When I was five years old, no record was played more in my home than the Shock Records 45 of Dickie Goodman’s “Kong.” I had no idea that Goodman had an entire lifetime of records like this, I just knew that I had never heard anything that combined my love of music, trivia and monster movies.
Goodman was the inventor of the “break-in” record, which predates the sampling that helped define hip hop. These records ask a question and the answer comes from an actual record that was popular at the time.
For example, in Kong, a reporter asks, “We’re here on Skull Island, where a forty-foot gorilla has just kidnapped Dwan, a young actress. Hey Kong, what did you tell her?”
The answer comes from Rod Stewart singing “Tonight’s the night.”
It’s pretty simple, but when you’re a kid, it’s amazingly effective.
Goodman’s first record, “The Flying Saucer Parts 1 & II,” was co-written with Bill Buchanan and told the story of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds. This led to a lawsuit for copyright infringement before Goodman won, with the judge saying that the song was an original work of parody. The song made it to number three on Billboard, the highest Goodman would ever reach.
Operating out of a pharmacy’s telephone booth, the duo faced even more lawsuits as they released five more songs to diminishing returns, such as “Buchanan and Goodman on Trial,” “Banana Boat Song,”, “The Creature (From a Science Fiction Movie),” “Santa and the Satellite (Parts I & II)” and “Flying Saucer the 2nd,” which reached number eighteen.
The team broke up, both trying their own “break-in” records, but Goodman was the ore successful, despite Buchanan teaming up with “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” and “Love Will Keep Us Together” songwriter Howard Greenfield.
Goodman tried to release original parody songs and even did an album of adult material and dirty versions of TV theme songs called Skrewy T.V., but when those albums wouldn’t chart*, he could always fall back on the “break-in” parodies. From The Untouchables to Ben Casey, campus protests to man on the moon, every popular program and news event was something for Goodman to mine for a new “break-in.”
*Goodman even created a band called The Glass Bottle that promoted glass bottles over the plastic that soda pop bottlers had just started to use. One of their songs, “I Ain’t Got Time Anymore,” even reached number thirty-six on the charts.
Goodman’s biggest seller, however, was yet to come. “Mr. Jaws” took the blockbuster movie and applied the tried and true format that Dickie had been doing for decades.
For example: “Mr. Jaws, before you swim out to sea, have you anything else to say?”
WAR: “Why can’t we be friends?”
In September 1975, “Mr. Jaws” was certified gold and even had a special version created just for Chicago’s WLS. Dickie followed by, of course, making songs for any movie that came out.
The first of his records I ever heard was the last that would ever chart. “Kong” reached forty-eight and Dickie would spend the next twelve years trying to make another novelty hit before killing himself.
Altogether, he had seventeen charting songs and numerous other releases that became regional hits. Among them are “Frankenstein of ’59” / “Frankenstein Returns,” “My Baby Loves Monster Movies / Theme from a Whodunit,” “Frankenstein Meets the Beatles / Dracula Drag,” “Energy Crisis ’74 / The Mistake,” “Star Warts / The Boys’ Tune,” “Mrs. Jaws / Chomp Chomp,” “Superman / Chomp Chomp,” an entire record of horror songs called The Monster Album, “Hey, E.T. / Get a Job,” “The Return of the Jedi Returns” and many more.
He also ran a record label called Luniverse, so-called because after making his first 20,000 singles that there was already a label called Universe, so he handwrote an L in front of every copy of “The Flying Saucer.” The label only released ten singles, with even by Buchanan & Goodman, one by Buddy Lucas, another by the Casual Three and one by the Del Vikings (along with several bootlegs of their work).
Bootlegs? Yeah, the only full album — thanks to the Luniverse Album Discography — on the label was a nine-song acapella demo of the Pittsburgh doo wop group that was recorded by Steel City DJ Barry Kay, who cashed in on their success by dubbing in instruments and selling the results. The small Pittsburgh label Fee Bee had been leasing the Del Vikings recordings to Dot records and when they learned that another label was selling them and sued. Dickie was probably used to being in court by that point, but the Luniverse Del-Vikings Come Go with the Del Vikings release is still a high-priced find.
The artist’s son Jon is in charge of his estate and released The King of Novelty, a book all about his father’s career. Which is good, because he deserves to be remembed.
Goodman’s songs have always amazed me, because I’m certain that at the time that many felt that he was a hack. Yet the very same sampling — “break-in” — that Dickie used as his trademark would become an integral part of a very American art form by the eighties and nineties. Seeing as how even on his last song “Safe Sex Report / Safety First” Goodman was still mining whatever trends were in the news, it’s a lock that he would have done a rap song at some point, completing the circle.