Album cover, War of the Worlds

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds

My eldest sister was married with two kids (she went on to have another two) when Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds came out in 1978. She had this album before I did. I was 11. Double vinyl, gatefold sleeve with incredible artwork and more amazing paintings in the lyrics book that was inside. The paintings were scary and sinister but I wanted to listen to it because of them. I was already a science fiction fan.

I got the album at Christmas from my parents and listened to it a lot. I’ve never really stopped, well, it gets a full listen at least once a year. I listen digitally but still have the vinyl after all this time.

In the early months of 1979 I loaned the novel by HG Wells from my town library. I was in awe knowing it was the first true work of science fiction. The librarian checked it was okay for me to borrow it as it wasn’t in the kids’ section. I usually borrowed 4-6 books every weekend.

It’s a strange album, fusing 70s rock with a Victorian story. I’ve always loved the epilogue, which was original in that it wasn’t part of Wells’ novel. A modern day sequence involving a manned spacecraft landing on Mars. Of course, it ends ominously with the Martians active and evidently still aggressive. I wondered as a boy, why did they go to Mars at all, knowing it had life on it that was hostile to humanity? Had people forgotten everything that happened? How?

I wanted there to be some form of life on Mars so badly. People imagined there might be in the 70s and 80s, until scientific progress proved it to be a dead world. Or at least, it appears to be… So far…

Mention this album and I always see a picture of me in my sister’s living room in 1978, cross-legged on the carpet, reading that lyrics book. I can’t recall the pattern of the carpet or the colour of the sofa but I see the layout of the room, my mum and my sister talking on the sofa, a fireguard in front of the fire as my nephew was a toddler… I can even see a gigantic cheeseplant in the corner and the sun shining through the curtains…

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andrew hinkinson
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