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‘War of the Worlds’ composer revisits his greatest project
By Ron Wynn,
August 09, 2005
When musician and composer Jeff Wayne decided to make a musical version of H.G. Wells’ famous novel The War of the Worlds back in 1978, he went to great lengths to ensure stylistic integrity. Wayne and his father acquired the rights to the story from the Wells estate, and unlike the various filmed versions, he actually set it in Victorian England during the 1890s. But Wayne had no idea that his version would eventually become one of the most beloved and popular in musical history.

The Musical Version of the War of the Worlds (Sony/Legacy) has now been released worldwide in two formats. There’s a two-disc version that includes both 5.1 surround sound and stereo mixes, while the collector’s edition is a six-disc and single DVD package with four of the CDs containing remixes and rarities, and a “making of” documentary included on the DVD.

“One of the great misconceptions that many people seem to have in America regarding this project is that we were piggybacking off what Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise did,” Wayne said. “But actually Sony [now Sony BMG] came to me back in 2002 and asked if I would be interested in doing a 25h anniversary edition that would update the original Musical Version of The War of the Worlds double-album. We were planning to have it out by 2003, but things kind of escalated and we’ve put so many new features and things into the set that it’s really now kind of a 27th anniversary. But it certainly wasn’t connected with the Spielberg/Cruise film, although certainly we’re happy about the attention that the movie will get because it all helps keep War of the Worlds on the public’s radar.”

Anyone who’s read the novel will truly appreciate how Wayne’s production reflects the genuine Wells vision. The musical version featured first person narration from Sir Richard Burton, and the cast included David Essex, Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott and Julie Covington.

“One thing about presenting the work in its original time and place is that it really makes the specter of an alien invasion far more frightening,” Wayne said. “For Wells, he was using the invasion as a representation of evil, and in his eyes, the expansion of Britain’s colonial empire represented evil. When you think about people fighting an invasion of aliens from mars with rifles and sticks, that’s more frightening than the more modern works where the technology has advanced to the point that humanity could conceivably be better prepared.”

Wayne has done many other things professionally besides The Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. He played keyboards with various bands; composed advertising jingles and music for British television; and produced several successful albums for David Essex, including his No. 1 release Rock On. He also produced albums for Justin Hayward and Tony Christie, as well as composed and produced a musical version of Spartacus that starred Catherine Zeta-Jones and was narrated by Anthony Hopkins. He also edited and published The Book of Tennis and wrote the music, produced and directed the television show The Book of Tennis Chronicles.

Yet Wayne acknowledges that for many people he’ll always be known mainly for The Musical Version Of The War of the Worlds.

“I’m very proud of the work that is featured in The Musical Version Of The War of the Worlds,” Wayne said. “It still holds up phenomenally well. It’s never been out of the charts in many European countries, and there have been more than 300 club mixes that have been made from the music. That lets me know that we got something exceptionally right when we made it. It’s forever being rediscovered by audiences, and these new sets really get the music out there in a manner that’s exceptional.”
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