Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

Jeff Wayne’s musical version of the War of the Worlds is an atmospheric musical retelling of the classic tale. It is the end of the 19th century, and green flashes have been seen coming from the surface of Mars. Ogilvy, the astronomer, has assured our protagonist, a Journalist, that no life could exist on the red planet. However, the next day they find a glowing cylinder that has crashed near town. A creature from Mars emerges from the cylinder and uses a heat ray to incinerate the spectating crowd. We follow the Journalist as he recounts the way the Martian invaders tear their way through the English landscape.

As far as I am concerned, Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds is an absolute classic. I was ten years old when my dad woke me up by sneaking into my room and playing this record (I’m not that old lol – I just happened to have my mum’s old record player in my room). I didn’t understand English that well yet, but the music truly spoke for itself.

I happen to love musicals, but this isn’t quite that. It’s a sort of mix between a concept album and an audio play. The narrative is important, and the songs are great, but it’s the overarching musical themes that really shine. I could listen to an instrumental version of this record and it would still evoke the same emotions in me as it does with the narration and lyrics.

Every so often, they take the show on tour. The live show features a big orchestra and live performers, as well as some sick props, like a huge Martian Fighting machine that towers over the audience and shoots fire at you. If you ever get the chance to attend one of these, I heartily recommend it. A long time ago, an internet friend of mine went to see the live performance and I’ve rarely been more jealous. I did not have the money to spend on the show. The tickets were 70 euros, and I was very much 12 years old. It wasn’t until 2014 that I actually got the chance to see the show live. I convinced both my parents to come, and I managed to score 4th-row tickets. I’ve never been so incredibly surrounded by dads. Honestly, the arena was 90% men over 50.

I later told a colleague that it was kind of a bittersweet experience. You know – great show, just a shame I’d experienced the highlight of my life at age 20. Suffice it to say I’ve been trying to spread the word about this show among young people as much as I can. I was supposed to see the show again with Key, but unfortunately it was cancelled because of covid.

A couple of years ago, Wayne released a “New Generation” of the album – a newly recorded version. They made a couple of changes for this. Some of them are just musical updates that I quite enjoy. As with anything, there are a couple of things that were changed that I don’t love. There’s a short “cutscene” on the screen during the live show where the journalist and his fiancée Carrie talk to each other (except they’re not together really, so they just talk to… the moon? idk) and I find it deeply unnecessary and it pulls me out of the flow of the show. I don’t know why but it makes me go absolutely feral.

One of the more interesting things that they changed is that they really played into the popularity of Steampunk and gave the entire marketing of the show a Steampunk makeover. I have a complicated relationship with Steampunk – I find that it’s often a little tacky – but it really works for this story.

All in all, I would say there is nothing stopping you from checking out this album. It’s literally on Spotify. Next time you go to put on a podcast, play Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds instead.

If you’re wondering if you should put on the original album or the New Generation, I would personally recommend the latter. It just goes a little harder. The original still slaps, though!

Share this post: