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DICKIE GOODMAN: WE'VE SPOTTED THE SHARK AGAIN

The story of a novelty recording artist whose music arguably was the first "sampled" recordings ever

By Chuck Miller

Originally published in Goldmine

Scan the Top 40 listings, listen to the hit radio station. There's that Notorious B.I.G. tribute song with the Police's "Every Breath You Take" as the instrumental track. It's followed by White Town's tune with a sample from an old 78. Spin the dial over to the easy listening station, and there's Bruce Springsteen's "Secret Garden" with snippets of dialogue from the "Jerry Maguire" motion picture. Meanwhile, a melange of 11 sports anthems called the "Jock Jams" gets steady airplay, and that's followed by the Jackson Five making an ersatz cameo appearance on Freak Nasty's hit "Da Dip."

Dickie Goodman took that first step towards sampling, remixing, and symbolic juxtaposition. He was the first performer to use fragments of other people's hits to build his own chartbusters. Whether it was a Martian with Little Richard's voice, a President copping lyrics from an Alice Cooper track, or a shark with a taste for the Bee Gees, Goodman's "snippet" records became popular Top 40 radio movies. Along the way, he battled rival publishers, record producers, copycats and America's changing musical tastes to become one of the most successful and distinctive novelty acts in the rock era. And thanks to his son Jon, Dickie Goodman's music is coming back for one more spin in the flying saucer.

Born in Hewlett, New York in 1934, Dickie Goodman came from a household filled with fun and laughter. His father Saul Goodman, a straight-laced attorney with General Electric, loved to let loose at home. "Saul Goodman was kind of wacky," said Jon Goodman. "It was the last thing you would ever expect if you were doing business with him. A couple of glasses of Manischewitz, and he start running around the house in some very strange clothes."

Dickie later attended New York University - but his heart wasn't in academia. He wanted to write songs and sing them on the radio, so he dropped out of college (the decision may have been spurred by his accidentally blowing up the science lab) and met up with Bill Buchanan, a struggling New York City music publisher with a solid radio voice. Where other songwriters created two-minute masterpieces in New York's Brill Building, Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman solicited their publishers from a pay telephone at Hansen's Drug Store.

Then in June 1956, Goodman came up with an idea. "Bill Buchanan and I were writing some songs at the time," said Goodman in a print interview, "trying to break into the business. We were sitting around and suddenly we got an idea. How would it be if we had a disc jockey show being interrupted by reports of a flying saucer - THE FLYING SAUCERS ARE REAL! - and suddenly the Platters line (from "The Great Pretender") came to me - 'Too real when I feel what my heart can't conceal' and we said 'Hey!' and we didn't know any better so we put the thing together."

Within a few days, Goodman and Buchanan spliced together a four-minute reworking of Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast. Goodman played "John Cameron Cameron," an unflappable reporter interviewing people, officials and even the Martians themselves. Buchanan was heard as a title-mangling disc jockey (allegedly based on Alan Freed), who interrupted a Nappy Brown dance number with news of an invasion from Mars.

Buchanan: We interrupt this record to bring you a special bulletin. The reports of a flying saucer hovering over the city have been confirmed. The flying saucers are real!

Radio:Too real, when I feel, what my heart can't conceal... (from the Platters' "The Great Pretender")

Buchanan: That was the Clatters' recording, "Too Real!"

And that set the pattern. Goodman would interview eyewitnesses about the spaceship, whose responses were the lyrics of popular songs.

Goodman: This is John Cameron Cameron downtown. Pardon me madam, would you tell our audience what would you do if the saucer were to land?

Witness: Duck back in the alley (from Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally")

Goodman: Thank you. And now the thin gentleman there.

Witness: What I'm gonna do ... is hard to tell (from Fats Domino's "Hard to Tell")

Goodman: And the gentleman with the guitar, what would you do sir?

Witness: Just take a walk down Lonely Street (from Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel")

The record continued. While the flying saucer landed on Earth, Buchanan and Goodman greeted its arrival with more splices, in-jokes and primitive technical wizardry.

Goodman: This is John Cameron Cameron on the spot. And now I believe we're about to hear the words of the first spaceman ever to land on earth.

Martian: "A WOP BOP A LOO MOP A LOP BAM BOOM" (from Little Richard's "Tutti-Frutti")

Goodman: The impact of seeing the first spaceman has this reporter reeling!

Radio: Here I go reeling, ohh-oh (skip) ohh-oh (skip) ohh-oh (from the Platters' "The Magic Touch")

Buchanan: That was the Clatters again, with their big one, "Uh-Oh!"

Goodman: Gathered around me are several of the spacemen. Tell us - have you come to conquer the world?

Martian: esnefed fo yraterces

Goodman: And now would you repeat that in English?

Martian: Don't want the world to have and hold... (from Don Cherry's "Band of Gold")

The duo shopped their pastiche to every record label in New York. Nobody was interested; many record execs dismissed the recording as a cheap "sampler." Undaunted, they took the tape to radio station WINS, where disc jockey Jack Lacy agreed to play it. He gave the song a couple of airings, then let the next DJ - Alan Freed - play the track during his show.

Meanwhile, Buchanan and Goodman visited George Goldner, a producer at Roulette Records. In a print interview with Art Fein, Goodman remembers that meeting. "We were in George's office, but before we got a chance to play our record, one of his salesmen burst in and asked if anybody knew about a record that was played on WINS the night before - something about Elvis Presley and spacemen. Everybody in town wanted it. George took it on immediately."

Goldner even gave Buchanan and Goodman their own custom label, Universe, and would handle "The Flying Saucer" through Roulette's chain of independent distributors. The day after the first copies were pressed, however, someone at Roulette discovered there was another Universe label in existence. Buchanan, Goodman, Goldner and several Roulette staffers all spent the entire night hand-printing an "L" to 2,000 Universe 45's and 78's, and the Luniverse label was born.

Although the record was an immediate hit in New York, it took a couple of weeks for the rest of the country to catch on. The NBC and ABC radio networks initially banned the song, because they didn't want any listeners misunderstanding the gag record as an actual announcement of an invasion. Other parts of the country couldn't get their hands on the record fast enough. In Cleveland, for example, the record was so scarce that stores were charging customers as much as $1.75 for each copy.

Meanwhile, the Music Publishers Protective Association, through the offices of its trustee, the Harry Fox Agency, claimed "The Flying Saucer" was guilty of at least 19 different instances of copyright infringement and unauthorized usages. "If we can't stop this," said one record insider to Billboard, "nothing is safe in our business."

"No industry exec believes [Buchanan and Goodman] have a leg to stand on in their use of copyrighted material and other disk artists without permission," said an unnamed source to Variety.

But although the record companies publicly moaned and wrung their hands over the issue, they initially let the publishing houses go after Buchanan and Goodman for copyright infringement, rather than litigate the matter themselves. Part of the reason may have been because "The Flying Saucer" actually increased sales of records included in its collage. For example, because a snippet of "Earth Angel" was part of "The Flying Saucer," requests for the Penguins song forced DooTone Records to reissue their hit. As an unidentified publishing representative told Time magazine, "It's the greatest sampler of all. If you're not on 'Saucer,' you're nowhere!"

Some record company executives questioned whether Buchanan and Goodman actually infringed on any rights at all. The fragments were all part of ASCAP's and BMI's libraries, and Buchanan and Goodman's lawyers argued that the question was really whether "The Flying Saucer" contained any material that wasn't part of those two libraries. One record exec told Variety that he was ready to forget the whole business and just let the record run its course. Another industry lawyer said that because of all the publicity this case received, he didn't think anybody would dare make another "snippet" record for at least another decade.

After much negotiation among all parties, an agreement was finally reached. The publishing houses would split 17 cents in royalties from every 89 cent copy of "The Flying Saucer" - approximately 1 cent for each publisher per disc sold. Buchanan and Goodman could still sell their single, and the song was finally cleared for jukeboxes and radio airplay.

By August 15, 1956, "The Flying Saucer" had sold 500,000 copies in three weeks, and was a regional #1 hit in Pittsburgh, Louisville and Cleveland. By the end of August, "The Flying Saucer" had doubled those sales figures, and climbed as high as #3 in Billboard's and Variety's national sales charts, just behind Elvis Presley's two-sided hit "Don't Be Cruel"/"Hound Dog" and the Platters' "My Prayer." In some cities, "The Flying Saucer" actually beat Elvis for a few weeks in sales and local airplay. Jukebox owners purchased three or four copies of "The Flying Saucer" for their businesses - and a couple extra for themselves. Disc jockeys loved the song, and began working on "break-in" collages of their own.

Some of those "break-in" records actually made it to disc - many of them while "The Flying Saucer" was flying up the charts. Novelty Records released "Marty on Planet Mars (The New 'Flying Saucer')" (Novelty 101). Dave Barry released an answer record, "Out Of This World With Flying Saucers" (RPM 469). Sid Lawrence came up with "The Answer To 'The Flying Saucer'" (Cosmic 1001). Even Alan Freed, who first played "The Flying Saucer" on his radio show, performed on a "break-in" record of his own, "The Space Man" (Coral 61693).

The publishing houses were furious. Instead of "break-in" records stopping, now they were multiplying like weeds in a garden. In an attempt to limit the production of new "break-in" records, the publishing houses demanded an increase from the standard two-cent royalty for each song used, to eight cents per song from each of the new "break-in" discs!

Many of the smaller companies simply gave up. Variety reported that Plus Records, who pressed 53,955 copies of an Elvis-themed "break-in" record, "Dear Elvis, With Love From Audrey" (Plus 104), could sell only 30,000 copies before the increased royalty rate was assessed. As part of a settlement agreement, Plus Records turned over the master of "Dear Elvis" to the publishing houses, who promptly destroyed the master.

In November 1956, Buchanan and Goodman began work on their second single, "Buchanan and Goodman on Trial" (Luniverse 102), a "break-in" record satirizing their experience in the courtroom. With Little Richard as their defense attorney and a jury full of Martians acquitting the "break-in" duo of all charges, "Buchanan and Goodman on Trial" became both a moderate hit and a not-so-veiled jab at the legal system.

This time the record companies fought back. Four record labels - Imperial, Aristocrat, Modern and Chess - along with two performers, Fats Domino and Overton Lemon (Smiley Lewis), filed suit in New York District Court for an injunction against all Buchanan and Goodman recordings, as well as $130,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. They also wanted 6 cents per single for use of such songs as "Ain't That A Shame," "Maybelline," "I Hear You Knocking" and "Hard to Tell" on the two Luniverse singles. Two publishing companies, Commodore Music and Arc Music, joined in the suit, both refusing Luniverse's original penny-per-sample out-of-court settlement from the first trial.

During the trial, Saul Goodman, Dickie Goodman's father and co- counsel for the defendants, brought a copy of "The Flying Saucer" into the courtroom as Exhibit A. "My grandfather took it up to the judge," said Jon Goodman," and he asked the judge to take it home and listen to it. At first the judge didn't want to do it, but he went ahead and did it."

The next day, judge Henry Clay Greenberg denied the injunction, writing in his decision: "The defendants [Buchanan and Goodman] artfully and cleverly have devised interesting novelty records which make use of portions of records of successful performers under exclusive contract with the plaintiffs and others ... In this highly competitive industry, the fruits of labor may be gathered in or lost quickly ... Undoubtedly some considerable value attaches to the portions of the plaintiffs' records which have been adopted by the defendants ... the court is not able to determine whether or not the defendants have exceeded the bounds of permissible fair competition ... A temporary injunction ought not to issue in a case unless the offense is clear."

"The judge later said that the "Flying Saucer" was a satire, a parody, a new work - a burlesque, in effect - and there was no reason to charge Luniverse with violation of anybody's copyright," said Jon Goodman. "There were out of court settlements - they arranged clearances for the publishing houses and whatever. My father made the Harry Fox Agency, which was in charge of collecting mechanicals and royalties, a more interesting organization to work with."

After the trial, Buchanan and Goodman returned to their recording studio, working on their new single, "Flying Saucer the 2nd." Although the track did reach #18 in Billboard, the partnership between Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman was falling apart. Less than one year after their biggest hit, Buchanan and Goodman went their separate ways.

After the breakup, Bill Buchanan released a few "break-in" records of his own, this time with new partner Bob Ancell. He also released a solo single, "The Thing," a remake of the 1951 Phil Harris novelty song. Even on this non- "break-in" record, Buchanan still found a way to integrate the flying saucer into the song, having the helium-throated aliens sing the refrain.

Buchanan wrote a few pop songs here and there, including co-writing the Bobby Vee hit "Please Don't Ask About Barbara." By 1964, he made one final "break-in" record, this time collaborating with Brill Building veteran Howard Greenfield on "The Invasion" (Invasion 711). In this song, the Beatles were the invaders of American soil, and the formula (including Greenfield as "Nutley down at the airport") was almost unchanged from "The Flying Saucer." In 1965, Buchanan retired from the performing business and moved to the Southwest, operating a successful jewelry business. On August 1, 1996, Bill Buchanan, his body ravaged by cancer, died in a Los Angeles hospital.

Goodman continued to make "break-in" records, satirizing a variety of subjects. Although the "Buchanan and Goodman" partnership was no longer intact, Goodman used the duo's name on his records until 1960. The role of the disc jockey was now given to Paul Sherman, and in December 1957 "Santa and the Satellite" became Goodman's third Top 40 single.

There were still "Flying Saucer" records coming out of the Luniverse studios - "Flying Saucer Goes West," "Flying Saucer The 3rd," as well as a series of "Touchables" records, based on the popular "Untouchables" TV show. By 1959, Goodman released a couple of 45's under the name "The Casual Three." He then shut down Luniverse after its final release, an album of pre- "Come Go With Me" Dell-Vikings recordings.

In 1961 Goodman found a new partner in Mickey Shorr, and released two "break-in" records, "Russian Bandstand" and "Stagger Lawrence," under the group name "Spencer and Spencer." The partnership quickly died, and within a year both Goodman and Shorr released competing "break-in" records based on the Ben Casey medical TV show.

By the early 1960's, Goodman was unsure if his "break-in" records had run their course, and looked toward new avenues for fresh ideas. In 1962, Allan Sherman's parody debut My Son, The Folk Singer sold millions of copies, and was immediately copied by other performers hoping to catch a fraction of his success. Goodman's answer to Sherman's record, entitled My Son The Joke (Comet 69) contained no "break-in" tracks or creative splicing. Goodman added a more vulgar slant to his lyrical parodies, as "Frere Jacques" became "Harry's Jock Strap"; "If I Had A Hammer" became a song about two streetwalkers, "Ida 'n Anna." Typical of the lyrics is this stanza, sung to the tune of "Anchors Aweigh":

Hank is away again,
Hank is away
Hank is your husband and he's gone out to L.A., yay, yay, yay
I'll be with you, next door,
While he is gone,
I'll pay the favor back
I'll let him use my mower on his lawn.

The album sold poorly, although one track - "Harry's Jock Strap" - became a staple on the Dr. Demento radio show years ago. This, however, would be Goodman's last attempt to be a "follower" rather than a leader.

By 1963, Goodman became President of 20th Century-Fox's record division. His most notable accomplishment came on November 22, 1963, when Goodman heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated. Quickly he told his staff to compile an album of Kennedy's most famous speeches and news conferences, all gleaned from the Fox Movietone News archives. When Billboard printed its November 30th issue with news of the Kennedy assassination, Goodman made sure the magazine also contained a full-page ad for "John Fitzgerald Kennedy: The Presidential Years, 1960- 1963" (20th Century 3127). Despite competition from five different labels, each with their own Kennedy tribute, Goodman's tribute album was one of the fastest selling discs of its time, eventually peaking at #8 on the album charts.

After Goodman finished his stint with 20th Century-Fox, he worked as a jokewriter in New York City, creating patter and scripts for guests on The Ed Sullivan Show. "In New York there was a watering hole called the Ratfink Room. All the comics would come into the Ratfink Room, give my father $20 and ask him to write something funny for them. He wrote a lot of material for Jackie Mason and Stanley Lewis."

He still made "break-in" records, keeping an eye for a potential topic to skewer - the Batman television series ("Batman and His Grandmother,") the Apollo space mission ("Luna Trip"), or campus unrest ("On Campus"). Ever since the days of "The Flying Saucer," Goodman always resolved to use the original fragments of songs, eschewing cover versions or "sound-alikes" unless absolutely necessary. "There was a time in the 1950's," said Jon Goodman, "where it would be more acceptable to play the remakes done by white people. The subliminal effects were much greater - people were listening to records by artists they would not have heard before on white radio."

In fact, Goodman's snippet records may have been the rock equivalent of the compositions of John Cage, David Tudor and George Rochberg - using tape recorders and phonograph records as instruments, slicing up reel-to-reel tapes and resplicing them at random; creating new recordings from the fragments of old ones. It was the music of indeterminacy, as Luciano Berio composed "Sinfonia" by quoting from a Mahler symphony and fragments of a theatrical production. It was new uses for old technology, as Ferrante and Teicher plucked the wires of a "prepared piano" for a harp-like sound. Music barriers were being torn down, as Edgard Varese's aural symphonies influenced the work of Frank Zappa; and as Karl-Heinz Stockhausen's electronic compositions left an indelible imprint on the Beatles' "Revolution No. 9."

And Dickie Goodman may have been the first to turn this "music of indeterminacy" into pop recordings. Other unsuccessful attempts at "break-in" records could be found as early as the 1920's, according to syndicated radio host and music expert Dr. Demento. "In 1928, The Happiness Boys (Billy Jones and Ernest Hare) recorded a comedy sketch for Victor called 'Twisting the Dials,' about listening to the radio. It used a few snatches of other phonograph records to simulate the music that was encountered while 'twisting the dials.' The record was not a big seller. Spike Jones and Stan Freberg often used quotes from existing songs for humorous effect, but not bits of actual hit records. I would say that for all intents and purposes, 'The Flying Saucer' was the first successful release in that genre."

While many of his records were initially dismissed by the public as throwaway novelty tunes, Goodman slyly inserted political satire and thought-provoking wit into his compositions. He poked fun at Communist suppressions in tracks like "Berlin Top Ten" (Rori 602) and "Russian Bandstand" (Argo 5331). He threw radio commercials into his audio cuisinart and created "The Banana Boat Song" (Luniverse 103), turning the "Day-O" refrain into an all-purpose consumer product. And he went after American politicians, beginning with "Senate Hearing" (20th Century 443) and "Speaking of Ecology" (Ramgo 501).

Meanwhile, other artists attempted to copy Goodman's "break-in" formula, often with mixed success. WMCA disc jockey Jack Spector, operating under the nickname Vik Venus, scraped the Top 40 with "Moonflight" (Buddah 118), avoiding any legal imbroglio by only using song fragments from Buddah-associated artists. The Delegates, a studio group comprised of Tampa disc jockey Bob DeCarlo and the two owners of the Co and Ce record label, Nick Cenci and Nick Kousaleous, hit the Top 10 with "Convention '72"(Mainstream 5525). "Dickie Goodman created a genre of entertainment that hadn't existed before, but which appealed to a great many people," said Dr. Demento. "They inspired many imitators - for a time in the 1970s, it seemed like 25% of the unsolicited tapes and records I received for my show were "break-in" tracks. Of course, few were anywhere near as funny as the originals."

One of Goodman's few forays into conventional pop songs came in 1971. Goodman had an advertising deal with Benton and Bowles, a huge public relations firm in New York, who were trying to save the glass industry from losing one of its primary clients - soda - to plastic containers. So Goodman and partner Bill Ramal formed a group, called them "The Glass Bottle" as a promotional gimmick, and produced an album for them. The Glass Bottle eventually had two hits, "I Ain't Got Time Anymore" (Avco Embassy 4575) and "The Girl Who Loved Me When" (Avco 4584), then broke up.

Dennis Dees, a guitarist for the Glass Bottle, recalls meeeting and working with Dickie Goodman. "I was part of the 'Glass Bottle' group when I was 21 years old, and enjoyed the many antics of this very funny man. Bill Ramal, his partner at the time, lived in New Jersey and I visited with them after the Group broke up to entice them with other musical possibilities.

"Before I met the team of Ramal and Goodman as they were known then, I worked with a musical group out of New Jersey. We heard about an audition to do great things and travel. This had to be around 1969-70. When our group, called The Stone Balloon, had its audition, we performed a song called "Try a Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding. Bill and Dickie were impressed with our rendition and in the end chose me out of the group. We didn't know that the object was to create a group out of many areas, we thought they would want a specific group in total. After I said my goodbyes to The Stone Balloon, I joined those already chosen, Gary Criss, another Jersey boy who performed in Southern NJ and around which the Glass Bottle would be structured - along with Jon Melia who was his drummer. Then it was me and Polly, a wonderful flute player, a black organ player who was later dropped (bad attitude) for a fellow named Charles Moore. The group was rounded out with a black female singer, Carol Denmark. Call us politically diverse for the times.

"We were immediately put on payrole with Benton and Bowles, a top advertising company in New York. It seemed that the group would represent GCMI - Glass Container Manufacturers Institute - against the aluminum can industry. In this time, there was a battle of which medium would lead, bottles or cans. We went into rehearsals for a presentation to be held in Puerto Rico for all these Execs (GCMI and host Benton and Bowles). Ramal and Goodman structured this multi million dollar campaign idea on the way to B&B out of a taxi cab. Anyway while the biggest musical event of the time - Woodstock - was underway, The Glass Bottle was giving its presentation in Puerto Rico. We were a success, and from then on we travelled the country performing on behalf of GCMI. We were involved in a series of television and radio commercials promoting glass containers for which Ramal and Goodman produced us with supporting music(Ramal) and lyrics(Goodman). To further expand on this process, an album was produced called 'The Glass Bottle' which was a plain production involving orchestras and studio musicians. Tough to say that we were truly represented as individual musical talents. I don't think there was the trust to build our inherent talent from within, so outside artists provided the backdrop for our production. This is when the song entitled 'Sorry Suzanne' was released and became the first Glass Bottle entry onto Billboard as a bullet. This song eventually broke into the top 100 and\par }{\plain rose to about the twenties if my memory serves me right. That was followed by 'I Ain't Got Time Anymore.' We traveled the country and kept it up until I left the group one day. I couldn't go forward with this approach any longer. Pressure on a personal level was the problem. And so it goes."

Dickie Goodman followed the Glass Bottle era with a brand new "break-in" label, Rainy Wednesday Records. Many of the singles from this period focused on President Richard Nixon and the Watergate investigation, as Goodman released tracks like "Watergrate", "Mr. President" and "Energy Crisis '74." Goodman also produced another break-in duo for the Rainy Wednesday label, John Free and Ernest Smith, and used snippets from soul and R&B hits to create "Super Fly Meets Shaft" and "Soul President Number One."

"In the early 1970's," said Jon Goodman, "Everybody cared about politics. People cared about what was happening in their country. The only difference between the 1970's and today is that more people care about how Bill Clinton plays the saxophone. There's a false belief that people are held to higher standards because we're watching them better. In actuality, they care more about what's on another channel than what's going on with politics. My father was part of the last generation of patriotism, and the songs he created reflected his opinions of the presidency at that time."

And although the Rainy Wednesday discs didn't have a good beat and hardly anybody danced to them, they were successful enough to warrant an invitation from Dick Clark. "My father was supposed to appear on American Bandstand, and he stayed up all night partying. The next day he called Dick Clark and said, 'I can't appear on the show, my mother just died.'

"Dick Clark said, 'I'm sorry to hear that Dickie, we'll have you on next week.'

"So next week comes around, and my father parties all night again, and the next day he's tired or has a hangover or something. So he calls back Dick Clark, and he tells him, 'I'm sorry I can't make it.'

"He said, 'Gee Dickie, what happened?'

"'My mother died again.'"

By 1975, the motion picture "Jaws" terrorized movie fans across America. Rainy Wednesday Records had folded, and Goodman was recording for tiny Cash Records in Nutley, New Jersey. "All anyone was talking about on the east coast in the early part of the summer was 'Have you seen Jaws?'" said Goodman in a Cashbox interview. "I knew that here was a phenomenon perfectly suited for a track. While everyone else in the theater was going into panic and screaming, I was in hysterics laughing and writing down ideas and one-liners for the shark."

With his ideas in hand, Goodman assembled the necessary sound bites and purported questions for a new break-in record.

Goodman: We've just sighted the shark again. He's coming straight for us! Captain Quint is shouting something at him!

Quint: Getcha baby, one of these nights (from the Eagles' "One Of These Nights")

Goodman: Hey Jaws! The Captain says he's gonna catch you! What do you think of that?

Jaws: Jive' Talkin (from the Bee Gees' "Jive Talkin'")

Goodman: He's coming right onto the boat! Mr. Jaws! Why are you grabbing my hand?

Jaws: Wouldn't you give your hand to a friend (from Melissa Manchester's "Midnight Blue")

Goodman: But wait! Mr. Jaws! That's not how this record is supposed to end! Help! Help! (gurgling and drowning sounds)

"Mr. Jaws" took off like a torpedo, and Goodman and Cash Records quickly negotiated a deal with Private Stock Records to get his disc in stores. On November 6, 1975, while John Williams' "Theme From Jaws" was floating at #44 on the pop charts, "Mr. Jaws", entering the chart at #49, was the highest debut single of the week. Five weeks later, "Mr. Jaws" hit #1 in Cashbox, #1 in Record World, and #4 in Billboard (who also ranked "Mr. Jaws" as the #1 novelty song of the year).

While "Mr. Jaws" put Goodman back on top of the charts, and spurred sales of a greatest hits album, Mr. Jaws and Other Fables (Cash 6000), some listeners couldn't believe this was the same Dickie Goodman who flew a flying saucer into the airwaves in 1956. "A few days ago I was on a radio show," Goodman told New York Times reporter John Rockwell, "and a little kid - he must have been 7 or 8 years old - called up and asked if it was my father who made the other records. I didn't know what to say. I finally said, 'Sure, I'm following in his footsteps.' I didn't want to say I'd been making these records since the mid-fifties."

Other movie tracks followed - "Kong," "Star Warts," "Super Duper Man" - as Goodman tried to recapture the formula that made "Mr. Jaws" a million-seller. "My father had to predict what songs were going to be hits, by the time the record had to hit radio in a few weeks. I remember as a kid, we lived in Los Angeles and would go for these three hour drives to his studio in San Diego. I think the only reason he used a studio in San Diego was that he could listen to the songs on the radio. I'd have a little box tape recorder and record songs right in the car. He'd tell me to fast forward or rewind the tape, all the time looking for that hook. One thing would infuriate him - one time we were listening to an Elton John song, but there was a little cut in the beat where the song may have been mis- spliced - and my father lost his mind. He said to me, 'How could people who are so famous and have all the studio time and record company money in the world do such a tacky job?' He flipped out."

In 1982, Goodman created a new sound collage, "Hey E.T.," satirizing the popular motion picture of the same name. But despite early positive response and solid airplay that would guarantee a hit as large as "Mr. Jaws" or "The Flying Saucer," Goodman couldn't get the record in the stores on time. There was an urban legend that Steven Spielberg, the director of "E.T.", slapped Goodman with an injunction against selling the record. But Jon Goodman disputes that statement. "It was a huge phenomenon on the radio, and he had just run out of financing to have the records manufactured and put in the stores. As a young kid, I heard my father screaming because the records weren't making it in the stores. A lot of the labels he worked for were fly-by-night labels, and he had to get partners to acquire financing so the records could get pressed and shipped. He didn't have the luxury of signing with some major label and they pump a million dollars into his records. He used to say the record business was all luck."

Goodman's next recording contract came with Rhino Records, who released Dickie Goodman's Greatest Hits (Rhino RNLP 811) and a new single, "Radio Russia" (Rhino 19). But now Goodman's compositions were few and far between, and Goodman released his final "break-in" disc, "Safe Sex Report" (Goodname 100) in 1988. "He had finally reached an age when he was ready to settle down," said Jon Goodman, "and then his wife left him. It was his fourth marriage - I've got a brother by one mother, a sister with another mother. It devastated him."

He also had a serious gambling problem, one that ate at his savings every time his horse finished last. As a kid, Dickie Goodman used to stand on a friend's shoulders and drape a topcoat over himself to appear tall enough to bet at the track. And although "The Flying Saucer" and "Mr. Jaws" were successful gambles, they weren't enough to finance Goodman's equestrian infatuation.

"I was at work," said Jon Goodman, "and the police called me and said come home. I asked why, they told me my father just committed suicide."

On November 6, 1989, with his wife gone, his savings gambled away, and the bill collectors pounding on his door, Richard Dorian Goodman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at a relative's home in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

"When my father died, I had to fly out to Vegas to see his ex-wife and collect his personal belongings. I got his three gold records for 'Mr. Jaws.' One of them was for 'Mr. Jaws' being a #1 seller in Canada, I gave that one to my sister. Another one was presented to him by the people at Private Stock Records. I gave that one to my brother. The one that was actually presented to him by the RIAA, I had for many years. In 1991, I sold it to the Hard Rock Cafe, and the main reason for that was I wanted it to be in a museum, and I wanted it to be somewhere safe. Hanging it in my house wasn't good enough. I wanted people to see it."

Goodman's legacy is still alive today. To this day, the Dr. Demento radio show features a segment called the "Demented News," a four-minute comedy newscast produced by "Whimsical Will," which often uses "break- ins" to emphasize his points. When Jon Goodman appeared on the Howard Stern radio show in 1996, Stern acknowledged that Dickie Goodman's records inspired him to make his tough, gritty "radio movies" - about subjects like the O.J. Simpson trial and Marv Albert's off-court antics.

"While I was trying to settle my father's estate, almost every record company I contacted, they all remembered my father and had plenty of stories to tell about him. My father once pointed to a Prince record, long before Prince was anybody, and said his music was cool. My father used to listen to Howard Stern when Stern was just starting out, and he said that guy would be big. He was right both times. After he died, I tried something I had never done before - it was an emotional healing for me - I made my own version of my father's records. I called it 'Summit 89,' and it was a healing exercise for me. The way my father raised me, he didn't want me to go into this business. It's all luck, he told me. I would sit at home after work and write songs and things, think about how I would do a thing like my father. The Persian Gulf, Desert Storm, the O.J. Simpson trial, I used to think, 'Gee, Dad missed the boat.'"

Now Jon Goodman, who sat with his box tape recorder on those long trips to San Diego, taping the songs on the radio so his father could find new segments for his latest collage - is producing Dickie Goodman's Greatest Fables (Hot Productions 33205), the first licensed collection of Goodman's recorded output, including unreleased and demographic material (two other releases, on the Sting and Lunartick labels, were unauthorized bootlegs with poor sound quality, tape dropouts and inaccurate remastering speeds). "I've got 45's that were never released, just test pressings that don't even have labels on them. I've got a copy of a record that my father promised to do a cold contract with a record company many years ago, and he came through with it, but the record company didn't even know about it. When the time came for me to settle his estate, they were doing a quitclaim for me on all the stuff he had done for them, and they said, 'There's one other title that we're not sure what it's called,' they had half of the title of it, and meanwhile I've got the record."

As a special bonus track on Dickie Goodman's Greatest Fables, Jon Goodman recorded his own "break-in" record, "Return of the Flying Saucer '97," as a tribute to his father.

Goodman: Agent Scully is discussing FBI strategy with Agent Mulder.

Scully: I will wash the dishes, while you go have a beer (from Paula Cole's "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?")

Goodman: The flying saucer has landed! Aliens are marching out of the ship! They're communicating with us in an unknown language!

Aliens: Mmmbop - dop-pa doo-wop (from Hanson's "Mmmbop")

But the CD won't be enough. Jon wants his father recognized by the RIAA for the million-selling "Flying Saucer" disc. He wants the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to consider inducting Goodman into their museum.

And most of all, he wants anybody who ever sampled a track, anybody who ever transposed a lyric into an entirely new song, anybody who had to contact the Harry Fox Agency to determine proper mechanical rights - to remember Dickie Goodman. "This is what I was meant to do. What I'm trying to do is stop something that can last forever from fading away. I'm trying to save my father's work."

 

DICKIE GOODMAN ON YOUTUBE


This is a mash-up of scenes from the anime series Naruto, combined with Dickie Goodman's "Mr. Jaws."









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