Out of This World Vinyl: Science Fiction Recordings

Science fiction has captured our imaginations since the times of Johannes Kepler, Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne.

In 1902, the silent film A Trip to the Moon, or Le Voyage Dans La Lune, was released and has since become popular, paving the way for others to follow. Literature, films, television, and even vinyl records have covered the genre — in sound, music, and spoken word (dating as far back as the early 1950s).

Several children’s labels also delved into science fiction, particularly during the Space Age in the early 1960s. For sci-fi fans who collect and play records, our collections would not be complete without a few of the following.

In no particular order, these are what I consider my top five albums from the collection: 

1. Star Trek (Peter Pan/Power)
Released in 1975, the second of three albums. The studio cast provided the voices of the USS Enterprise crew (done very well, I might add!) in four original stories, primarily written by Alan Dean Foster. My highlight is the first track, A Mirror for Futility.

During their routine patrol, the crew encounters a warring battle between two ships, which lasts longer than anyone in the United Federation of Planets is alive. Kirk soon becomes concerned that the fighting might spill over into the densely populated space within a few days (and here is where one would hear a piece from Jerry Goldsmith’s Planet of the Apes score in the background!) and tries to diffuse the situation. I’ll leave the outcome to the curious readers out there.

2. Space: 1999 (Peter Pan/Power)
Based on the television series, this album was also released in 1975 — the first of two. The same cast in the above description mainly did the voices for the crew of Moonbase Alpha, with the adaptations of three TV scripts, including the pilot episode Breakaway.

The team, headed by Commander John Keonig, tries to solve a mystery concerning the deaths of fellow members, which soon accumulates with the Moon blasted out of orbit due to nuclear waste materials buried beneath its surface. Think that’s a bit wacky? You should try watching the actual program!

3. The Story of Star Wars (20th Century Fox/Buena Vista)
This was first released by 20th Century Fox Records in 1977, then reissued by Disneyland’s Buena Vista label in 1983. The only difference between the two version, audio-wise, is that the former contained the famous studio fanfare before the narration by actor Roscoe Lee Browne began. From there, it becomes an adventurous ride for the ears with the dialogue and sound effects from the motion picture soundtrack to John Williams’ now-classic score from said soundtrack. I must confess that I’ve learned much more about the pathos of Star Wars from this record than by watching the actual films!

4. The Black Hole (Disneyland)
Following on the success of the above title, The Black Hole appeared in theaters in 1979 (the first film from Walt Disney Productions, as it was then, to receive a PG rating!). Among the film’s numerous merchandise, including a soundtrack album under Buena Vista, the Storyteller book and record album included an adaptation featuring dialogue, sound effects, and John Barry’s score from the motion picture soundtrack. Actor Percy Rodriguez provided the narration and the film’s advertisements (as he did for other films, including Jaws and The Omen).

One interesting spot in the recording involves a scene in which a meteoric storm passes through the USS Cygnus as the black hole drags it in. One of the meteors crashes its way inside, hurtling through a corridor as members of the protagonists try to escape. The line here, used for audio description, is not by actor Roddy McDowall: “Keep moving, B.O.B. – it’s the granddaddy of them all!”

5. Music from Star Wars / Close Encounters / 2001: A Space Odyssey (Peter Pan)
I consider this album exceptional due to the final part, which I will get to soon. Released in 1978, it was presented by a collective in-house group called The Now Sound Orchestra. It features an interesting format: the first track opens with a segment from John Williams’ Close Encounters score, notably The Conversation. The second part then explodes with a disco version of the main theme, which I believe was covered by a group called the Galactic Force Band.

The second track includes the first part of Star Wars, a uniquely “playful” take on the theme by Marty Gold and his Orchestra (taken from an earlier Peter Pan album). The opening track of Side Two, the second part mentioned above, is an abridged cover of the Meco version.

The second track involves music from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the famous piece by Richard Strauss, Also sprach Zarathustra (with Johann Strauss II’s Blue Danube in between)Here is where it gets funky. Instead of a disco version, Peter Pan covers its rendition of Also sprach Zarathustra, using that of Eumir Deodato’s jazz-funk interpretation (from his 1973 album Prelude).

Honourable Mention: The Sounds of Outerspace (Disneyland)

From 1981, this is an excellent album full of sound effects. Side one includes various scenarios that “put you in the action” (according to the liner notes), plus a catalog of sounds for one to create their own adventures. The artwork on the cover is fun to look through, too – there’s a row of the sentry robots from The Black Hole!

And there you have it. While several others sci-fi albums are in my collection, these are my top titles. Please excuse me while I’m off to a close encounter with some more sounds!