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A Journey Through My Musical Version of 'War of the Worlds'

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RICKY WILSON
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It's been 34 years between the original recording of my musical version of The War of The Worlds and The New Generation. And it's been quite some journey. One in which the passion and excitement are very much still burning. How did it all begin? In truth, I wasn't looking for a science fiction story. What I was looking for, as a composer and producer, was just a story that I fell in love with. One that I could hear music, sound and production in- based upon the story.

I was working with an artist at the time - David Essex. I was arranging and producing his recordings and touring with him as his musical director. Literally the night before one of our tours my dad came over to my house to wish me well. He said "by the way here's a book I'd like to you to read", and it was H.G. Wells' The War of The Worlds - considered the first science fiction story ever written.

I didn't really know it but, you know, when you go out on tour you have plenty of time to read and listen to music, so I took the book with me and it just completely caught my imagination. From the first read I was totally hooked and that was the beginning.

I was very proud of the finished work and I remember listening to it with my wife in the small listening room back at our office and studios- thinking this really sounds different. I had no expectancy though. I had composed and produced TWOTW at the height of the punk revolution and when disco was king of the dance floor - and there I was coming out with a continuous play recording, which didn't even have cuts on it!

It also didn't fit in any format of the day. The truth is, at that stage I didn't even have a guarantee for it to be even released. So to be presumptuous and think "ah this is going to conquer the world," wouldn't even be close because all I was thinking about as a as musician was that I had invested my life savings and more to finish it and I didn't have a guarantee for it to come out. So my first wish to come true was CBS actually releasing it!

Once it happened, then I think we were all just taking it in. In each country where it became a massive hit, it stayed ages in the charts and kept coming back: being re-promoted, hit singles, club renditions - life beyond anything I could ever have dreamed of. And it happened so quickly that it just caught us all by surprise.

Fast forward to now: I am still passionate about The War of The Worlds. It's interesting that inbetween its original release and coming back to it in around 2005 - I'd hardly ever revisited it. In that time, I have only produced a couple of club remixes and the very enjoyable experience of making DVD and PS games in the late 90s - but other than those projects, I really hadn't any reason to return to it even though it's always been part of my life, a very good friend.

So why come back to it now with The New Generation?

It was in 2006 when we started touring arenas in the UK and then Australia, New Zealand and around Europe. I saw and heard it with a set of fresh eyes and ears, and performing it on stage we could see the reactions from the audience as to what it all meant and it got me thinking. But it was about three years ago that I re-read the original script I recorded with Richard Burton and it reminded me that there was at least as much that we didn't use on the original album as that which we did. And as a result there was a lot of rich material that didn't make it onto the original album. Richard wound up with 74 sequences on both the album and all our tours up to now whereas Liam Neeson, our new 'journalist', has 90 sequences both on the recording and within our new live production.

As a result, the story and my score has expanded substantially and it also convinced me that as a producer and arranger I could really put a stamp on it that it would have a sound fresh for today. Over time I felt I had ticked all the boxes that I felt required ticking in order to convince myself it had merit to commit to creating a new album and tour to what is now known as The New Generation.

The final box to be ticked is that I would have the opportunity to work with a whole new set of guest artists, who would reinterpret the original roles, so the whole thing now is a total re-imagination of sight and sound.

As for the live shows- I conduct every single one, I've got the best seat in the house!

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