A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…well, five years ago in California, anyway…The Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm Ltd. for a staggering $4 billion, gaining the rights to George Lucas’ space epic Star Wars and beginning a new sequel trilogy (as well as several film and TV spin-offs) in the $42 billion franchise. Only now, however, has Disney Music Group announced its first physical catalogue product: a triple-LP vinyl box set of John Williams’ original Oscar-winning score to Star Wars: A New Hope, to be released December 1.
Though Williams was already an in-demand film composer, winning two Oscars for adapting the Broadway musical Fiddler On The Roof (1972) and Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster JAWS (1975), it was his sweeping, melodic score to Star Wars that not only put his career into high gear, but rearranged the landscape of how film music was created. A decade after The Graduate tilted Hollywood away from orchestral scores and toward pop-oriented ensembles and song soundtracks, Star Wars, musically indebted to Holst, Korngold and many other landmark composers from the 19th century onward, brought the trend back. The platinum-certified Star Wars soundtrack album even spun off a Top 20 hit in the stirring “Main Title” (a disco version by producer Meco topped the Billboard Hot 100); Williams won his third Oscar, is now the most nominated living person for that award ever, and went on to score every entry in the Star Wars trilogies so far. (The Last Jedi, in theaters next month, will be the latest for the 85-year-old legend.)
The music of Star Wars has had an interesting release history since Disney came into the picture. Longtime rights holder Masterworks released one last physical product when The Force Awakens kicked off a new trilogy in 2015: a 9CD or 11LP box set featuring the previous soundtrack releases. (The formatting was a bit confusing, with the vinyl and digital configurations featuring new hi-res transfers of the original soundtrack albums–marking the first time the 2LP Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and the single-LP Return Of The Jedi programs had ever been available digitally, and the first time the soundtracks to two of the prequels, Attack Of The Clones (2002) and Revenge Of The Sith (2005), had appeared on vinyl–while the CDs included OST presentations of the prequels but the long-in-print 2CD expanded editions of the original trilogy’s scores first released in 1997.) When all rights transferred to Disney, those original soundtracks became the only digital products on the market.
Now, a deluxe vinyl edition of the A New Hope soundtrack–timed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the film and serving as a two-week herald of the new film’s arrival–is planned. While no additional music content seems to be planned (and no track list has yet been provided), the box includes a 48-page hardcover book with rare and unseen photos plus two essays by Jeff Bond (“Tuning Up a Galaxy,” about the impact of the Star Wars score) and Jeff Eldridge (“John Williams’ Journey To Star Wars,” focusing on the composer’s history before 1977). One of the discs is etched with the saga’s 40th anniversary logo, while another features a light-activated holographic image of the Empire’s superweapon, the Death Star, hand etched by Tristan Duke of Infinity Light Science. (A similar hologram was etched into copies of The Force Awakens on vinyl.)
If a hologram isn’t enough to Jedi mind trick you into a purchase, not to worry: in confirming that this is Disney’s first wide-release catalogue piece, the press release promises “subsequent releases are planned for 2018.” As always, keep it here at The Second Disc to find out when and what they are, and if you’re interested, pre-order the Star Wars: A New Hope vinyl box at Amazon U.S. or Amazon Canada.