The “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” storybook was directed by Steven Spielberg and narrated by recording artist Michael Jackson. It is an audiobook and soundtrack for the 1982 blockbuster film of the same name. The album was produced by composer Quincy Jones and distributed by MCA Records. The production of the album reunited Jackson with several former collaborators, such as Rod Temperton, who had written several songs featured on “Off the Wall” album as well as “Thriller.” Temperton wrote the music for “Someone in the Dark.” Freddy DeMann and Ron Weisner, served as the production coordinators for the album. They were also former managers of the Jacksons. Sound Engineer Bruce Swedien, brought the exciting and dramatic audio and sound effects for “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” album as he did on “Off the Wall” and while simultaneously working on “Thriller.” Bruce would continue to be the mastermind of sound for the albums “BAD” (1987), “Dangerous” (1991), “History” (1995), “Blood On The Dance Floor” (1997) and “Invincible” (2001). Dick Zimmerman, who would also photograph Jackson for the famous Thriller album cover, captured the singer for the accompanying poster to the “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” album.
The storybook was released in November 1982, the same month as Jackson’s acclaimed album Thriller.
Michael in home movie, circa November 1982
Court action taken by the pop star’s record label, Epic Records forced its withdrawal. During its curtailed release, the storybook was a commercial success, reaching number 82 on the UK Albums Chart, which was considered high for a storybook album. The album was well-received and won Jackson a Grammy award for Best Recording for Children. Upon collecting the award and taking home a record eight Grammy’s from an unprecedented twelve nominations, the singer stated that of all the awards had received that night, he was “most proud of this one.”
“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” was also well-received critically. Charles L Sanders of Ebony magazine described it as an “extraordinary album.” Mark Bego with the Toledo Blade declared that “Someone in the Dark” was “one of the most beautiful ballads” that Jackson had ever recorded. He further commented that the combination of Jones’ production, dialogue from the film, Jackson’s “effective and emotional” reading of the narrative and the audiobook’s “grand soaring orchestration” made the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial album “[elicit] as many tears as the movie does.” A writer for Billboard described the audiobook as being “lavishly packaged, lovingly produced” and worth its high asking price. A journalist for the Lexington Herald-Leader concluded that it was a “delightful” storybook album.
The “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” album package contains a storybook, which allows listeners to read along with Jackson as he narrates the tale of E.T. and the alien’s visit to planet Earth. The book contains a photograph of E.T. placing hands on Jackson’s shoulders, while one of the extraterrestrial fingers glows. This picture is included in the album package as a 22 inches (56 cm) × 22 inches (56 cm) full-color poster.
The 20-page storybook include scenes from the movie and the lyrics to the song “Someone in the Dark” (written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman), which Jackson sings on the audiobook. The recording was on 12-inch vinyl LP and featured original music by John Williams. The album incorporated sound effects from the movie, as well as the voice of E.T. in the background.
Jackson began work on the audiobook of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” in June 1981 around the same time he began recording Thriller. Quincy Jones served as the producer for both projects, in addition to working as the narrative writer for the audiobook. During the recording of the narration, Jackson became so upset when E.T. died that he wept. Jones and Spielberg both felt that trying to record the part again would not change the pop star’s emotional reaction. Once again, Jones decided to leave Jackson’s crying in the finished recording as he had learned to do when Michael also broke down in tears while recording “She’s Out of My Life” from the Off the Wall album.
Once the recording and engineering aspects of production had been completed, the distributor of the album MCA Records pressed more than 1 million copies of the audiobook. In 1982, a journalist for Billboard wrote that it was one of the “most ambitious” projects that MCA Records had taken on to date.”
Epic Records allowed Jackson to record the album for MCA Records on two conditions:
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was not to be released until after Christmas 1982 to avoid the audiobook competing with Thriller.
- The song “Someone In the Dark” was not to be released as a single.
The conditions were breached by MCA Records, which released the storybook in November 1982 and gave 7 inch promo copies of “Someone In the Dark” to radio stations. After Epic lodged a $2 million lawsuit, MCA Records were forced to withdraw the album and prohibited from releasing “Someone In the Dark” as a single. Epic executives had felt that MCA were misleading members of the public into believing that the then-recently released single “The Girl Is Mine” was featured on the storybook album. The plaintiffs further requested that MCA Records be banned from working with Jackson in the future and that any other media owned by MCA featuring the singer be prohibited from release.
As a result of the legal restrictions that prohibited the public release of “Someone In the Dark” as a single, the promo copies which were made have since become one of the singer’s rarest and most sought-after records; some have been sold for over £1000 ($1587). The song was later included as a bonus track on the 2001 special edition of Thriller, as well as the box set Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection.
After a publicity photo shoot for the soundtrack album in which an animatronic robot of the extraterrestrial character hugged Jackson, the singer stated with wonderment, “He was so real that I was talking to him. I kissed him before I left. The next day, I missed him.” Jackson later revealed in the December 1982 issue of Ebony magazine, in which he and E.T. appear on the cover, that he felt he actually was the creature during the album recording and shared his thoughts on why he had such a strong connection to the character:
“He’s in a strange place and wants to be accepted—which is a situation that I have found myself in many times when travelling from city to city all over the world. He’s most comfortable with children, and I have a great love for kids. He gives love and wants love in return, which is me. And he has that super power which lets him lift off and fly whenever he wants to get away from things on Earth, and I can identify with that. He and I are alike in many ways.”
And of course we all know how big a success that Thriller turned out to be! The picture speaks for itself!