By 1983, the original Star Wars trilogy had space-docked, and George Lucas began thinking about alternative entertainment delivery systems for the galaxy far, far away. His first TV movie, Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984), was such a hit with kids, ABC secured the rights to two animated series. Star Wars: Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO and its sister series The Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour are set between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. They were designed to capitalize on the characters’ popularity with children. The best way to start is with catchy tunes.
The subject came up when Copeland spoke with Den of Geek last year about Under the Volcano. Gracie Otto’s documentary is about Beatles producer George Martin’s Air Studios Montserrat, where Synchronicity sessions ultimately troubled the Police’s future. Copeland calls “Trouble Again,” the song he wrote and recorded with Derek Holt for Star Wars: Droids, “extremely obscure,” and says he was “not even aware that that was released anywhere.”
It’s true, the opening credit sequence for the 1985 cartoon, which itself feels like a relic of the past, features only a minute of Copeland’s song, which has become a cult favorite among both Star Wars and obscure rock music fans. Check it out here:
Fortunately, for lovers of both Star Wars and Police minutiae, one important piece of information can now be filled in.
“Yeah, we did a whole song,” Copeland reveals. Somewhere, deep within the vaults of Lucasfilm, exists a full version of “Trouble Again.”
The Lucasfilm series was produced by the Canadian company Nelvana Limited, who were largely responsible for Care Bears. Nelvana produced the 10-minute animated sequence featured in The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), which an Associated Press reviewer called “bubble gum for the brain.”
Before they could chew on that, the production had to absorb further saccharine saturation. The Droids creative team had to deal with the moral restrictions of children’s programming. Because the shows would run as part of ABC’s Saturday morning cartoon block, they were allowed only limited use of weaponry and physical contact. ABC rejected future Batman: The Animated Series and The Clone Wars writer Paul Dini’s first story pitch as “too Star Warsy,” according to Jon Bradley Snyder’s “A Star Wars CELibration” from Star Wars Insider 27, further distancing the show from the source of the Force.
But how exactly did the musician get involved with Star Wars in the first place?
“I was commissioned,” Copeland remembers. “It was an incoming call from Lucasfilm to create songs for two different animated series that they were making; one about Ewoks and the other one about Droids. And they said, just write us some songs on the general idea.”
Kenner had already produced a toy line based on the series, including action figures of series regulars Thall Joben, Jord Dusat, and Kea Moll, new figures of R2-D2, and a C-3P0 with removable arms. They also designed models of the show’s spaceships, the ATL Interceptor and Side Gunner.
“I went to meet George Lucas at the ranch and the meeting comprised of handing me these toys,” Copeland says. “And the mission is to sell these toys, write songs that will sell these toys. And there were cuddly furry ones for the Ewoks and mechanical kind of robots and stuff for the Droids. So, I went home and wrote songs about toys.”
And while the Ewoks theme, done by blues artist Taj Mahal, is itself another standout in Saturday morning cartoon music, it was Copeland’s “Trouble Again” that summed up the ethos of Star Wars: Droids. “That particular song, in fact, most of the songs, about half of them I suppose, were with Derek Holt, who was an English musician who had a band called Climax Blues Band for you nerds out there,” Copeland says. “We co-wrote that. That song there, ‘Trouble Again,’ was mostly his. I mean, I did the music. I think that’s his lyric mostly.”
Never one to drop a beat, Stewart rolled out a new verse. “By the way, just to follow through on that, some of those songs [that weren’t used for the show], like ‘Stay Ready,’ which I wrote, ended up on a Gizmodrome album.”
Gizmodrome was a four-piece supergroup, with Copeland on drums, along with Level 42 bassist Mark King, Italian keyboardist Vittorio Cosma, and guitar wizard Adrian Belew, who played for such progressive acts as King Crimson, Frank Zappa, and David Bowie. The band’s eponymous debut and sole album, Gizmodrome, was recorded in Milan over two weeks in summer 2016 and spring 2017 and was released on Sept. 15, 2017.
Star Wars: Droids debuted on Sept. 7, 1985 as part of ABC’s “Ewoks and Droids Adventure Hour.” It was canceled after airing a full season of 13 episodes. The full version of “Trouble Again” has never been released.
Under The Volcano is available On Demand and Digital now. And you can also stream Star Wars: Droids on Disney+.