A Memory: The First Thing I Was Afraid Of

My wife and I disagree on something important.

A while back, when re-working his Arena Spectacular of his Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, Jeff Wayne replaced his holographic face of Richard Burton with pre-filmed footage of Liam Neeson.

Now, while neither of us have seen that version, Vickie reckons Liam Neeson is a better narrator for The War of the Worlds than Richard Burton. He’s got a warmer voice, she feels. Richard Burton could be too cold.

Now, where was it? I can’t remember if we were at someone’s place when it happened or if that was when someone asked me about it. Dad, I think. I remember having walked out of somewhere when someone had started playing an album of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. Dad laughingly asked me why I didn’t want to listen. I remember telling him that it scared me.

It’s odd. I’ve always loved Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, but there was a point when the images it turned on in my head, the theatre-of-the-mind so beloved by radio dramatisations and campfire stories, literally scared me. Not even the Martians drinking blood; just the whole story, Martian Fighting Machines and all.

And frankly, that’s why Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds wouldn’t have been half of what it is without Richard Burton. The coldness gave that emotion we call “dread” a voice, would not allow anything less than every hair on your body standing up.

Liam Neeson gives a rough, warm comfort even in darkness. Richard Burton lets you know what there is no fucking where to run, no place to hide. That doom is inexorable, inevitable. That if it weren’t for the bacteria, the Martians, employing their immeasurably superior minds and their particular set of machines, will find you

And they will kill you.