Just because punk rock hit in 1976-77 and changed EVERYTHING in its nasty, ugly-beautiful, inarticulate way, doesn’t mean it all happened overnight. Which meant that even as we were all cutting our hair, shredding our t-shirts, learning to dance pogo, there was still time to light up an occasional doob, put on the headphones and trip out to various big deal concepts. Jeff Wayne‘s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds would have been one of the last of these worth paying attention to, a rock opera interpretation of H.G. Welles’ sci-fi epic, featuring the incongruous talents of David Essex, Phil Lynott, Justin Hayward, Chris Spedding, and oh yeah, Richard Burton. The mostly instrumental Horsell Common + The Heat Ray shows up about half-way through side one and deliciously marks that point that the Martians officially turn nasty.
“It seems insane to think about it now, but in 1972 Jethro Tull conquered the world with a 43-minute-44-second song called Thick as a Brick, which comprised the entire album of the same name. Adventurous, dense, continuous, it even half made sense, both musically and lyrically. So what did Ian Anderson (Tull main man) and his talented crew do for a follow-up? Another album long song, of course, this one called A Passion Play, which proved even more dense and adventurous than Thick As A Brick. And I’m still trying to figure it out. Actually, that’s a lie. I gave up a long time ago, because as a friend concluded, ‘Man, you’ve gotta be Ian Anderson’s f***ing brain to know what any of that’s supposed to mean.’ Which doesn’t mean I ever stopped listening to it, just thinking about it. I guess I just pretend I’m the guy’s brain for a while.” (Philip Random)
A reminder from that strange place and time when the band known as Genesis weren’t just considered cool and relevant, they had the keys to the underground. In fact, they had a whole concept album about the place called The Lamb Dies Down on Broadway wherein a Puerto Rican street punk named Rael gets caught up in a local apocalypse (like a fly on a windshield) and next thing he knows, he’s trapped in dense labyrinthian depths that will take him the better part of four sides of vinyl to reconcile. In other words, it’s the early Genesis at the absolute peak of their ambitions (if not their attainments) and Peter Gabriel’s final album with the band. Though both would go off to achieve mega levels of success on their own, neither would ever again come close to the sheer weird edge cutting heights (depths?) they achieved with the The Lamb.