know the truth!
(Howls like a coyote. Beep.)


November 14, 1979
(Muffled groaning, grunting, huffing, then the sound of liquid "release." Throat clearing.)
Timmmmm. Guess who? Wrong! It's Andy. So. I've an idea. It's awful. Pencils ready? Ready? Ready them, damn you!
(Long pause. Then, in a whisper.)
Cats, Tim. Felines. All sorts. Mewing about in a junkyard. Describing one another. Flitting about acrobatically. Cleaning their fur with their pink tongues. I want actual cats onstage singing songs about what kinds of cats they are! Understood? And if that's not possible, Tim, I want you to write songs for human beings to sing whilst they're wearing unitards adorned with clumps of yak fur and their faces are painted like Ziggy Stardust if he were a chimney sweep. Now. This show won't make a dime and it won't run for more than one night, but I want it to be exorbitantly expensive. Really obscene. You see, I've read a book, Tim. Written by one Eliot, T.S. It's called The Waste Land. But, as I read it, all I could think about was cats. Cats!
(Amid a background noise that sounds like hand-licking.)
Rum Tum Tugger. Mr. Mistoffelees, the magical cat! Skimbleshanks, the railway cat! He hops from one train car to the next, with a spindle and a bean can, the tramp! Name the ingénue after the queen! Cast a belter. The overture should go like this: "Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dahhhh." Good? Great. Go!
(Grunting noise. Sound of dry "release." Beep.)


January 10, 1985
Tim, are you there? Pick up, it's Andy. Oh, bollocks—I really can't be bothered if you aren't even going to answer when I make the time to bloody ring you. Listen, I know that technically you're dead to me, but just for old times' sake I wanted to let you in on what I'm certain will be the most successful show that any human being has ever conceived—though, actually, I'm not really a human being: I'm made out of star stuff and the moon and am also God. So.
(In the background, there's the sound of a gunshot, followed by what sound like the screams of Mandy Patinkin.)
I hope you're in a safe crouch, Tim. We both know how you love to crouch. Ha.
I'm thinking about trains, Tim. But the trains have names. And they are symbolized by people, who are really actors, on roller skates. I'd like the actors to be nude, and if they are not I'll be forced to have you killed.
Do you know what happened to me last night? I had a vision of a masked genius. An angel. Of music, Tim. And he lives all alone in a cellar, with only an organ and a private steaming lake for company, and so he has to symbolically rape an innocent young ballet dancer in order to feed his muse. It's a beautiful love story. In fact, I think it will be the most beautiful love story about symbolic rape ever told, apart from that film with Cher and the deformed boy. And it will run for a thousand years. Oh, by the way, Princess Diana is going to die. She's marked for death and only you can stop it.
(Snorting. In the background, Soft Cell's This Last Night in Sodom LP is becoming louder and louder.)
And do call me back about the singing trains. Ta.
(Beep.)

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