There are 20th century greats of music and Meco is one of pop giants that must be recognized as one of the finest individuals who ever graced planet pop. Hyperbole. I know. According to researchers January is known as the month when people get depressed and I am missing my babe who is busily studying in Spain. Its also my birthday on thursday so I thought I needed a double dose of something shimmering with poptastic beauty. Yes yes, this time can be known as the traditional month when many are down which is why I had to do this post.
So who is Meco!? Well, born Dominico Monardo he is most famous for imprinting a disco beat over the theme to Star Wars but for me its all about his amazing out of print re-working of The Wizard Of Oz. This musical is already camp as tits. But Meco thrusts a mirrorball over the yellow brick road thus creating perhaps the campest, most happiest product ever put to music. Believe me, take Kylie's So Now Goodbye, Your Disco Needs You, Disco Down, Love Boat, nearly everything by Donna Summer, Barry Manilow and Gloria Gaynor and put them into one entire record. You get Meco's amazing The Wizard of Oz. Sadly compared to his work on the Star Wars themetune there isn't much online in the way of music snippets but I highly recommend you watch this great clip:
History hasn't been kind to disco. Often insulted and described as poptrash. Known as the bottom of the bottom of the barrel and ritually burnt in arena's across America! Never receives radio play now and never given the respect it deserves. There is this however. Meco's amazing The Wizard Of Oz is out of this world. It transcends. It is a fine piece of artistry. I studied music for a few years (nothing fancy just AS level and clarinet on mondays). I don't know much but I can tell when something is complicated and rich. Meco's work is not lazy or run of the mill. It is disco but it is beyond chintz. It is not tacky. It is pure magestry. It is not ironic. It is wonderfully creative.
Released in 1978, it included amazing multi-layered melodies from the classic Garland movie simply re-done with synths, keyboards and the all important samples. There are also brilliant sound excerpts like the barking dog Toto, the melting witch and lines from the movie. You've got to remember this is 1978 and there were no such thing as samples! The dog was Meco's dog and witch was girlfriend. These snippets were interplayed into the general wall of sound making sure a story was told and laugh was to be had at the same time. Furthermore, a rollercoaster ride through forms of music was also ensured. Meco was a pop pioneer and paved the way for so much what we take for granted now. He saw an old score, which was brilliant in its original state, and paid tribute to it by actually keeping hold of that magical stardust of the story and theme while also introducing wonderful disco baselines to it. There are tender moments as well as hilarious sing-a-long sections making it a true find in ones record collection.
Let me just add that Meco simply didnt introduce a disco beat. His re-working of a classic is so much more than that. It starts off with a roaring dance version of Somewhere of the Rainbow but this is nothing like many equally wonderful covers of the same song. This then merges into the cyclone and the listener is wonderfully taken into the tornado that threw Dorothy to the land of Oz. The strings kick-in and the tension rises. Toto starts barking, cows start mooing as they fly in the air and Dorothy's world is turned upside down. Slowly but surely the house is forced into a realm of the unknown and the disco bells announce the arrival into, or rather on, MunchkinLand. Then the Munchkins sing "Ding Dong the Witch Dead" and what a smile will come across ones face when they sing the chorus. I think I'll have this played at my funeral. Most certainly. Its those electronic synths with the melody of the song that make it so great. And ever so cheerful.
Again, as they rejoice in the death of the wicked witch Dorothy is sent on her way but this is interplayed with snippets of Somewhere over the Rainbow. Its a strange mash-up but it absolutely works. This evolves into "Lions, Tigers and Bears-Oh My!" which is one of the campest moments in music history. Can you imagine it? That most famous line in film history merged with a disco baseline! Pure and simple magistery.
I could go on and on about this. I really can't convey how wonderful the piece of work it is. Indeed, I might just say one thing. When the female chorus sing the "you're out of the woods, you're out of the dark, your out of the night, step into the sun, step into light" in whats otherwise known as Optimistic Voices one feels absolutely lifted. To me, it also sounds like a multitude of DJ's have somehow managed to take, or rather absorb, a few tricks and trades from this soundtrack. Optimistic Voices is very close to that legendary 1990's hit single by Mouse T Horny. The string arrangements throughout the course of the soundtrack are also rather reminiscent of recent releases by well-known Swedish schlager hits. Its all in there...
Meco was a very special individual. All the talent of a Mozart and energy of Giorgio Morodor. This re-working proves it so. The original writers of the soundtrack to the Wizard of Oz, Harold Arlen and EH Harburg, were ultimately paid the highest tribute and compliment with this amazing disco "remix" of their most famous work. The original score will always be iconic and simply adds to the overall joy and warmth which makes the disco re-working something very special indeed. This is music at its finest. It sounds so simple, fun and breezy but if you start to take it apart its actually pretty complex. Meco was a legend. A songwriting genius!