Close Encounters of the Third Kind’s Weird Disco Legacy

Steven Spielberg‘s 1977 sci-fi crowdpleaser Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a blockbuster exploration of that greatest of all cosmic questions: Are we alone in the universe? According to the film, the answer is a resounding no, and like the greatest science fiction movies it causes the audience to look skyward while pondering their place in the galaxy.

Some background in case for some reason you haven’t seen it: Close Encounters of the Third Kind stars Richard Dreyfuss as an Indiana electrical lineman whose late-night brush with a UFO overwhelmingly drives him, along with other “encounterees,” to a breathtaking meeting at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.

Spielberg would, of course, go onto further explore issues of alien life with 1982’s E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial — which, as you are well aware, remains one of the most beloved films of all time.

What you may not know however is that Close Encounters of the Third Kind has a forgotten musical legacy. You see, the film was released at the height of the disco craze — resulting in several competing dance floor versions of John Williams’ iconic theme. Here then, a sampling of the many (and I mean many) Close Encounters disco cash-ins. Prepare yourselves, it’s gonna get weird:

Meco, “Theme from Close Encounters”

Meco Monardo is the musical genius who created the disco movie music craze with his dancefloor-ready version of the Star Wars theme in 1977 (one that became an enormous hit). He brought his disco magic to other films, including Superman, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Black Hole, The Wizard of Oz and even An American Werewolf in London. Above is his absolutely bonkers take on the Close Encounters theme that will have you dancing your way to Devil’s Tower.

Geoff Love and His Orchestra, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Main Theme”

A rival of sorts for Meco, Geoff Love and His Orchestra took on sci-fi themes of the era (their discofied Doctor Who track is especially tremendous). Here they give a bravado performance that is as full of spectacle as the effects in Spielberg’s film.

Mario Capuano, “Theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

More like Theme from Sexyville, amirite? Hello?

Gene Page, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

Why, you can almost feel the bell bottoms!

Baby S, “Theme from Close Encounters”

This is arguably the rarest of all Close Encounters pop music recordings, and it has a delightful ’70s variety show feel, wouldn’t you agree?

Now Sound Orchestra, “Theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

Apparently, the “now sound” is that of a producer in the ’70s trying to make a quick buck on a sci-fi flick that has temporarily captured the zeitgeist.

Montana, “A Dance Fantasy Inspired by Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

Not gonna lie, I can totally imagine Bigfoot and D.B. Cooper getting down to this at Studio 54.

Galactic Force Band, “Close Encounters Theme”

This one is more funk than disco, but still totally and completely wonderful.

The Doctor Exx Band, “Theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

From their LP Superman and Other Disco Hits (which contains a song called “Lois Gets on Down,” hell yes) comes The Doctor Exx Band’s version of the five tones banger. Just look at this group! They embody the party vibe. Whooooooo!

The Visitors, “Theme from Close Encounters”

It’s fitting that this somewhat ethereal (in a elevator music kind of way) version of the theme comes from the otherworldly named The Visitors. This one was released by Polydor in 1978, illustrating how Close Encounters mania hung around for a bit.

Electric Moog Orchestra, “Music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

The synth-loving wizards in the Electric Moog Orchestra were so taken by John Williams score that they released their own version of it in 1977. This one is prone to psychedelic freak-outs, so consider yourselves warned.

John Williams, “Theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind”

Even Williams himself released a pop version theme, that also incorporates jazz elements into disco. Cosmic!

The thing is, these are just scratching the surface, and there are many, many more versions of the theme floating around out there for lovers of esoteric film miscellany to discover. For lovers of these sorts of quickie cash-ins like myself, the hope of having a close encounter with some odd movie music is never too far from my mind.

This Flashback Friday article originally ran in 2017.