Thursday, February 02, 2006

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 28: My Record Album Collection!

Wanna know how old I really am? Nothing ages me more, perhaps, than my fondness for an obsolete product like record albums.

Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s (my childhood and teenage years), I collected record album soundtracks for science fiction and horror movies like a crazy man. And, of course, I still have 'em all.

What's a record album?

Jeez! Come on, now!

Brief history lesson here: before Internet downloads, before CDs, there were these funny-looking discs called records that you would play on your Hi-fi stereo.

Go ask your father...I'll be here when you get back.

Anyway, I began my love of sci-fi/horror movie soundtracks in the late 1970s when my parents took me and my sister to a record store at Willowbrook Mall in New Jersey.

We were there to purchase an Olivia Newton John album, "Totally Hot," if memory serves, but deep in one of the racks I found...Star Wars, the soundtrack composed by John Williams.

Darth Vader's portrait was on the cover art (with outer space in the background) which at my age just seemed too cool for words. (And a little scary...). The album even included the famous "Cantina" song, which I really liked.
It also had the music from the fight between Luke and the Sandpeople, which my friends and I liked to put on when we would wrestle with sticks and try to kill each other. Ah yes, memories...

My parents bought that album - and many more - for me, and well, the rest is John Kenneth Muir history. Soon thereafter, I was saving my allowance, scouring record shops, and even flea markets for genre finds.

A flea market in South Jersey called Englishtown had a vendor who was there each and every week, selling classic James Bond soundtracks, from the Sean Connery era. And his prices were cheap too (like five dollars a piece). This was neat, because the ABC Sunday Night Movie was airing films like Dr. No and the other early Bond pictures at the same time, so there was some "synchronicity" there.

Through the eighties, my love affair with soundtracks grew exponentially and came to include everything from the Star Trek films (though I hated the soundtrack to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - it sounded too Christmas-y to me, and I could have done without all the whale noises...), to the Roger Moore James Bond movies, to - gawd! - Back to the Future (with songs by Huey Lewis!) Does that make me an American Psycho? At one point, I even had the soundtrack to To Live and Die In L.A.

My favorite movie composers include all the ones you would expect. Not just John Williams (loved his Raiders of the Lost Ark score best of all, perhaps), but Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry and even James Horner. I loved the score to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but then experienced deja vu when I listened to his Aliens score from 1986. I even liked the score to Dune (by Toto!)

Perusing my collection in the 21st century, I can even see that some of my choices are downright embarrassing. For instance, I own the soundtrack to Jewel in the Nile, which features that immortal mid-1980s Billy Ocean hit, "When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going!" Also, describing my teenagers years, the soundtrack include's Whodini's "Freaks Come Out At NIght."

Given my long and storied history with genre record albums, I wanted to spotlight them in this post, as my 28th toy flashback even though - technically - record albums aren't really toys.

Still, I've been thinking how much I truly miss these full-sized record albums, not because the sound quality was better on a "record player" or anything like that, but merely because albums offered the additional bonus of gorgeous box art. Many albums came with two records, and so you could open up the box/sleeve to see two full pages of glorious stills from your favorite movie. Somehow, the little photos on CDs don't have the same appeal to me. And with downloads? Nada!

Anyway, bear with my photography here, folks.

Album covers are way too big to fit in my scanner bay, so I had to photograph my collection with my digital camera. Some photos probably could be better, but if you want to know who I am - and understand my work - you just gotta see my record albums!! These are the "tunes" I had on in the background while I began writing short stories and film scripts in the tenth grade. While others listened to Cindy Lauper, Devo, Rick Springfield, The Clash, etc., I had on John Carpenter's soundtrack to Halloween, or Prince of Darkness. What can I say?

If you recall the glory days of vinyl, record albums and trips to the "record store" to get sci-fi and horror soundtracks, give a shout out in the comments below. Which ones did you own? What's your fondest record album memory? What's your guilty pleasure? Come on now, quid pro quo, Clarice. I did tell you about Jewel of the Nile, after all...

Personally, the album that still thrills me most today is the Flash Gordon soundtrack by Queen from 1980!

"Flash....Savior of the Universe!"


  1. Anonymous10:06 AM

    I am lucky enough to still have the poster folded up inside my Star Wars soundtrack! I was thinking that I should probably get it framed eventually for protection. A friend of my mom's gave me that double record set as a gift and I was thrilled beyond words. I still go to thright stores and buy LP's of my favourite albums. I also still have the Tron soundtrack by Wendy Carlos on LP. I'm afraid I don't have anything like The Jewel of the Nile in my collection. I agree with you about the sleeves being a huge part of the experience. To me, presentation is what takes something from cool to special. That's also something I miss about Laserdiscs. I sure don't miss the prices but the huge gatefold sleeves and large sized books were so cool. They really catered to the big time movie lover.

  2. That's funny...we had very similar experiences apparently...I believe we are about the same age and my parents took me to the record store to buy an Olivia Newton John album..however that is where the story ends. I did not have the fortune to find the Star Wars album and was thus left with the Australian singer's album. Come to think of it...this may be the direct reason we have differeing opinions on topics such as "Boogie Nights".

  3. Moorecave!!! Wow!!! Welcome to the blog, buddy!!! Boogie Nights is a great, great movie. And you will be forced to endure it until you agree with me. I do concur that an early exposure to Olivia Newton John album can be dangerous to a young person. I didn't photograph it because I figured my post was revealing and humiliating enough as is, but I actually have the Xanadu soundtrack in my collection. God help me...

    Chris - I totally agree with what you wrote. The sleeve art makes the albums so beautiful. I'd actually like to have my record albums framed and then hang 'em on the walls here. But I've got no wall space in my office (wonder why)...

  4. amazing movie lps i have owned:
    superfly by curtis mayfield-the best song soundtrack ever.
    2001 and a clockwork orange-kubrick films sound great.
    saturday night fever-mistaken as kitsch by some, but absolutely wonderful, no irony present.
    flashdance-go back and realize how creative georgio moroder actually was.
    purple rain-royalty.

    as for xanadu, i can't say enough good things about electric light orchestra.

    and boogie nights will endure as a classic for years to come. it could only be improved by actually featuring the great song "boogie nights" by heatwave.

  5. All right! Another Boogie Nights fan. My two favorite movies of all time? Planet of the Apes (1968) and Boogie Nights (1997).

  6. Great topic, John. As you can expect, having hosted a radio show for some 6 years before getting a CD player, I have hundreds of LPs in my collection, many of which are soundtracks and radio drama (old time and Power Records). The first LP I ever bought with my own money ($5.98 at Woolworth's in 1972) was the Spider-Man Rockcomic "From Beyond The Grave," starring Rene Auberjonois as Peter Parker. I also own most of the records you posted shots of, including all the original Star Wars and Star Trek films (up to Star Trek V), the three Superman soundtracks and Jerry Goldsmith's masterful "Supergirl" score, the first two Indiana Jones movies (As with you, "Raiders" is one of my all-time favorites), "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," more Goldsmith classics like "Logan's Run," "Capricorn One," "Outland," and "Twilight Zone-The Movie," most of the Bond films up to "Licence to Kill," "Battlestar Galactica" (both the score and the "Story of" LPs), "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," "The Black Hole (also both music and story records)," non-genre favorites like "Foul Play," and the first three "Rocky" scores, the guilty pleasures "Zapped!" and "Howard the Duck," all of Meco's albums, Joey Scarbury's "America's Greatest Hero," and many more too numerous to recall.

  7. Hey Howard!

    I wrote that post with you in mind, Howard, because I knew that you would have a collection that totally puts mine to shame. Now the only question remaining is: where do you store all those records? And do you have access to 'em? (Because if you do, I want to hear the Logan's Run score next time I see you...)


  8. The best soundtrack album I own also happens to be an integral and atypical part of the film it is connected to - Alan Price's O LUCKY MAN. Though it is only 33 minutes long, its songs warrant continuous play. I can't give up my vinyl copy because the album is only otherwise available from the UK as a pricey import. As far as television goes, the original soundtrack to TV's MIAMI VICE showcases some great period music. Unfortunately, the new film of the franchise will totally forsake this past dimension.

  9. Lee Hansen1:24 PM

    Well, for some reason, I jumped on the cassette bandwagon before I got into CDs. I did however have the 8-tracks to both Star Wars and Superman: The Movie. As much as I had orchestral scores, I love getting songtracks. The stuff I own on cassette are: The Terminator, Against All Odds, Top Secret, Return of the Living Dead(which I found last year on CD), The Living Daylights, Xanadu, Batman(both Elfman and Prince), Purple Rain, Sixteen Candles, Dragnet('87), Fright Night(one of my favs), A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master(both score and songs), Halloween, Halloween II, and a bunch of John Hughes flim songtracks. I'll think of the others later. One of my few album soundtracks is the Richard Band score of From Beyond. I played the hell out of that one back when I still had a turntable. I have been doing my best getting CD versions of my cassette soundtracks.

  10. Soundtrack albums...

    I actually started collecting after Bernard Herrmann died starting with the London albums, then when STAR WARS hit, it was easy pickins for the next few years, with Goldsmith doing scores for THE SWARM, CAPRICORN ONE, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL and Williams continuing with DRACULA, THE FURY, RAIDERS,

    Luckily, I've managed to hold on to my collection, although some things have slipped through... I used to have the SPACE:1999 RCA album, with the disco cuts that I didn't realize weren't a part of the show's music, since I'd never seen the show... the cuts were enjoyable, however.

    There's all the usual suspects: Barry, Bernstein, Elfman, Goldsmith, Herrmann, Morricone, Rozsa augmented by others as my tastes expanded -- Bacharach can co-exist with Issac Hayes, with room for Chris Young's experimental leanings in my musical neighborhood...

    I've just started the process of burning the collection over to CD-R.

    Guilty Pleasures - no such thing!!
    I do have the soundtrack for ERASERHEAD (sort of a weird listening experience)and the prime find was the soundtrack for NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, with Charles Laughton telling the story - that one gets played around Halloween.

  11. John, right now my LPs are in four large storage boxes in the basement. The albums are arranged alphabetically within each box, and each box is labelled (e.g.A-H, H-S, S-Z)so I know where to look when I have to search for material for the show. One box contains LPs bought since 1997 which haven't yet been listened to. These are records I've bought at shows in the past 9 years, and include a large number of old time radio dramas, soundtracks, and a variety of "Apollo XI" documentaries. Since the next time I see you, we'll be at I-Con, and we probably won't have time to sit and listen to the record, I'll be happy to make a copy of the "Logan's Run" soundtrack for you.

  12. Hey Howard!

    You are too kind! Maybe we can trade, though I don't know I have anything outside your collection! I just know I would go gaga looking through those four big boxes in your basement...

    and Robert - I'm glad you mentioned the Space:1999 album. I didn't display that one, because I focused on movies, but the Space:1999 album came with a glorioius open-up sleeve with fantastic photography from the series. In the days before VHS and Laserdisc, I would just stare at those pictures and remember how cool the series was...

  13. John,

    If you want the LOGAN'S RUN score, check out Film Score Monthly's site - they have the COMPLETE L.R. score for sale, as well as music from the t.v. series!

  14. Hey, Robert!

    Thanks, I will indeed check that out!