STAR WARS 30TH ANNIVERSARY - "A LONG TIME AGO IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY THE FORCE WAS STRONG IN THIS ONE"
*“I’ve got a very bad feeling about this.”
This picture has become rather popular and I keep running into it online in assorted blogs and whatnot. Eventually D.K Books saw it and contacted me, asking if I could scan and/or take pictures of some of the individual items for use in their 2010 coffee table book, Star Wars: Year By Year. So, somewhat bemused, I did, and you'll find the results in the Star Wars: A New Hope section, along with credits in the back of the book. This makes me smile because now I get to say "SEE!! I told you there was a reason for keeping all this junk!"
"At last, the circle is complete."
A LONG TIME AGO IN 1977.....
-Australia had its worst railway disaster at Granville near Sydney, with 83 dead.
-The first Apple 2 computers were sold.
-Queen Elizabeth the 2nd toured the world.
-Optical fibre telephone cables were introduced.
-The worst single aviation disaster in history occurred in the Canary Islands when two 747s collided, killing 583.
-The first public telephones with buttons instead of dials were introduced.
-Toy fads included skateboards and.....Slime!
-Fashions included flares, disco hot pants, wide ties, moustaches and sideburns, big floppy hats for women and Punk swaggered down the street with torn clothing, aggro hair, safety pins and chains.
-In music the Sex Pistols and many others put the boot into Punk. Blondie released their eponymous album, David Bowie let Heroes take wing, and the Alan Parson's Project activated I Robot, while ABBA were THE Dancing Queens.
-Jimmy Carter was the US Prez.
-The Roots mini-series was on the telly. In Australia we watched Don Lane, Paul Hogan, and Mike Walsh in their shows. Graeme Kennedy hosted the game show Blankety Blanks, and long running soaps like Bellbird, Number 96 and The Box were winding up. Other shows new or popular that year included: Charlies Angels, Fantasy Island, Three's Company, Eight Is Enough, The Goodies, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, Are You being Served?, Doctor Who, Fawlty Towers, Soap, CHiPs, The Love Boat, The Good Life, and The Naked Vicar Show.
-The Soviet Salyut Space Station was in orbit.
-UFOs were beginning to overfly Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Peg and Ed Blumquist were just starting to plot their bloody reign of terror, though no one would have believed it, if told.
-Malcolm Fraser was the Australian Prime Minister.
-Sarah Michelle Gellar, Orlando Bloom, Shakira, Tom Welling (Smallville's Superboy), and Liv Tyler were all born in '77.
-Elvis, BIng, Wernher von Braun, Joan Crawford, Zero Mostel, Chaplin and Groucho (and his brother Gummo) all died in '77.
-The Space Shuttle Enterprise (named after the US Navy vessels and the Star Trek ship) was undergoing flight tests as the testbed prototype for the future space fleet.
-Films released that year included Smokey and The Bandit, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Saturday Night Fever, Annie Hall, Airport 77, The Spy Who Loved Me, Looking For Mr Goodbar, The Gauntlet, Oh God!, The Goodbye Girl, The Island Of Dr Moreau, Sinbad & The Eye Of The Tiger, The Deep, Freaky Friday, ABBA-The Movie, Kingdom Of The Spiders, Capricorn 1, Empire Of The Ants, The Incredible Melting Man, Spider-Man (The Nicholas Hammond T.V pilot packaged for theatrical release), Wizards, Julia, and Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo.
And.. Star Wars!
Actually, I'm not a very keen Star Wars fan now, haven't really been since the series "Jumped The Sarlac" back in Return of The Jedi and certainly not at all impressed by the bloated toy franchise second trilogy...retro first trilogy or whateverthehell those three films were supposed to be. Of course, now we have a new cycle of Star Wars films...but I've evolved a bit since 1977 and the genre 'verse has too, so I'm unlikely to return to the franchise fold in a big way.
I wasn't going to go on a pre-Star Wars VII binge of rewatching the earlier movies before seeing The Force Awakens. Goodness, I'm not even sure I have copies! I think there was a set of preview screeners I got from somewheres, I did dig 'em out before the opening weekend and watched the first two, which proved to be a tactical error.
I couldn't bring myself to rewatch that first dreadful wave of bloated S.W preqs, though. Amongst their countless, inexplicably artlessly charmless moments, where they really misfired is not managing to effectively tell Anakin's fall into Vader as a genuine tragedy. Instead it's just...grubby, with a rather creepy and unlikely romance thrown in alongside stodgy political commentary that would've taken Aaron Sorkin's fine hand to make live. It does make me wonder if the prequels had actually come first if Vader would've been seen as being quite so cool.
The genre cinema landscape has changed a lot since 1977. It's a rare year now that doesn't have at least five aspirationally major science fiction movies hit the big screen, and then there's the amazingly deep work being done on television where the long form fiction game plays out in greater complexity than ever. Star Wars isn't the only rodeo in town, and its supervillains and superheroes would probably have to pass an entrance exam to join, say, the Avengers or Guardians Of The Galaxy. But that's okay, the genre is as mainstream as it is now because it's standing on the shoulders of Star Wars, and Star Trek, and 2001, and Planet Of The Apes, and Forbidden Planet....and, well, you get the idea.
Still, my old New Hope was that the new films were/are good 'uns too, and will help kick the genre can even further down the road!
Well, having seen The Force Awakens now, I must admit to being somewhat disappointment, especially now I have Rogue On" to compare and contrast it with. Several things to like about 'Force (truly!) but the intensively cloned plot wasn't one of them. Every time (and there were many) I settled into enjoying the film I kept getting tractored out of happyspace by the realisation that I had seen them do precisely the same thing in A New Hope. They tried way too hard to mimic precise plot details from that very first Star Wars movies. Yet another ginormous battlestation to be exploderated, the inevitable 'chosen one' Jedi rising from humble, deserty origins (a girl, and well past time, too!) with another pouty teenage Sith (Darth Vader's his Grandad!) to play the villain. Add a clumsily realized death for the beloved character, Han Solo. None of it works particularly well, save perhaps the introduction of a rebellious Stormtrooper, which ironically, leaves you awkwardly questioning the multitude of throwaway deaths of the hitherto faceless, thinly armoured soldiers throughout the series.
I don't know if the filmmakers were trying to be stylishly 'meta' but pretty much the entire story was lifted whole from the very first movie, with some bits thrown in from the others. A bit of a let down for me and inevitably it's going to be the Bantha in the room when discussing the new flick. I've since read that the aim was to remind the punters of the original films by presenting familiar plot points, but that didn't work out very with the first lot of prequels, did it?
Yet another prequel, Rogue One, fared much better, because it didn't even pretend to be doing something new, as it plugged so neatly, like an astro-mech droid into an X-Wing socket, into the immediate backstory of A New Hope. It did something entirely grimly necessary, which was to bring a a little bit more adult understanding and realization of the underlying interstellar struggle of the story into play. Simply put, it effectively put the "War" into Star Wars, in a way that rang tragically true, albeit in an admittedly watered down cinematic way. In fact, it's enough good at that, that A New Hope plays more naively as the now direct sequel, almost as if it's set in an alternate, much less nuanceduniverse.
“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
But, back in the Day, in 1977....I was a potential Star Warrior, and it certainly had an influence upon my eventual uber-geekhood, though not as much as Star Trek did, to be sure. This collection of early Star Wars booty really represents a Road Not Taken by me.
Anyway, May 25th, 1977 was the day the film was released in the US but it didn't open in Melbourne until October 27th. We used to have a pretty big time lag between overseas film releases and them washing up Downunder.
I don't know exactly when I first saw it, I've long since tossed the 14 ticket stubs that would tell the story, but I may have seen it on my birthday, which was the day after it opened. The tickets cost $4.00 Australian each back then, so it cost me $56 plus just to see the film those 14 times. No wonder I never bothered getting the video when it came out!
Anyway, Star Wars was the very first feature film screened in a big city cinema (at the now defunct Hoyts Mid-City theatre) that I caught a bus to see all by myself.
I must have been about 16, which most folks would probably think was quite late. I actually did get around a lot on my own of course, just not to the city much. We had a small town hall in the suburb where I lived, where they played films on a miniscule screen. They even had a piano player for some silent flicks! :) I used to enjoy going out to the city with my mum and we'd go shopping, go to bookshops and sometimes to the pictures...I have vague memories of seeing Westerns and, of all things, a Man From Uncle television story tarted up as a big screen release. We used to get a lot of those here, in fact the cinema is where I saw the original Battlestar Galactica pilot.
But that Star Wars clone came later of course....
I think the only other film I have seen in the cinema more times was Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan....one reason for so many repeated viewings of that was to note down all the books on Khan's makeshift bookshelf so I could read them all! I don't think any other film has inspired me to do quite so much reading, certainly not Star Wars.
A couple of months after I saw Star Wars I caught a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was enjoying a re-release, perhaps because of the enormous interest in space movies that Star Wars helped kick-start again. Now 2001, was much more my idea of a Science Fiction movie I could sink my precocious intellectual teeth into and its high standards have influenced my genre tastes ever since.
“Don’t call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease.”
So, my early Star Wars collection is really quite puny compared to ones compiled by folks who had or have more resources, both monetary and enthusiasm, to bring to this particular sub-genre of fandom.
Still, I think it's a fair cross section of the tie-in publications if not (thankfully!) the other merchandise available at the time. This, by the way, isn't all of it. Just what I thought made a decent composition. I also didn't mess with the set up much, didn't get anal about lining everything up perfectly. This is the raw way I would have pasted all this stuff into, say, a scrapbook, back in the 70s.
"I have you now!"
I was already a bit of a collector before Star Wars. Folks nowadays (groan!) sometimes think that Star Wars started the media spin-off explosion but that's just not so. Every category represented here was already well explored by the Star Trek marketers, at least, before the mid 1970s. Radio, film and television had been churning out saleable junk for decades. Still, Star Wars certainly plumbed new wallet depths.....
“Into the garbage chute, flyboy!”
The items in the list refer to numbered notes on the picture which run roughly left to right, row by row downwards.
1) Magazine. 1977. Star Wars Official Collectors Edition. Marvel Comics International. English Printing. 76 pages plus covers. Cover prices: Australia- $2.95. USA $1.75. U.K 95p.
The cover is the famous Brothers Hildebrandt one. Carrie Fisher used to hoot with laughter at the way they 'enhanced' her legs and breasts! Still, it's a cracking illustration that captures the feel of the movie very successfully. The contents were quite interesting. The usual retrospective on Science Fiction and cinematic influences was always handy, as I'd keep an eye out for films and books. There was a little glossary of terms (why did it take so long to put out a Star Wars Encyclopaedia?) and a comprehensive storybook of the film with lots of stills and articles about special effects, music and production artwork by the likes of Ralph McQuarrie. I really poured over the FX and behind-the-scenes shots in particular.
I still laugh at the breathless questions posed about sequels at the end of the mag. "Will the hero marry the strong-willed Princess Leia? (Ewwwww!) Or will he have to challenge Han Solo to a duel for Leia's hand?" Always with Star Wars it's about the lopping off with the Hans!
“Watch your mouth kid, or you’ll find yourself floating home.”
2) The original Star Wars bubble gum cards. 1977. These are the blue edged Topps ones, or a local Australian variant. 66 in all. You could put several of them together and the backs would form a mini-poster, there were also movie facts. I’ve tossed several of these cards into the picture.
3) Soft cover picture book. 1978. Story adapted by Geraldine Richelson. Armada Books. Wiliam Collins Publishers, Sydney. Printed In Victoria, Australia. Cover Prices: Australia $4.95. U.K 1 pound 45. Canada $4.50. The movie story with really well reproduced stills as illustrations. There was a great shot of Vader on the back cover that I still remember referencing for drawings.
4) Original Movie Programme Booklet. 1977. S.W Ventures Inc. New York. Printed in the U.S.A. Australian cover price unknown but you could get them for $1.50 in the U.S. Remember these? I don't know when they decided that we didn't need programme books for sale at Australian cinemas, but this was probably the first one I ever purchased. I never really saw one again after the mid 80s or so, although have since gotten some pretty nice ones in press kits as a movie reviewer. It had all the bells and whistles: good pictures, a cast list, actor bios and a bit of behind-the-scenes stuff.
5) Magazine. Famous Monsters Of Filmland #137 September 1977 Yearbook. 90 pages plus cover. Cover Price $1.90 Australian. $1.50 U.S. Warren Publishing. U.S. My favourite magazine treat back then, along with the later, glossy Starlog. Absolutely crammed with all kinds of groovy ghouly fan treasures! The yearbook was just a cheap way of recycling stories of course, but useful if you'd missed previous issues. I have several surviving copies from this era. I like the titles in burnt orange...surely the signature colour of the 70s? Well, along with brown and assorted garish greens....
In spite of the cover there was actually minimal Star Wars content in this issue. Everything else though was magic! Features on the Japanese monster Ghidrah, a story by Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Bloch called "The Horror Of The Lighthouse" (Illustrated with movie stills that included Doctor Who's Jon Pertwee playing a cross eyed vampire from The House That Dripped Blood film), an account of a fan's phone call with actor Christopher Lee (Lee, of course, had his own part to play in the Star Wars saga decades later), and those advertisements! Page after page of fascinating odds and sods: Planet of the Apes and monster masks, a Frankenstein bust plaster casting kit, Dick Smith Monster make-up kits, Super 8 films of Zorro, Tarzan, and of course Star Wars, and the projector to show 'em with! Posters, vinyl L.Ps, Frank Frazetta art books, glow in the dark (anatomically correct!) skulls, Star Trek posters that you hand coloured, model Batmobiles, and....curious underwear that featured covers from this mag and its sister titles, Creepy and Eerie.
“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
All accompanied by what were allegedly Forry Ackerman's exuberant puns and “Forrest” of exclamation marks..."Every ghoulboy reader...", "You won't be dozing when you read what this half dozen horror stars did in THE BLACK SLEEP!" *Bliss*
The name Dick Smith stuck in my head (THUNK !!) and would later prove pivotal in interesting me in the fine art of monster making myself....
6) Magazine. 1977. Science Fantasy Film Classics Collectors Edition #1 Tandem Corporation Chicago, USA. Cover price $2.00 Australian. 70 pages. This was a thoughtfully produced magazine with some quite intricate, well researched articles. This first issue focused on Star Wars, Forbidden Planet and 2001 making it very attractive to me. There was a piece on the science of light sabres, Robby the Robot and an extended analysis of 2001. A big foldout poster used original artwork to create a homage to all three films. On the back of it was a concise guide to the special effects seen in them.
7) Magazine. Famous Monsters Star Wars Spectacular. 1977. Warren Publishing. New York. 50 pages. Cover Price: $1.55 Australian. $1.25 US. More bandwagon repackaging. The picture captions were frakking unbelievable! For example..."There have been a handful of monumental landmarks in the history of Earth: the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel, man on the moon*, the birth of Famous Monsters...and now - STAR WARS! Buy ten copies of this issue and they'll send your kids to college in the 21st century." Well, by 'sending to college' they must have meant bus fare, 'cos I've seen this on eBay from $3.00....
“That’s no moon, it’s a space station.”
8) Poster Magazine. Star Wars Official Poster Monthly #2. 1977. Paradise Press, London. Cover Price $1.50 Australian. Identical to the Star Trek poster magazines these foldouts packed in quite a few articles on the back of the poster, which in this case was a neat still of Vader and the Stormies in a corridor of the captured Reb Blockade Runner. In this issue a rather gushing expose on Vader also opinions that "The Galaxy was ruled by wise members of the Senate". Guessing that would be the likes of Senator Jar Jar Binks ? Righhhht. Other pieces included a focus on Tatooine, and how the space dogfights were filmed. Never letting a chance to sell more stuff go by an advertisement lists, amongst other allegedly cool junk, a "Genuine Darth Vader Communicator for sending light signals through deep space." A tricked up mirror, in other words, though the copywriter earnestly assured, "The mirror can be used to see your own reflection!" Guess D.V used it to touch up his lippy, the Sithy!
"Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force"
9) Artwork Portfolio. The Star Wars Portfolio: Paintings by Ralph McQuarrie. September 1977. Ballantine Books. New York. I was quite used to the beaut Star Trek range of technical manuals and other related material that Ballantine Books produced and wasn't surprised that their Star Wars merchandise was also of a high standard. This classic artwork folio contains twenty one 35 cm X 27 cm colour prints of Ralph McQuarrie's glorious preproduction paintings for the film. Mine are still in excellent nick, and are just as handsome to look at today as they were then. McQuarrie's evocative artwork, if anything, looks better than the finished film. McQuarrie, born in Gary, Indiana, in 1929 is a fine futurist artist, formerly a conceptual design artist for Boeing (his aviation and aerospace art is stunning!) whose film and television work included Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Cocoon (he won an Oscar for that one), E.T, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, *batteries not included, Cherry 3000, Total Recall, and Battlestar Galactica. He has an excellent online gallery at:
10) Soft cover Sketchbook. The Star Wars Sketchbook by Joe Johnston. Ballantine Books. New York. 96 pages. A lot of fan artists loved this book! Ballantine, primed with its Star Trek tie-in experience, was quick off the mark, no doubt because the preproduction artwork was both high quality and readily translated into print. Johnston's work, a mixture of pen and ink and brushed washes or perhaps illustrator markers, is evocative but clear, just the thing for the model-makers to base their work on! Evolutionary sketch sequences trace the design development of iconic hardware from the films and I was particularly chuffed with the modular drawings of the Death Star which explain how the sections could be mixed and matched to make the battlestation look as vast as it did.
There was even a little size comparison chart that showed how humungously big a Stardestroyer was supposed to be! (Ssshh! It's only a model...)
"Look at the size of that thing!"
Joe Johnston worked for Lucasfilm as a storyboard artist straight out of college. Lucas later helped fund his entry into film school, and Johnston became a director in his own right. After graduating he directed films including: Hidalgo, Jurassic Park III , October Sky, Jumanji, The Pagemaster, The Rocketeer, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and of course, Captain America: The First Avenger.
11) Magazine Cover. Movie News. September/October 1977. Volume 13, Number 5. Cover price: 75 cents Australian. This is actually a cover cut and glued into one of several scrapbooks I made of Star Wars related ephemera, newspaper clippings and so on. I used to hand letter captions for the articles and photos and draw spacey little borders around them. A friend pointed once pointed out that I was still doing the same with Flickr! So it goes. :)
Some of the articles proved useful when I was writing this little monograph. For example, I got the ticket prices and cinema location from the advertisements and reviews. One review, by Melbourne's beloved film critic Ivan Hutchinson is particularly poignant. Who would've guessed that I'd be sitting next to him reviewing films (thanks to my Science Fiction and Fantasy radio show) 17 years later?
“Sometimes I amaze even myself.”
Anyway, I'm glad I never tossed these scrapbooks out, as they're also reminders to me that when it comes to being a fan of anything for me it's also about interactivity. Costumes, artwork, photoshoots, writing...I’m happier than a womp rat in a sand wallow!
12) 12 inch Vinyl L.P Record Album. 1977 (?) Themes From The Movies. Peter Pan/Rainbow Records. The Marty Gold Orchestra. RPG 7233. Cover price $2.99 I threw this one in as an example of how iconic the Star Wars music became. John Williams rousing main title theme was a ‘must have’ addition to any musical compilation, and could likely be found several times amongst any soundtrack buff’s Easy Listening collection amongst their K-Tel record selector! Many a good record ended its days abruptly when those damned things overbalanced and fell off tables....
“Put that thing away, you'll get us all killed.”
Marty Gold’s Orchestra was a staple of space age music covers and you can hear its work on dozens of these compilation albums. The popcorn rendition of Star Wars has the usual disco beat and R2D2 mimicking sound effects but Princess Leia's theme is soooo laid back it nods off and would not be out of place as department store Muzak. Some of the other tracks are hard to fathom, especially main titles of The Deep but The Spy Who Loved Me theme actually benefits from the brassy, sassy treatment. The cover artwork is laughable, though the sleeve hype is worth bottling: “Stupendous! Far out! Exhilarating!”
“What a piece of junk!”
13) 12 inch Vinyl Double Disc Record Album. Star Wars: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra. 1977. 20th Century Records L 45753/4. Manufactured in Australia by Festival Records.
Here’s one that could justify any amount of marketing hype on the cover but instead settles for two words stark against a space black background. STAR WARS. Strewth, it’s not hard to recall how big this was back in the day! Sold in starship cargo hold loads and was one of the all-time most popular soundtrack albums. The double disc format facilitated a nice selection of good quality stills in the gatefold that made it look like a photo album. There was a glorious additional poster of the Death Star battle by artist John Berkey, which I remember clearly had more than one Millennium Falcons dogfighting! I originally misremembered the poster as being done by Bob McCall but a kind visitor to this picture (ta stasiuwong !) put me right. Berkey did quite a few film posters back in the 1970s, with the 1976 King Kong remake poster being one of the best remembered. I also recall his cover for the book Colonies In Space, which depicted a glorious future in space that has still, sadly, yet to come to pass.
John William’s music for the film was mind bogglingly rich, and for many fans of a certain age would prove an introduction to classical music, as I’m sure it was the very first such album they purchased. An enticing entry point to the likes of Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and even Gustav Holst, Richard Wagner and William Walton. As a radio D.J I’ve got a pretty good musical memory, but even without that re-listening to this album now is like having an old friend around for tea. I can anticipate most of the cues and recognise the major thematic leitmotifs at least. Even though the main movements have passed into cliché over time it’s a lot of fun exploring the other pieces, especially some of the more subtle tracks backing the action on Tatooine.
Go on, you know you want to drag it out and sling it on the turntable....don’t bother trying to stop the dialogue quotes scrolling through your head....though I must say that if George Lucas wrote dialogue as strongly memorable as this music I’d still be a fan of the movies today!
As it is, although I’m generally somewhat weary of John Williams’ now universally copied musical style, I still appreciate his immense body of work. My favourite scores of his include: Jurassic Park, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, The Last Crusade, Superman, 1941, Jaws, The Reivers, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The Empire Strikes Back, Saving Private Ryan, The Time Tunnel, Lost In Space, and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea.
And this one, of course!
14) I was just starting to record my own cassette tapes back then (the cool new media!) so promptly dubbed a copy of the soundtrack onto a “G-Tape” a cheap, recordable cassette that was very popular. The copy was for my own use, so I could play the album away from the turntable. Still plays to this day, in spite of dire warnings about tape decay. I cut and pasted a newspaper ad for the movie as the cover. Talk about Close Encounters of the Nerd kind!
15) Album Notes (From Item 13) Double sided, these notes provided copious insight into John William’s methodology.
16) Paperback novelisation. Star Wars by George Lucas. 1977. Sphere. Printed In Australia by the Dominion Press. 190 pages. Cover price: $2.50 Australian. Every fan had to have this one! Take home your very own genuine relic of Alderaan.....buy the book, the record, the Wookie grooming comb.....
I started re-reading this just before "The Force Awakens" came out, and realised that I hadn't opened the still crisply feeling novel in three decades.
Thing is, here in Australia at least, the novelization came out well before the film! What a tease....I can remember tentatively reading a chapter or two, trying not to go too far. Spoilers in the Seventies!
“It's all just a bunch of simple tricks and nonsense."
It is immediately apparent to anyone familiar with author Alan Dean Foster’s original fiction and many movie and television novelisations that he ghost-wrote this book for George Lucas. The style, vocabulary and other aspects were highly suggestive and it was hardly a surprise when it was finally revealed that he was the co-author. My favourite Foster novel remains Cachelot, a story set on a world of sentient cetaceans and humans. His novelisations of Alien, Aliens, Dark Star, The Thing and the Star Trek Animated Scripts should serve as models for all such screen-to-print adaptations. I was quite startled that the publishers included a bunch of colour stills in the centre of the book, along with some film notes. Wicked! Oh, and the cover was another John Berkey picture.
17) 12 inch Vinyl Record Album. Star Wars And Other Galactic Funk by MECO and the 1977. Millennium Records DXL1 3043. RAC Victor. Manufactured in Australia by RAC Limited. The original disco remix version of all your fave Star Wars themes! The album went platinum in the US, and the single was a chart topper too. The “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” single was the biggest selling instrumental single in recorded music history, being the only certified platinum (2 million units sold) instrumental single ever. Although for the life of me I don’t think the disco version of the Cantina Band is all that radically different from the film version!
The single bore a similar symbiotic pop culture relationship to the movie as David Bowie’s Space Oddity had with 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Carpenters Calling Occupants had with C.E.3.K.
Meco was Domenico Monardo, born in 1939 in Pennsylvania, USA. Whilst the cover is fun in itself with its Robert Rodriguez (not the filmmaker!) illustration featuring Flash Gordon retro-rockets and bopping Spacers it’s Meco’s lively remixes with its funky signature disco beat That You Could Boogy To that made this album a killer. It had some damn fine sound effects, warbling wookies, whistling R2s and more amidst all that synth and orchestral music . Meco kept producing ‘meco-ised’ movie and telly tunes into the 1980s, not forgetting the ...memorably awful.... Christmas In The Stars- Star Wars Christmas Album. He retired from music in the mid 80s and worked as a commodities broker in Florida.
The “B’ Side is completely undistinguished apart from the odd fact that the three tracks are listed as 1. Other, 2. Galactic., 3. Funk. Well, at least the cover notes list the intergalactic session players from the CorMar Galaxy, including (Live from the Planet Fooyea courtesy of the Nomel Tribunal) Thur-M76 and Thassu-L46, amongst others!
18) The cover of Item 13.
“Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?”
19) 9 cm Plastic Action Figures. Stormtrooper and Boba Fett. 1977 and 1979. I never got into Star Wars toys at all, these came from a mixed bag of no longer loved toys I found at a school fete. (A Fett worse than Darth?) They do make lovely ‘trophies’ for my Predator figures to drag around when tied together by their feet. Curiously, given my armour and costuming fetish, I never ‘got into’ Stormy armour either. In fact, I’ve always seen these bumbling goons as silly comic relief characters. To this day I can’t listen to Ben Kenobi point at the blaster marks on the wrecked Jawa Sandcrawler and say “Only Imperial Stormtoopers are this precise” without cracking up. Marksmen enuff to hit the broadside of a Sandcrawler maybe...! But nothing smaller. C'mon, a legion of crack Troopers taken out by...teddy bears? Sheesh.
Just when I thought ‘Troops were inept along came Boba Fett to set a new low water mark for armoured incompetency. Although his dad was rather cool in Attack Of The Clones it was pretty clear Jango was no tactical genius either, since his idea of combat smarts involved jumping into an arena full of light sabre wielding Jedi Knights to take them on hand-to-hand! Anyway, I included the Fett figure; cos I have few other Star Wars toys. Weird though, this one has a quite neat little missile in its backpack that’s spring loaded to fire straight up. Would’ve thought that somewhat dangerous for the younglings back in the day!
“You're braver then I thought!”
They didn’t crank up the production lines after the unexpected success of the film in 1977 in time to get major toys into the shops by Christmas. I bet you could hear a vast disturbance in the Force that year as the licence holders cried out!
20) 12 inch Vinyl Record Album. Star Wars And Other Space Themes by Geoff Love & His Orchestra. 1978. EMI AXIS 6340. Geoff Love (who also released albums under the pseudonym of Manuel And His Music Of The Mountains) was born in 1917 in Yorkshire and died in 1991 in London. His Music For Pleasure covers of movie and television themes sold many an album in the 1970s.
The cover themes on this album range from good to indifferent, with some, like Star Wars, being fairly straight forwards with a quite “Big Band’ feel to them. There’s a very cool arrangement of Ron Grainer’s Doctor Who theme that I particularly like. A lot of the tracks slope off into extra disco riffs that are mostly harmless. Some television show title music was halfway onto the dance floor anyway, including Gerry Anderson’s UFO and Space 1999. Beware the magically flat Star Trek theme cover though!
The sleeve artwork plays fast and loose with familiar subjects. The Enterprise is barely recognisable under numerous add ons, the 2001 space station has three wheels, and Princess Leia has a war chest that would swell the coffers of the entire Rebellion...
21) Paperback Original Novel. Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster. 1978. Sphere. Printed in London. 222 pages. Cover Price: $2.75 Australian. 85 p U.K. This was the first of the Star Wars original fiction spin-off novels and it was a beaut! Fresh from his ghost-writing of the movie novelisation Foster locked his S-Foils into attack position and zoomed into this action packed adventure on the swamp world of Mimban. This novel may have been intended as the template for a low budget sequel to Star Wars if the movie had proved less successful than it was. Intriguingly it contains stray story elements that fell by the wayside in early versions of the first film’s script, and also a fair amount of sexual tension between Leia and Luke. (Aw, c’mon, let me have just one restrospective snigger!)
22) Home-made Audio Cassette Tape. The Making Of Star Wars documentary. Broadcast GTV-9, Melbourne, Wednesday 7.30 pm. March 8th 1978. In the days before VCRs all I was able to do to preserve fleeting moments of television was to make audio tapes so I could listen to them over. Hello, ubergeek, remember?
23) Commercial Audio Cassette Tape. A Stereo Space Odyssey- Music From Star Wars by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. 1986. Tee Vee 5. London. Side A covers Star Wars themes and the B Side is a seriously grand planetary suite cobbled together from pieces by Strauss, Wilfred Holcombe and Tchaikovsky. This is the best B-Side for a Star Wars knockoff album that I’ve ever heard, and for my money, was more than a match for the A-Side.
Well now, there you go, it’s been a nostalgic flight down the old thermal exhaust shaft. Congratulations if you made it this far far away, as these notes take as long to scroll by as all the six film titles rolled together!
And, since he didn’t get a bloody medal at the awards ceremony on Yavin I’ll let Chewy get the last word...again!