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Meco

Meco Monardo was born in Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania to parents of Italian descent, and 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 which he was to stay with, 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 grammar 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. There, 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]

Out of the army Meco moved to New York City and joined Kai Winding[1] in his four-trombone band, and then from 1965 to 1974 he went on as a studio musician. Originally not inclined towards pop music, Meco's heart changed when he heard Petula Clark's "Downtown". He began doing arrangements, for example the horn section on Tommy James' "Crystal Blue Persuasion" and the Neil Diamond series of Coke 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]


The uniquely styled 'Meco' logoAround 1973, Meco, Tony Bongiovi, and a third person formed the production company Disco Corporation of America, and 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.

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."

Meco temporarily left the music industry in 1985. After three years of "doing nothing but playing golf" he started to work as a commodity broker in Florida.

[edit] Star Wars theme
The "Sci-Fi Disco Band MECO" in 1977On 25 May 1977, Meco watched the feature film Star Wars on its opening day. By the second day, 26 May 1977, he had watched it four times, and he watched it several more times that weekend. He then got the idea to make a disco version of the score by John Williams. He contacted Neil Bogart at Casablanca Records, but only after the original score had become a huge success 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 and he was also able to bring in 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.

[edit] The band MecoFor 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 prior to the Star Wars project. Band personnel was Carmine Giovinazzo, Stan Glogicheski, Tommy Rocco, Tony Abruzzo, and Tony "Butch" Gerace.

[edit] Other soundtracks become "Meco-ized"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 for 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 & 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.

The last album which Meco made for Casablanca, his seventh, which came out in 1981, was The American Werewolf In London, based on the soundtrack from the 1981 movie An American Werewolf in London. After this Meco's tenure with Casablanca was over, and he signed up with RCA Records.

[edit] Discography[edit] AlbumsStar Wars and Other Galactic Funk (1977)
Encounters Of Every Kind (1977)
Meco Plays The Wizard of Oz (1978)
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)
The American Werewolf In London (1981)
Pop Goes The Movies (1982)
Swingtime's Greatest Hits (1982)
Ewok Celebration (1983)
Hooked on Instrumentals (1985)
The Best of Meco (1997)
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)
[edit] Singles[edit] Charted singlesYear Song Title Artist Credit Billboard
Hot 100
peak
1977 "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" Meco 1
1978 "Theme from Close Encounters" Meco 25
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
1980 "Love Theme from Shogun (Mariko's Theme) Meco 70
1980 "What Can You Get a
Wookiee for Christmas
(If He Already Owns a Comb?)" The Star Wars Intergalactic
Droid Choir & Chorale 69
1981 "Summer of 81" The Cantina Band 81
1982 "Pop Goes the Movies Part I" Meco 35
1983 "Ewok Celebration" Meco 60

[edit] Additional singles"Topsy"
"Meco's Theme"
"Superman Theme"
"Love Theme From Superman"
"Moondancer"
"Grazing In The Grass"
"Devil's Delight"
"Theme From Star Trek" (1980)
"Shogun" (1980)
"The Raiders March and Cairo Nights" (1981)
"Anything Goes / Music Makers" (1984)