The Crawling Ear Column: the Star Wars disco?!

James this week celebrates Dominc 'Meco' Monardo - the man who put the disco into Star Wars...

The Star Wars logo.

Two unexpected deaths in the music world this week: curly-haired Quiet Riot singer Kevin DuBrow and Hawthorne Heights guitarist Casey Calvert. They were 52 and 26, respectively. No cause of death for either yet. They say these things always come in threes. Let’s hope Tres Hombre is a biggie like Michael Jackson. You know when Jacko dies, all sorts of awesome stories are finally going to be revealed. Secret chimpanzee kung fu training sessions, oil paintings of the cast of Mr. Belvedere, a litany of amazing nicknames for friends and relatives that surpass the idiocy of “Blanket” and “Doo-Doo Head”…oh, Lord. I’m grinding my teeth just thinking about it.

But let this column not anticipate nor celebrate expiration. Let us instead celebrate the miracle of life.

Sixty-eight years ago today, a small Italian child was born in Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania, a child who would one day grow into a swarthy disco impresario. I speak of the one, the only Dominic “Meco” Monardo, famous for his hip-shakin’ interpretation of John Williams’ Star Wars theme. This sixteen-minute epic is the only certified platinum instrumental single in all of music history; the radio edit (known officially as “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band”) was a number one hit here in the States in October of ’77. It was the first and certainly the best disco version of Star Wars ever put to wax, superior even to the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi dance tracks Meco would produce later in his career.

But lo, Monardo relied not only on that galaxy far, far away for musical inspiration. The Mec-Man also produced excellent disco takes on music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Black Hole, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Wizard of Oz. A good smattering of these cheesed-out booty-movers can be found on The Best of Meco, a 1997 release I point anyone to if they’re in the market for danceable movie themes.

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Mec is still making music these days – his last effort was 2005’s Star Wars Party, which was originally intended to be an all-star pop music salute to George Lucas’s most enduring creation. Unfortunately, the Britneys and Justins of the world didn’t return Meco’s calls. The mixing whiz was forced to cash in on Revenge of the Sith by himself, offering up compositions such as “Boogie Wookiee” and “I Am Your Father.” Chin up, Meco. We still appreciate you and your ability to turn a beautiful orchestral arrangement into the perfect soundtrack for snorting coke and groping cabana boys. Happy birthday, buddy. Here’s to another sixty-eight years, which would put you at 136. You’d be the oldest living Italian disco genius in the world. Now there’s a phrase that belongs on a t-shirt/tombstone.

Y’know, the world was robbed of a potentially great Meco release in 1999, no thanks to that squirrelly John Williams. Mec was working on an album to coincide with the release of The Phantom Menace entitled Meco Plays Music Inspired By The Phantom Menace & Other Latino Funk when Williams exercised this weird clause in his contract that stated no variations of his music could be released by another performer on Sony, the record label he and Meco were on at the time (sounds like ol’ Johnny was still smarting from the original disco “Star Wars,” which outsold his copies of the film score by squillions).

Unable to find another label in time, Meco was forced to abort his Phantom Menace/Latino Funk record. Man, that’s such an awkward and weird title. The Phantom Menace theme compelled Meco to play Latino funk? What I wouldn’t give for the demos from those sessions.

I could have sworn I wrote a bunch of little record reviews for another edition of the Stampede, but I can’t find the little bastards anywhere on this laptop I stole last week. Perhaps it was all a dream. Oh well. You’ll just have to find your condescending and detached music criticism somewhere else this week.

James is here every Wednesday at Den of Geek: you can find last week’s column here