One fine day over 50 years ago, Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman got an idea: creating fake news broadcasts in which a reporter would be heard interviewing witnesses to a certain event, but the witnesses would respond with clips from current hit songs. These would eventually be known as “break-in records.” Buchanan and Goodman’s first break-in record, “The Flying Saucer,” became a Number-Three hit in the fall of 1956 after pioneering rock ‘n’ roll DJ Alan Freed started playing it on his New York radio shows. In the summer of 1957, “Flying Saucer Part 2” made the Top 20. That record’s success, combined with the launch of Sputnik in October, made a Christmas break-in, “Santa and the Satellite,” nearly inevitable that year.
Buchanan left the music business in 1959, but Goodman carried on. In the 60s, his break-in records usually responded to television fads. “Santa & the Touchables” was a parody of the TV show The Untouchables, “Ben Crazy” took off from the TV medical-show fad, and “Batman and His Grandmother” responded to the staggering popularity of the Batman TV series. Current events got Goodman’s attention later in the decade. In 1969, “On Campus” parodied the protest movement, and “Luna Trip” took on the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Despite the success of Buchanan and Goodman in the late 50s, the true golden age of the break-in record was the first half of the 1970s. A Pittsburgh DJ named Bob DeCarlo and a couple of local record producers created “Convention ’72,” a political parody released under the name of the Delegates, which made the Billboard Top 10 in November just after the presidential election. Not long after, Goodman was back on the case. “Watergrate” just missed the Top 40 during the summer of ’73, and “Energy Crisis ’74” just made it a few months later. Goodman’s greatest hit was yet to come, once again in response to a cultural phenomenon that everyone was talking about. In October 1975, “Mr. Jaws” rose all the way to Number One in Cash Box and Number Four in Billboard, and became a certified million-seller.
Goodman’s final hit, “Kong,” got a bit of airplay in 1977, but Goodman disappeared from the scene after that, and he died in 1989. Goodman’s son Jon is keeping his father’s legacy alive on the Internet with a MySpace page that features new, topical recordings like “Economy Crisis.” Today, the creation of a break-in record is easily done by anybody with a microphone and a computer. Goodman got there first, and it’s unlikely that anyone will ever be more successful at it.
“Santa and the Satellite” (Parts 1 and 2)/Buchanan and Goodman (buy Goodman stuff at the MySpace link above)
“Convention ’72″/The Delegates (out of print)