Jeff Wayne’s – War Of The Worlds (how to keep an 8 year old quiet for a few hours).

When I was 8 years old I was in an army barracks bar on a Saturday afternoon (my Grandfather was the barman / caretaker). A friend’s Father pulled this album out of a Woolworths carrier bag. We had been playing badminton in the Drill Hall but simultaneously dropped our rackets and grabbed the Double Vinyl album from him.

We literally ran to the turntable in the corner of the bar, sat cross-legged and listened to the whole album. Pouring over the incredibly detailed booklet we sat pretty much in total silence.

They don’t make concept albums like this anymore. Why has no one tried to better this?

From the very first line no one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth Century that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of Space… the album drew you totally in like few others ever could.

A rock / classical opera. The narration by Richard Burton has no peer. The music will appeal to everyone. I noticed that the album stayed within the top end of the charts for absolutely ages / years. Even as a kid you could feel the quality.

The Eve Of The War suggests that aliens are coming. The mix of story and quality musicianship. We flicked through the booklet in accordance with the developing story. Futuristic bullets. That clean drum beat.

The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, but still they come… two 8 year old lads had surely never been so quiet.

Horsell Common And The Heat Ray that chug that painted such a clear imaginary image. The manhole cover. Spellbound. Martian noises generated by musical instruments. The guitar streaks. That electric riff. The Martians are coming alright. Silently we fought over the booklet.

The Artilleryman And The Fighting Machine that creeping riff and Martian bassline. The narration is now the best narration I had ever heard. Forget Jackanory. David Essex enters, even he cannot ruin this. The story develops further. Chris Spedding’s guitar begins to convince you that Aliens are actually arriving in Stereo.

Then we get the first “Ooooh Laaah“. Now two 8 year old boys will not speak out loud for over an hour. We now both pour over the booklet in peaceful spellbound harmony.

Forever Autumn paints the picture of loss. Even as a kid you got this. I knew who Justin Haywood was as my Mother played Moody Blues records as I was growing up and  I cannot deny that he’s a great artist. A love / loss song that works so much better than maybe it should.

Thunder Child and the Martians have most definetly arrived. Lots of ’em. It looks bleak. We’re being obliterated. A triumphant “Ooooh Laaaah“.

The Red Weed (Part 1) and Earth is turning into Mars, even the plants are taking over. Bizarre sounds suggest the growth of The Red Weed.

The Spirit Of Man and Phil Lynott enters as the evacuation gathers at a very quick pace. More “Oooooh Laaaahs” the Martians sound so good you almost want them to win. Julie Covington’s “No Nathaniel” is a segment of this track that sould be credited as a single track on its own merits?

The Red Weed (Part 2) and more fantastic creepy Martian sounds. Richard Burton narrates further. Have the Martians a weakness? Where have they gone?

Brave New World and David Essex has a plan to go underground. Seems the Silver Dream Machine tough guy was a bit of a coward after all. The Rock Opera picks up musically to echo the desire to survive.

Dead London painted a deep vivid image as an 8 year old kid. The now familiar “Oooooh Laaaah’s” sound all of a sudden tainted. The City Of The Dead. The imagery of wandering around London with everything dead. Stig Of The Dump was never this exciting.

Abruptly the sound ceased.

Now Dead London picks up fantastically musically. Richard Burton’s narration becomes near musical vocal. You sense, for the first real-time the unlikely triumph. The drums and bass wobble just like the Martians do as they succumb to bacteria.

Epilogue (Part 1) and all too soon it’s over. What a journey. David Essex has become cool and Elizabeth Taylor’s twice husband has become the best narrator ever.

Epilogue (Part 2) (NASA) and we’re beamed into Space. The dialogue between two spacemen… and those Martians are still very much alive… a twist fitting for a movie..

Of course movies have been made of War Of The Worlds – but never have they worked this well. I’m pretty amazed that there has never been a follow-up album, also it is one of the best looking records physically (gatefold vinyl). There’s not many records like it…

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