Back in 1976, musician Jeff Wayne began adapting HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds – a book that chronicles a Martian invasion of earth – to music. The result was a phenomenally successful concept double album that resonated with music listeners all around the globe.
• American-born Jeff Wayne studied journalism at university before pursuing a career in music. Moving to London, he wrote television jingles before eventually becoming the producer and arranger for teen-idol, David Essex. A keen player of tennis, he has won both the singles and doubles British National Indoor Veterans titles and has even tried his hand at stand-up comedy.
• His father kept reminding Wayne that he had always wanted to tell a musical story so the two of them started digging through books for ideas. Wayne unearthed an old copy of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds and knew he had found his project.
• The initial writing process took six weeks. When he eventually booked studio time, Wayne recorded the entire album as if the hired musicians were playing it live. Once completed, it was sent to CBS who had, as part of a contract, 30 days to decide whether they wanted it or not.
• Envisaging Richard Burton as the perfect voice for the narration, Wayne sent the actor a letter. Shortly after he received a phone call from Burton’s manager confirming his interest with the sentence, “Count him in, dear boy!” Complicating studio timing procedures, Burton refused to listen to the music whilst recording his part because he believed he would lose his concentration.
• On release in 1978, Jeff Wayne’s The Musical Version of War of the Worlds stayed in the album charts for an incredible six years selling over a purported 13 million copies to date.