Look what Johnny the Fox dragged in…

jeff wayne’s musical version of the war of the worlds

Sometimes it’s an echo chamber, sometimes it’s a View Master for instantly forgettable memes, but on its best days, the Internet is a rabbit hole that swallows you up and deposits you in a fully formed world you’ve never imagined. Such was the case when I was searching for Phil Lynott documentaries on YouTube, as one does. After watching The Outlaw, it occurred to me that the Thin Lizzy frontman’s later work might be available on Spotify. Sure enough, Phil’s solo albums are there, but one of the most popular tracks was from a record with the distinctly verbose title of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds.

Now that’s a head-scratcher. Not only had I never heard of Jeff Wayne or his musical version of the late-19th-Century H.G. Wells novel, I had to wonder how such a seemingly obscure concept album had wormed its way onto a modern-day streaming service. Of course, what I had assumed was some off-kilter lark (visions of Shatner tripping balls), turned out to be one of the best-selling records in British history, with a star-studded lineup including Richard Burton as the narrator and the singing talent of Lynott, David Essex of “Rock On” fame, and Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues. To my surprise, the record turned out to be emminently listenable for a 1978 sci-fi prog-rock disco-opera. It’s actually kind of great.

But it’s more than just a snapshot from the late ‘70s. Jeff Wayne appears to actively shepherding the record’s legacy into the 21st Century and beyond, as he recently mounted a full-blown touring production (with Liam Neesons! as a 3D hologram!), and dedicated fans have been rewarded with box set, a collection of remixes (ULLAdubULLA II), and a string of video-game tie-ins (even iOS). Of course, from my perspective, the the best thing about Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds may just be how many other rabbit holes it opens up.