For those of a certain age, or with parents of a certain age anyway, Wayne's disco-rock-prog opera was an iconic record - from the glorious paintings in the accompanying booklet, to the Martians' musical cry of "Uuuulaaaaaaaa!", to Richard Burton's famous narration.
The album casts a long shadow in more ways than one; Wayne found time to compose the theme to TV-AM, but a full-fledged follow-up didn't happen until 1992. Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of Spartacus might've featured Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Fish from Marillion, but it didn't have the same impact, on account of it ending up like a sentient toilet's idea of what a human musical record might sound like.
Since then, the septuagenarian, mysteriously dark-haired, Wayne has mostly focused on tennis, for some reason, and touring productions of The War of the Worlds. I saw one of these a few years back, starring The X-Factor champion Shane Ward. Despite liking the album, I found that the show struck a queasy balance between rock concert and musical theatre.
Nonetheless, when I read that Wayne was working with immersive theatre company Dotdotdot on an interpretation of the The World of the Worlds - that would put the audience inside the action - it sounded like it'd be right up my dingy, Victorian, alley.
I'd been to Dotdotdot's previous immersive show, Somnai, which showed promise, and thus, on Saturday night, I found myself fleeing from Tripods and caught in a much-needed cuddle with a terrified soldier.
Here's how that happened.
The War of the Worlds starts and ends in an impressive, steampunk-themed, bar - the in-story concept being that the Martians were defeated, and their technology has been adopted by mankind. This essentially translates to the bar staff having rusty, cog-accented, goggles hung around their necks, and the cocktails - no doubt due to the inflationary consequences of an alien invasion - costing between £11 and £12.50 a pop.
A Martian tripod hangs over the room, and when it's time for your group to enter the experience, it spews coloured steam that corresponds to your wristband. At the point we were called, we were quite, quite drunk... which might've been why we initially joined the wrong group and were told to leave.
By the time we found the correct group... we were even more drunk... and the more drunk we got, the less we cared about those prices.
The story, such as it is, flashes back to the eve of the invasion, revealing how the Martians arrived on earth, and were then defeated. You're led through scenes and physical sets by real actors, who - I was pleased to note - strike a good balance between drama and silliness. Wisely, they seemed keyed up to expect an audience that was a good few cocktails in.
Almost all of the scenes were realised brilliantly - from a Victorian dining room, to the sewers beneath London. The highlight, for me, came early on - a sequence set in an observatory - which I managed to disrupt by dropping the heavy eyepiece of my telescope during an actor's monologue. This led into an initial Martian encounter, featuring real fire - one of my favourite things!
For the most part, the audience are merely observers, but - if you're no fan of audience participation - it's worth pointing out that there are moments where you might get called upon to take part. I always seem to get picked on at these sorts of things, and I found myself hugging a soldier for slightly longer than felt necessary, before being asked to check behind the ears of my fellow audience members for signs of "red weed".
It was a nice cuddle, though.
Where Dotdotdot deviate from other immersive companies is in their use of virtual reality. At four points during the The War of the Worlds, you'll be strapped into a Vive VR headset. One sequence is entirely free-roaming, so the headset comes equipped with a backpack that allows you to wander at your leisure.
Unfortunately, the VR sequences are the weakest aspect of the show. At its best, the visuals and sound are augmented by real-world sensations; a boat ride on a rough sea, for example, quite literally throws you around (my wife apparently kept her eyes closed during the entire thing to avoid seasickness).
At its worst, you shuffle through a room with the other members of your group, now depicted as stiff, dead-eyed, mannequins, gliding eerily around a scene rendered with all the graphical fidelity of a mid-90s CD-ROM intro.
If you're lucky, the VR won't lose synch - like it has for me at both of Dotdotdot's shows - and you won't find yourself hunched over going "Woaaah! Oaaaah! Woaaah!" as the world spins out of control.
The climax of the show is all done in VR, but this time my headset didn't work at all, so I was left to stand in a darkened room, watching the other members of the group flailing at thin air, as they half-sung along to the album soundtrack.
I did at least get given a free drink token, which I didn't really need given I'd topped up on "Red Weed" cocktails during the intermission, but the gesture was appreciated.
The hyperbole is claiming that The War of the Worlds is "The future of entertainment". It isn't. We've had better, more immersive, theatrical experiences already - which worked because they didn't pull you out of the experience with VR - and many of us already have better Virtual Reality in our own homes anyway.
Whereas Dotdotdot's Somnai reached for a level of profundity - occasionally disappearing up its own backside in the process - the overall effect was pleasingly dreamlike and weird. The War of the Worlds is striving for a far broader audience - the sort that might never have tried either immersive theatre or VR before - and in that respect it kind of works well.
There are moments where you clamber into slides to reach London's sewers, or help a wounded person escape from a kitchen, and it's much more a jolly, crowd-pleasing, romp than most artsier immersive shows. In that respect, it's closer to something like Secret Cinema than the work of, say, immersive titans Punchdrunk.
We had a great night, overall - there was a lot of laughter, far more than I expected - and the bar also served some excellent food (I particularly recommend the scotch eggs).
Also, just around the corner - at the base of the famous Gherkin - there's a crazy golf-themed bar, and you can sit upstairs and shout "Sockless wanker!" at one of the players, because he's trying to impress a date while not wearing any socks.
More details and tickets here.