Star Wars Changed My Life – IV – The Music of Star Wars and the Diddy Men

I loved records as a kid and as soon as I could carefully place the needle on the record I was hooked and if I wasn’t watching the black and white TV in the lounge, I’d be listening to my records. I remember always having a record player available through the 70s moving into the 80s where I started to buy cassettes to listen to tunes on my Walkman.

My earliest memories of owning records, 45 and LPs (Long Playing), in the 70s, involved inheriting or being given an interesting mix of childrens music from such classics as Max Bygraves with his “Pink Toothbrush”…

There was Ken Dodd and his Diddy men….

I particularly remember Ken Dodd’s “Where’s Me Shirt!” because of a particularly nasty scratch that always used to get stuck at the “That broke his heart, that broke his heart, that broke his heart…” and so on. I do know I have it in a cupboard with some of my old 45s. I also have a couple of classic albums from those 60s and 70s greats, Pinky and Perky.

I did discover that if you slowed Pinky and Perky from 45 down to 33 speed you heard the original singers at regular speed. Mind blowing that these puppets didn’t do their own songs. There wasn’t even the backlash that Milli Vanilli got. I don’t know how they got away with it.

My collecting of film soundtracks and scores started when Star Wars came out. Although across the 70s and 80s I did deviate slightly with some Smurfs, Joe Dolce, Roland Rat, Clive Dunn and Tony Capstick. Here’s a playlist of some of the tracks I spent my hard earned pocket money on up until I discovered Adam and the Ants.

Amongst that lot, was that song that was about the area that was fairly local when I grew up….

My parents music consisted of Gene Pitney, John Denver, Glen Campbell and the Five Penny Piece with a hint of Mike Harding. I didn’t really get into those apart from the odd novelty song like John Denver’s Grandma’s Feather Bed.

Quick weird thing to note, my father did some family research and discovered that Don Estelle, real name Ronald Edwards born in Crumpsall, Manchester, was my grandmothers cousin. So I think I’m his first cousin, twice removed. I did buy that single too.

Back to Star Wars…

As I’ve mentioned previously, listening to the sounds and the music for me, brings back the memories of the films. This was a horrid time when there were no videos or DVD or even online streaming. Music was one of the ways we could relive the films in our heads but without the dialogue.

There were other ways of reliving the film and these contained snippets of dialogue and music with a usual deep voiced narrator. The cheapest of which at the time came in cassette form, it had replacement dialogue with extra wibbly wobbly effects added to give Darth and C3PO an “out of this world” sound. Interesting, but it was great to give kids when you spotted it hanging from the shelves in Woolworths.

The Obi-Wan of this cassette piece sounds like he’s trying to do a Ewan Mcgregor, doing Alec Guinness, even though this was 40 years ago.

There was also the more superior “Story of Star Wars”.

This contained the a mixture of the actual dialogue, sound effects and music from the film and also an interesting narrator who would keep things moving along and describe what would have been happening on screen. It also contained a book stapled to the middle of gatefold album with pictures from the film.

Further down the years a new extended version of the story of the newly titled “Episode IV : A New Hope”

We were introduced to the Star Wars The Original Radio Drama which stretched the story out to a six hour epic written by Brian Daley and starring Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Perry King as Han Solo, Brock Peters as Darth, and more. It was released in 1981 the year after Empire Strikes Back was released in cinemas.

It featured new scenes such as Luke racing across the dunes of Tatooine and “Heater” meeting Han Solo outside the Falcon using dialogue which would eventually be spoken by the CGI Jabba the Hutt in the special edition. It also included a small mention of Boba Fett in the same scene.

Later Empire and Jedi would also be produced to complete the original trilogy by 1996.

Have you ever heard of the Skywalker Maintenance Service?

Enough of the diversions, back to the music. Once I had seen the film, I needed that epic classical music in my life, so somehow I ended up with my first couple of albums in 1978.

The first listen of “The Sounds of Star Wars” by “The Sonic All-Stars” on Pickwick records. was an interesting experience. At the time I didnt realise the music on this album was different to the film music. I remember sitting at the dinner table just listening to this album and rolling the film through my head. It even had sound effects. It was funky and was so wrong, but I loved it.

I did get spooked by the weird mysterious eyes on the back cover.

My particular favourites included “Imperial Attack” and “Tie Fighter Attack” and the “Throne Room and End Theme” which went rather mellow towards the end with electronic wind sound and a slapping bass.

The “Star Wars Main Title” also contained various wind sounds, electronics beeps and boops, which were very reminiscent of R2D2.

This was the end of the 70s and disco was very King and electronic music was preparing itself for the 1980s.

My next album featured some of the Star Wars music but also allowed me to sample other Scifi tunes such as Doctor Who, 2001 the Space Odyssey, Star Trek and Thunderbirds. I didn’t know the details of copyright in those days so having a strange looking Starship Enterprise with rockets and a Luke that looked like he’d stepped out of an 70s action movie with perfect hair. He stood alongside a cleavage filled buxom Barbarella so it was all a bit weird.

I didn’t really pay too much attention to the cleavage at that time as I was very much a ten year old. The music on this album was from various films and TV shows which I’d never seen or heard of, but I enjoyed them all the same. This album was a big more classical and less disco.

I did at some point own another Geoff Love album with a strange looking Blake’s Seven Liberator on the front.

Around this time I also acquired the music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind another great John Williams composed score. I can’t remember seeing this film at the cinema until the special extended edition came out, but I still have the album to this day. It also featured “Other Great Space Music” which again meant that this album was not the official composed and conducted by John Williams version. It looked authentic…..

“Geoff Love and his Orchestra” met an untimely end in our household.  One day whilst listening to the Star Wars album, I left poor Geoff Love and the Close Encounters album leaning against the wall. Unfortunately I left them leaning over an air vent from our central heating system.

LPs and heat do not not mix well. You can make a great vase out of an old vinyl album.

Geoff took the full brunt of the hot air blowing through the vent. It warped horribly. Geoff had protected the possible similar fate of my Close Encounters with his sleeve and thankfully survived to this day. Very pretty painted covers.

Following that incident poor Geoff couldn’t be played without listening to the changing speeds, as the needle ascended and descended the hills and valleys of the warped surface. A sad end.

Once I’d put the whole Geoff Love incident behind me, my dreams were eventualy fulfilled when the family bought the official double album of Star Wars by John Williams.

This sleek and glossy black double album featured a gatefold sleeve featuring a number of photos in it’s centre. A shadowy face/mask of Darth Vader amoungst the stars and a simple white Star Wars logo on the front.

You will note that they had added a sticker to the front of the album just to point out that this was “THE ONLY SOUND TRACK ALBUM – BEWARE OF IMITATIONS”

It was too late, I had bought two of the imitations and actually rather enjoyed them.

This was the real stuff.

This isn’t me….

It included two LPs, sleeve notes about each of the tracks, a poster by the late John Berkey and was all contained in its gate-fold sleeve.

The poster was amazing, from a distance you’d think it was a frame from the film but close-up it was painted with simple brush strokes in using the same techniques used to create matte paintings for films. It also featured a Death Star with the dish on the equator parallel with the trench, based on the early design which also made it’s way to the Yavin briefing room scene.

You can see me standing proud in my bedroom which my parents decorated with a silver moon, flying saucers and stars with the poster being in the centre of the wall.

I’ve no idea why I wore my watch so far up my arm, although they were quite thin and maybe the strap was too big.

I was now set. I had my poster, my music, my toys and now all I needed to do was wait around until they finally released The Empire Strikes Back just over two years later on the 20th May 1980.