You might well be saying to yourself, “Wait, I know that song. Didn’t the Moody Blues do that?” Well, yes they recorded it (for a live album) and it sure sounds like something they’d write. But they didn’t and for that matter, neither did Justin Hayward. It’s from a musical called Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds. And so, of course there’s a musical about aliens who come to earth to wipe us out. A little background:
Jeff Wayne is an American composer whose father was in theater in London when Jeff was a boy. Jeff eventually wound up playing keyboards in bands and composed scores for his father’s London plays. He also created thousands of TV jingles.
In 1978, he wrote and produced the War of the Worlds album. It’s listed as prog-rock and symphonic rock. Musically, it’s pretty melodic but I doubt I’d listen to it all that often. It veers wildly between entertaining and cheesy, sometimes in the same measure.
It’s definitely got some Floydiness if you know what I mean. Maybe it’s also got a little bit of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, some Rick Wakeman. All by way of Andrew Lloyd Webber. It’s kinda fun to listen to at least once. All things considered, I’d rather listen to this for an hour than two minutes of Phantom of the Fucking Opera.
Wayne realized he wanted a love song on the soundtrack. (‘Coz you gotta have a love song.) According to Wikipedia, he’d written a jingle for a Lego commercial (!) in 1969. A couple of guys named Gary Osborne and Paul Vigrass were fellow session men and had performed on that jingle.
Vigrass and Osborne later joined together as a performing duo and wrote lyrics to the tune. Calling it “Forever Autumn,” they released it in 1972 on a long-forgotten album called Queues. Guitarists Chris Spedding and Caleb Quaye – Elton John’s guitarist – played on it. Osborne later went on to write lyrics with Elton for a period of non-Bernie Taupin time.
Wayne wanted “that voice from “Nights in White Satin”” and so hired Justin Hayward for the album. (Ireland is well represented with Phil Lynott on the record as well as a very pre-fame Liam Neeson in a speaking part.) Richard Burton is the narrator and in fact, provides a spoken intro to the song. But this is the popular version of the song with that intro stripped out.
“Forever Autumn” is a beautiful, melancholy song for a lonely fall day. Hayward is the absolutely right guy to make it work:
Curious to hear the War of the Worlds musical itself? Here’s a version. (Part of this and Spotify version may be blocked.) Additionally, there is a remake out there, a disco-y version, etc. You’d think they would take this thing on tour and do a live version, right? Of course they did. There was a touring version and the “New Generation” version played in London just last year.
When they toured, apparently they used a large bust of Burton’s head with an image of him superimposed to speak his parts. One can only imagine he was too fucking embarrassed to even make the gig. Later they replaced him with a 3D holograph of – wait for it – Liam Neeson. As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up!
Oh, and that original Lego commercial? Sure, why not. Here’s the audio.