For those for whom Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has been a long-term obsession, Demon Music Group's release of the seventh through twelfth episodes of the BBC radio program on vinyl LP will come as quite a delight. Known as the Secondary Phase, these episodes have been available in some form or another for quite some time, as the BBC released them on compact disc and cassette back in 1988.
However, given that CDs were fairly rare in the late '80s and cassettes at the apex of their popularity, along with the relative cost of a six-tape box set, most fans at the time grew up hearing these episodes via much-played tapes acquired through their local public library.
Hissy and worn out, it was still the only way to hear these precious moments of Adams' radio brilliance. There have been reissues over the years, and are readily available as mp3 downloads from the likes of iTunes, however hearing Dirk Maggs' (director of the Tertiary through Quintessential Phases) remastered audio coming through one's turntable is a gloriously anachronistic way to enjoy this legendary bit of science fiction humor. The stereo effects come through in ways which make the Hitchhiker's Guide play out all around wherever one happens to be listening.
To be fair, the Secondary Phase isn't nearly as enrapturing as the Primary Phase, much of which would be turned into elements of the original novel, as well as The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Some of the Secondary Phase would find its way into Adams' second novel, but much of it would be left to exist purely as audio drama.
Still, the elements in Fits the Seventh and the Eighth, dealing with the Frogstar warriors and the Total Perspective Vortex, are quite entrancing, as is the Old Man in the Shack from Fit the Twelfth, which might be one of the best scenes Adams ever wrote. Hearing it play out in perfect stereo makes the listener feel as if they're on that planet of torrential rain.
The packaging is absolutely, gloriously perfect. It's a hardbound collection with the title in metallic foil, akin to an LP-sized coffee table book, loaded with illustrations by Tom Fournier and Ray Wong, along with visual representations of various Guide entries such as the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, The Evolution of the Bird People, and - of course - the towel.
Liner notes from Paddy Kingsland explain a little behind the scenes on the creation of the sounds and music for the Secondary Phase, and Jem Roberts - Adams' official biographer - tells the story of the last-minute rushing needed to get the episodes done in record time. The triple LP set comes pressed on orange wax, and it's psychedelically bright.
Longtime fans of the series are advised to dig out their tattered copies of The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts, pour themselves a nice cuppa, curl up with their nearest pet of choice, and dig into these wonderful reissues.
THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: SECONDARY PHASE / PRODUCER: BBC / LABEL: DEMON MUSIC GROUP / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW