STAR WARS: A New Hope – Special Edition original motion picture soundtrack (1997 RCA limited edition with holographic discs, original soundtrack released 1977)
Composed and conducted by John Williams
Everyone over a certain age remembers the feeling of seeing Star Wars for the first time. Star Wars — not “A New Hope“, a subtitle used starting with the 1981 theatrical re-release. It was hard not to be blown away by it. Star Wars was groundbreaking in many ways, but let’s not forget about the music! Before Star Wars, space movies didn’t have much in the way of original soundtracks. The best space movie of all time, 2001: A Space Odyssey, used entirely pre-existing music by composers as diverse as Strauss and Ligeti. Lucas himself wanted to do the same thing. He had selected pieces such as The Planets by Holst, before having a change of heart. [Thanks to Rob Daniels from the Visions in Sound show for this info.]
Movie veteran John Williams came recommended by Steven Speilberg, who struck gold with the composer on Jaws. Incredibly, Williams turned in a score for Star Wars even more memorable than that of Jaws. Utilizing the London Symphony, a soundtrack of incredible emotional depth and themes was forged.
This 1997 issue of the soundtrack was released to coincide with the Special Editions, but don’t let that frighten you away. When the original was released on vinyl, the complete score could not fit onto two LPs. The special editions enabled the engineers to go back and do new digital transfers from the original master tapes. A full chronological soundtrack was then assembled including previously unreleased music, as well as bonus alternate takes.
The discs are housed in a nice CD wallet that is prone to scratching the discs if you are not careful. The discs themselves are etched with a hologram of the dreaded Death Star. The other two soundtracks in this series of reissues had their own holograms, but only for the initial run of discs. When they sold out, they were replaced by un-etched discs in simple jewel cases. The first run are collectibles, at least when the CD wallet is in good shape and still has the embossed outer cardboard shell. Unfortunately over my years at the Record Store, I saw many of these in absolutely mangled condition.
The wonderful thing about listening to a soundtrack like this, in order, is enjoying the images that come with it. You could be cleaning the house or working on your taxes, but subliminally, your mind is re-playing the scene when Obi-Wan gives Luke his father’s lightsaber. You know the score by heart: when old Ben says, “A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pubil of mine before he turned to evil, you hear that mournful theme swoon. When we were kids my sister and I used to play Star Wars to the music of The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack, and it made the scene we re-created with our Kenner toys that much more awesome.
Put on the track “The Battle of Yavin” and try not making laser blast sounds, and a big ol’ explosion when the Death Star blows up. It’s more fun just to go ahead and make the sounds anyway.
Disc one contains the bonus track, an alternate take “Binary Sunset”. You know the scene, when Luke is looking longingly as the twin suns set. Hidden within the track, but unlisted, are alternate takes of the opening scene music, complete with voice cues.
I’m a firm believer that the Star Wars soundtracks are basically the heavy metal of the classical world. Listen to those trumpets and horns blasting those battle themes. Put that on an Iron Maiden album played by the duo of Smith and Murray, and you have primo heavy metal. That’s one reason why I recommend John Williams and the Star Wars soundtracks to fans of heavy metal who want to expand their horizons.