Breakin’ In

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)

5 thoughts on “Breakin’ In

  1. Looking back to the fall of ’72, it seemed like every time I turned on the local, #1 AM station, they were playing “Convention ’72.”

    Yet another song which made the Top 10 and disappeared so quickly. Not even on the recurrents after election time.

  2. Yah Shure

    If any break-in records should have had a “use by…” expiration date stamped on them, it was the political election ones. I had to dig up the Delegates’ follow-up 45 for its first playing since ’72. “Richard M. Nixon – Face The Issues” was at least notable for including some song clips that were several years old.

    But that record also proved that the genre is usually referred to as “novelty break-ins” for good reason. Once the novelty of the latest break-in concept wears off, so does most of the appeal. Though the four-year interval between presidential elections provided a breather, later “Convention ’72” clones fell flat, including the lame “The Presidential Debate” (Road Hog & The Neon Cactus, 1976), the clever “The Great Debate” (The Correspondents, 1980) and even Dickie Goodman himself, with “Election ’80.”

    That’s not to say that topical break-ins are *completely* worthless once their moment passes. Each one becomes a fascinating audio time capsule, revealing the politics, trends and fads of their points in history. What other genre could produce a record as bizarre as Walter Rockite’s 1976 “The Pet Rocks Are Coming,” written by “Sandy Granite,” and ending with a sped-up clip of “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Haa!”?

    True, most anyone can piece together their own break-in recording today. But with pop music being so highly fragmented, fewer folks will recognize all (or even any) of the song clips.

  3. JP

    Most anyone can piece together their own break-in recording today, but thanks to hip-hop and its’ use of sampling, I think you’d have to get it legally cleared…something Dickie Goodman and his various imitators didn’t have to deal with.

  4. Musicradio

    I have a copy of Convention 72 on 45rpm….it’s a bit scratchy, though.
    And yes, Goodman killed himself in Fayetteville, NC. His son came by the studios and let me make a reel to reel copy of all his dads songs.

  5. pd

    Convention ’72 put me right back into that great transition between grade school and freshman. A most scary and exhilarating time. The compilation is a very potent time capsule, indeed….PD

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