Since 1978, when I received my first 2-LP set of the John Williams/London Symphony Orchestra Star Wars: Music from the Original Soundtrack album, I’ve owned many, many recordings of music from George Lucas’ six-film intergalactic saga.
Most, but not all, have been albums that feature symphony orchestras and follow in the Williams/LSO vein of classical-sounding performances from the original scores (including various Charles Gerhardt/National Philharmonic recordings). A few, however, have been adaptations of Williams’ themes to other styles of music.
I was 15 years old when my then-best friend Raul Fonseca gave me that first Star Wars album, and for the next year or so I went shopping for any record that had anything to do with John Williams or that “galaxy far, far away.” Of course, this resulted in my acquisition of a hodge-podge of eight-track tapes and LPs that ranged from good (the original soundtrack), mediocre (Ferrante & Teicher: Star Wars), to the truly embarrassing – namely, MECO’s Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk.
At the time, the dominant trend in popular music was “disco,” a genre of music that blended synthesizers, a pulsing beat, and “covers” of just about any musical style, including classical, adapted so that people could dance to it in night-clubs a la Studio 54. And in a twist full of unintended irony, MECO took Williams’ 19th Century-styled themes and saddled them with a somewhat slower tempo while adding what my chorus teacher snidely called the “rabbit’s foot beat.” The result was this temporarily hot but eventually forgotten album.
If you like disco – which supposedly died in the early 1980s but has really never gone away – then this four-track CD is for you.
The first track, Star Wars Medley, is a Reader’s Digest compilation of disco-altered “cues” from A New Hope, featuring a slowed-down and abridged version of the “Main Theme” (which merely repeats the Luke Skywalker motif over and over again), a laser-effects heavy “Imperial Attack,” a strange twist on Princess Leia’s Theme in which R2-D2 “sings” the lovely music for Star Wars’ plucky heroine, and bizarre riffs on the Benny Goodman-styled “Cantina Band.”
MECO doesn’t even spare the wonderful “Throne Room and End Title” from its distortions; the beautiful triumphant march featuring The Force theme is buried, and garishly so, under the “thump-thump-thump” metronome beat that kills whatever personality the music had in its original form.
Other Galactic Funk features more science fiction themed music, including Richard Strauss’ “Thus Spoke Zarathustra/ Theme from 2001” and various cues from Williams’ other best-selling score, Close Encounters of the Third Kind; here MECO mixes the famous five-note “conversation” theme with what sounds like radio chatter and more warping effects – along (obviously) with the monotonous “rabbit’s foot” going “thump-thump-thump.”
The balance of this dire little album consists of not one but two different versions of the Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band. Neither is appealing to me – call me a stick-in-the-mud if you wish – and the only good thing about Track 3 is that it’s fully five minutes shorter than the dreadful 12-minute Disco Mix that follows.
So unless you are a rabid fan of disco or any of its related genres (house, dance), stay far, far away from this awful album.
Track List: MECO Star Wars & Other Galactic Funk
1. Star Wars Medley: Title Theme / Imperial Attack /The Desert And The Robot Auction / The Princess Appears/ The Land of The Sand People / Princess Leia’s Theme / Cantina Band / The Last Battle / The Throne Room and End Title
2. Other Galactic Funk
3. Star Wars Theme / Cantina Band – (7″ Edit)
4. Star Wars Theme / Cantina Band – (12″ Disco Mix)