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Low Culture Podcast: Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds

On this month's podcast tQ editors John and Luke discuss Jeff Wayne's 1978 rock opera adaptation of H.G. Wells' War Of The Worlds

It’s perhaps not a coincidence that our podcast on Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds begins as Luke Turner enthuse about building a model aeroplane while listening to the new series of Alan Partridge’s From The Oasthouse podcast, which – unlike the strangely misfiring stadium show Stratagem – is one of the best things Norfolk’s finest digital broadcaster has ever done. John Doran gives us an update on his latest plans for his modular synth system and keeps an eye on the antics of Vader The Dog before we get stuck into the main topic of this week’s show.

Some tQ readers might be surprised to learn that rather than some obscure record released in 1978, we’re both massively into Jeff Wayne’s rock opera adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic dystopian novel, in which Martian creatures come to earth, maraud in their giant killing machines, blast all and sundry with death rays, and harvest humans to suck their innards for sustenance as if we were mere seaside prawns. Is this another record that disturbed the boy Doran and made him the man he is today? We discuss how it’s an album that perhaps gets neglected by the youthfully serious music fan, confessing the error of our ways, before praising the adventurous musicality and dramatic tension. With a cast featuring not only Wayne himself and the voice of Richard Burton, but also David Essex, Phil Lynott, Julie Covington and Chris Thompson of Manfred Mann, “It couldn’t be more of its year if it featured four guys with perms playing see-through perspex cellos and moaning about how terrible punk music was on their cig break”, says John, “but it it is utterly unique”.

There is arguably more in common with experimental music here than might first meet the eye, with ‘Horsell Common And The Heath Ray’ arguably a relation of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, Get Carter and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. We love War Of The Worlds because it appears in the middle of the mainstream but does something incredibly weird with it, entirely of it’s time – this is only 18 months before the end of the 70s, but it just couldn’t have been made in the following decade. The negatives, perhaps, are the slightly iffy goes at voice acting by Essex, Lynott and the other musicians, but arguably they were always doomed going up against the great Burton. This is a record we now hear in Iron Maiden and the mighty Teeth Of The Sea, and try and work out which characters we would be, before discussing the wider political implications of Wells’ original War Of The Worlds story and wonder why there haven’t been more adaptations of H.G. Wells’ other works, like The Shape Of Things To Come or The Time Machine – if only people still made rock operas.

Thanks to Alannah Chance for editing the show and to all of you for subscribing. If there’s anything you want us to discuss, please do let us know via email. To listen to the podcast you’ll need to be a Low Culture or Sound & Vision subscriber – sign up via the checkout below:

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