The Second Disc

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Friday Feature: “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”

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When The Second Disc started two years ago, it didn’t take long to realize that catalogue soundtrack coverage was going to be well met on the site. Joe and I love the power and beauty of film music, and admire the work of those awesome individuals who are preserving it on disc for future generations.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of my all-time favorite film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, a film with a powerful soundtrack if ever there was one. Recounting the tale of the music of E.T. is one of my favorite tales in all of music, so today I share with you this flashback Friday Feature from July 9, 2010 on the film and its Oscar-winning score. I hope you enjoy it!

The Second Disc is obviously all about those defining musical moments in our lives. Thus, on a day like today, it’s only natural to touch on what may be the most defining musical moment for your catalogue correspondent.

You see, today’s my birthday, and so I feel it appropriate to reflect on the music that got me into music in the first place, and by extension got me into catalogue pursuits. I’m referring to John Williams’ Oscar-winning score to Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (also my favorite film of all time). Arguably the apex of both creative talents (and the high point of Spielberg and Williams’ near 40 years of collaboration), the tale of a boy’s friendship with an abandoned space creature was augmented by a lush, soaring, string-heavy score, bolstered by that oft-imitated but never surpassed main theme.

One could go on forever about the merits of the E.T. soundtrack, but this one tale defines it all: the 15-minute finale of the film was scored as one continuous sequence, almost a mini-opera in and of itself. Williams wrote each cue and highlight to exactly fit the parameters of the picture, but could never attain total satisfaction with the tempo and tone of each take. Ultimately, Spielberg came up with an idea rare to film soundtracks: the director would not project the film as the composer led the orchestra, so Williams could lead as one would in a concert. Then, in an incredible display of trust, Spielberg had the finale re-edited to fit the score itself.

Unsurprisingly, the music of E.T. has a release history as interesting as the sound itself. Read on after the jump.Like many of Williams’ LPs for MCA (Jaws also being a notable example), the original E.T. soundtrack was a single LP featuring about 40 minutes of re-recorded, concertized highlights from the 70-minutes-plus score. Very little of it was actually taken from the film itself, but as a result the soundtrack is an intriguing experience apart from what’s heard in the film. The album was released on LP, cassette and audiophile picture disc, but only the compact disc release (in 1985 or so) could do the largely pianissimo (quiet), analogue-recorded score justice, being relatively free of crackling or hiss.

John Williams, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCA 6109, 1982)

  1. Three Million Light Years from Home – 2:57
  2. Abandoned and Pursued – 2:58
  3. E.T. and Me – 4:49
  4. E.T.’s Halloween – 4:07
  5. Flying – 3:20
  6. E.T. Phone Home – 4:18
  7. Over the Moon – 2:06
  8. Adventure on Earth – 15:06

A single was released (“Flying” b/w “Over the Moon” – MCA 52072, 1982).

Additionally, MCA (through two other artists), added more cars to the E.T. gravy train (as the highest-grossing movie ever made for some 15 years, merchandising was inevitable). Walter Murphy – yes, the same Walter Murphy of “A Fifth of Beethoven” from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack – recorded a disco-laced version of the theme for the label (the B-side was the cheekily-titled original “Your Planet or Mine?”) that was released on both 7″ (MCA 52099) and 12″ (MCA 13959) formats.

Then there was the infamous Michael Jackson-narrated storybook record (MCA 70000), which (like the proper soundtrack album) won a Grammy, in fact being the eighth of Jackson’s record-setting Grammys in 1984. Jackson’s narrations over Williams’ score and dialogue extracts from the film is nothing special – in fact, it frequently rides the line between captivating and creepy – but it has become something of a collector’s item. You see, Epic Records (Jackson’s label) weren’t too happy about the future King of Pop putting out material on a rival label, especially with Thriller due for a holiday 1982 release. But they let it slide, providing that MCA dumped the record into stores after Thriller and released nothing to promote the set. MCA followed neither request (the promo single of Jackson’s “Someone in the Dark” – MCA S45-1786 – which had a white label and promo picture sleeve – may be the rarest MJ release ever), and the set has become increasingly rare (vinyl copies still command high prices on eBay, especially those that have the original storybook and poster intact; there’s an even rarer cassette version allegedly available too).

In 1996, a year shy of the film’s 15th anniversary, Universal Studios put E.T. in a fantastic, limited-edition laserdisc set that’s arguably more comprehensive on the making of the film than any of the documentaries included on the DVD release. One of the trinkets in the box was a newly remastered and expanded release of the score produced by documentarian Laurent Bozereau. This set does not feature the complete score, but has a vast majority of it – and, perhaps most interestingly, features several passages of music not used in the film at all. An interview with Williams culled from the accompanying documentary is included in the liner notes.

John Williams, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCA MCAD-11494, 1996)

  1. Far from Home/E.T. Alone – 6:49
  2. Bait for E.T. – 1:43
  3. The Beginning of a Friendship – 2:50
  4. Toys – 3:11*
  5. “I’m Keeping Him” – 2:19
  6. E.T.’s Powers – 2:42
  7. E.T. and Elliott Get Drunk – 2:53
  8. Frogs – 2:10
  9. At Home – 5:37
  10. The Magic of Halloween – 2:53
  11. Sending the Signal – 3:57
  12. Searching for E.T. – 4:16 *
  13. Invading Elliott’s House – 2:22
  14. E.T. is Dying – 2:17 *
  15. Losing E.T. – 2:00
  16. E.T. is Alive! – 4:18 *
  17. Escape/Chase/Saying Goodbye – 15:04 *
  18. End Credits – 3:51 *

All tracks previously unreleased except Track 16. * indicates track with alternate music not heard in the film

In 2002, the soundtrack was released again when Universal theatrically re-released the film with Star Wars: Special Edition-esque special effects and deleted scenes. This reissue, also produced by Bozereau, replaced most of the alternates with their film versions (except for “Toys,” which was never used in the film anyway, having been replaced by music tracked from “E.T. is Alive!” as well as “E.T. is Dying” and the 15-minute finale). Additionally, three unreleased tracks were included, bringing the score closer to completeness (but not fully so).

John Williams, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The 20th Anniversary (MCA/UMG Soundtracks 088 112 819-2, 2002)

  1. Main Titles – 1:06 **
  2. Far from Home/E.T. Alone – 6:49
  3. Bait for E.T. – 1:43
  4. Meeting E.T. – 2:05 **
  5. E.T.’s New Home – 1:38 **
  6. The Beginning of a Friendship – 3:02
  7. Toys – 2:43*
  8. “I’m Keeping Him” – 2:19
  9. E.T.’s Powers – 2:42
  10. E.T. and Elliott Get Drunk – 2:53
  11. Frogs – 2:10
  12. At Home – 5:37
  13. The Magic of Halloween – 2:53
  14. Sending the Signal – 3:57
  15. Searching for E.T. – 4:16
  16. Invading Elliott’s House – 2:22
  17. E.T. is Dying – 2:17 *
  18. Losing E.T. – 2:00
  19. E.T. is Alive! – 4:06
  20. Escape/Chase/Saying Goodbye – 15:04 *
  21. End Credits – 3:49

* includes music not used in the film ** indicates previously unreleased track
Notes: Tracks 6-7 are differently timed because a portion of “The Beginning of a Friendship” is used at the end of “E.T.’s New Home.” Similarly, the beginning of “Toys” is added to the end of “Friendship.” Track 19 is edited to closer resemble the film version.

So after three releases, what is missing on CD?

  • “Universal Logo with E.T. Extension”: For the film’s 20th anniversary, the Universal globe logo finished with E.T. and Elliott’s flying bike crossing the globe in silhouette. For the revision, Jerry Goldsmith’s logo fanfare was re-recorded by Williams, with an extra tag of the E.T. theme.
  • “Elliott Explores the Cornfield”: an atonal piece of music, similar to the main title cue, used when Elliott investigates a disturbance in the cornfield outside his house, leading to his first encounter with E.T.
  • “The Closet”: a brief, suspenseful cue used when Elliott’s mother opens the closet to find a bunch of stuffed animals – not noticing E.T. frozen among them
  • “Elliott’s First Kiss”: a brief tag at the end of the classroom scene, which partially quotes the score to The Quiet Man (which E.T. watches on T.V.). It’s also one of the first expressions of the main theme from the film
  • “E.T. and Elliott Separate (‘E.T. is Dying’ Film Version)”: a portion of this cue remains unreleased
  • “Escape/Chase/Saying Goodbye” (Film Version): the edited, properly cued version of the finale – particularly missing a small piece (presented in alternate form on all CD reissues) before E.T. and Elliott embrace
  • “Amblin Logo”: In 1984, Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment production company had a new logo: the moon and bike from E.T. Williams penned a brief fanfare that was heard on original VHS copies of the film.

Virtually all of this has been bootlegged, since the laserdisc has a score-only audio track. But there’s at least one other track that could be released from the vault: a newly-recorded suite from 1990 that Williams commissioned for the E.T. Adventure ride at Universal’s theme parks. He even wrote a new set of themes for E.T.’s home planet and mentor, Botanicus. A double-disc reissue of the complete score and extras, perhaps paired with a remaster of the long-out-of-print original LP, would be a boon to collectors and fans worldwide. Still, there are quite a few nice releases for this story that touched the world.

Written by Mike Duquette

June 11, 2012 at 12:01

One Response

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  1. i want to know value of this record


    August 1, 2010 at 14:43

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