Wednesday 23 January 2008

It's trash compactor night at Meco's galactic disco!

In a 1977 movie review, The New Musical Express, described Star Wars as "Disco for the Eyes". Therefore it was no surprise to many of us in the UK that the first Star Wars music we heard was Meco's thunderous 'four on the floor' disco version of the movie's theme.

Meco's Star Wars theme/Cantina Band was a single edit full of R2D2 bleeps, zooms and whooshes (which meant nothing to those of us who hadn't seen the movie) of a longer album track taken from Meco Monardo's breakthrough album Music Inspired by Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk. By today's standards the original vinyl album was more like a 12" single with two tracks, Star Wars running at 15.46 and Other Galactic Funk, a funky percussive workout clocking in at 12.28. (The CD version has the single mix plus a rather good 12"Disco 45 mix added). The album and single were smash hits in 1977 and became synonymous with the era and the movie. The album with its distinctive retro disco bumping spacers cover art was even promoted at the early screenings of Star Wars.

Prior to Star Wars, Meco was a jobbing musician, arranger and producer who brought Gloria Gaynor's gallumphing version of 'Never Can Say Goodbye' to the dancefloors and countless 70's Disco compilations. After watching Star Wars on its opening day he felt that "the music was great but not very commercial" and decided that the world should not only watch but also dance to Star Wars. So with a little help from Neil Bogart at Casablanca Records and a 75 piece orchestra, Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk was born (prompting disturbing visions of Darth Vader doing the Hustle with Tony Manero).

Not one to miss out on a commercial opportunity Meco followed up with a series of disco versions of film themes including CE3K, Superman, The Wizard of Oz (the latter two emanate a strong aroma of gorgonzola) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (which owes more than a nod to Emerson Lake and Palmer's prog-rock arrangement of Aaron Copland's "Fanfare For The Common Man"). Returning to the world of Star Wars in 1980, a 10 inch EP called The Empire Strikes Back was issued which featured a guitar heavy, bronchially menacing Darth Vader / Yoda's Theme, The Battle In The Snow, The Force Theme and Asteroid Field/ Finale, liberally littered with actual sound effects from the movie.

A bit cheesey, but great fun nevertheless, Meco's interpretations have rightly become part of the Star Wars universe. After retiring from the music business in the 80's, Meco recently returned to the fray with a batch of new Star Wars inspired music, though to be honest the more recent songs lack the punch and fun of the disco material - plus they haved been released in a rather distorted bottom heavy mix.

An entertaining selection of his work including Star Wars, CE3K, Star Trek and other film related works is collected on a greatest hits package. The first half contains the original single mix of Star Wars / Cantina Band while the second half features the full album length version of Star Wars. Well worth getting hold of if you don't mind the rather high price tag it commands these days.


Anonymous said...

Meco was very hip.
I played the Albums often.
Thank You for the reminder.

Crispy32 said...

Empire Strikes Back has been added

Crispy32 said...

Galactic funk added

Lemoncat,, said...

hi crispy..
after reading this i pulled the star wars album out last night and gave it a spin again..very enjoyable it was too.. interesting read :)

Frank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crispy32 said...