Sunday, February 5, 2023

Don't Panic - The Original Albums!

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy began its very fruitful existence as a radio play on the BBC. Even before it was adapted to novel form, the essence of that presentation was translated to record albums, an ideal way for people to experience the story, superseded only by the original play itself in its real time. I reckon I first encountered the show on NPR when versions of the original radio show played soon after the BBC presentations. It wasn't long until I got to grok the TV show run and that's been the version that's mostly in my head to this day, though I prefer the audio renditions really. 

The story which Douglas Adams concocted (with the help of John Lloyd on a few chapters) is so very vivid as a sound-only production. The voices are lively and the world they describe is exceedingly brilliant. It's difficult after seeing a few visual adaptations to bring a new vision to the ear, but I try mightily to do so. The word is unlimited in its ability to weave fantastic visions in the mind's eye, the brilliance of radio from its inception. Always the listener it asked to flesh out the descriptions with details only that one person can bring. None of us sees things quite the same way on radio, making it a much more personal experience. 

One of the most appealing aspects of revisiting these recordings is that reflecting on them takes me back to my early days, a time when I was freshly married to my lovely bride, and we were just trying to figure out how get from day to day and were beginning to raise our family. Those were heady days, filled with energy and trust in the future, as bleak as that future could seem with nuclear destruction looming. We didn't know it then, but Reagan was ushering in a new era of neglect in government that would continue to run rampant down to the modern day. All that said, the words "Don't Panic" carry a great deal of weight in retrospect. It's not just a gag, but good advice back in the day. 

And while we're talking albums, it's a good place to discuss one of the most vital and memorable elements of the production, one which Douglas Adams had no hand in. The music for the theme is at once eerie and compelling, and the song is "Journey of the Sorcerer" by Bernie Leadon of Eagles fame. It's from the album One of the These Nights. 

It's a somewhat convoluted path by which it became and stayed the signature music for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but there's no denying that the music is ideal. I loved it when I heard it originally and I love it still. Let's take a listen to whole tune. 

Of its time and more. I never seem to tire of listening to this tune. 

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