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

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The chances of anything coming from Mars
Are a million to one, he said
The chances of anything coming from Mars
Are a million to one...
But still, they come!

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds is a 1978 concept album by Jeff Wayne, retelling the story of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. It was immensely popular around the world, selling millions of records (and still doing so today) and spawned multiple versions of the album, a computer game, a DVD, and a 30th anniversary live tour. Including Richard Burton, Alexis James, Rhydian from The X Factor, Jason Donovan, and Jennifer Ellison in the cast. There's also a large amount of merchandise available at its website.


Tropes used in Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds include:

Parson Nathaniel: Dear God! A cylinder's landed on the house, and we're underneath it, in the pit!

  • Autobots Rock Out: Martian attacks are usually accompanied by The Fighting Machine, which includes the best guitar solo on the album.
  • Award Bait Song: The bittersweet Forever Autumn, sung by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, made it into the top 40.
  • Canon Foreigner: Beth, the parson's wife.
  • Composite Character: The experiences of the protagonist and his brother are combined in the character of "the Journalist".
  • Cultural Translation: The Parson is definitely based on more recent American evangelical variants of Christianity, rather than the kind of stern Evangelical Christianity you'd expect to find in Victorian England, though it's hard to see his fire-and-brimstone proclamations working as hammishly well with an English character.
  • Dark Reprise: Brave New World relates the utopian dreams of The Artilleryman, who thinks the alien invasion is a opportunity to throw away the hated modern world and build an underground utopia. The music is a heart-rousing soundtrack to revolution. The Journalist punctures this in deadpan narration: The Artilleryman has a tunnel ten feet long and outside tripods are moving. The song is reprised, with a maudlin tone that now belies the words, and the discordant interpretation of the music gives the impression of a drunken, foolish dreamer, sitting in a cellar singing to himself as the world goes to hell outside.
  • Deadly Distant Finale: After the end of Dead London, the musical skips forward to a future NASA Mars landing, as a NASA technician (played by Wayne himself) watches another round of cylinders (this time presumably immune to Earth disease) fly towards Earth and one by one loses radio contact with the various NASA stations around the world.
  • Death Song: "Thunder Child", in which "the voice of humanity" sings the praises of the eponymous ship as it takes down a fighting machine and gets very thoroughly melted and sunk for its efforts.
  • Dropped A Bridge On Her: Poor Beth.
  • Evil Always Triumphs in The Middle: The first disc is "The Coming Of The Martians", the second is "The Earth Under The Martians". The break comes when the Martian domination is complete.

The Journalist: But the Thunder Child had vanished forever, taking with her man's last hope of victory. The leaden sky was lit with flashes, cylinder following cylinder, and no-one and nothing was left to stop them. The Earth belonged to the Martians.
Martians: ULLA!

Sensing victory was near them
Thinking fortune must have smiled
People started cheering
"Come on Thunder Child!"

  • Large Ham: Phil Lynott as Parson Nathaniel spends most of his time eating any scenery which isn't nailed down ("A SIGN! I have been given a SIGN!") and is easily the biggest ham in the entire piece -- impressive, when considering he's up against Richard Burton (no slouch in the hamminess stakes himself when he felt like it). David Essex as The Artilleryman deserves a mention too; he may be relatively tame in his first appearance, but becomes deliciously unhinged in the Sanity Slippage Song "Brave New World" ("YES, AND WE! WILL HAVE TO BE! THE CHOSEN FEEEEEEEEEEW!")
  • Leitmotif: Quite a few:
  • Narrator: The Journalist, played by Richard Burton no less.
  • Million-to-One Chance: Ogilvy the astronomer says this in The Eve Of The War. Probably the best-known song on the album.

The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one - but still they come!

  • Minor Character, Major Song: Nathaniel and Beth, who get the epic duet "The Spirit of Man".
  • Mythology Gag: According to the official website's making-of book, the sound of the cylinder opening was created in exactly the same way as it was in the Orson Welles radio version: a saucepan being scraped along the rim of a toilet bowl.
  • Oh Crap: "Look! There they are! What did I tell you!?"
  • Religion Rant Song: "The Spirit of Man", though it's the spoken parts of the Parson's performance that are most heavily religious (and ranting):

Tell me what kind of weapon is love when it comes to the fight?
And just how much protection is truth against all Satan's might?

  • Sanity Slippage Song / BSOD Song: All the big songs in the second half of the musical - "Earth Under The Martians" - are this to an extent:
    • "Spirit of Man": Parson Nathaniel believes the Martians are demons, and is so far gone that he even believes his own wife Beth is a devil.
    • "Brave New World": The Artilleryman has a plan! It's a shame he's so deluded that he thinks the tiny tunnel it took him a week to dig will be enough to save humanity, and his prophetic shouts about being "the chosen few" don't help either.
    • "Dead London": The narrator wanders around the deserted streets of London, driven mad by the solitude and the distorted "ULLA"s of the dying Martians, and decides to kill himself by running out in plain sight of a fighting machine. Luckily for him, the Martians inside are dead.
  • Sidekick Song: Arguably "Brave New World" for the Artilleryman.
  • The Song Before the Storm: The Eve of War, obviously, and arguably the Horsell Common section of Horsell Common and the Heat Ray.
  • War Was Beginning: Eve of The War.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Unlike the novel (in which he is killed early on), Ogilvy disappears from the story completely after "Eve of the War", leaving his fate ambiguous.