Friday 23 October 2020

Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds live on YouTube

"The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one..." Listening to Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds was synonymous with autumnal Sunday afternoons in childhood. Alongside Star Wars, it inspired me, from an early age, to pursue a career in media production. As I underwent years of rehabilitation for a head injury, I would listen to Richard Burton's (The Journalist) voice as part of speech therapy and record my own audio adventures on a Hitachi portable tape recorder.

H.G. Well’s Martian invasion of Earth is an allegorical commentary on cultural imperialism and Wayne’s album was my gateway into Victorian literature. Whilst I've owned the album on countless formats, nothing will eclipse the treasured childhood memory of listening to the double vinyl LP, borrowed from a friend's dad, on a mono Pye record player (owned by my late mum). Coincidentally, Marvel UK ran a comic book adaptation in the pages of Doctor Who Weekly.

Over forty years on, Wayne's adaptation remains my favourite followed by the 1953 Oscar-winning Hollywood movie - the action transposed to McCarthy-era America - and Orson Welles' infamous radio drama, broadcast live as a Halloween special in 1938. The recent BBC and Anglo-French television adaptations fell flatter than a Martian Fighting Machine after its occupant had finally succumbed to the common cold. The former lacked focus and the latter lacked, well, tripods!

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the 2021 arena tour of The War of the Worlds was postponed and will now tour from March 2022. Fans will be able to stream a live performance starring Liam Neeson and Jason Donovan, recorded at the O2 Arena and conducted by Jeff Wayne, for 48 hours on 23rd October from 7:00PM (BST).

Whilst free, The Shows Must Go On! YouTube channel is asking audiences to make a voluntary donation to support the arts during the pandemic.

What are your memories of listening to Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds? Let me know in the comments below.

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