In 1977 soon after the release of Star Wars, a fantastic album by musical artist Meco came out, with one of the greatest and certainly the funkiest renditions of the John Williams' Star Wars music ever created. Meco's latest album is the brand-new Dance Your Asteroids Off, featuring all of his music inspired by the original trilogy and some new groovin' Episode I tracks.
TheForce.net is proud to have had the opportunity to speak with Meco a bit and share his thoughts on his work with our readers.
TFN: Where did you get your start in the music industry? What got you into disco in particular?
Meco: I studied trombone and got a masters degree at the Eastman School of Music. Incidentally, one of my classmates was Chuck Mangione ("Feels So Good"). After three years stationed at West Point, I went to New York City to become a studio session player, gradually making enough connections to also arrange for other people such as Tommy James and Neil Diamond. I started a little production company in 1974 and one of the first artists we signed was Gloria Gaynor, ("Never Can Say Goodbye" and "I Will Survive"), and the rest, as they say, is history.
TFN: What inspired you to do the original wonderful Star Wars disco album?
Meco: When STAR WARS first came to the theaters in 1977, no one, including George Lucas, thought it would even do enough business to"break-even". Because I was an avid Science Fiction fan, I saw the first 10:00 showing the first day and was so impressed I went back the next day to see it 3 times in a row. I absolutely loved the music. I was aware of the many great and beautiful themes John Wiliams had written and bought the soundtrack. I got my inspiration when I played the soundtrack and realized I could not "re-create" the visuals from listening to it. I wanted to hear the space ships, R2D2, the Light Sabers, the creatures sounds, etc. I approached two record companies with the following thought - I BELIEVE THIS WILL BE THE BIGGEST MOVIE OF ALL-TIME. YOU'VE SEEN THE MOVIE - NOW DANCE TO IT!!! Casablanca Records said yes and within one month, I had a finished recording which went on to reach platinum status - one million albums and two million singles (one of only 60 platinum singles ever awarded).
TFN: I see that a lot of your other music is inspired by movies -- which movies are your favourite, and inspire you the most?
Meco: Star Wars and Close Encounters remain my favorite two of those that I recorded. My biggest disappointment was not being able to record ET- The Extraterestrial - one of my favorites.
TFN: What are some of your other achievements (musical and otherwise)? What are you most proud of?
Meco: My production team, Tony Bongiovi and Harold Wheeler, along with a genius named Tom Moulton were the first to release an album of dance music which featured three songs with no break in between. That album was the classic "Never Can Say Goodbye" by Gloria Gaynor. I also co-produced the first album of an unknown sax player named Kenny G.
TFN: What was your reaction to the huge success of your 1997 re-release CD?
Meco: I was very pleased but disappointed. The CD was called "The Best of Meco", but it did not include my three albums with Arista Records which would have allowed the CD to include all my versions from The Trilogy, as I recorded music inspired by Return of the Jedi with Arista.
TFN: What do you like best about your latest funky Star Wars release?
Meco: Since I am the Artist, producer and owner of my new "The Complete STAR WARS Collection", I was able, just like George did with the 20th anniversary Special Editions, re-work my music from the first three films. Most artists are never completely satisfied with their work, so it was great after 23 years, to revisit my earlier work. Here, unlike "The Best of Meco",I could finally include my versions of music inspired by ALL FOUR FILMS! I changed tempos, added sound effects and some dialogue and re-edited and re-equalized them. For The Phantom Menace, I recorded John Williams' "Duel of the Fates/Augie's Municipal Band" and two new songs inspired by the film. "Cousin Jar Jar" is about an incident during the Los Angeles premiere of The Phantom Menace. After the screening, a huge party was held at Millennium, a new Disco on Sunset. It was widely reported as a night to remember by all. Midway through the bacchanal, in the wee small hours of the morning, with hundreds of frustrated people still lined up aaround the block, a curious event supposedly occurred. The crowd came alive and in a single voice, started chanting, "JAR JAR, JAR JAR, JAR JAR". Someone, whom everyone thought was Jar Jar Binks and a party of 6 from Naboo, stepped out of a Gungen limo. The crowd surged towards the Gungens, feverishly trying to get autographs, imploring Jar Jar to dance for them. But he kept denying that he was, in fact, Jar Jar. Some people reported seeing him awkwardly attempting to dance the Macarena. Finally, he and his fellow Gungans slipped out the back door of the Millennium, jumped into their Limo, and sped off into the night. And if he was, as he claimed, Jar Jar's cousin from Brooklyn, he had a long drive ahead of him, indeed......... The other original song is "A Jedi Knight", a haunting female vocal number, with inspirational "force"-driven lyrics over a crisp Latin bed.
TFN: What did you think of Episode 1?
Meco: Let me tell you what I think of all of them...... Episode IV - MAGICAL! Episode V - MAGICAL! Episode VI - MAGICAL! Episode I - MAGICAL!
TFN: Whom would you rather spend an evening with -- George Lucas, or John Williams? :)
Meco: Since I am, obviously a "film music" fan, you ask the impossible in choosing between the two most brilliant proponents of those arts. In my view, no one creates film magic better than George Lucas. As for John Williams, I was recently asked in an interview, "What's your opinion on the evolution of the music of Star Wars?" My answer was and is, "In my opinion there is no evolution in the Star Wars music. As long as John Williams is the composer, the films will all sound essentially the same. That is, they will be performed by huge symphony orchestras, lovingly conducted by John himself, playing the most thrilling and inspired themes that are in the heart and soul of the greatest film composer of all time."
TFN: So what's next?
Meco: Along with millions of other fans, I am counting the days for the magic and mystery to return in Episode II..........
And I thought I was a die-hard fan! By the way, anyone interested in getting a copy of Meco's latest CD with his complete Star Wars collection, or just listening to some music clips from it, should go to his website, www.mecoman.com. Thanks again, Meco!