Thursday, December 17, 2015

18 Force-Driven Facts About Meco's Star Wars Music

Dominick J. Monardo aka "Meco" used his love of Star Wars to eventually sell millions of records in the '70s and '80s. After watching the film on opening day in 1977 and several more times the following week, Meco came up with the idea to produce a disco version of John Williams' score. He contacted Millennium Records with the idea and after the film became a huge success, they agreed to back the project.

Meco formed a team of producers and musicians that had previous success including hits like Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and soon after, Star Wars and Other Intergalactic Funk was released. It was a huge success and spawned several Star Wars inspired albums during the theatrical run of the original trilogy.

As we celebrate the dawn of a new Star Wars era, let's rediscover the impact of Star Wars on the music industry. Here are 18 force-driven facts about Meco's Star Wars music.

The "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" single from Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk reached #1 on the US Billboard pop chart and held the spot for two weeks. It also went #1 in Canada and charted in the top ten in 7 other countries.

"Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" is the best-selling instrumental single of all time. It's sold over 2 million units and is the only instrumental single to be certified platinum by the RIAA (June 1978.)

The Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk album peaked at #13 on the US Billboard pop chart. It also charted as high as #8 on the Billboard R&B chart. The album is also certified platinum by the RIAA for selling 1 million units.

CBS used Meco's version of the Star Wars theme as opening music for it's NFL football coverage in the late '70s.

"Empire Strikes Back (Medley) Darth Vader / Yoda's Theme" from the Meco Plays Music From The Empire Strikes Back EP album became the 2nd Star Wars single to chart. It reached as high as #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart in 1980.


Released in 1980, Christmas in the Stars featured the first profession recording of Jon Bon Jovi. Meco's co-producer was Tony Bonjiovi and after struggling to find a singer "R2D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas", he asked his cousin Jon to audition (who was working part-time at the recording studio sweeping floors.) The rest they say is history.

Meco asked George Lucas if he could officially credit his concept on Christmas in the Stars after selling 150,000 copies. Lucas agreed but before the 2nd pressing could take place, RSO Records was shut down due to an unrelated lawsuit.

Star Wars official production artist Ralph McQuarrie created the painting on the album cover. A cropped version was also featured on the cassette album which is now rare.

Two singles from Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album were released including "What Can You Get a Wookiee For Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)" It reached #69 on the US Billboard Hot 100 pop chart while the other single "R2D2's Sleigh Ride" failed to chart.

Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album was one of the first music projects to be recorded and mixed digitally. "What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)" was only the third digitally recorded single in Billboard chart history.

In 1990, a 3" CD mini-single of "R2D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Christmas in the Stars" was released in Japan.

Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album was re-released just this year as a red vinyl replica CD album. Find it on Amazon.

The title track from the 1983 album Ewok Celebration became the 4th and final Star Wars single by Meco to chart. It would reach #60 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.

Duke Bootee, known for "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, provided vocals for "Ewok Celebration." Yes, the same man who teamed up with Melle Mel in 1982 for one of the earliest hip hop hits, rapped with the Ewoks a year later.

According to Discogs, the cover of "Maniac" by Michael on Sombello on Ewok Celebration features Kenny G. on saxophone. Side B of the album were covers of popular themes from Wargames, Superman III, and the TV show "Simon & Simon." I couldn't find much supporting information other than Meco producing Kenny G's first album in 1982, but it seems likely that Kenny G is a closet Star Wars nerd.

In 2000, Meco released the album Dance Your Asteroids Off to the Complete Star Wars Collection which featured two Phantom Menace tracks. Most of the tracks were digital re-recordings from previously released Star Wars albums.

John Williams prevented Meco from releasing a Phantom Menace album. According to this interview, Meco was contacted by Columbia Records to do another dance album for Phantom Menace. After working on the project and even providing a demo, composer John Williams (also at Columbia) exercised a clause in his contract which prevented "other versions of his music released from a film of his on the same label."

In 2005, Meco released a digital album titled Star Wars Party. The 10-track presentation featured new songs inspired the franchise and is still available for download on platforms like Amazon and iTunes.

Images and sources include Discogs.com, Wikipedia, Discdisco.com