A "Star Wars" is Reborn: Meco in the '80s

"Star Wars" wasn't Meco's only disco hit.
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Aaron Rapoport/Corbis via Getty Images

On October 1, 1977, the Billboard Hot 100 went into hyperspace when "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" - a discofied medley of themes to the space blockbuster - reached the top of the charts. (Even John Williams' classic original arrangement had to settle for #10 on the survey.) Conventional wisdom would assume that was the beginning and end of acclaim for the medley's creator, trombonist Domenico "Meco" Monardo.

Well, if you believe that, we've got a Millennium Falcon we'd like to sell you. On the contrary - Meco was just getting started, with four more Top 40 hits and more than a few trips back to that galaxy far, far away. In honor of that unique milestone, here's a totally awesome look at what Meco's '80s (and late '70s) looked like.

"Theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1978)

After "Star Wars" rocketed Meco into the stratosphere, it made sense to give the disco treatment to composer Williams' other sci-fi soundtrack from 1977: his majestic music to Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Meco's arrangement reached a respectable #25 on the Billboard Hot 100, but this time it had some stiff competition by none other than Williams himself, who was conscripted into creating a radio-friendly arrangement of his themes for a single release. His own version reached #13 on the pop charts.

"Themes from The Wizard of Oz" (1978)

Meco next went from the far reaches of space to the merry old land of Oz for his next trick. Just imagine moving and grooving on the dance floor to a sweeping, dance-tempo medley of "Over the Rainbow" and "We're Off to See the Wizard," complete with Wicked Witch cackles and Toto barks! Unbelievably, enough people did to give Meco a #35 pop hit - a feat that takes brains, heart and courage.

"The Empire Strikes Back Medley" (1980)

Rather than distance themselves from Meco's "Star Wars" success, the film's sequel featured an official disco single from the artist, released alongside the original soundtrack on RSO Records. This one featured a hard-driving arrangement of Darth Vader's theme, "The Imperial March," complete with authentic sound effects from the Star Wars universe. This one climbed to #18 on the Hot 100 - but Meco wasn't done making intergalactic trips that year...

Christmas in the Stars: The Star Wars Christmas Album (1980)

Apparently unafraid of repeating the bizarre formula of 1978's The Star Wars Holiday Special, Meco and RSO teamed with Lucasfilm for an official record of seasonal Star Wars music, complete with narration from C-3PO himself (actor Anthony Daniels, gamely reprising his role from the films) and some wacky novelty lyrics by future Tony Award winner Maury Yeston. ("What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)" is one of the weirder single titles to ever grace the Hot 100.) The album may be most famous for the tune "R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas"; recording engineer Tony Bongiovi of legendary Manhattan studio The Power Station recruited his cousin, the studio's floor sweeper, to sing lead - giving Jon Bon Jovi his first-ever appearance on an album.

"Pop Goes the Movies" (1982)

With "Pop Goes the Movies," none of Hollywood was safe from the Meco treatment. Over the insistent clap of a drum machine, a handful of classic movie scores got thrown into this medley, including bits from Gone with the Wind, The Magnificent Seven, James Bond films, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and more. Audiences were still craving that Meco magic, and this one rose to #35 on the Hot 100.

"Ewok Celebration" (1983)

Meco had one last run-in with the Star Wars universe, turning the finale from Return of the Jedi into a bop-along up-tempo track. While this one also included official sound effects (and a surprisingly accurate read of the original Ewok language), it was ignored by the top brass at Lucasfilm, who instead promoted a dance remix of "Lapti Nek," the song heard in Jabba the Hutt's palace and written by John's son, future Toto vocalist Joseph Williams. (Joseph also contributed vocals to another version of "Lapti Nek" credited to studio band Urth.) Still, this single is the only place you're going to hear rapper Duke Bootee (co-lead vocalist on Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five's iconic "The Message") spit a nonsense verse that name-checks Darth Vader, Yoda and R2-D2.

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