JEFF Wayne, creator of The War Of The Worlds which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, chats to Mick Burgess ahead of a huge stage show at the Metro Radio Arena next month

The Northern Echo:

THIS year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of your album, The War Of The Worlds. Does it feel like four decades has passed since then?

In some ways it doesn't but in some ways, depending on what I'm doing where I have to delve back into the archives to do something with the original album, it does feel a long time ago. When I start hearing Richard Burton's voice or other people that were involved in the record, it takes me back all that time without question.

Each tour you have done since you started the live shows in has been bigger and more dramatic than the last. How are you going to top the tour that you did last time?

I hope it will be seen as yet another big step forward. Besides several new cast members, which in itself is exciting, we've added some very large screens in parallel with the stage to give a much more cinematic look. In the sequence called Brave New World it's largely performed on a bridge that goes far out and over the audience. It should be quite a dramatic, visual piece and it gives The Artillery Man different places to perform the sequence.

Jason Donovan returns for his fourth tour. What does he have that makes him so central to the War Of The Worlds family?

He's such a talented guy. The first time he was with us he was the Artillery Man. It wasn`t long after that that I read an interview that he did about his life and career, and he said he hadn`t had many opportunities to do anything dramatic. He was always given the personality type of roles, so I thought the role of a mad parson wasn't light hearted at all so I contacted him when we came to doing the next tour. I asked if he'd like to change from a fighting man to a man of the cloth. I said he could be really serious and he jumped at it, so here he is; it's the third time for him and he does the role beautifully.

Did people think you were barking mad for releasing the original album in 1978 when Punk was at its height and New Wave was just around the corner?

Just about everybody thought I was mad. In reality, the story leans towards the symphonic when the story is being told through the eyes of humanity, but the other side of the coin is the Martians, their weapons, machines and terror that they brought, I expressed in musical terms with the band and a lot of electronics so it was like a musical ping-pong match.

The album originally featured Phil Lynott, David Essex and Justin Heyward amongst others. Did you have these names in mind when you were writing the music?

The time I finished the first draft of my score coincided with the completion of the first draft of the script. That was the first time we really cemented the characters that we were going to need. There weren't that many but all were vital to give an authenticity and honesty with the roles that they were playing and one started thinking of who you wanted on the wish list. We actually got close to fulfilling the original wish list with the final cast. For those we weren't able to get from the original list we did at least as well, if not better, on those that ended up on the album.

What about the future of The War Of The Worlds. What have you got coming up?

There's an audio book for Audible and it's a five-hour recording of a musical dramatization, although there's no singing on it. There`s a lot of new material that's related to the original material and a lot of original samples. It has a great cast with Michael Sheen and Taron Eggerton, who has starred in the Kingsman movies and he`s also playing Elton John in the Rocket Man movie. Ade Edmondson is also taking part, as is Theo James from the Divergent movies. My daughter, Anna-Marie, who has been the fiancée of the journalist in all of the live shows, was offered the role by Audible as the wife of the journalist. It's released the day before our first show in Glasgow on November 29.

The 50th anniversary is only 10 years away. You have plenty of time to plan the biggest War of the Worlds party ever…maybe the first live concert broadcast from Mars would be a fitting celebration?

I`m just writing that down and will get that over to our promoters. I hope I'm still around and fully functioning then and I`ll start thinking about it after the last show of our 40th anniversary.

  • The War Of The Worlds will be at the Metro Radio Arena on December 1. Tickets from, the booking hotline number 0844 493 6666 or in person from the Metro Radio Arena Box Office