The Albums that Made Me #5 – John Williams, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (soundtrack) (1982)

Album cover shows ET and the human protagonist's fingers touching with a background of stars over the top of planet Earth

The second John Williams soundtrack to make it onto the list of music I was listening to during my most formative years.

My mum took me to see E.T. at the cinema when it came out. I would have been about 6 years old. I found it scary and upsetting and only really liked the bit when the kids’ bikes take flight. I was too young and sensitive for this movie and I don’t know what my mum was thinking. I’ve never actually watched it again!

However, I did absolutely love the soundtrack and nagged my parents until they bought me the cassette. I have clear memories of putting it in our old cassette player in the kitchen and dancing up and down the room.

It’s another beautiful, sweeping score, but as with the Star Wars soundtrack, I don’t think I could bear to listen to this now. The emotions would be too overwhelming.

Top track: Flying theme

The Albums that Made Me #4 – Sky, Sky 2 (1980)

Album cover shows a painting of a gold and orange sunset over dark red hills with a blue sky fading into darkness above

At some point, I become old enough to start rummaging around in my Dad’s record collection. It was probably the cover that initially attracted me to Sky 2.  I still think it’s just beautiful.

Sky were an English/Australian progressive rock band and were hugely popular and successful at the time. I don’t remember much about the music, apart from the single ‘Toccata’ which may have been a favourite, but I can clearly remember getting the album out, putting it on our record player and dancing madly around the living room.

I haven’t kept up an interest in progressive rock, but I think Sky 2 played a big role in firing my imagination when I was a kid.

Top track, Toccata

The Albums that Made Me #3 – Mary O’ Hara, Music Speaks Louder Than Words (1978)

Album cover features a colour photograph of the artist. She is sitting in a green field with buttercups. She looks directly into the camera and has a bunch of the buttercups on her lap.

Mary O’ Hara’s Music Speaks Louder than Words (1978) is the first album that I can remember identifying as something that I liked for myself. I must have been around three or four years old at the time. I couldn’t quite manage to say her name, so I called her “auntie”, much to the amusement of my parents.

I now suspect that I was more interested in the photographs of O’Hara on the album cover than I was in the music. I had begun to realise that I was supposed to grow up to be a “lady”, as the people around me said in the sexist language of the time, and here was a “lady” that looked quite appealing to me.  We had fields full of buttercups like the one she’s sitting in on the front cover and I was fascinated by the dress she’s wearing on the back.

Image shows a studio photograph of Mary O' Hara. The picture is shot from just above the waist and shows O' Hara with her elbows on the top of her harp, leaning her head on her hands and wearing a brightly coloured stripey dress.

I didn’t know anything about her, so I looked her up and found that she’s a very influential Irish singer and harpist.  She’s had a pretty interesting life, which includes a period spent as a Benedictine nun.

This album has a lot of covers, so I think it must have been aimed at a more mainstream audience, but it’s her traditional Irish folk recordings seem to have had the staying power.

My favourite tracks when I was a child were the covers, ‘Music Speaks Louder than Words’, and ‘Annie’s Song’. As an adult, my top track is ‘Dust in the Wind’. I can’t find O’ Hara’s anywhere, but here’s a great version by Melanie.

I felt I should include one of her performances in this post, so here’s Óró Mo Bháidín which seems to be a favourite and has the most listens on Spotify.

Thanks auntie.

The Albums that Made Me #2: Star Wars (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) 1977

Album cover shows the title in white lettering on a black background

By John Williams

Like many Gen Xers I’m completely imprinted on the original Star Wars trilogy and the music that accompanies it.

I decided to make this soundtrack the second entry on my list because I have no memory of when I first started listening to it. The overwhelming emotional effect that it has on me feels like something that predates language and psychological defense mechanisms! It’s almost too exciting. My parents were fans of the film and we had the album on vinyl as far back as I can remember, so it was probably playing in our house from around 1978.

The music is incredibly beautiful and stirring and is, in many ways, what makes the film brilliant. Orchestral soundtracks would never be the same

I’m sure it fueled my imagination and love of science fiction, but I don’t think I could sit down and listen to the Star Wars soundtrack now. I might have a nervous breakdown or something!

Top track: Main Theme

The Albums that Made Me #1 – ABBA, ‘The Album’ (1977)

Image shows the cover of The Album by ABBA. The cover features stylised images of the bands faces and a range of other cartoon-like images on a white background

Of course it’s impossible to remember exactly which album I heard first, but I’ve decided to start with this one by ABBA because I know it would have been playing in our house around the same time as I started to become aware of my environment.

The Album was released in the UK in 1978 when I was a year old and, although my Mum pretty much gave up on popular music when I was born, she still liked ABBA. Even now, hearing these songs gives me that strange thrill you get when you listen to music associated with your earliest childhood. I can remember the cassette when I was a few years older, battered, the letters almost entirely rubbed off and the sleeve long gone by then. I loved it and would campaign to have it played on car journeys.

The best tracks on there are the hits ‘Take a Chance on Me’ and ‘The Name of the Game’, but my favourites were always ‘Move on’ and ‘Eagle’, which is a very odd song about someone turning into an eagle (?!).

I still love ABBA.

Top track, Move On