Whenever I hear that initial synthetic hum of Baroque Hoedown, it is impossible for my imagination not to immediately transport me back to a much coveted curbside location on Main Street U.S.A. in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. In that freshly darkened space, thousands of twinkling lights become apparent in my mind’s eye and my memories return to a time and place where for at least a brief period of time, magic and wonder were every bit as tangible as the smell of popcorn and the joyful giggles of small children.
That is the power of music. And most especially the music that has been the soundtrack of the Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts for last half century.
For the past thirty years I have been a passionate collector of Disney theme park music. I began my collection in 1976 when I purchased a picture disc record of the Main Street Electrical Parade that was as every bit as cool to look at as it was to listen to. Yet my attachment to this very specialized genre actually stretches back even further. These very sentimental roots can be found originating in my tender youth with a battered and scratched hand-me-down record album entitled A Day at Disneyland.
Many of my fellow baby boomers no doubt also remember the bright record-grooved circular designs that were a trademark feature of a series of albums from the late 1950s/early 1960s and bore the Disneyland Record High Fidelity label. These LP’s displayed the A Record and a Picture Book brand and folded open to reveal eight brightly illustrated storybook pages. I owned a few in the series, but A Day at Disneyland was by far my very favorite.
It was on this record that Walt Disney and Cliff Edwards (in his Jiminy Cricket persona) took me on a land by land tour of Disneyland. Being a child of Pennsylvania, the Happiest Place on Earth was a distant and exotic place and so that scratchy piece of vinyl was at the time my only means of visitation.
In 1987, I purchased the cassette tapes of The Official Album of Disneyland/Walt Disney World and The Official Album of EPCOT Center---and within a year wore them out completely. It was fortuitous then that in the fall of 1988 Disney embraced the still very young compact disc format and released The Music of Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Epcot Center. The 1980s represented a real watershed time in the history of Disney theme park music, and it was certainly embodied in the release of this particular CD.
Here you had classic Magic Kingdom music that included selections from the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Country Bear Jamboree, combined with very new and fresh music from EPCOT Center--"Tomorrow’s Child", "Listen to the Land," "New Horizons," "One Little Spark," "Kitchen Kaberet" and "Golden Dream," just to list some of the selections. The collection’s only distinct flaw was that it did not carry over the wonderful and rousing EPCOT "Main Entrance Medley" that had been included on the earlier EPCOT LP/cassette.
Most importantly, The Music of Disneyland, Walt Disney World and EPCOT Center established the groundwork for the subsequent succession of theme park collections that have since been released over the past two decades.
And why do I and so many of my fellow Disney Park enthusiasts cling to our Walt Disney World and Disneyland music collections, carefully caring for them, preserving them and ultimately digitizing them into immortality?
They are the soundtracks of our memories.
They are the magical time machines that transport us to those wonderful and joyful moments in our lives we would give anything to relive again and again. Clapping our hands energetically to the Country Bear Jamboree. Experiencing the sheer spectacle of Pirates of the Caribbean while the strains of "Yo Ho Yo Ho" resonate among the elaborate sets and engaging animatronics. Forever associating the melody of "It’s a Small World" with the wide eyes and broad smile on your young child’s face. Allowing the ever-optimistic messages of "Tomorrow’s Child" and "New Horizons" to never let you give up on those idealistic positive views of the world and the future that EPCOT Center so firmly planted in your psyche. And remembering the tears that fell across your cheeks the first time you heard "We Go On" at the conclusion of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, and how, if only for a brief and emotional moment, it restored your faith in the future of mankind.
The power of music.
A power that can be found in circular pieces of black vinyl that hiss and pop, or in strings of characters that access content on a computer’s hard drive. The power to turn off all the lights on Main Street U.S.A. in a Magic Kingdom of your memories and imagination. And watch that very magical parade again for the very first time.