Interview: Jeff Wayne discusses new and final tour of War of the Worlds
'We have another challenge and a new life for my musical version'
For many years, Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds was merely one of the most ambitious albums that emerged from the already expansive 1970s progressive rock scene. Drawing musical comparisons with Pink Floyd for its use of technology and enthusiasm for complex arrangements, it managed to retell HG Wells’ epic science-fiction classic in a manner that evoked both tradition – with Richard Burton providing the voice of 'the journalist' – and the era’s contemporary music.
However, given Wayne's background, it was inevitable that the album would become a performance, and so the arena tours began in 2006. 'I grew up around my mother's career as a singer and actor,' Wayne explains. 'And my father was in Broadway productions and he came over to the West End in London.' Indeed, before War of the Worlds broke in 1978, Wayne had worked on theatre productions. The success of the tours introduced his musical to new audiences, and led to a re-recording in 2012 with new performers, including Gary Barlow and Liam Neeson who replaced Burton.
Wells' plot is ideal for adaptation: brooding and pessimistic, Wayne recognises how this vision of a world torn apart by violence has, sadly, remained topical since its publication. The combination of late Victorian aesthetics and extra-terrestrial technology has made it a source for steam-punk fashion and art, and Wayne comments that 'HG's story has a visionary appeal'. This vision has encouraged him to adapt the show for this tour in which HG Wells now appears.
Although discreet about his musical’s future, Wayne is adamant that 'this is the final arena tour in the UK because we have another challenge and a new life for my musical version.'
SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Sat 29 Nov.