The 9 Coolest Sci-Fi Read-Along Records from the 70s and 80s

By Sherilyn Connelly in Books, Daily Lists, Miscellaneous
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 6:00 am

Much like the title suggests, the read-along records are albums that came with books, comic or otherwise, to be read along with the record. They tended to be aimed towards younger people, and for those of us born in the Nixon Administration or earlier, they were frequently the closest we could get to re-living our favorite movies and shows with pictures and sounds -- or even having a soundtrack to comics, which was pretty great, too. And if you enjoy making custom ringtones or otherwise remixing found sounds, these offer plenty of tasty samples.

Sometimes they were original stories, and others were adaptations of the movies or television shows, necessarily whittling the story down to the marrow; they were frequently released as seven-inch singles, meaning they didn't even have the relative luxury of 40-ish minutes like an LP.

Read-along records are not entirely archaic. Disney launched a DVD read-along series under the Walt Disney Records aegis in 2002, though they still do book-and-audio versions, as recently as this past summer's Monsters University.

In addition to YouTube, a lot of these can be found on the great Read-Along Adventures site, as well as MouseVinyl, which has a lot of non-Disney material that was released on the Disney label.
Though these are not in chronological order, we'll begin with a historical document.

0. Bozo at the Circus, 1948 (Capitol Records, DBX-114)

Bear with me here, because while its not sci-fi or nerdtastical at all, this one is significant: According to Jack Mirtle's The Capitol Records Childrens' Series: 1944 to 1956, The Complete Discography -- or, at least, according to the review of said book in the ARSC Journal -- this was the very first-read-along record. And it was 78 RPM! Aimed as it is toward very small children, this one is extremely basic, with only one image per page, no text at all, and a thoroughly gratuitous American Indian stereotype appearing the parade between the trapeze artist and the clowns. But it was 1948, and we mustn't judge, especially not so soon after Johnny Depp's Tonto.

Your New Ringtone: 1:15: Bozo's terrifying laugh. Guaranteed to clear out a room.

1. Planet of the Apes, 1974 (Power Records, PR-18)

For the record (no pun intended), the clip of Charlton Heston that open and close this YouTube version are not actually included on the record. But this is a classic 1970s read-along record, an adaptation of a popular movie which contains very little of what makes the film a classic now. Unsurprisingly, the voice actor sounds nothing like ol' Chuck, though his surfer hair is keen, and the famous "damn dirty ape" line heard at the beginning of the video is not to be found on the record, probably both because it wasn't in the shooting script Power Records had access to, and it's not the kind of thing you could say on a kids' record. Ditto "god damn you all to hell" at the end, and the story is also spelled out for the kids who might not have understood it. What really makes this version toothless is the fact that Heston's character's utter misanthropy is gone, and with it most of the social commentary. But hey, it has the talking apes, and that's all you can really ask for.

Your New Ringtone: 9:08, "No more gobblededook talk!" Or gobbledygook, for that matter.

2. Beneath the Planet of the Apes, 1974 (Power Records, PS-21)

More exposition and messaging at the beginning, and especially at the end. I do have to admire them for not wimping out on the climax, though - not nearly enough read-along records ended with the Earth exploding.

Your New Ringtone: 3:06, "You don't smash up a space ship and step up to meet a beautiful ragamuffin out for a morning canter!" Right?

3. Battle for the Planet of the Apes, 1974 (Power Records, PS-21)

Power Records didn't do Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (which last year's Rise of the Planet of the Apes most closely resembles), and their adaptation of Escape from the Planet of the Apes isn't on the tubes, so that leaves this one, by far the weakest of the series.

Your New Ringtone: 3:17: "Look at those guns! They make my mouth water!"

4. Star Wars, 1979 (Buena Vista Records, 450)

At certain point in the late 70s, comic read-alongs gave way to ones which simply used stills from the movie. Is this yet another way that Star Wars messed everything up? Oh, probably. This one is unusual in that it actually uses sound effects from the movie, though I think this may be one of the few ancillary products for which Anthony Daniels didn't do the voice of C-3PO.

Your New Ringtone: 1:13: "This is madness. We're doomed." I just love how meh he sounds about it.

5. The Black Hole, 1979 (Disneyland Records, DSP-381)

A film I have a deep affection for, even though I didn't see it until a few years ago. (But I got to see it in the Castro Theater in San Francisco, in a double feature with Moonraker. Not too shabby.) Like Planet of the Apes, they had to strip this one down to its component parts. All of the weird religious stuff at the end is gone, we never find out happens to Reinhardt or Maximillian, and worst of all, Anthony Perkins and Ernest Borgnine are ignored entirely. At least we still get Slim Pickens, or a damn good Pickens impersonator, as Old Bob.

Your New Ringtone: 8:52: "This probe is programmed to go through the Black Hole!"

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