An Interview with Jeff Wayne on ‘The War of the Worlds’

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Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds is back with a monumental new 17-date (19 shows) UK and Ireland arena tour, arriving just in time to celebrate 130 years since the publication of HG Wells’ dark Victorian tale. The show, conducted by Jeff Wayne, features Liam Neeson in 3D holography as The Journalist, who recounts his story of survival from the Martian invasion of 1898.

One of the most trailblazing arena tours of all time, Jeff Wayne’s musical version of The War of The Worlds is a musical spectacular like none other, with the production remaining a favourite to millions around the world, exciting audiences of all ages.

Graham Clark chatted to Jeff Wayne about the musical, which is coming to three Yorkshire venues…

What will the new touring production of The War of the Worlds be like?
We have toured the show previously, so we must produce something that will be better than what has gone before and hopefully we will achieve that. We will have some very big artists appearing, though I cannot say who they are now, however casting is in process and announcements will follow. People can expect to see a multi-media production that will hold the audience’s attention.

Why do you think that the touring production has been a big success?
I think the story itself is one that people enjoy. When we first started the tour, it was the people who had bought the double album that I did in 1978 that were coming along to see the show. Nowadays we get people in the audience who may not have got the album but have heard about the show through word of mouth or the many good reviews that we have had of the production.

Before you recorded the The War of the Worlds album you produced many other acts.
I worked with David Essex for five years, we had two Number One hits with ‘Gonna Make You A Star’ and ‘Hold Me Close’. ‘Rock On’ got to Number One in America – the song is still popular today: Def Leppard even recorded a version of the song and continue to play the track when they perform live.

Did you ever think that the album was going to be so successful?
I could never have foreseen the success – when the album was released, we thought it might enter the lower reaches of the album chart – never expecting it to spend 330 consecutive weeks in the UK album charts!

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What inspired the concept?
I made a conscious decision to do something different after doing the production work with the pop artists I had been working with. I started off with a blank page, after reading ‘The Eve of the War’, the first chapter of H.G. Wells’ book, I wrote the first song for the album which has the same name as that very first chapter.

Why did you think the album was not going to be as popular as it has become?
You must remember that in 1978, when the album came out the styles of music were punk rock and disco music – then I came along with an album that has spoken performances by some of the top actors in the business. We were totally out of fashion with what was happening in the music world. Thankfully, we enjoyed four hit singles from the album which introduced people to the record.

Do you think that that album has stood the test of time?
I do – the album still sounds fresh today and we have a whole new audience who have now discovered the record. The story is a dark Victorian tale that still resonates with people today.

Any thoughts on the music being produced in 2024?
I have four children – one of whom is a successful DJ and producer, so I do get to keep up with current trends. I like to hear the progression in music, and I think that music too should reflect the times that we live in.

The War of the Worlds visits the following Yorkshire venues in 2024:
Fri 28 March, ​​​Hull Connexin Live – tickets here
Thu 03 April, ​​​Leeds First Direct Arena – tickets here
Tue 08 April,​​​ Sheffield Utilita Arena – tickets here

More info