Sunday, September 1, 2013

What Record Have I Owned The Longest? (or..... You Own How Many Versions of Star Wars?)

So.... What record I have owned the longest? Well that would be an easy answer and also the most obvious. This one.....

I had this bought for me by my parents when I was 7 years old and I've had it since 1979. A full two years after the film came out and  I remember falling in love with it immediately. John Williams score is so amazing and is so intertwined with the cultural imprint of the film. Very few scores can evoke so strongly the memories of how you felt watching a film like this one.

We had only a few records in our house and so this one was very special for a number of reasons. One: A Double LP! The only one we had in our family's collection. Two: It has a very beautiful gatefold cover.

 And three: It was fucking Star Wars.

 This record probably cemented my lifelong love of soundtracks. A love which has obviously carried on growing  as anyone who knows me (or reads this blog ) can attest.

If you're another collector you're probably going to ask me "Do you still have the poster?" and the answer sadly is no. Yes this Soundtrack came with a beautiful 6-panel fold out poster of artwork by John Berkey.

This poster is unique in that it has Two Millennium Falcons on it. One in the centre and one on the right edge of the poster It is cool to see this image which was obviously done at the concept stage of the film

So what happened to mine?

I gave it to my teacher. Mr Mack. I thought he was the coolest teacher ever and in a way he was. He taught us how to write in secret codes! He needs no more endorsement than that! I remember I bought the record in to show him  and I showed him the poster and he seemed really impressed with it. I just blurted out "You can have it if you like?" He said "Really?" he seemed really shocked by  my generosity and I think he had every intention of giving it back to me later.   He let me hang the poster on the wall of our classroom for the rest of the year and I just don't think I asked to get it back.

That was over 34 years ago and so what has happened since then? Well this.......

I've gotten a few more Star Wars records. A whole lot more. Now the weird thing is I never went out of my way to get so many but they've sort of just proliferated throughout my collection over the last 20 years. Every now and again I would see one cheap and have to pick it up. Besides  I just love the artwork on some of these.  Sometimes you see the artwork on an album and you think "Well fuck it,  for $5 that's gotta be worth something!!"  And that's obviously the case with  "Star Wars and Other Space Themes" by Geoff Love and His Orchestra.

I mean, that's not even Luke Skywalker! I think that's Han Solo! In Luke Skywalker's clothes!! WTF? I don't even thinks that's Princess Leah either, I think that's Priscilla  Presley?? There is a giddy sense of kitsch tackiness  that takes over when you see bootleg Star Wars stuff and this ones no different. I love it. Its weird how they got a majority of the other films referenced on the cover so write and yet Star Wars sooo wrong.

Geoff Love was  a bit of a musical chameleon, glorified session muso and a one man tribute act all rolled into one, He recorded over 30 albums with his band under the name of "Manuel and the Music of the Mountains" but is better known for a series of albums he did doing knock off "sound-a-like" versions of popular film themes.  His list of film theme albums encompass all genres and are known simply by titles such as "Geoff Love and His Orchestra Play Big Terror Movie Themes", "Geoff Love and His Orchestra Plays Big War Movie Themes"  or "Geoff Love Plays Big Bond Movie Themes" or the more exhaustingly titled "Geoff Love's Big Disco Sound Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Other Disco Galactic Themes"  But wait?  I hear you ask I've heard of disco sci fi stuff before!! And right you have which brings me to Meco!!

Thats right , a little beat up and with a luridly suggestive cover picture this is the album which spawned the Disco Star wars craze.  I assure the more longsighted of you that they are rather innocently dancing the hustle and not bumping uglies as it may appear at first glance. This may have to be one of the more suggestive pieces of Star Wars ephemera I've known  since C3PO's penis made its appearance on Bubble Gum cards in the 80s 

Want to know more about this crazy lost card from Star Wars in the 70s? Read here.

But back to Meco. If you've never heard it before  its a fantastic piece of disco cheesiness and the below clip just surfaced on the interwebs. I suggest you steal away 3 minutes of your life and watch this from beginning to end. This is the most incongruous and terrible montage of sequences set to Star Wars music ever!!. Its from a Dutch TV show called Toppop from 1977. Truly disastrous to behold........


 Needless to say it  was a huge hit. It went to number 1 on the US Billboard charts and clung there for two weeks. This is Meco's best known work although he didn't stop there.  . He made more albums and having discovered that maybe giving film scores a new disco remix might be the ticket to a steady pay check just kept coming and coming with the  disco-fever!

Meco_Encounters of Every Kind [Close Encounters of the Third Kind]

Meco Pop Goes to the Movies

Meco- Music from Star Trek and The Black Hole

Impressions of An American Werewolf in London

Meco Superman and Other Superhero themes

Meco-The Wizard of Oz
I guess when you realise your pony only has one trick, you're going to whip that nag til it shits money.

Meco did three other Star Wars records. Empire Strikes Back.

A Christmas Record!!


Which believe me is every bit  as tacky  as it sounds.

But his crowning achievement (and one I am particularly proud of owning) is this particular gem. His final Star Wars installment Ewok Celebration

Yes! You are looking at this correctly. That is as a picture of an Ewok paw holding a flute of champagne. This album from 1983 tries to round up Meco's Star Wars output with a final cash in on Return of the Jedi. The LP only has 3 Star Wars related tracks on it. One being a generic medley of Star Wars themes. Pretty much a montage of his other Star Wars disco-fied tracks. The other is a great cover of Lapti Nek the song played by Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band in Jabba's Palace in the film. Originally written by John Williams (natch) there is an incredibly awesome article on website Crawdaddy about the strange history behind the song.


But the best is yet to come. The best part of this album is the titular "Ewok Celebration". A full 5 minutes and 41 seconds of the song that closes ROTJ but with a particularly unique twist. In this clip below (the extended club mix version) at 3:50 there is a rap sung completely in Ewokese!! A redo of the scene where C3PO tells their story to the Ewok chldren, it is complete with sound effects and great name-dropping of all the main characters. It is a particularly fun type of weirdness.


Star Wars sells records and that is no more evident in the proliferation of Star Wars related stuff on vinyl. As mentioned before you can't go wrong with a good Star Wars Knock off and here is another one.
"The Empire Strikes Back and Other Space Movie Music"  Love the art on this one too.

So delightfully crap. Like a lot of those woeful tattoo portraits you see in Biker magazines where the tattoo looks more like a toxic mutation than the biker's mother or loved one ever did in the accompanying photo, this album has some Star Wars and Star Trek characters looking delightfully shit.

Spock and Kirk have a serious two headed, conjoined twin thing going on. Princess Leia looks like Posh Spice and Luke looks like an Asian kid with down syndrome. This would make an excellent redesign for Mt Rushmore. This would also make the crappest of all craptacular tattoos! I'm thinking across the lower back so that you end up with Kirk and Skywalker  bookending a totally geeked out tramp stamp. Maybe some elven script creating a filigree rising from the crack of your butt?

This record looks terrible but sounds half decent. Although it can't seem to make up it's mind whether its a disco version a la Meco or wether it is in fact a straight up tribute act to  Star Wars a la Geoff Love and I guess in that respect you get the best of both worlds as it tries to be both.

 Which brings me to the next monstrosity and possibly the worst of the bunch. "Music From Star Wars performed by the Electric Moog Orchestra"

 This is possibly the worst Star Wars record ever made which is saying something because all Star Wars albums in some way are trying to pay tribute to the original source material. This record is painfully wooden and  hilariously kitsch all at once and in a way comes off a bit like a piece of hilarious anti-art. The performance in true "Moog Styling" seems to have been sifted through someone's PC sound card circa Windows '95 and strip mined of any kind of warmth or humanity. In that  respect the cover art is genius in that I have never seen cover art so succinctly  depict the music inside more correctly. It is the music of Star Wars, devoid of all fanfare and flourish, played with mathematical precision and just in case you had your hopes up there is an imprint on the cover which reads "not the original soundtrack" with which  to drill the message home. To mix my geek-ology-isms;  "Its Star Wars Jim, but not as we know it"

Of course no Star Wars collection is complete without one storybook and I have taken it upon myself to own the middle one "The Empire Strikes Back"

I've seen the other two in my travels, even in the wild in Melbourne,  but budget constraints have always held me back. Someday I'll be in a position to buy em and have  all three.

Lastly I wanted to share with you something truly special in the Star Wars universe. Its not in the picture above because i wanted it to be unique and I didn't want to spoil the surprise. Some of you might already have heard of this but to those who haven't this is a great little gem. Its this one....

The band is Big Daddy. They are on the Rhino Records label and they do hit songs of the 70s and 80s in 1950s rock-a-billy style. Including you guessed it (side one track 4)  Star Wars!

Here it is all its Surf Guitar style!! Gotta love that Theremin as well.

So there you have it. A brief adventure in finding records from both the dark side and light side of the force.

Hope you've enjoyed it. Til next time. May the Force Be With You.

Luke Pencilneck

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