Ghosts of Nixon

(I notice this is the 1200th post in the history of this blog. I gotta get a real job.)

During his 1970s reign as evening jock at WLS in Chicago, John Landecker recorded a couple of parodies that got a great deal of airplay on the station. Both featured Landecker’s impersonation of Richard Nixon, and both emerged during the Watergate scandal. The first one was “Make a Date With the Watergate,” borrowing the main riff and angel choir from Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” which must have come out in the late summer or fall of ’73. The better of the two was “Press My Conference,” a break-in record in the style of Dickie Goodman, incorporating snippets from hit songs, which date it to early 1974, about the time Goodman’s “Energy Crisis ’74” was getting airplay across the country. (“Press My Conference” lifts one joke from “Energy Crisis ’74” verbatim.)

WLS charted “Press My Conference” for two weeks in March 1974, showing it as “available only on WLS radio.” Ron Smith’s Chicago Top 40 Charts 1970-1979 shows it reaching a peak of Number 23, although the WLS surveys for March 9 and March 16, 1974, at Oldiesloon don’t show a chart position. “Press My Conference” features the voices of longtime Chicago newsman Lyle Dean and WLS jocks Larry Lujack and Yvonne Daniels.

According to WLS historian Scott Childers, “Make a Date With the Watergate” and “Press My Conference” were pressed onto a flexi-disc for promotional giveaways. There’s not much additional information about either of the parodies available online; one source says pressure from the White House led to WLS dropping the parodies from the air, but that’s it. I hadn’t heard either one of these since the mid 1970s, but my Internet buddy Pat found them at YouTube, and here they are. The audio is taken from the flexi-disc, although the songs were later pressed onto conventional 45s.

A few years later, Landecker recorded two more parodies. “Jane (Beat the Machine Dame),” based on Jefferson Starship’s “Jane,” came shortly after Jane Byrne was elected mayor of Chicago. In 1981, after Byrne briefly moved into the infamous Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, Landecker responded with “Cabrini Deeds,” based on AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”

Recommended Reading: In the comments to last week’s post about the Smothers Brothers, somebody mentioned Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, which appeared to be nearly as disrespectful to authority as The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was. But Laugh-In was actually quite conservative; head writer Paul Keyes was a Nixon confidante, and kept Laugh-In on Nixon’s good side at the same time Tommy Smothers was landing on his enemies’ list. Kliph Nesteroff of Classic Television Showbiz wrote a fascinating piece about Keyes at WFMU’s Beware of the Blog last September that is well worth your time. Also worth it: a couple of recent posts from Barely Awake in Frog Pajamas, one that links Colonel Sanders and Close Encounters of the Third Kind to music from the early 80s, and one about listening to whole albums on the radio late at night. I’m late mentioning both of those, so head over there now. And at Debris Slide, everything you always wanted to know about B. J. Thomas.

6 thoughts on “Ghosts of Nixon

  1. Hey, congrats on 1,200 posts! And thanks for the Nixonian flashback. I missed ’em at the time, so now I can cross another thing off my bucket list. Hmmm. Wonder if I should actually make a bucket list . . .

  2. Shark

    Landecker was absolutely brilliant. It dawned on me that his radio show on WLS was never about him. Rather, it was about the music and the listeners. He used both to be entertaining and topical. There is nothing on the radio today that comes close to what John Landecker did on WLS in the 70s and early 80s.

  3. Pingback: Multifarious Proliferation | The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

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