Star Wars Music Guide, Part 2: Ewok ‘n’ Roll

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1980 was the year that the galaxy far, far away returned to planet Earth via the silver screen. We’d been treated to re-releases of Star Wars and the funky fashions and winsome wailings of The Star Wars Holiday Special on 17th November 1978 in the UK, but now we were looking at a brand new big screen epic that was set to break records and launch a new decade. And just as the 1977 original inspired imitation — which, let’s not forget is the sincerest form of flattery — so did it’s sequel, The Empire Strikes Back.

As musical tastes changed so did the music inspired by Empire as musicians, orchestras and ducks put their own spin on the new Star Wars soundtrack. Let’s put the needle on the record and take a listen to what the kids were playing back in 1980.

Irwin The Dynamic Duck: Irwin Strikes Back

Irwin The Dynamic Duck: Irwin Strikes Back

Not strictly an Empire tribute but released at the very beginning of the new decade on 4th January 1980 via Peter Pan Records, this has to rank high on the list of unusual Star Wars mash-ups. Inspired by the popular hit Disco Duck, Peter Pan records began releasing their series of children’s compilation records in 1976, pulling together popular songs of the day. Our was Irwin the Disco Duck (later Irwin the Dynamic Duck when disco went the way of the dodo). Performed by The Wibble Wabble Singers and Orchestra we were led through a medley of hits including “Darth Vader’s Theme,” and “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus’s Garden” by the Beatles.

Track Listing

Darth Vader’s Theme
It’s A Small World
Three Little Fishes
Yellow Submarine
Octopus’s Garden
Mairzy Doats
The Thing
Someday My Prince Will Come
Swinging On A Star
March Medley

The Empire Strikes Back. Symphonic suite from the motion picture

The Empire Strikes Back. Symphonic suite from the motion picture

Now this one is a bit special. Billed as the Symphonic suite from the motion picture and released by soundtrack specialists Varese Sarabande Records, this was unique at the time as it featured alternate versions of familiar Empire cues. Wrapped around a gorgeous green-hued gatefold cover by William Stout, this was fully endorsed by John Williams, who himself wrote a piece in the inlay dated 17th May 1980.

“I was delighted when he asked me if he could record the suite from The Empire Strikes Back, since I am a great fan of his recorded performances. When I heard a test pressing I was thrilled. The Suite, which I had specially written and adapted for the concert performance (“The Imperial March,” “Yoda’s Theme,” “The Asteroid Field,” “Han Solo and the Princess” and “Finale”) had been skillfully augmented with other music from the film to form a unified whole.”

A lush and dramatic interpretation of the Williams score, this stands alongside any of the official recordings of the soundtrack and gives fans a different angle on the music of the sequel.

Track Listing

20th Cenury-Fox Fanfare
Main Title – The Imperial Probe
Luke’s First Crash
Han Solo And The Princess
The Asteroid Field
The Training Of A Jedi
The Battle In The Snow
Imperial March
The Magic Tree
Yoda’s Theme
The Rebels Escape Again
Lando’s Palace, The Duel (Through The Window)
Finale

Empire Jazz

Empire Jazz

Empire Jazz. Even the title is evocative, and what could be smoother than an album inspired by Empire, slicing through jazz runs and easy grooves? Not much, as veteran bass player Ron Carter and company walk us through a smooth selection of classic tracks. And what about that cover, illustrated by Jeff Wack? It just goes to prove what a beautiful color palette Ralph McQuarrie chose for the film, and it looks stunning.

Track Listing

The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)
The Asteroid Field
Han Solo and the Princess (Love Theme)
Lando’s Palace
Yoda’s Theme

Meco Plays Music from the Empire Strikes Back

Meco Plays Music from the Empire Strikes Back

Meco had set the dance floors alight back in 1977 with his chart topping effort and with the latest film back in cinemas, he was back. An EP released on 10″ vinyl, the album featured four tracks with opening cut “Darth Vader/Yoda’s Theme” by far the strongest and most effective. There’s no doubt, Meco certainly found the groove in the Force.

Track Listing

Darth Vader / Yoda’s Theme
The Battle In The Snow
The Force Theme
The Asteroid Field / Finale

Boris Midney - Music from ESB

Boris Midney – Music from ESB

Released by RSO. Check. Official logo on the cover. Check. Impressive Jeff Wack artwork. Check. It looks like an official Star Wars release, but this album was a four track flight through the soundtrack of Empire overseen by funkmeister Boris Midney. Bongos, violins, drums, bountiful amounts of high hat, horns, funky bass — it’s all here, designed to get you stepping out onto the dance floor and doing the robot. Of all the Empire releases this one will probably surprise you the most, as it feels like it should have been heard a lot more than it has.

Track Listing

Yoda’s Theme
The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)
Han Solo And The Princess (Love Theme)
Star Wars (Main Theme)

The Now Sound Orchestra: Main Title Themes From: The Empire Strikes Back - Star Wars, 2001 Space Odyssey, Close Encounters

The Now Sound Orchestra: Main Title Themes From: The Empire Strikes Back – Star Wars, 2001 Space Odyssey, Close Encounters

Peter Pan Records were fast becoming the go-to company for Star Wars tribute releases and they once again treated us to a galactic sound odyssey with this gem, recorded by The Now Sound Orchestra. It runs through the theme from 2001, four Star Wars tracks (two from Empire, two from Star Wars), and another John Williams compositions in the form of Close Encounters.

Track Listing

Star Wars (Main Theme)
Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)
Yoda’s Theme
(Theme Music From) Star Wars One
Theme From Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Theme From 2001 A Space Odyssey

1983 arrived and along with it came what was then the most anticipated sequel in movie history, Return of the Jedi. The trend for sound-alike releases and disco versions had waned significantly as 8-tracks said goodbye, cassettes outsold vinyl, and a new-fangled technology called Compact Disc, which entered the market in October 1982 with Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, began to gain in popularity.

Meco - Ewok Celebration

Meco – Ewok Celebration

Who else but Meco was going to bring the dance floor to the Disco Star? Meco wisely opted to steer clear of the already lively Jabba’s court music and honed in on the Ewok Celebration, releasing a single with both a Club and Dub (no lyrics) version via Arista Records. Not that those Ewoks ever needed an excuse to dance, but who could resist the grooves of the Star Wars musical legend?

Track Listing

Ewok Celebration (Club Version)
Ewok Celebration (Dub Version)

Return Of The Jedi by Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra

Return Of The Jedi by Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra

Three years later and Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra, via RCA Records, would once again visit the soundtrack of a Star Wars film, this time the second sequel. A far more faithful adaptation of the soundtrack, Gerhardt once again shows his understanding of the nuances of Williams music and the moments being conveyed in the film.

Track Listing

Main Title: Approaching the Death Star
Parade of the Ewoks
Luke and Leia
Jabba the Hutt
Return of the Jedi
The Ewok Battle
Han Solo Returns
Into the Trap: Fight in the Dungeon
Heroic Ewok
Battle in the Forest
Finale

So there you have our brief but hopefully fun sojourn through the many and varied takes on the classic music of the original trilogy. There’s psychedelia, electronica, disco, jazz, ducks, faithful adaptations, and yes, there are even pipe organs. While you may never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, if you dust off the wheels of steel and spin these classics then you will definitely find a groovy jive of funk and thrillainy.

With thanks to the following people, websites, and blogs for their information, images and assistance:

http://www.collectorsgalleryonline.com

http://www.restrainingbolt.com

http://www.discogs.com/

http://starwarsmusic.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.allmusic.com/

Matt Booker

Mark is a long-time contributor to Star Wars Insider, is the co-owner of Jedi News, contributes to the UK’s biggest free newspaper The Metro and is the co-host of RebelForce Radio’s RADIO 1138 podcast. When he’s not talking or writing about Star Wars he can usually be found sleeping, where he’ll most likely be dreaming about Star Wars.

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