Thursday, December 22, 2016

From the Archives: The Star Wars Christmas Album

Originally Published in December, 2015

In 1978, the Star Wars Holiday Special premiered on CBS. The show was a very weird variety-type program, the style of which was wildly popular in the 70s. This show featured a storyline involving Chewbacca returning to his home planet to celebrate "Life Day." The special includes the entire cast of Star Wars, including the first ever introduction of Boba Fett. It also features a music video by Jefferson Starship and ends with Carrie Fisher singing the theme to Star Wars.  The special was broadcast once. Only once. And was never released on any form of home media due to the negative reaction the special received.

Two years later, RSO Records, in conjunction with LucasFilm, released Christmas in the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album. That's right: in spite of all the negativity surrounding the Star Wars Holiday Special, they did it again.

The album was conceived by Meco Menardo, who famously made a Star Wars disco album in 1977 entitled Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk. Appearing on the album is Anthony Daniels as C3-PO, who narrates and even sings most of the songs.  The Christmas songs are all Star Wars related, including the awesomely weird, "What Can You Get A Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Has a Comb)?"

The album opens with a great song called "Christmas in the Stars," with C3-PO lamenting the fact that Christmas always comes so early ever year and he is never ready, even though he tells R2-D2, "Yes, I have a list!"

The album also features a young Jon Bon Jovi, in his first professional recording. Back then he was simply known as "John Bongiovi."  He sings "R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas" with the Bridgewater Raritan High School West Advanced Choir:

Star Wars was released 38 years ago and has always been a prominent part of our pop culture, as is evidenced by the hype surrounding the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Today, the marketing surrounding the film is much more deliberate, managed and audience tested. The wonderful thing about Christmas in the Stars is that something like this would never have been released today. That alone makes this album truly special.  (For a truly interesting take on the making of the album, the Canadian Broadcasting Company did an oral history of the album last year. Listen here.)

Give the album a listen and revel in the kitsch and miscues.  It's okay to laugh and shake your head in disbelief. This is a relic from another time----a time when borderline racist jokes are okay on a Christmas album, such as when C3-PO chides R2-D2 for not knowing what "Japanese" is.  R2-D2 apparently does not know what indigestion is, either. Or Einstein, for that matter.  Give "Bells, Bells, Bells" a listen and be amazed.

*R2-D2 speak*
C3-PO: What is that? That my silly friend, is the sound of bells.
*R2-D2 speak*
C3-PO: What are bells?
I cannot believe the question
It’s like, “what is indigestion?”
Not that bells and indigestion are the same.

I cannot believe the query
That you ask, “what is Einstein’s theory?”
Compared to “what are bells?” seems almost tame.

*R2-D2 speak*
C3-PO:  What is indigestion? Who is Einstein?
Before you ask me, “Who is H.G. Wells?”
 I will help your education with a simple explanation of bells.

You can listen to the entire album below.  This year Christmas in the Stars will be featured on our annual Vinyl Christmas, now playing on Vinyl Voyage Radio through December 27.  

Merry Christmas!

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