May the 4th be with you! On this STAR WARS DAY, I couldn’t help but share this longtime favorite from Pennsylvania-born producer and musician Meco (born Domenico Monardo) – his version of John Williams’ “The Empire Strikes Back.”
In 1977, when STAR WARS ruled the universe and then some, his disco version of the “Star Wars Theme / Cantina Band” outperformed John Williams’ Top 10 original theme and spent 2 weeks at No. 1 in October 1977. It was a worldwide hit, and became the first of 9 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 for Meco (5 of which reached the Top 40).
After STAR WARS, the term “Meco-ized” came about, as Meco took on themes from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (John Williams’ single version of that theme charted higher than Meco’s cover), THE WIZARD OF OZ, SUPERMAN, STAR TREK, THE BLACK HOLE, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, and even the 1980 miniseries, SHOGUN. Meco also produced the 1980 STAR WARS Christmas album, CHRISTMAS IN THE STARS, most famous for the single that somehow managed to reach No. 69 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?)”
Months before that Christmas album was released, Meco was enjoying the success of his version of the theme from the second STAR WARS film released, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. In the middle of June 1980, “Empire Strikes Back (Medley) Darth Vader / Yoda’s Theme” was the highest debut on the Hot 100, coming in at No. 68. The song was part of a 4-track 10” EP, MECO PLAYS MUSIC FROM THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK,
In its fourth week on the Hot 100, “Empire Strikes Back” shot into the Top 40 at No. 29, and looked like it would repeat the No. 1 success of his version of the STAR WARS theme, but it lost a bit of steam after that week and ended up spending 2 weeks at No. 18 in August 1980 – oddly enough, right after the film had dropped to No. 2 after 10 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 (or, a good chunk of the Summer of 1980).
Meco would reach the Top 40 once more, with another medley called “Pop Goes The Movies Part 1.” No, I don’t remember it either, but I’ll never forget what he did with “Empire Strikes Back.” The 10” EP still proudly occupies a spot in this scruffy-looking nerf-herder’s record collection, and will for many STAR WARS DAYs to come…