May the Force Be With You, Mark Eskelson

Mark EskelsonWhat thrilling day it must have been back in 1977 at 51 N. 425 E. in Smithfield, Utah (zip 84335). Probably having just returned home from the local K-Mart with his newly acquired Star Wars original motion picture soundtrack, a young (probably high school-aged) Mark couldn’t wait to relive the intergalactic adventures on his parents’ home stereo system while leafing through all the bonus goodies that accompany this amazing two LP set. Aside from the legendary masterworks of John Williams, 20th Century Records’ release also included an epic poster, a credits insert, and this mail in offer for an official Star Wars t-shirt. Mark is a size large, by the way.

The specifics surrounding the immediate and gleeful filling out of this order form that prevented a space drama-loving Mark Eskelson to NOT send it in will forever be pondered and (over) analyzed by its current owner (me). If only for a brief moment, it must be stated that Mark’s true reason for not forking over $5 for this gem of necessary fashion can only truly be understood by him, in a galaxy far, far away.

The Best Worst Christmas Album Ever Produced AKA The Worst Best Christmas Album Ever Produced

Christmas in the StarsThe odds against Christmas being Christmas

Is 365 to 1

Where to begin… Christmas in the Stars is nothing short of an exhaustive, and thorough disaster. This album makes the destruction of Alderaan look as trivial as spilled blue milk. Released in 1980, this Ishtar-like running gag features Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, a series of random beeps as R2-D2, a full freakin’ orchestra, and of course, John Bongiovi, AKA Jon Bon Jovi on lead vocals, because, you know, nothing says “let’s go save the princess” like Bad Medicine.

Everyone will have a cookie

I brought extra for the Wookie

Christmas CreditsProduced by Meco (yes, THAT Meco), and co-produced by Tony Bongiovi, Jon Bon’s cousin, Christmas in the Stars takes the colorful world of Star Wars (then only two films), coerces it with a shiny piece of candy, and takes it out back to beat it senseless with a pillow case full of D batteries. What Can You Get A Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb?) is not only a genuine track from this album, IT’S ALSO THE SINGLE! Man, would I have LOVED to have been a fly on the wall during these pitch meetings. “Uh, yes Mr. Lucas. Thank you for taking the time to meet with us today. We all loved Empire. Brilliant film. Yes, yes. So, our idea for the Star Wars Christmas album is this… what if we have a series of non-denominational Christmas songs (see the oxymoron there?) narrated by R2 & 3PO? I hear there’s a talented young kid out of New Jersey with a great singing voice, we can get him to do the backing vocals. We could have a full symphony, utilize Ben Burtt’s amazing sound effects, and we can see if Ralph is available to do the cover. The single, are you ready… is titled, What Can You Get A Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?). What do you think, George?” “Green lit. Now, pass me that tube of cookie dough. I’m in pre-production on a 2nd chin.”

The ONLY redeemable feature with regards to Christmas in the Stars is the Ralph McQuarrie painted cover (note how the 1980 Kris Kringle looks an awful lot like a 2013 George Lucas).  Christmas in the Stars is like receiving a pair of socks for Christmas every year from each of your relatives and loved ones. The anticipation far exceeds the end result, but at least your feet will be warm.

Let’s Begin Now

Not Cleared for BroadcastDistributed in the height of Star Wars sequel anticipation, this 1979 release of a children’s Read-Along book and record set hosts one of my first vivid memories of playing a record. Thanks to my first, pocket-sized (for very large pockets) turntable, I was able to enjoy an insanely abridged version of my favorite story… a story I had been convinced was the greatest ever told.

Original Motion PictureWhen listening to this little memory-harboring 7″ (with all its pop-filled, skip-tastic glory), I can still picture myself reenacting the drama-soaked adventures with my 3¾” Star Wars action figures and thinking, being a kid is the greatest thing on this, or any galaxy, regardless of placement in time and/or location. (A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… was easily replaced with Just a moment ago in a playroom very, very near…)

The ol’ girl has certainly seen better days, but I wouldn’t trade her for all seats on the Imperial Senate.

THE ACTUAL DIALOGUE, SOUND EFFECTS & MUSIC FROM THE FILM aka The Story of Star Wars

VaderThe Story of Star Wars is one that is told by children of all ages. It’s an epic tale, full of grandeur and swash buckling angry men. It’s older than I am and can be heard from the mouths of babes echoing throughout every galaxy known to man. This 1977 picture disc featuring the Dark Lord of the Sith is a hurried version of that award winning tale. It is narrated by the late Roscoe Lee Browne, who you may recognize from Alfred Hitchcock’s Topaz, Logan’s Run and his role as Saunders, the Tates’ butler from Soap after Benson left to star in his own sitcom.

The Story of Star Wars had been previously released in non-picture disc form and features the modeling of two classic droids, one Astromech and one Protocol (I don’t need to take a picture, you’ve seen it).

Produced by George Lucas (no surprise there), this version comes with a small warning on the back sleeve which states: NOTICE: If played excessively the sound quality of this limited edition collectors’ item may not equal the original album previously released in a jacket bearing different artwork.

Basically, it’s a pretty picture record that skips a lot.