I still remember the visceral thrill that I experienced when I first heard (back in 1978, heaven help me) Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds.
As a fan of the original H G Wells' book, Orson Welles' audacious radio version and George Pal's 1953 movie, I was, probably, the perfect customer for the album!
Jeff Wayne pulled off the most amazing – and unlikely – pop-cultural coup: a phenomenally successful concept album combining an intensely vivid dramatisation of Wells' story (told with passion and authority by Richard Burton) with a progressive rock music score performed by legendary musicians and vocalists David Essex, Julie Covington, Phil Lynott, Justin Hayward and Chris Thompson.
My slavish devotion to this album was such that I was beside myself with delight when sometime in the mid-to-late '80s, after winning a Sony Radio Award, I was invited to write the script for Jeff's next concept album based on the story of Spartacus. It was almost too good to be true because I was a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick's film ("I'm Spartacus!" "I'm Spartacus!" "I'm Spartacus!" etc etc) and had always been intrigued by the story of the Thracian gladiator who led a rebellion against imperial Rome.
What started out life as a double record album took so long to get made and released that it ended up, in 1992, as a double CD set! Sir Anthony Hopkins was cast as Marcus Crassus (the equivalent of Burton's narrator role in WOTW) with Catherine Zeta Jones playing Spartacus' seer wife, Palene.
During those intervening years I wrote and endlessly re-wrote the script for first two 'sides' ('Animal & Man' and 'The Eagle & the Hawk') and made numerous drafts for the other two sides and wrote what became the final version of the epilogue, 'The Appian Way' . However, when my contract came up for renewal – feeling that the ceaseless re-writing had left me not knowing whether anything actually made any sort of sense – I decided to bow out of the arena and the writing honours were picked up and seen though to completion by playwright, John Spurling.
I rather enjoyed the fact that Miss Zeta Jones single 'For All Time' had, as its 'B' side, Sir Anthonyperforming my 'Animal and Man' monologue for Marcus Crassus but the album itself sadly failed to live up to expectations and certainly not to the success of War of the Worlds.
It was only relatively recently that I discovered that a mash-up had been made in 2000 inter-cutting the opening of WOTW with that of Spartacus.
'The Eve of the War versus Animal and Man' will probably be the one and only Sibley re-mix, so enjoy...
Must find out if I'm owed any royalties!