The chances of anything coming from Mars
It has come to my attention that there is a whole continent of people who have never listened to Jeff Wayne’s musical version of The War of the Worlds. This is a crime against humanity.
The War of the Worlds is the very pinnacle of that mountain of great concept albums that defined the 70s and it’s the best of the rock operas. The opening chords – Dun dun daaaaa – still give me chills 30 years later and I can’t read a EULA without looking over my shoulder for the Martian in a giant tripod trying to kill me with a death ray.
For those who have not yet had the pleasure, War of the Worlds begins with Richard Burton’s sombre narration, reading the opening lines of HG Wells’s masterpiece.
No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century
that human affairs were being watched
from the timeless worlds of space
No one could have dreamed we were being scrutinized
as someone with a microscope studies creatures
that swarm and multiply in a drop of water
Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets
and yet across the gulf of space
minds immeasurably superior to ours
regarded this Earth with envious eyes
and slowly and surely
they drew their plans against us.
Then the overture introduces the haunting theme of the album.
When the Martians arrive on Horsell Common, we journey with the narrator as he meets a series of unlikely characters – David Essex’s artilleryman, Phil Lynot’s parson and his wife, played by Julie Covington – and each character tells their story with a song.
My favourite is Spirit of Man, a duet in which the parson’s wife tries to persuade her now-crazed husband that humanity will find some reason to survive.
There must be something worth living for!
There must be something worth trying for!
Even some things worth dying for!
And if one man can stand tall
There must be some hope for us all.
Somewhere, in the spirit of man.
Your music collection is but an empty shell if it doesn’t include this album. Fix that now! (don’t get the abridged version).
Do yourself a favour though. This is not background music. It needs your full attention. You need to sit alone with headphones in the almost dark, peering at the album’s gorgeous artwork, let the story wash over you and imagine those Martians in their fighting machines bringing civilization to an untimely end.
The chances of anything coming from a Mars are a million to one.
But still, they come.