Retro Radio Memories Ep. 83 (War of the Worlds)

The War of the Worlds was a benchmark in Old Time Radio. Remembered today thanks to the amount of panic it was said to have caused when it aired in 1938. Although this may be true – nevertheless it is widely believed now that the media exaggerated the panic. Quite a bit actually.

I would add though having said that, there are two of those with the Mercury Theater on the Air. Stefan Schnabel as well as John Houseman who went on record saying that the Police descended on the station. I’ve included quotes from both in the podcast.

Of course The War of the Worlds was directed by none other than Orson Welles.
War of the Worlds

As I do mention in this episode. It was indeed Welles who suggested that real life places and names of recognizable people be included. Something that CBS balked at – forcing some changes as the studio was worried that audiences would believe the broadcast!

What is The War of the Worlds about?


Wait. Are you serious? I mean…you aren’t pulling my leg? I hadn’t actually expected that question.

H.G. Wells wrote his famous novel back in 1898. Well – it was actually originally published in a serialized format through Pearson’s Magazine and Cosmopoltian in 1897. It was collected and published in book form in 1898.
h-g-wells

It reads as an account of an eyewitness to an invading force from the planet Mars. The unnamed author of the work gives readers an almost blow by blow account of the technological might of the Martians. As using “towering three-legged” machines of war they run rampant across the English countryside.

Naturally the writer for the radio play of The War of the Worlds set the invasion in America, in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey in fact. At least the starting point of the arrival of the Martians. Soon however through continually dire news reports – the listener is treated to an apocalyptic invasion.

If you have any comments or feedback for the show you can e-mail them to at VicSage@Retroist.com. You can also reach me on Twitter and of course on Facebook.

The music on the podcast was graciously provided by Peachy! You may contact him by e-mail at peachy@Retroist.com.

Subscribe To The Retro Radio Memories Podcast:
[iTunes] I would greatly appreciate it if you might leave a rating if you enjoy the show. It helps to spread the word about our love of old time radio.

Directly download the Retro Radio Memories Podcast:
Episode Mirror #1 (MP3)
Episode Mirror #2 (OGG)

War of the Worlds: Re-Scored

war_of_the_worlds_solid_steel

One of the many vinyl records that I listened to regularly as a child was Jeff Wayne’s “War of the Worlds”. My dad had lots of records from Wayne, all with fantastic artwork and fantastical audio, but War was easily my favourite and has followed me in various incarnations into adulthood.

I recently discovered that a DJ by the name of Ollie Teeba re-worked the score. Using records from his own collection of movie soundtracks and other suitable material, He created this mix specifically for Solid Steel but also as a tribute on the 75th anniversary of Orson Welles’ radio play.



Held together by the weight of Richard Burton’s narrative, this re-score really delivers and is refreshingly new, despite the retro twangs, psychedelic rock and 70’s funk. If you have the hour to spare, this really is worth a listen!

The War of the Worlds in and near Boston

Fighters from Mars

In a world where the notion of copyright was yet to involve lawyers, it was quite easy to copy material and pass it off as your own.

And that is what the Boston Evening-Post did in 1898, taking H.G. Wells classic The War of the Worlds and giving it a few geographical tweaks to move the story from London to Boston. The story, more often referred to as Fighters from Mars doesn’t really deviate from the narrative of the original. The readers of the Boston newspaper made the story a big hit and a sequel was produced shortly afterwards which was written as original material.

Edison's Conquest of Mars

Edison’s Conquest of Mars had the people of Earth in a counter-attack against the invaders from Mars. Amazingly, the hero of the story, Thomas Edison, was THE Thomas Edison, inventor of light bulbs and all-round American icon at that time.

Whilst the original Fighters’ story is only available as scanned images of the original print, the sequel can be purchased from Apogee Books and looks to be a good read. A 2006 review from Focus magazine can be read here.

What If The War of the Worlds Musical had Been Animated By Ralph Bakshi?

War of the Worlds - Jeff Wayne

At the insistence of my erstwhile companion of the outré Vic Sage, I am going to share this little nugget of pure awesome uploaded to YouTube by user Jonno71 (who just so happens to own the actual 16mm print)…the original 1978 promo film used to advertise Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds!

This mini opus, highly reminiscent of Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings adaptation from the same year, only makes one wish that a full on theatrical version of the piece had been produced! So, sit back, turn down the lights, and drift back to the Victorian age as Martian war machines ravage the land while their commanders screams of “ULLA” split asunder skies turned ruddy from the beams of unholy heat rays!

(Editor: Here is a clearer version of the video but the sound quality is poorer)

[Via] Powderworks Records

Jeff Wayne and the Funktastic Invasion of Earth

War of the Worlds - Jeff Wayne
As the world creeps ever forward into its annual Autumnal repose, my mind often turns to the iconic October 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast by Orson Welles and The Mercury Theater. The radio play caused hysteria due to the fact that it was broadcast as news bulletins without commercial interruption, as if the events were actually transpiring just outside of the safety of the audience’s living rooms.

And, while that version is an undeniable fright classic, it of course is not the only adaptation of H.G. Wells’ seminal tale of Victorian science fiction literature. Recently my ol’ pal, master illustrator and sculptor supreme Gabe Perna, reminded me of a version of the tale that some may not be as familiar with, the 1978 musical by Jeff Wayne.

Featuring Richard Burton as the narrator, with guest vocals by Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy, Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, and Chris Thompson of Manfred Mann (along with other talented singers and musicians), Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds is a swirling phantasmagoria of Victorian dialog, distortion pedals, synthesized harpsichords and porn bass, and while that shouldn’t work, it absolutely does!

So why not give it a listen today…and remember, somewhere in the vastness of space, advanced alien cultures have mastered the art of using threaded screws…and they are coming for us all!