“Make the album. The album before the show… to see if the music was any good, because after all, the music and the lyrics, the score, that’s the key factor for any successful musical.” Tim Rice on Chess
In 1984, lyricist Tim Rice released the original concept album for Chess, partly to raise money for a staged production, but also to gauge the public’s interest in a show about the Cold War, an idea that had been brewing in his mind since the 70s. (Concept albums were nothing new for Rice — in fact, with his usual collaborator Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita originally began as rock opera concept albums!) Intrigued by the infamous 1972 World Chess Championship between the US and the Soviet Union, Rice’s original concept is simple: portray the Cold War tensions between the two countries through their enduring chess rivalry.
After the success of the concept album – including earning a Top 10 spot in the UK and, naturally, #1 in Sweden – several official music videos came out featuring the original album’s cast, which can be seen today on the Chess YouTube VEVO channel (and are linked throughout this site!).
More information on the show’s development can be found in Chess: The Making of the Musical, which follows the show’s original journey from rehearsals to the stage.
Below, check out two videos of Rice talking about the development of the musical, as well as a music video for “I Know Him So Well” featuring Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson, from the original concept album cast.