The Iron Man

The Iron Man: The Musical by Pete Townshend is an adaptation of a children’s book, The Iron Man, written byTed Hughes. It was produced by Pete in his Eel Pie Studios, and released as a studio album in 1989. The Iron Man features guest singers who portray the characters in the story, and stars Roger Daltrey, John Lee Hooker, Nina Simone, Deborah Conway, along with Pete Townshend, who plays the main character Hogarth. The songs sung by Roger Daltrey (Dig and Fire) also feature John Entwistle on bass, and are billed as performances by The Who, making these the first official recordings by The Who since the band broke up in 1982. The project was intended to be a full blown musical stage production, and was later expanded and staged at the Young Vic Theatre in London in 1993. In 1999 it was adapted as an animated film and released by Warner Brothers. The story in the movie version was modified to better target the American audience, and was renamed The Iron Giant to avoid confusion with the popular Marvel comic book, Iron Man. Although none of Pete’s music is featured in the movie, he received the credit of Executive Producer.

"Ted Hughes story provides me with a perfect fairy tale on which to hang modern songs. My intention was to write a modern song-cycle musical in the manner of Tommy." - Pete Townshend, Iron Man press kit, 1989.

"The story is very similar in a way to Tommy, to Quadrophenia, to a lot of early Who singles, it’s about the fear and depravation and isolation of children, particularly of a little boy in this context. I think it’s what I always believe lies at the essence of rock and roll." - Pete Townshend, Iron Man promo interview, 1989.

Iron Man

Track List

01 I Won't Run Any More (Vocals by Pete Townshend w/ Deborah Conway)
02 Over the Top (Vocals by John Lee Hooker)
03 Man Machines (Vocals by Simon Townshend)
04 Dig (Performed by The Who)
05 A Friend Is a Friend (Vocals by Pete Townshend)
06 I Eat Heavy Metal (Vocals by John Lee Hooker)
07 All Shall Be Well (Vocals by Pete Townshend w/ Deborah Conway & Chyna)
08 Was There Life (Vocals by Pete Townshend)
09 Fast Food (Vocals by Nina Simone)
10 A Fool Says... (Vocals by Pete Townshend)
11 Fire (Performed by The Who)
12 New Life/Reprise (Vocals by Chyna w/ Pete Townshend & Nicola Emmanuel)

Bonus Tracks

Dig (Vocals by Simon Townshend )
Man Machines (long version)
I Eat Heavy Metal (demo)
A Friend Is a Friend (live at the Fillmore West, 1996)
All Shall Be Well (live at the Fillmore West, 1996)

All songs written by Pete Townshend (except Fire by Brown/Crane/Finesilver/Ker)





The Studio Album

The Iron Man: The Musical by Pete Townshend

Release date - June 27, 1989
Label - Atlantic (US), Virgin (UK)
Recorded at Eel Pie Studios, London

Produced by Pete Townshend
Vocal Music Director Billy Nicholls
Orchestral Arranger Chucho Merchan
Recording Engineer Jules Bowen
Remix Engineer Bill Price



The Singles

I Won't Run Any More / A Fool Says
Released 1989
Label Atlantic (US), Virgin (UK)

A Friend Is A Friend / Man Machines
Released 1989
Label Atlantic (US), Virgin (UK)

Fire - released as promo only in US.
Released 1989
Label Atlantic (US)





Pete Townshend as Hogarth  
John Lee Hooker as The Iron Man
Deborah Conway as The Vixen  
Nina Simone as the Space Dragon
Roger Daltrey as Hogarth's Father
Chyna as The Crow
Nicola Emmanuelle as The Jay
Billy Nicholls as The Frog
Simon Townshend as The Owl
Cleveland Watkiss as The Badger

Pete IronMan


Pete Townshend (guitars, other keys)
Simon Phillips (drums)
Charlie Morgan (drums)
Chucho Merchan (bass)
John Entwistle (bass)
John "Rabbit" Bundrick (piano)
Peter Beachill (brass)
John Barkley (brass)
Patrick Claharv (sax)
Pat Halling (strings)
Gina Foster (chorus vocals)
Derek Green (chorus vocals)
Janice Hoyte (chorus vocals)
Ruby James (chorus vocals)
Julian Littman (chorus vocals)
Michael Nicholls (chorus vocals)
Earnest Pearce (chorus vocals)
Raymond Simpson (chorus vocals)
The children of ST. Stevens and Orleans schools (chorus vocals)



TV Interviews

Johnnie Walker Part 1 - 1989
Johnnie Walker Part 2 - 1989
French TV - 1989
Pay Per View Profile - 1989
David Letterman - 1989
German TV - 1989
I Won't Run Anymore on German TV - 1989


TedHughesIronManThe Book

The Iron Man - Written by Ted Hughes
Publisher - Faber and Faber
Publication Date - 1968

"I first read Iron Man when I was doing book publishing myself. Publishing rock books and children’s stories. Iron Man was a book that we felt we wanted to use as a model. That was in 1976. When I went to work at Faber and Faber as an editor, I met Ted because he was published by Faber and Faber, and I asked him if the rights were available. I told him what I was contemplating, turning it into a musical, a rock musical. I explained that to him and he seemed happy with that idea, and more than that, he seemed excited by some of the responses that I had to his story. We went from there." Pete Townshend - radio interview May 1989



Story Synopsis

"An Iron Man comes out of the sea and walks up onto a beach, as high as a building with eyes like laser beams. Nearby there’s a boy called Hogarth, whose fishing early in the morning, and he's obviously been night fishing, and he's dozing a little bit. A star shoots across the sky, and in the distance there's strange things happening... the sounds of distant wars and different distance historical atomic explosions and stuff. But basically you got a peaceful English scene. And the boy wakes up suddenly aware of this presence. He looks behind him, and there's the Iron Man, standing on the hill. As the boy realizes that something strange is happening, the Iron Man falls back and smashes into a thousand pieces on the beach. A seagull comes and picks up an eye and takes it to a nest. And suddenly you realize that the hand is moving and the legs are moving. And slowly but surely, the Iron Man puts himself back together again and walks back into the sea.

Hogarth is terribly afraid, temporarily, but is reassured by the normality of the English countryside scene. A little later he sees the Iron Man in some fields, eating barb wire, eating tractors, eating machinery. Generally consuming anything that is metal. Hogarth runs away to tell his father, and his father and he pursue the Iron Man in a car. At one point they actually hit it and knock it down. His father mobilizes the farming community and they set about to try and trap the Iron Man. And they dig a pit for it, a trap. But the Iron Man is a bit too clever to fall into the trap. Hogarth manages to attract him one day into the trap by clinking a nail against the edge of his pen knife. And it's the sound of the metal, particularly the stainless steel, which the Iron Man regards as a juicy treat, and he falls into the trap, and they pour earth on top of him. Hogarth feels very sad suddenly. In a way he's attracted to the Iron Man, and now he has betrayed him. As the Iron Man has fallen into the hole, their eyes have met and some kind of contract has gone down there, and he feels very badly about that. A little while later, some picnickers gather, and the Iron Man breaks up through the ground, and is released again. Again, Hogarth comes to the rescue by consoling the Iron Man by leading him to a scrap yard. So then instead of aimlessly running around consuming metal, he actually starts to deal with some of our waste problems.

Time passes in the story, and the star that we see in the beginning starts to get large, and starts to approach the earth. It lands on Australia, practically covering Australia, and it turns out to be this enormous, unbelievably awful dragon, which demands living creatures to eat. And gives an ultimatum that if it doesn’t get an endless supply of living things to eat then it's going to destroy the planet. We unify and solidify and throw our combined military might at this creature with no effect at all. Again Hogarth comes to the rescue when he goes and asks if the Iron Man will help out, and the Iron Man says, yes, I'll be your champion. And the Iron Man challenges the Space Dragon to an ordeal by fire, in which the Iron Man is roasted on a grid, on a funeral pyre, and the Space Dragon has to be tested in a fire of equal size, in proportion to his size in the sun. And the Iron Man wins. The Space Dragon gives up in the story quite easily, and the Iron Man becomes an international hero.  And it turns out the Space Dragon is quite a benign creature really, which has become a bit wayward because of being attracted by the horrible things that have been happening on earth. And whose original job was to create celestial music. So they pack the space dragon back into space to continue with the celestial music, and everybody lives happily ever after.

The variations that I make to the story are that as far as I'm concerned the Iron Man is obviously a father figure, the Space dragon is a mother figure. The Space Dragon isn't just about consuming living things, but also about consuming innocence in a sense, so when the Space Dragon lands, she contains everything that is innocent and beautiful, that she's managed to gather in her travels around the universe. Lots of children, and one very beautiful girl who Hogarth becomes infatuated with, just to give the story some kind of romance.

What actually happens at the beginning is, I try to make the point of what Hogarth is dealing with is adulthood. In the story he's 10 or 11 years old, he's actually contemplating the coming years of becoming a man, of growing up, and he is afraid of the responsibilities that that will bring, but is also afraid of some of the things that he's got to face, and when he first sees the star in the sky, when he first sees the shining light of the Iron Man on top of the hill, the first thing that comes into his mind is that "I can't run from this anymore, I can't run away." The story is about nightmares in a sense, it’s about fear, and what happens in the story is you see how we finally get to grips with encountering that."

-Pete Townshend, Iron Man promo interview, 1989.

Liner notes synopsis and lyrics


The Musical

"I have written a whole musical, with an overture, a recitative and narrative, and maybe another 8 or 10 songs that aren't on this record. I don't think they are the kind of songs that people would miss on an album. They are songs that would only really work on a theatre stage. So I picked the songs which I felt lived best on this record. If you take any of the songs from the original collection and they seem to capture the spirit of the story, cause the spirit of the story is so strong. I would like to see it on Broadway Theatre and West End stage." - Pete Townshend, radio interview, May 1989.

"I started with the idea of writing a theatre musical. I met Ted at Faber and Faber where I was working in the ‘80s and the rights had just reverted. I think he had licensed them to an Australian company to make an animation film, and many of my advisors felt that is what I should produce. But I really wanted to create a theatre production equal to those being mounted by Andrew Llyod Weber, and that had a wider appeal than the usual rock crowd. At Christmas in 1993 I put on a theatrical production at The Young Vic theatre with David Thacker directing. It was a marvellous, small production with a lot of promise and a great cast, but I found the work impossible to advance after such a busy couple of years mounting three different theatrical productions of Tommy, releasing Psychoderelict and touring it. I was shattered." - Pete Townshend interview, October 2005

The Iron Man musical began previews November 18, 1993 at The Young Vic Theatre, and ran from November 27, 1993 to February 12, 1994.


Production Credits

Young Vic Company Production
In association with Iron Man Productions
Based on the story by Ted Hughes
Adapted by Pete Townshend and David Thacker
Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
Directed by David Thacker
Designed by Shelagh Keegan
Choreographer Lesley Hutchison
Lighting Designer Alan Burrett



AP News Archive - review Dec. 1993
Los Angeles Times - review Nov. 1993
The Independent - review Nov. 1993


The Iron Giant poster

The Movie

"I went to LA in July 1999 to see the finished Iron Giant. It was beautifully animated with hand-coloured frames - one of the last animation films to be made that way. The film came too late for Ted Hughes himself, but his daughter, to whom the original book was dedicated along with her brother, loved it."
- Pete Townshend, Who I Am autobiography.

The Iron Giant
Based on Ted Hughes The Iron Man book

Release Date August 6, 1999
Distributed by Warner Brothers

Executive Producer Pete Townshend
Producer Des McAnuff
Directed by Brad Bird
Original Music by Michael Kamen
Screenplay by Tim McCanlies
Screen story by Brad Bird