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Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Star Wars Record Collection #1: The Story of Star Wars LP

The front and back covers of The Story of Star Wars LP

For millions of children who saw Star Wars on its first release, the chances of watching it again any time soon were pretty small.

Home video had yet to catch on and films did not appear on TV until years after their release. So for a long time after that fateful first viewing, children like me had to try and recreate the experience in their imagination as best we could.

The novel helped. So did the comic books. But they were in some respects very different from the film, both in style and detail. The nearest thing to seeing the movie again was surely The Story of Star Wars – the long playing record and cassette that stood alongside John Williams' double-album of the soundtrack music in practically every record shop.
The Story of Star Wars was released by 20th Century Records in a gatefold sleeve with a handsome booklet of colour stills, arranged chronologically so you could turn the pages as the story advanced. The sleeve told us it was co-produced by George Lucas himself.

The LP crammed the action of the movie into around 50 minutes. The first side of took us up to the arrival at the Death Star, while the climax of the film stood up remarkably well without visuals on side two. The narration was surprisingly flowery at times – one of my favourite lines being the introduction of Darth Vader as "a figure who moves forever in a cloud of awesome evil".

Some of the picture spreads from the booklet in The Story of Star Wars LP

The LP is still fascinating today, not least because it preserves some elements from the rarely heard mono mix of Star Wars.

At this point it's necessary to get really geeky and explain, for those who don't know, that Star Wars sounded different in 1977 depending on whether you saw one of the early 70mm prints in Dolby stereo, a 35mm stereo print or a 35mm mono version. The mono mix was done last and George Lucas was happier with some of the elements in that version than in the previous mixes.

Although the Story of Star Wars LP is in stereo, it keeps some of the changes that appeared in the mono mix of the film. So there's a slightly different acoustic quality to the Rebel pilots' dialogue, for example, and you'll hear one of the stormtroopers being pursued by Han Solo say "Close the blast doors", which is a line missing from other versions.

My own copy of the LP was played almost to the point of disintegration. It also bears a long scratch at the point where Chewbacca is introduced – a lasting testament to my ham-fistedness with delicate vinyl and a record player that didn't have a cue lever. It was barely played again, of course, once I had Star Wars on VHS. Nonetheless, I made a cassette of it a few years ago, and later MP3 files, and it entertained my kids – and me – through quite a few car journeys.

Did you love The Story of Star Wars album as much as I did? Please sign in and comment below.

1 comment:

John White said...

I'd love to hear this. I think I'll be off to eBay now!
Incidentally, I created a Facebook page for the Radio Dramas, here Darren:
I'm sure I don't have to remind you how awesome it was - and still is. And, the tortuous wait for it to come on the radio that very first time.