This is the fourth installment in my “Have A Strange Christmas” series where I highlight a different strange Christmas record every week through the end of December.
Star Wars (A New Hope) was released in theaters in 1977 and quickly became a sensation. It grossed almost $800 million worldwide. Not bad for a low budget film that 20th Century Fox didn’t have much confidence in. Star Wars won six Oscars and went on to spawn 10 more films, making it the third highest grossing film franchise in history.
In typical capitalist fashion, every imaginable piece of Star Wars crap was licensed in order to cash in on the hyper-drive hysteria…a ceramic C3-PO tape dispenser, Darth Vader shower head, Death Star waffle maker, life-sized R2-D2 aquarium by Hammacher Schlemmer, and believe you me, that’s only scratching the surface. There was even a Star Wars Christmas album!
A Cast of Thousands
Christmas In The Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album (RS0 Records RS-1-3093) record and cassette was released in November of 1980 and featured C-3P0, R2-D2, Chewbacca, and a then unknown Jon Bonjovi in his first commercial recording (his cousin ran the New Jersey recording studio and co-produced the album). Over 70 people (!) were involved in the making of the record and it was one of the first non-classical and jazz albums to be digitally recorded. With all that talent you’d think this would be the most amazing Christmas album ever. It is. Amazingly bad.
The album actually came together at light speed. Several sources cite a Lucasfilm internal memo from September 1980 that outlined the album concept. Just nine 9 days later, actor Anthony Daniels flew in from London to record his vocals as C-3PO and supposedly had only 1 weekend to do it. Talk about fast tracking a project!
The album and its mostly original material scored a minor holiday hit with the single What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?). It reached #69 on the Billboard Hot 100. If you don’t remember the song, best we keep it that way. Strangely, 3 years after the record came out, a second single was released, R2D2’s Sleigh Ride with Christmas in the Stars on Side B. Even more strange, 10 years after the record came out, a 3” “CD single” was released in Japan featuring R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Christmas In The Stars.
After CDs were introduced, someone decided the album was important enough to be issued on CD….not once, but twice. The first was the original 1994 CD by Polygram called Meco Christmas In The Stars (Meco previously recorded Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk) with a pathetic generic cover. In 1996, Rhino Records reissued the CD with the original album artwork and new liner notes. It’s said that up to 9 songs from the original recording sessions remain unreleased to this day. Based on the existing material, perhaps it’s just as well.
You can buy Christmas In The Stars on the used record market, but be prepared to spend all of your Christmas money from Santa. Discogs has one cassette tape listed for $150 while eBay has one for $2,100! Amazon has the CD for $89 and the vinyl record for $200.
After reading some of the comments left on Amazon, you’d wonder why anyone would pay that kind of money: “Without [a] doubt, the worst Christmas album of all time. Even kids will hate it. Stay far away”, and “To call this album bad would be an understatement. I realize that this is a children’s album, but I can’t imagine that too many children would enjoy this insipid junk. The lyrics are especially awful. When I met Anthony Daniels, he called this album ‘pure crap’. Take it from C-3PO himself, folks.” Just for the heck of it, I contacted Anthony Daniels and asked him to reflect on Christmas In The Stars. He ignored all of my messages. If I were him, I wouldn’t want to talk about it either. He probably has PTSD.
You’ll find other negative reviews besides comments on Amazon. Bradley Torreano’s write-up on Allmusic.com doesn’t pull any punches: “Few Christmas albums are as truly terrible as Star Wars: Christmas in the Stars…this could be the worst Star Wars related album on the market. To those who enjoy bad music on a camp level, this album is priceless. Fans of the series should give it a listen just to hear how bad it is, but this is really only recommended for those who enjoy terrible music for its comic value.” Ouch.
I’m afraid I must agree. Instead of Christmas In The Stars, it should’ve been called Crap In The Stars. Hearing C-3P0, a robot with a British accent portrayed by Anthony Daniels who wasn’t a trained singer, croon Christmas songs is just plain bizarre. Take the “duet” of Sleigh Ride he performs with R2D2. Please, take it. Or his butchering of a modified reading of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. “Bells, Bells, Bells” is another oddity in which C-3PO tries to explain to R2-D2 what bells are…Chiming what the hour is now / Or they’ll lead you to a cow. Huh? Not exactly Lennon and McCartney. Besides that, the highly sophisticated robot R2-D2 doesn’t know what bells are?
With all that talent you’d think this would be the most amazing Christmas album ever.
The lack of depth in the lyrics is surprising considering the songs were written by Yale University music professor Maury Yeston, who went on to win two Tony awards and three Grammy nominations. Yeston also appears on the album as Santa on The Meaning of Christmas, and his voice is multi-tracked to create the “choir”. He briefly addresses his lyrics on his website: “The fun and light tone of [the album] was targeted towards the younger audience (Maury’s own son was then 7) that had fallen in love with Artoo, Threepio and the Droids, and of course the Wookiee.”
Listening to Christmas In The Stars will make you think you have a DVD of a Star Wars Christmas TV special playing but with the picture switched off. Yet the record wasn’t related to the “Star Wars Holiday Special”, a 1978 made-for-TV movie that should’ve been destroyed along with the Death Star.
Frankly, the most impressive thing about the album is the cover artwork by Star Wars production artist Ralph McQuarrie. It depicts Santa’s workshop of the future, with toys being assembled by robots. I guess all the elves were transferred to another department, or worse, laid off. Santa is pictured warming himself before a fireplace while C-3P0 and R2-D2 look on. It’s not Currier and Ives but it’s nice as far as intergalactic Christmas album covers go.
According to the liner notes from the CD, Christmas In The Stars wasn’t to be the only Star Wars holiday recording. A series of Star Wars Christmas releases were planned but never materialized for whatever reason. RSO Records folded after the first run, which probably didn’t help matters. Whatever the reason, it was nothing less than a Christmas miracle that we were spared from further abuse.
Speaking of strange Christmas music, the Star Wars CD booklet promotes other classic Rhino Records Christmas albums you’ll surely want to add to your holiday music collection like The Flintstones: Christmas In Bedrock and Have Yourself A Looney Tunes Christmas. As the latter release exclaims, “Christmas tunes like you’ve never heard them before…”, and probably never wanted to.
There’s no doubt that Star Wars was an incredible sci-fi film. Christmas In The Stars is a different story. It’s an album for the ages. Ages 5 to 10. It was ground breaking, as in dig a hole in the ground and bury it. The best part of the album is when it ends. It has to be one of the worst Christmas records ever. If you buy this album, may the remorse be with you.
Every word in every one of my articles is 100% written by me. I never use ChatGPT or any AI technology. Ever.
Trivia (from www.starwars.com/news/10-things-about-christmas-in-the-stars): “Yoda was supposed to make an appearance [on “Christmas In The Stars”]. Frank Oz, the actor and puppeteer who helped launch Yoda to fame in “The Empire Strikes Back”, was approached to reprise the voice of the Jedi Master for the album’s ‘Meaning of Christmas’ track. Oz couldn’t participate due to scheduling conflicts, so the album eventually settled on Santa’s son, ‘S. Claus’, to fill the role (with revised dialog).”
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Return here next week for the final installment in my “Have A Strange Christmas” series.