A long, long time ago on a Birthday far, far away… well, February 1978 to be exact, on my twelfth birthday (don’t do the maths, honestly, its too depressing), I was given this copy of John William’s Star Wars soundtrack on audio cassette.
Star Wars didn’t get released over here in the UK until late 1977, in London anyway, with it coming out into the regions some weeks later in early 1978, when I finally got to see it that same month of February as my birthday. I loved the film, loved the music… well, its hard to explain the impact of Star Wars back then to people so inured these days to so many summer blockbusters.
Back then, soundtracks were pretty much the only way to ‘own’ a piece of a movie, a way to relive the film experience. Actually owning a copy of the film, on VHS, DVD, Blu-ray or whatever was something undreamed of. But yeah, my parents may have thought it a rather odd present choice of a young boy in England, but I really wanted the soundtrack. I chose to have it on cassette rather than vinyl simply because my parents had bought me a radio cassette player for Christmas a few weeks before, and after all, cassettes were The Future, weren’t they? No pops, scratches, clicks or jumps which records could be hindered with (so here we are decades later with vinyl enjoying a resurgence and most everyone under twenty looking at this wondering what the hell that plastic box is in the picture here). Yeah, and green plastic- even back then it looked a little unusual. I have to wonder, as the soundtrack was likely bought on vinyl more than on cassette, how many of these green things are still floating around.
Birthday presents come and go and they naturally vanish with time, but I made sure never to lose this cassette. No way I was ever losing this little beauty over the long years since. Its funny how you get attached to the oddest things. Of course as the years went on and the audio cassette format faded away this odd little guy started to become not just a reminder of a childhood birthday but something of a relic of a lost age, another defunct format. You’d think I’d learn, but we seldom do, as other media formats -Betamax, VHS, DAT, etc came and went. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Star Wars just goes on and on of course- I have VHS and DVD editions of the films themselves up in the loft and the Blu-ray box on a shelf behind me. Only being able to relive the film by listening to the score through headphones seems such a distant time.
I later bought the Star Wars soundtrack album on vinyl anyway, several years later in a sale (why exactly, I’m not even sure), and of course much later on compact disc in expanded form, but this little cassette was where it all started- my first soundtrack. Which, when I think about it, is something of a Big Deal. It started an interest and appreciation of film scores that would last the rest of my life (my birthday present the following year was John William’s Superman: The Movie soundtrack, this time on vinyl- what wonderful years they were for soundtracks). This interest resulting in hundreds of CD soundtracks piling up all over my house. No doubt the CD format itself will follow the audio cassette into obscurity too, as has been threatened for years. That’s really rather depressing, especially considering just how many of them I have and all the time I’d have to spend converting them into mp3/digital files for posterity/future playback…