Saturday, 9 April 2011


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!


Boll Weavil said...

Oh no ! That really works ! I'm a sucker for remixing anyway but I haven't heard that stuff for years and I'd forgotten just how good it is... Nice to see the original is still doing the rounds with Jeff Wayne on tour.There's a lot of us around who love his records.

Boll Weavil said...

Since nobody else has commented... I'm going to AGAIN. The more I listen to it, the more I like it.It's totally mixed up but so is the whole idea of Mr Sibley being the writer of a remix ! As S & W would say...

We loved it !

David Weeks said...

and the royalties?

Brian Sibley said...

Boll Two-Comments – Thank you! I share this bizarre episode from my autobiography and it is generally ignored by the readership of this blog! Obviously no market for the memoirs!! ;)

That said, I was interested in your thoughts on the re-mix. I find it totally odd: a mash-up between a 'classic' and something that falls a long way short of that status but with which I have a very personal involvement.

David – Yes, I must wake up an old agent... :)

polkadotsoph said...

I'm not ignoring you! Just needed time to make a considered response (or just sit in the sun) and I have decided that, while I completely loathe The War of the Worlds (sorry!) I really dig the remix.


Brian Sibley said...

I don't think anything I've ever been involved with has been digged before – or should I say, dug?