THERE ARE TIME points in each of our lives, key moments that, like a hand-written signature, become forever
denoted on the stationary of the mind. These can be, and usually are, both good and bad. They can be
anything—anything—that leaves an indelible mark upon us and helped dictate, or at the very least, influence,
who we would become—who we have become. Let me reiterate—they can be anything, and here are but a
few random examples: meeting a new friend, watching a film, hearing a song, losing a loved one, taking a
vacation, being sentenced to prison, being involved in a theft or altercation, reading an especially good or
bad novel, experiencing birth, driving in a snowstorm, oversleeping for a test. As stated, it’s but a random
I’m probably not the only person to regard 1977’s STAR WARS theatrical release as a key life point. Although
it was made prior to the advent of CGI technology, it is a sci-fi classic; its socio-cultural and economic
influence upon society continues to be felt nearly 30 years since its May 25, 1997, theatrical release date.
Unfortunately I no longer have my original ticket stub, but the film clearly fueled my then 12-year-old
imagination in ways no other movie has then, or since, done. That’s not to say I haven’t been influenced or
inspired by other films and directors over the years; there have been many (from Stephen Spielberg [when his
work was imaginative] to David Lynch, Tim Burton, Ridley Scott, John Huston, Woody Allen, Alfred Hitchcock,
Fritz Lang, Stanley Kubrick, and many others).
Likewise, there have been other pop-cultural moments in my life that have influenced me and shaped who I
am today—comic books like Lee and Kirby’s FANTASTIC FOUR, Moore and Gibbons’ WATCHMEN, and Seth’
s magnificent PALOOKAVILLE; music by artists as varied and diverse as Rush, Glenn Miller, Ivy, Dexter
Gordon, Galaxie 500, and Dave Brubeck; comedies like SCTV, and MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, and
years of positive and negative life experiences in general. But if I had to one phenomenon from my youth that
both entertained and inspired my creative side, STAR WARS is, without a doubt, the winner and still
champion. Yes, it’s a flawed movie. There are dozens of mistakes, inconsistencies, contradictions, and
impossibilities throughout the film. Critics still attack it on technical levels—such as its depiction of explosive
sound effects in the vacuum of space. I agree with these criticisms on one level, but on another level, I realize
that George Lucas was not trying to make a cinematic masterpiece akin to Kubrick and Clarke’s 2001: A
SPACE ODYSSEY. Certainly Lucas and his staff realized that they were violating one of the basic dictums of
science fiction, but it didn’t matter. The dog fights “feel” more realistic because of the sound effects—at least I
think so. And yes, STAR WARS certainly “borrowed” from a variety of classic literature, the most blatant being
J.R.R. Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, but Lucas instilled his work with enough deviation and
originality (as well as humor) that one can forgive the Obi-Wan/Gandalf similarities, among others.
Have I mentioned that STAR WARS influenced the Hell out of me? It did, but that’s a tale for another time.
This reflection is more about the naiveté of youth and lessons learned.
STAR WARS pulled me into a web from which there was no escape—the web of merchandising and
memorabilia and an inescapable need to obtain and collect as much as possible. From a Ying-Yang point of
view, I was 12 years old and had virtually no revenue but most of the memorabilia that interested me was
under a buck. I loved trading cards. My trading card fixation dates back to 1971 when I became addicted to
collecting baseball cards, which lead to collecting Wacky Packages which lead to collecting Marvel Super-
Heroes stickers, which lead to collecting just about every other type of trading card I stumbled upon. Topps
released a total of five different series of STAR WARS trading cards in 1977 and 1978. Each series contained
66 cards and 11 stickers; a pack of cards cost 15 cents. The trick was to complete a series before it was out
of print—not an easy task given that there were five series, one of which contained a notorious pornographic
version of the protocol droid C-3PO. Marvel’s STAR WARS comic debuted at 30 cents per issue. The Marvel
STAR WARS Treasury Editions, oversized collections of the first six monthly comics, carried a price tag of
$1.00 each (a steal!), and the STAR WARS Poster Monthly was a magazine that unfolded into a huge 22-inch
by 34-inch poster—for only $1.50 per issue. There were countless other items, of course, everything from
pendants to Mead school folders and folders to Kenner action figures. I was quite content with the comics and
trading cards and the occasional souvenir magazine. Life was good.
Meanwhile, in a recording industry far, far away, Domenico “Meco” Monardo’s disco-fueled rendition of the
STAR WARS main title theme was climbing the Billboard charts faster than you could say “Womp rat.” Stricken
with disco fever, I eventually plunked down 89 cents for a 45 RPM copy of Meco’s chart-busting STAR WARS
disco theme. It was while purchasing the Meco record that I became aware of an ominous-looking album. (A
brief side note to those born post-1970s: If you grew up in the 1980s or later, you might not realize that one of
the precursors to the compact disk was vinyl. Vinyl was big—big twelve-inch discs that could also double as
Frisbees [though their airborne durability was certainly questionable—I can relate from personal experience
the vinyl LP’s inability to rebound off a tree without shattering into dozens of pieces]. Albums, like 45s, played
on turntables that rotated the discs at speeds of 33 and 45 revolutions per minute (hence the phrase RPM).
Today phonographs are considered novelty items enjoyed mostly by post-war baby-boomers like myself or
used professionally by DJs. But I digress.)
The STAR WARS album was, in fact, a double-album; it was also (to me at least) a great mystery. And in 1977
there was no Amazon.com review page because there was no Amazon.com—there was no Internet, at least
not as we know it today. Thus, obtaining information about a record, movie, or book was kind of challenging.
And the packaging of the STAR WARS album was no great help. The front cover was entirely black but for a
white outlined logo. The back cover was equally black but contained a chilling depiction of Darth Vader as if
seen through a star field. Pressed atop the shrink-wrap was an oval sticker that read “Original Motion Picture
Soundtrack.” This probably should have clued me into what was contained upon the grooves of the disks, but
it didn’t. The STAR WARS malaria that raged within me seemed to mask all common sense. I saw little else but
the enticing SW logo. And my mind became convinced that the soundtrack recording was something I should,
no—MUST—own (please pardon the Claremontian nomenclature). The problem was that the album was an
expensive purchase—nearly twelve bucks (in 1977 dollars no less). My financial situation was such that it was
difficult enough just scraping together enough funds to purchase the half-dozen or so comic books that I was
addicted to reading. Funding for a double-album was going to require nothing shy of a small miracle.
As fate would have it there were plenty of lawns to be mowed that summer. Thus, for several weeks in July
and August I set aside a few shekels whenever I had shekels to set aside, and eventually scraped together
enough to make this desperate purchase. I remember the evening like it was yesterday, standing at the
record counter of the now-extinct Murphy Mart, handing over my hard-earned $12.60 and watching as my
purchase was placed into a protective bag and placed into my extended hands.
“What did you buy?” my dad asked a few minutes later as we, along with my mom who had just finished her
evening shift at the store’s ice cream and beverage stand, began the ten-minute drive toward home.
“The STAR WARS album!” I anxiously exclaimed.
They both shook their heads in bewilderment.
“That movie was terrible. I don’t know what you saw in it.”
It was my mom, prompted by many days of incessant whining by yours truly, who’d hauled my twelve-year-old
butt to the Greengate Cinema 3 to see STAR WARS for the first time. To say that the movie was torturous to
her would be like saying that Jesus’ time on the cross was a bit of an annoyance. She disliked the film nearly
as much as she disliked Speilberg’s sci-fi classic CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (which we saw
together the following summer, and which was, not surprisingly, the last sci-fi film we’d watch together). But
STAR WARS bothered her on a much different level than CE3K—the bickering robots, the masked storm
troopers, the strange-talking aliens, and the heavy breath of Darth Vader had mom rolling her eyes in
annoyance for two solid hours. Little wonder she refused to front any money when I lobbied to see the film a
“No, it’s a great movie,” I answered, as we idled at the Barnes Lake/Lincoln Highway traffic light. “It’s already a
“That film will never be a classic,” she said. “It’s crap.”
There was little point in trying to argue the point. My mom grew up on Laurel and Hardy, Humphrey Bogart,
and Judy Garland. She enjoyed comedies, musicals, dramas, and mysteries. Science fiction was as
interesting to her as the films of Sinatra were to me.
So rather than argue, I decided to remove the album from its bag and free it from its shrink-wrap prison. I
pulled open the gatefold sleeve, which revealed a dozen stills from the movie. It was difficult to see in the
darkness except for those moments when we passed beneath a street lamp, but of course I recognized them
all—Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewie, Obi-Wan, Vader, and the shiny gold and silver robots. What sounds, I
wondered, awaited me? Did the records contain the discotheque rhythms of the Meco single, dialogue from
the film, interviews with the cast and crew? The answer wasn’t long in coming, though knowing what I know
now, I wish it had been…
Once upon a time a young boy bought a soundtrack album having no clue as to what he was actually
purchasing. But, being a huge fan of a particular movie, he sought to add the album to his collection of movie
memorabilia. The boy was not rich, but he saved and saved for many weeks until he could afford the double-
album. On the evening of its purchase, he raced up the stairs of his parents duplex, ran into his bedroom, and
shut the door behind him. He quickly removed the vinyl disks from the gatefold sleeve in which they were
housed. He then removed the paper sleeves and placed the first disk onto the center-pin of a previously
owned Panasonic turntable before lowering the balance arm into place. The twelve-year-old boy threw the
switch and watched as the turntable began to revolve at 33.3 RPMs. Slowly the vinyl disk slid down the vertical
center-pin and onto the turntable’s rubber mat while, simultaneously, the record player’s arm levitated toward
the disk and gently dropped atop the disk’s outer edge as the record needle caught the first pre-etched
grooves of the vinyl disk and a light crackling was heard. Seconds later, the recognizable theme music of 20th
Century Fox exploded through the Panasonic’s modest twin speakers and was succeeded by the familiar
STAR WARS Main Title theme. The boy smiled and hummed along for a few seconds to the John Williams-
lead London Symphony Orchestra—dum, dum, da-da-da dum dum, da-da-da dum dum, da-da-da dum. His
anticipation increased with each passing moment, wondering what noises he’d be hearing next. He anticipated
the sounds of laser blasts, explosions, and robots named R2-D2 and C-3PO bickering about whether or not
they should jump into an escape pod in order to escape capture from the evil empire. But these sounds were
not to be. Rather, the Main Title theme was quickly followed by the Imperial Attack theme, Princess Leia’s
theme, and The Desert and the Robot Auction theme, all of which featured the violins, violas, cellos, basses,
flutes, oboes, horns, trumpets, trombones, tubas, bassoons, and harps of the London Symphony Orchestra,
and none of which featured even the remotest snippet of dialogue, the heavy and intimidating breathing of
Darth Vader, or the indiscernible squeals of the trade-seeking Jawas. The boy began to wonder what the
words “Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” actually meant.
Side two track five began with the familiar sounds of the Cantina Band, the only tune on the soundtrack album
that does not feature the London Symphony Orchestra but, rather, is performed by nine musicians, most of
whom were schooled in jazz. The boy had sat listening to the first four tracks of side two with growing
disillusionment. Side one had been a vast disappointment, and side two had proven to be equally abysmal.
While the Cantina Band song was catchy, it lacked the dialogue the boy was hoping to hear—the bickering
between Luke Skywalker and Han Solo over the cost of transport, and the calm words of Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi
explaining his payment options to Solo. The soundtrack recording was many things, but one thing it was not—
the boy sadly realized—was an audio recording of the movie. Rather, it was a recording of the film’s score.
He felt robbed—cheated. He’d saved his money, done extra chores, and mowed lawns in anticipation of this
day. He thought for a moment about the many other STAR WARS- related items he could have purchased
with the money he’d wasted on this ridiculous “soundtrack.” Soundtrack. The word resonated in his mind the
way bitter candy that being offered during holiday visits to estranged aunts and sisters burns upon one’s
tongue. He’d been duped, of this he had no doubt. 20th Century Fox and its highly paid staff of tricksters had
released a record that, from the outside, looked to be every bit as tantalizing as the movie from which it was
conceived. But its innards…its innards were the stuff of classical music. Classical music performed not by a
band but by an orchestra. In his world classical music did not exist; his was a world of rock, pop, and disco. He’
d been duped good. Tears began to well up in the corners of the boy’s eyes and ran down his face like
racehorses at the Churchill Downs. He thought about the many, many material goods he could have
purchased had he not fallen prey to the STAR WARS marketing machine and squandered his labor-intense
earnings. Briefly—fleetingly—he thought and hoped that, somehow, disk two would be different from disk one.
However, his hope was squashed upon hearing the first few bars of The Land of the Sandpeople and Mouse
Robot and Blasting Off (a title that, incidentally, he regarded as being particularly dim-witted). The boy
thought about the other twelve year olds in his neighborhood and wondered if any of them had been foolish
enough to purchase a soundtrack album. Unlikely, he thought. Although he was pleased that the record’s
gatefold sleeve featured a dozen color still images from the greatest science fiction film of all time, most of
these he’d already seen on the Topps trading cards stored in a shoebox beneath his bed along with various
other STAR WARS merchandise.
Suddenly, a thought sprung to his mind at land speeder momentum. He would reseal the plastic shrink wrap—
tape it back together—and return the album to the merchant claiming he’d purchased the wrong item. It was,
he thought, a stroke of genius. However, this idea died faster than a womp rat trapped beneath twin desert
suns as he assessed the condition of the original plastic wrap and found it to be beyond reconstruction. More
tears streaked down his cheeks like foxes pursued by hounds but he wiped them away hard with the back of
his right hand.
“It’s really not so bad,” he tried to convince himself. “It’s memorabilia. Every STAR WARS fan will want this.
Maybe…maybe I can trade to Mike or Tony.”
But neither Mike nor Tony were interested. Nor were Randy, Bruce, Richie, or any of his chums.
“Waste of money,” he thought, eventually shoving the record under his bed.
When I think back to 1977 and recall my disappointment in purchasing the STAR WARS soundtrack I have to
wonder what my life might have been like had a future version of me been able to step into my past and say to
my then-twelve-year-old self, “Look, one day you’re really going to enjoy this music. And not only that, you’re
going to enjoy real classical music—works by Dvorak, Schubert, Mozart, Berlioz, and many others—not just
film scores churned out for the masses.” Perhaps if future-tense me had been able to implant these truisms
into past-tense me, then maybe I’d have been more open and accepting of the unknown. Perhaps I’d have
continued with my original plan of attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh; perhaps I’d have moved to New
York in 1984. But as philosopher Ekhart Tolle would remind me, there is no benefit to pondering and making
projections about the past—the path to enlightenment and true happiness can only be obtained by living in
the “now.” I do, however, think there is a difference between living in the now and reflecting upon our past. My
past is what it is. It cannot be changed, nor would I change it, for only through my past experiences have I
arrived at my present, and really, my present is awesome. I am blessed more than many, and who is to say
whether these blessings are or are not deserved? But I feel that I am blessed, and if you stop and reflect
upon your past and your present, upon your life and the lives of those around you—if you open your eyes
and actually look at all you have, perhaps you, too, will feel blessed. But, in the words of Peter David (among
others), I digress.
Or do I? STAR WARS shaped my future just as it continues to influence my present. I laugh now at my
behavior in 1977 when I purchased the film’s soundtrack album with complete ignorance as to what a
soundtrack album was. But such is life. I was raised on FM radio and Sunday afternoon polka programs. The
door of classical music remained closed to me until my junior year in college when I took a course and fell in
love with the genre. And I guess it all started with STAR WARS,, a score that I listen to at least once a month
(during work, as background music mostly). It’s a terrific score, and each note invokes memories—if not
directly of the film itself, then of a point in my life either past or present. Sure, a lot of albums have that
capability, but this one does it consistently, and without even trying. Not bad for 28-year-old movie music, and
just another way that the 1977 film continues to be an influence upon my life.
March 4, 2005
S t a r W a r s a n d t h e T e a r s o f D i s a p p o i n t m e n t
d a v i d y u r k o v i c h