In the 1970s, what were the alternatives to going to the cinema or the pub? Well, one evening went to the London Planetarium, listened to loud prog rock and watched lasers!
I've been struggling to remember my visit. But at the time I associated lasers with sci-fi weaponry, most famously as a powerful cutting tool, as in Goldfinger's attempt to make James Bond go in separate ways. I'd not been to any rock concerts at this point, so hadn't seen any lasers in action. I went with several friends, half expecting to die by decapitation because I was the tallest.
The Planetarium, recognisable by the green dome, was an adjoining attraction to Madame Tussauds (the building is still there). The comfy, padded chairs inside were arranged in circles, tilted back to face you towards the hemispherical ceiling. With the lights dimmed, a complex projector emulated scientifically-accurate views of star constellations and planets.
But the science stuff was for the daytime, in the evening they showed Laserium instead! We sat in the same seats, but while they cranked up an eclectic playlist of psychedelic rock, the operators shone brightly-coloured holographic laser-shapes over our heads (we might even have had protective glasses on). I believe each show was different, the show wasn't pre-programmed, the operators 'played' the lasers live!
On offer were two different programmes of music, called Laserium and Laserock. This programme that I bought on the day (shown at top), lists the default playlists of music they used.
The thin blue 'membrane' that floats over the egg chamber in Alien (1979), is the vivid memory I have of an actual laser used in a movie, but a couple of years later I remember them being used in nightclubs, shooting into the eyes of the crowd indiscriminately (we still didn't know if that was safe or not). They also cropped up in a heap of early 80s pop videos, like the refilmed version of 'Relax' by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
Lasers continued to be cool all decade, and the London Laserium attraction lasted until 1990 - no doubt with a few changes to the playlists.
The American Laserium experience - a website for the uses of Laserium technology in the USA.
The Australian Laserium Facebook page - a nostalgic take with more photos.
Here's an amusing radio advert for the London Laserium, circa 1979 when I caught the show. This depends mainly on users comments making vaguely trippy references and calling it "indescribable"! On the day, I was disappointed that the backing music for the advert (Vangelis - 'Pulstar') wasn't part of the show...