Back in 77 when I was lucky enough to watch Star Wars for the first time, I remember leaving the cinema with my brother full of excitement and a craving that really hasn’t gone away. Sitting down to watch Star Wars for the first time initiated my need for a daily dose of that galaxy far far away.
Way before the Internet or multi channel TV, Star Wars fans of the seventies would find their Star Wars fix in any way they could. For me this fix would be finding any snippets of Star Wars on TV, whether it be an interview with a member of the cast (usually on Saturday morning kids TV,) collecting the Topps trading cards, collecting the Kenner figures and ships, buying Star Wars books and comics or by listening to the soundtrack.
It was this last one for me that really helped my fix. The first Star Wars album I owned was not the original soundtrack but it was as close as you can get. Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra the album consisted of side A having a selection of tracks from the movie and side B having tracks from 2001 A Space Odyssey and if I remember rightly, Gustav Holst’s The Planets. Needless to say I didn’t play side B very much.
The album design was simple but somehow effective. Sporting a space blue cover with a dense star field and the words “STAR WARS” prominently displayed in the middle. It did the job. The back had the track listings and an X-Wing flying in from the top left corner. Simple but somehow effective.
For years I thought this was the official release of the movie soundtrack. I didn’t understand or realise there were albums with different interpretations of soundtracks. To me this was THE soundtrack to Star Wars. The album was hardly put away and always got played when the next episode in my Kenner Star Wars play time was up.
The record player I had at the time was an orange coloured Fidelity HF34. It had four speeds, 16, 33, 45 and 78. I have many happy memories playing records on the wrong speed. Playing LPs at a slower 16 or speeding them up to 78. The player had a built in speaker, no headphones here. If you wanted to play without anyone hearing you turned it right down and put your head on the speaker.
Star Wars by the London Philharmonic Orchestra was never far away from the record player and I’m ashamed to say hardly ever in it’s cover. In fact my often played LPs were usually piled up by the player. Think of it as my “frequently played” playlist conveniently sitting near by waiting to be played.
As mentioned, side A of the album had Star Wars and consisted of a number of tracks, curiously not in the same order as the movie. The tracks were:
- The Main Title
- Imperial Attack
- Princess Leia Theme
- Ben’s Death and Tie Fighter Attack
- Land of the Sand People
- The Return Home
- End Title
All the tracks were conducted by Colin Frechter who has done many movie and TV soundtracks in the past including the 2006 movie Prestige and TV American sit-com Everyone Loves Raymond. As a child I never noticed the music wasn’t conducted by John Williams. I never realised the London Philharmonic Orchestra was different to the London Symphony orchestra who recorded the original soundtrack with John Williams. To me this album was my Star Wars soundtrack and would stay that way for many years to come. Fretcher’s version was as close to the original you could possibly get. My particular favourite was the TIE-Fighter Attack which was always played loud. I often sat upside down on my bed with my feet on the wall pretending to be in the Falcon’s gunner seat blasting those pesky TIE-Fighters in my mind.
In fact it wasn’t until The Empire Strikes Back came out and it’s accompanying soundtrack album did it dawn on me that what I had was an interpretation of the original soundtrack. My friend had the Empire Strikes Back soundtrack LP and when I noticed it was the London Symphony Orchestra it suddenly dawned on me that my album wasn’t the original. I felt slightly disappointed that I had been listening to the wrong version for all these years but I soon realised the version I had was as close to the original as you could get and it brought me hours of enjoyment so it didn’t matter.
Today, of course my Star Wars playlist consists of the original soundtracks by the great John Williams, but I still have a fondness for variations on the movie soundtrack and other movies too. Geoff Love and his Orchestra are part of my collection along with many others. Some great and some not so great. The bad versions can be as entertaining to listen to as the originals. In fact I recommend you fire up Spotify, type in Star Wars and take a look at the various versions. In my next post I will be talking about some of the worst renditions of Star Wars. Have any suggestions? Please let me know