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Thread: The Jeff Wayne concept album

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    The Jeff Wayne concept album

    I went and bought the LP yesterday, the one by Jeff Wayne. My father bought it in the late 70s or early 80s. There was a remake of it with Liam Nielson as the narrator a few years back, but I got the Richard Burton version. It is interesting because I cannot think of any other book that has been turned into a concept album. There are books that get turned into plays, films, opera, even ballets, but not concept albums. There are songs about books, like Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush, and Killing an Arab by The Cure, but not concept albums.

    The book is also famous for having been turned into a radio play by Orson Wells. Lots of books are adapted for radio, but this was slightly different it was presented as live reporting, or at least a number of listeners thought it was real and started panicking.

    I did not actually like the book very much. It was interesting to think or read about, but as a read I found it quite flat. I much prefer the concept album.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Oh, yikes, Kev. I remember that one from the 70s (and probably haven't thought of it since). There was even a single on the radio from it:

    My life will be forever Autumn--'cause you're not HEEAAH!

    I used to have the Orson Wells radio broadcast on a record, too. The first half was the fake broadcast (yes, it was intentional) and the second part was a hammy but interesting reading of an abridged adaptation of the novel's end--but set in New York/New Jersey instead of London.

    I tried to think of another book related concept album. There was an acoustic album by Bruce Springsteen called The Ghost of Tom Joad. I've never heard it, but my impression when it came out is that it was a concept album based (at least thematically) on The Grapes of Wrath.

    I can think another interesting use of The War of the Worlds. About ten years ago, the historian Niall Ferguson wrote a history of the world wars--and some of the Cold War--treating the whole thing as one war divided by a short peace and followed by a long, tense one. He used Welles' novel as an overarching metaphor, but also portrayed it as an intentional prediction of the horrors to come (with Martians replacing one another as the perpetrators). This is from the free sample:

    The houses caved in as they dissolved at its touch, and darted out flames; the trees changed to fire with a roar… So you understand the roaring wave of fear that swept through the greatest city in the world just as Monday was dawning –the stream of flight rising swiftly to a torrent, lashing in a foaming tumult round the railway stations… Did they dream they might exterminate us?

    H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

    THE LETHAL CENTURY

    Published on the eve of the twentieth century, H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1898) is much more than just a seminal work of science fiction. It is also a kind of Darwinian morality tale, and at the same time a work of singular prescience. In the century after the publication of his book, scenes like the ones Wells imagined became a reality in cities all over the world –not just in London, where Wells set his tale, but in Brest-Litovsk, Belgrade and Berlin; in Smyrna, Shanghai and Seoul.

    Invaders approach the outskirts of a city. The inhabitants are slow to grasp their vulnerability. But the invaders possess lethal weapons: armoured vehicles, flame throwers, poison gas, aircraft. They use these indiscriminately and mercilessly against soldiers and civilians alike. The city’s defences are overrun. As the invaders near the city, panic reigns. People flee their homes in confusion; swarms of refugees clog the roads and railways. The task of massacring them is made easy. People are slaughtered like beasts. Finally, all that remains are smouldering ruins and piles of desiccated corpses.

    All of this destruction and death Wells imagined while pedalling around peaceful Woking and Chertsey on his newly acquired bicycle. Of course (and here was the stroke of genius), he cast Martians as the perpetrators. When such scenes subsequently became a reality, however, those responsible were not Martians but other human beings –even if they often justified the slaughter by labelling their victims as ‘aliens’ or ‘subhumans’. It was not a war between worlds that the twentieth century witnessed, but rather a war of the world.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    That's a very good post if you don't mind me saying so.

    Regarding the late 1890s and early 1900s there was a threat of impending war in the air. Germany had united, but had left it too late to acquire an empire, and they wanted one. George Gissing seemed to feel the threat. I can't remember where I read that. It might have been in the The Whirlpool, or in a biography of Gissing. Gissing really disliked Rudyard Kipling btw, because he disapproved of his imperialism and militarism.

    I remember reading the scenes of the refugees trying to get to the ports, and thinking it was very similar to accounts of refugees in France trying to find safety after Germany invaded in 1940. I was impressed H.G. Wells got that right.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    That's a very good post if you don't mind me saying so.
    Well, You're too kind. I have the bad habit of editing after I post. But my last one was too long. LitNet wouldn't let me fix my many stupid mistakes. That'll learn me to keep 'em short. Anyway, thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Regarding the late 1890s and early 1900s there was a threat of impending war in the air. Germany had united, but had left it too late to acquire an empire, and they wanted one. George Gissing seemed to feel the threat. I can't remember where I read that. It might have been in the The Whirlpool, or in a biography of Gissing. Gissing really disliked Rudyard Kipling btw, because he disapproved of his imperialism and militarism.

    I remember reading the scenes of the refugees trying to get to the ports, and thinking it was very similar to accounts of refugees in France trying to find safety after Germany invaded in 1940. I was impressed H.G. Wells got that right.
    Well, it's complicated. What Germany wanted in the years just before the First World War (to simplify terribly) was to drive the Romanovs out of the parts of the Russian Empire that approached Germany while keeping the French revanchists (and anyone else to the west) at arms length. Wells would not have been alone in seeing the potential in that for a big war. What makes him different, I think, is that he foresaw the implications of then cutting edge military technology including the airplane, armored vehicles, and chemical weapons--by which I mean he understood that these weapons could used effectively against civilian populations. As you say, he anticipated the sort of thing that happened to French and other refugees during the blitzkrieg. But as Ferguson points out, it was happening all over the world at about the same time. That was partly technological (there were other reasons, too, of course). Wells could see the implications of the technology--but he still couldn't quite believe we would do it to ourselves. He needed the Martians.

    I found a recording of Forever Autumn with Richard Burton's voiceover. You sound like you've heard it, but if others are following this thread they may want to listen. It's a bit unnerving (the voiceover) in the light of our discussion. I mean, in that something very similar really happened to hundreds of millions of people in living (if fading) memory. It's not quite fiction.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Yn3AJjuup3Q

    (If anyone's interested, listen to the end--a lot of the narration is there).
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Wells was credited with predicting the tank in the late C19th. I read that short story (The Land Ironclads). iirc, the two sides had reached some trench warfare stalemate, when the enemy launched these huge fighting machines. I don't know how much it is fair to credit Wells with predicting the tank, because you didn't need to be much of a futurologist I don't think, and Well's vision of the tank was very different to how they turned out. They were like small ships in size. They did not use caterpiller tracks, but wheels with elephant feet. They did not have cannons but rows of portholes out of which machine guns fired. They had quite a sophisticated optics system, so the gunners sat below the portholes. He also describes soldiers launching an attack on bicycles, but that never took off.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Wells was credited with predicting the tank in the late C19th. I read that short story (The Land Ironclads). iirc, the two sides had reached some trench warfare stalemate, when the enemy launched these huge fighting machines. I don't know how much it is fair to credit Wells with predicting the tank, because you didn't need to be much of a futurologist I don't think, and Well's vision of the tank was very different to how they turned out. They were like small ships in size. They did not use caterpiller tracks, but wheels with elephant feet. They did not have cannons but rows of portholes out of which machine guns fired. They had quite a sophisticated optics system, so the gunners sat below the portholes. He also describes soldiers launching an attack on bicycles, but that never took off.
    Well, if an author could predict the military engineering that precisely he probably would be a military engineer an not an author. But Wells got the idea. I can't imagine him being too surprised by the Battle of Kursk--two massive tank armies slugging it out on a battlefield the size of Belgium--even if he would have looked at the machines and exclaimed, "Oh, of course!"

    What Wells saw especially clearly in The War of the Worlds (as I think was Ferguson's point) was the approaching alignment of that kind of hyper-lethal technology with total warfare on civilian populations. We have been taught not to think of the airplane as a weapon of mass destruction but of course it is and has been--from Guernica to London to Manchester to Hamburg to Dresden to Osaka to Tokyo to Hanoi and beyond. He saw what that kind of war would mean to the human beings beneath it but also to the refugees.

    This is slightly off topic but only slightly. There is a famous aerial photograph of uncountable refugees choking the broad streets of Shanghai as the Japanese forces approached. About the time it was taken, a group of barely-trained Chinese airmen flew over the city to bomb nearby Japanese ships. Two planes, full of kids who didn't know what they were doing, lost their bomb loads right over that mass of people. In addition to the carnage, a terrible stampede ensued. My father-in-law was there. He was one of the people who ran. He has been gone a long time now, but when I knew him, I asked if he would tell me about it. He looked at me with perfect calm said: "All done." I think what my father-in-law saw that day is what Wells foresaw.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 06-25-2019 at 05:28 PM.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    What Wells saw especially clearly in The War of the Worlds (as I think was Ferguson's point) was the approaching alignment of that kind of hyper-lethal technology with total warfare on civilian populations. We have been taught not to think of the airplane as a weapon of mass destruction but of course it is and has been--from Guernica to London to Manchester to Hamburg to Dresden to Osaka to Tokyo to Hanoi and beyond. He saw what that kind of war would mean to the human beings beneath it but also to the refugees.
    Reminds me of a book I read recently. It was about the Zeppelins vs British Home Defence. I didn't realise they bombed us during the First World War too. It seemed like an awful waste of resource just to knock down a few buildings and kill several hundred, mostly harmless civilians. Apparently the Royal Navy were blockading the Germans so effectively, they were very short of food. Bombing Britain was the only way they could bring the war to the British public.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    This is slightly off topic but only slightly. There is a famous aerial photograph of uncountable refugees choking the broad streets of Shanghai as the Japanese forces approached. About the time it was taken, a group of barely-trained Chinese airmen flew over the city to bomb Japanese ships. Two planes, full of kids who didn't know what they were doing, lost their bomb loads, right over that mass of people. In addition to the carnage, a terrible stampede ensued. My father-in-law was there. He was one of the people who ran. He has been gone a long time now, but when I knew him, I once asked if he would tell me about it. He looked at me with perfect calm said: "All done." I think what my father-in-law saw that day is what Wells foresaw.
    The end section of When We Were Orphans by Kazou Ishiguro was about the Japanese invasion of Shanghai and the dreadful struggle to get out. I found that rather a confusing book.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Reminds me of a book I read recently. It was about the Zeppelins vs British Home Defence. I didn't realise they bombed us during the First World War too. It seemed like an awful waste of resource just to knock down a few buildings and kill several hundred, mostly harmless civilians. Apparently the Royal Navy were blockading the Germans so effectively, they were very short of food. Bombing Britain was the only way they could bring the war to the British public.
    Unfortunately there all kinds of reasons to murder civilians. You can do it to make your own civilians feel happy/avenged, to scare an enemy population into demanding its leaders surrender, to destroy the population's ability to arm or administer its military, or just for the hell of it. There was no excuse for what happened at Nanking. Even Hitler is supposed to have vomited when he heard about it.

    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    The end section of When We Were Orphans by Kazou Ishiguro was about the Japanese invasion of Shanghai and the dreadful struggle to get out. I found that rather a confusing book.
    Unfortunately my father-in-law did not get out. But he did survive. Then when the Communists came in he decided it was Taiwan time because (with apologies to Aunt Shecky) been there, done that.

    I guess I'll have to read When We Were Ophans. It sounds great, but I've heard it's disappointing. I loved Remains of the Day. An Artist of the Floating World and Never Let me Go were worthwhile. And The Buried Giant was, um, good in parts. But for some reason people keep warning me off this one. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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