Welcome to another week-long series at mikeladano.com! We’re doing another week of Getting More Getting More Tale: five brand new instalments from the Getting More Tale series. Hope you enjoy these blasts from the past.
GETTING MORE TALE #518: Read-Along Adventures
When I was a child in the late 1970’s, the average household did not have a VCR. There was no such thing as video rentals. Most homes had a record player, but as the 70’s turned into the 80’s, the VHS and Betamax formats battled it out for home domination. In the Ladano home, we rented a VCR and movies until 1984, when my dad finally bought our first VHS recorder. It was hi-tech and lasted many years. All but impossible to program recordings on, but you could do it. In the meantime, there was a family stereo system, and I also had a heavy duty kid’s mono turntable put out by Fisher-Price. It was built like a tank and folded up into a case.
Until the VCR became a household staple, kids only had two ways of enjoying a favourite movie: Going to see it in the theatre, or wait until it was on TV. Certain movies would return to theatres periodically, such as old Disney classics. Other movies, such as The Wizard of Oz, were a big family event when they were on TV. Popcorn and treats! Yes, the movie would be chopped up with commercials and often edited down*, but we didn’t know any different. To this day, with certain movies, I can remember where the commercial breaks used to go.**
Yet there was a way to let youngsters enjoy their favourites at home, after a fashion. Story records had always been around, but when Buena Vista released 7″ story records with a book that kids could follow, they tapped into a void and struck gold. Star Wars became an obvious winner. We had the story of Star Wars on a 7″, and we would read along and enjoy the vibrant pictures from the film. Another I enjoyed was Disney’s The Black Hole. A narrator would read along with you, and when you heard R2-D2 beep, it was time to turn the page! These records played at 33 1/3 rpm, to facilitate a longer running time. There were music cues and sound effects to go with the story, and I’m sure our parents would tell you these records kept us occupied! Sometimes, original actors even did the voices. I distinctly remember having the story of E.T., narrated by Drew Barrymore who was also on the cover. As time went on, these releases began to come out on cassette. Fisher-Price was there with another heavy duty product, a tape recorder that I used for years to play and record just about everything. By the time the story of Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, I was on to cassettes. Thankfully they continued to make story records for kids in my now-older age bracket.
The 80’s wore on and cassettes replaced records all but completely. Between Star Wars and Jedi, we had graduated to things a little more challenging, such as the full-length movie soundtracks by John Williams. Without the cheesy narration, we were free to create our own adventures to the classic music. The old story records got tucked away…but they can still be found. Last Christmas, my buddy Rob Daniels from Visions in Sound received some old classic Star Trek read-along records. I have some too, also Christmas gifts, from my sister. She found four sealed Star Trek story records on 7″ vinyl and had to get them for me. They include the stories for The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, and two original stories on a different label called Peter Pan records.
I’ve never opened these records, but I know inside I would find some glorious full colour pictures of space-scapes from the big screen, along with a pristine 7″ record. It’s tempting but they’ve been sealed this long, it would a shame to open them now.
*Not Superman: The Movie! It had some really cool deleted scenes added to the TV version, to stretch it over two nights!
**I can also hear, clearly in my head, the terrible TV dubbing done for Jackie Gleason’s character in Smokey and the Bandit. It was not Gleason, and it was obvious every time. Unintentionally funny!