Thirty Thousand Streets

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

War of the Worlds

Now, you can keep your facebook, your Ebay (ok maybe not), but things like this, *wags finger emphatically* this are what makes the internet amazing. Ladies and gentlemen may I bring to your attention the original 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds, by HG Wells and starring Orson Welles, which sent swathes of the American radio listening public into panic when first broadcast.

It seems odd in retrospect, that while you could probably get the wack new Tom Cruise star vehicle version on some bi-torrent site no problem, it'd never ocurred to me (given its infamy) that this might be out there for the taking; but it is, and what a treat it is.

Based loosely on Wells's premise, the tale is transplanted from London – where the Martians land on Horsell Common – to New Jersey, and given a radio play treatment by Welles. In spite of the fact that in our wacky post-modern world, we're all sophisticated, cynical consumers of media, it still doesn't actually surprise me in some ways that it caused a furore at the time, at least in the first half, which consists of hoax emergency bulletins, cutting into segments of light instrumental dance music with an increasingly panicky tone.

I was also amused to note that these very incidental segments ("We're taking you now to the hotel martinette in Brooklyn") were later featured on the the cut'n'paste classic 'Lesson Two' by Double Dee and Steinski, and subsequently the sometime intro to Stretch Armstrong's eponymous hip hop show during hip hop's golden age in New York, New York, which kind of gives an indication of how far into modern popular culture, this event percolated.

Elsewhere on the same site, there's other vintage radio goodies, such as a 1968 version of H.P. Lovecraft's The Outsider and other tantalising bits and bobs I haven't as yet ventured to listen to.

So pull up a chair, or whatever you sit on on your planet, and prepare to enjoy a bit of radio history. Bliss.

The War of the Worlds


Zeno Cosini said...


"Intellects, vast, cool and unsympathetic."

The Eyechild said...

Yeah it's ace.

I've not yet listened to the interview which follows between Wells and Welles, who the former (I guess jokingly) refers to as his namesake.

Welles voice is great for this kind of thing.

Zeno Cosini said...

There were two Welleses. The leonine godling who made Citizen Cain at the age of 26 and would only have sex with ballerinas. And the bafffled old man who wound up living in Billy Friedkin's garage and making adverts for gin.

Zeno Cosini said...

I mean Citizen Kane. Jesus...