Meco

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Meco
Birth nameDomenico Monardo
Born (1939-11-29) November 29, 1939 (age 80)
Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania, US[1]
GenresSpace disco, disco, funk, easy listening
Occupation(s)Musician, music arranger, record producer
InstrumentsTrombone
Years active1965–present
LabelsMillennium Records, Casablanca Records, RCA Records, Hip-O/MCA Records

Meco (real name Domenico Monardo; born November 29, 1939) is an American record producer and musician, as well as the name of his band or production team. Meco is best known for his 1977 space disco version of the Star Wars theme from his album Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk; both the single and album were certified platinum in the US.

Early life and education[edit]

Meco Monardo was born in Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania, to parents of Italian descent. Building model ships, science fiction and movies were some of his boyhood preoccupations. His father played the valve trombone in a small Italian band, and through him Meco got his first musical education.[1] Meco wanted to play the drums, but his father convinced him that the trombone was the right instrument, and at nine that was the instrument with which he was to stay. However, for Meco, the slide trombone was his choice, troublesome as it was for the small-statured boy to extend the slide fully at first. He joined the high school band while still attending elementary school.[1] At 17, he won a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York,[1] which provided him with a solid classical and jazz music education.

Career[edit]

While at Eastman School of Music, together with his two friends Chuck Mangione and Ron Carter, he started the Eastman School of Music jazz band. When he enrolled at West Point, he also played in the Cadet Band.[1]

After serving in the US Army, Meco moved to New York City and joined Kai Winding's[1] four-trombone band, and then from 1965 to 1974 he went on as a studio musician. Originally not inclined toward pop music, Meco's heart changed when he heard Petula Clark's "Downtown." He began arranging for musicians, for example the horn section on Tommy James' "Crystal Blue Persuasion" and the Neil Diamond series of Coca-Cola commercials.

As a session musician he played the trombone with acts like Tommy James, Diana Ross, and David Barretto. Although Meco focused on producing in the late 1970s, he contracted the horns and performed on Diana Ross' 1980 album Diana as a favor to producer (and neighbor) Nile Rodgers. His solo on the single "I'm Coming Out" is notable because of the rarity of trombone features on post-big-band era pop records.[2]

Around 1973, Meco and Tony Bongiovi were part of a trio that formed the production company Disco Corporation of America. From 1974 to 1976, Meco worked as a record producer. The team of Meco, Bongiovi, Jay Ellis, and Harold Wheeler produced the 1974 Gloria Gaynor hit "Never Can Say Goodbye." Carol Douglas' "Doctor's Orders" was among the other productions of that period.

Star Wars theme[edit]

On Wednesday May 25, 1977, Meco watched the 20th Century-Fox soon-to-be blockbuster hit Star Wars on its opening day. By Thursday night, he had seen the film four more times, and attended several more screenings over the weekend.

He then got the idea to make a disco version of the score by John Williams and contacted Neil Bogart at Casablanca Records to pitch the project. Only after both the picture itself as well as the original score had become huge hits did Bogart agree to help Meco realize his idea. Contact was established with Millennium Records, then a Casablanca subsidiary, and this became Meco's first record company. Here Meco rejoined with Tony Bongiovi as well as Harold Wheeler who had also been part of the team behind "Never Can Say Goodbye" in 1974. Lance Quinn was also part of the Meco team, and the different roles played by the four musicians is described by Meco himself in a 1999 interview with his fan Web site:

Tony and Lance are the two guys who would not let me be "too musical". Tony would say: "It's not dumb enough—It's too good." Tony is a frustrated drummer and Lance is a guitar genius, so they would make sure the rhythm section was always "smoking" under the very sophisticated arrangements and concepts that Harold and I started with.[3]

In a matter of just three weeks they arranged and recorded Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk. Although the album was nominated for "Best Instrumental Pop performer" in 1977, the award ultimately went to John Williams for the original soundtrack album.

The band Meco[edit]

For a period of four months there was even a show band assembled to perform to Meco's disco music in public venues. However, the band was not involved in the making of the music. This initiative was organized by Norby Walters, a booking agent for discos. The band members (pictured in this article) toured the U.S. and Canada as a high energy show band called Lemon Tree. Norby Walters booked and also managed the band before the Star Wars project. Band personnel was Carmine Giovinazzo, Stan Glogicheski, Tommy Rocco, Tony Abruzzo, and Tony "Butch" Gerace.

Other soundtracks become "Meco-ized"[edit]

In the fall of 1977, Meco's second album was released. It was another rearranged science-fiction movie soundtrack, Encounters of Every Kind, based on John Williams music of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, from which three singles were released: "Topsy," "Meco's Theme," and "Theme from 'Close Encounters.'"

Meco's third album came in early 1978, and this time it was the music from The Wizard of Oz, which got transformed into a disco album by the same name, as Meco described: "It is my best work, bar none." From this album came the hit single "Themes from The Wizard of Oz: 'Over the Rainbow'/'We're off to See the Wizard.'"

In the fall of 1978, Millennium merged with RCA. Since he had developed a deep-bonded working relationship with Neil Bogart and other staff at Casablanca Records (Millennium and Casablanca having cooperated closely), Meco decided to move to Casablanca. Casablanca released the fourth Meco album, Superman & Other Galactic Heroes, featuring two hit singles, "Superman Theme" and "Love Theme From Superman." This was yet another Meco makeover of an original John Williams score.

In 1979, the fifth album, Moondancer, was released, and with it the hit singles "Moondancer," "Grazing in the Grass," and "Devil's Delight." In 1980, Meco's sixth album, Music From Star Trek and Music from The Black Hole, was released, featuring the song "Theme From 'Star Trek.'" The movie Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) featured an original soundtrack composed by Jerry Goldsmith. Meco also created Meco Plays Music from The Empire Strikes Back, which was a 10" EP containing a mash-up of various themes from the John Williams score to The Empire Strikes Back for RSO Records.

The last album that Meco made for Casablanca, his seventh, which came out in 1981, was Impressions of An American Werewolf in London, based on the soundtrack from the 1981 feature film An American Werewolf in London. After this LP, Meco's tenure with Casablanca was over.

Meco also recorded for RSO Records (Empire Strikes Back and Christmas in the Stars) as well as Arista Records (Ewok Celebration, Pop Goes the Movies, Swingtime's Greatest Hits) and with Columbia on the single The Raiders March. His Hooked on Instrumentals was released on CD and Cassette on the K-Tel label in the US, and Mercury released a CD compilation of his greatest hits, The Best of Meco in 1997.[2]

Retirement from music[edit]

According to Meco, "When disco was new, it was fresh and exciting because it was different. But pretty soon it became too cookie-cutter and wore itself out." He left the music industry in 1985. After three years of "doing nothing but playing golf," he started working as a commodities broker in Florida.[2]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk (1977) - AUS #19[4]
  • Encounters of Every Kind (1977) - AUS #75[4]
  • Meco Plays The Wizard of Oz (1978) - AUS #72[4]
  • Superman & Other Galactic Heroes (1978)
  • Moondancer (1979)
  • Meco Plays Music from The Empire Strikes Back (10" EP – 1980)
  • Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album (1980)
  • Music From Star Trek and Music From The Black Hole (1980)
  • Across The Galaxy (1980)
  • Impressions of An American Werewolf in London (1981)
  • Pop Goes The Movies (1982) - AUS #88[4]
  • Swingtime's Greatest Hits (1982)
  • Ewok Celebration (1983)
  • Hooked on Instrumentals (with Harold Wheeler) (1983) - AUS #93[4]
  • The Best of Meco (1997)
  • Dance Your Asteroids Off: The Complete Star Wars Collection (2000)
  • Star Wars Party (2005) (This release is only sold on the Internet, a retail release with identical musical content was released as Music Inspired by "Star Wars")
  • Meco Presents Camouflage / Showdown (2010) (Two LPs reissued together on one CD, both originally released in 1977 on Honey Bee Records.)

Singles[edit]

Charted singles[edit]

Year Song Title Artist Credit Billboard
Hot 100

peak
AUS
peak[4]
1977 "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" Meco 1 3
1978 "Theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind" Meco 25 76
1978 "Themes from The Wizard of Oz:
"Over the Rainbow"/
"We're Off to See the Wizard"
Meco 35 -
1980 "Empire Strikes Back (Medley)" Meco 18 68
1980 "Love Theme from Shogun (Mariko's Theme)" Meco 70 -
1980 "What Can You Get a
Wookiee for Christmas
(When He Already Owns a Comb?)"
The Star Wars Intergalactic
Droid Choir & Chorale
69 -
1981 "Summer of 81" The Cantina Band 81 -
1981 "Blue Moon" Meco 106 -
1982 "Pop Goes the Movies Part I" Meco 35 100
1982 "Big Band Melody" Meco 101 -
1983 "Ewok Celebration" Meco 60 -

Additional singles[edit]

  • "Topsy" (1977)
  • "Main Title Theme From Superman" (1979)
  • "Moondancer" (US 12" Promo) (1979)
  • "Devil Delight" (1979)
  • "Theme From Star Trek" (1980)
  • "Christmas In The Stars" (US 7" Promo)
  • "The Raiders March" (from the Motion Picture "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" (1981)
  • "Anything Goes / Music Makers" (1984)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits. Billboard Books. p. 474. ISBN 0-8230-7677-6.
  2. ^ a b c Dolista, Ed. "Disco Profiles: Meco – The Funk is With Him". comicgenius.com. Archived from the original on January 5, 2009.
  3. ^ "1999 interview with the Mecofan Page". Archived from the original on October 26, 2009. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 196. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Whitburn, Joel. Joel Whitburn presents Billboard Hot 100 Charts: The Seventies and The Eighties. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc., 1991.

External links[edit]