For Christmas this year, my lovely wife gave me something I’ve been pining for for years – a record player. It’s not a top of the line model or anything (I think it cost less than $50 on clearance), but it plays records, which is all I was really looking for. As a bonus, it outputs directly to a computer via USB, so you can record MP3s of the album.
While I know vinyl has become something of a hipster pursuit, my interest was about as far away from hipster-y as possible. Sure, I’d love to pick up some old classic albums to play while I do dishes, but I was more interested in getting some of the spoken word albums I had back at my parents’ house, specifically the books and stories on record.
See, I was born during a transitional period between vinyl and cassette tape. So when I was a little kid, vinyl was still king, but once I got to my teenage years and started to get into music, the Walkman was introduced, making tapes the music medium of choice. So the only music I actually bought on vinyl were little 45 singles of weird stuff like the theme from The Greatest American Hero (seriously…I own that); things I would have wanted to hear when I was seven, but not when I was 13. Everything in those formative years of music was on cassette or even CD (my first CD was Huey Lewis and the News’ 1996 release, Fore!). Which means that most of the vinyl I had was from my much younger days. And since I was less into music at 5 years old and more into superheroes, Disney cartoons, and Star Wars, my parents bought me a lot of story records. So while my older sister was jamming out to David Bowie on vinyl, I was listening to Spider-Man adventures adapted from The Electric Company.
We celebrated our big family Christmas after my wife had given me the record player, so when we went to my parents’ house, I dug out the blue plastic bin where our old vinyl had been languishing for years. I was thrilled to find my Batman record, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back read-along books, four of the five-disc set of Gremlins read-along books that were available exclusively at Hardee’s, as well as a few of my favorite albums, The Story of Star Wars and The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, both of which featured the music, sound effects, and dialog lifted directly from the first two movies in the Star Wars trilogy.
As I was looking through these old albums, I noticed there was an advertisement for a Kojak read-along book. There was also a picture teasing a Batman album with the Caped Crusader facing off against a gorilla and Sherlock Holmes. How could I not try to track those albums down? In addition, I thought it would be really nice to complete my Gremlins collection, since I only needed the last disc. And, while I was at it, maybe get the Return of the Jedi read-along book, too. Again, just to complete the collection.
Flash forward a few months and now I’m in full-on addiction mode. I scour eBay for good deals on read-along record book adaptations of The Last Starfighter and Goonies, as well as story records featuring He-Man and Godzilla. I’ve added a handful of fun titles to my collection and am having a great time reconnecting with this dying (or some could say already dead) artform.
And it’s with this enthusiasm in mind that I’ve decided to share these records with the world – for those who want to relive their childhood, as well as for those who are hearing them for the first time. I’ve started a podcast over at Bubble Pipe Network called When You Hear This Sound, featuring recordings of some of the stories in my collection. The title is an homage to one of the most memorable aspects of these read-along adventures – the tone, or chimes, or R2-D2 beeping that signals when you should turn the page in your book. The narrator always introduced the page turn signal using some variation of the phrase, “You’ll know it is time to turn the page when you hear this sound…”
The intro episode is available now on iTunes and via RSS on bubblepipe.net, with the first official episode dropping next week. So be sure to head over there and subscribe so you won’t miss any exciting adventures that I’ll be posting in the future. And if you have any fond memories of these albums, please share them here, on the Bubble Pipe Network page for the show, or on the show’s Twitter or Instagram accounts.