Monday, May 16, 2016

Early '70s "Break-In" Records on the Charts

The novelty record boom of the late fifties brought forth the "break-in" single, a creation by record producer Dickie Goodman in which he'd insert snippets of current hits into a little melodrama usually set up as a newscast. "The Flying Saucer" (credited to Goodman and his partner Bill Buchanan) was his biggest one, hitting #3 in 1956, after which Goodman, the original mad sampler, went straight to court. (He prevailed after judges declared his records to be artistic statements.)

The early seventies novelty resurgence spawned more break-in records thanks to the nostalgia boom among adults and the strong preteen radio demographic who appreciated their entertainment value. Dickie Goodman resurfaced on the charts during this era, along with some imitators, but the difference between these new break-in records and those of previous years—and those after—was a darker undercurrent that reflected frustrating current events. Kids could laugh at them, but the cognizant ears of adults were crucial to their success. A glance at Goodman's rather enormous discography indicates a consistent eye for politics and current events from the fifties all the way to his tragic death of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1989. (The image above comes from a 6/2/73 Billboard ad.) Below is a roundup of all the charting break-ins by Goodman and his imitators (with the non-charting "Speaking of Ecology" included for the sake of context).

"Speaking of Ecology" (1971)
Dickie Goodman and Ruthie

Written by Bill Ramal and Dickie Goodman * 45: "Speaking of Ecology" / "Dayton's Theme" * Label: Ramgo Records * Billboard charts: —

Ecology was on everyone's mind in the early seventies, including that of "break-in" king Dickie Goodman, due to his involvement in the glass bottle industry campaign discussed previously. His non-charting "Speaking of Ecology" listed "Dickie Goodman and Ruthie" as artists, with Ruthie, as revealed by his son John in The King of Novelty (2000), being Goodman's mistress at the time. After this, a non-Goodman break-in single called "Convention '72" would renew public taste in Goodman's specialty.

The samples: "Shaft" (Isaac Hayes), "Ain't No Sunshine" (Bill Withers), "Make It Funky" (James Brown), "Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves" (Cher), "Only You Know and I Know" (Delaney and Bonnie), "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (Joan Baez), "Thin Line Between Love and Hate" (Persuaders), "Yo Yo" (Osmonds), "Maggie May" (Rod Stewart), "Do You Know What I Mean" (Lee Michaels), "Never My Love" (5th Dimension), "Sweet City Woman" (Stampeders).

"Speaking of Ecology"

"Convention '72" (1972)
The Delegates

Written by Nick Cenci and Nick Koselaneos * Produced by Nik-Nik Productions * 45: "Convention '72" / "Funky Butt" * LP: The Delegates * Label: Mainstream * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#8)

Pittsburgh record men Nick Cenci and Nick Koseleanos concocted this racy spoof of the Republican and Democratic conventions, which they had gotten KQV disk jockey Bob DeCarlo to record. Its top ten success must have irked "break-in" king Dickie Goodman, who had been creating break-in records without pause since the fifties, but at least "Convention '72" created a renewed interest in his stock in trade. Most kids, though, likely had no idea who and what the record spoofed. Uncredited jazz rock fills up side B.

The samples: "Troglodyte" (Jimmy Castor Bunch), "I Gotcha" (Joe Tex), "Lean on Me" (Bill Withers), "Sealed with a Kiss" (Bobby Vinton), "Happiest Girl in the Whole USA" (Donna Fargo), "Jungle Fever" (Chakachas), "Alone Again (Naturally)" (Gilbert O'Sullivan), "Coconut" (Nilsson), "A Horse with No Name" (America), "Take It Easy (In Your Mind)" (Jerry Reed)," "If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Wanna Be Right)" (Luther Ingram), "Back Stabbers" (The O'Jays), "Liar" (Three Dog Night), "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" (Bee Gees), "Mr. Big Stuff" (Jean Knight), "Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves" (Cher), "Last Night I Couldn't Get to Sleep" (5th Dimension), "Double Barrel" (Dave and Ansell Collins), "The Candy Man" (Sammy Davis Jr.), "I Don't Know How to Love Him" (Yvonne Elliman).

Side A: "Convention '72"

Side B: "Funky Butt"

"Super Fly Meets Shaft" (1973)
John and Ernest

Written and produced by Dickie Goodman and Sal Passantino * 45: "Super Fly Meets Shaft" / "Part Two" (Rainy Wednesday) * LP: Mr. Jaws and Other Fables by Dickie Goodman (Cash, 1975) * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#31), soul (#17)

Dickie Goodman teamed up with a partner named Sal Passantino for this pseudonymous record featuring two white guys (although no one knew that) satirizing black popular culture. (Joel Whitburn cites the duo as "John Free" and "Ernest Smith," but these are likely pseudonyms he'd found somewhere for Goodman and Passantino.) It's another record that could entertain preteens who likely had little familiarity with contemporary icons of blaxploitation films such as Superfly or Shaft. The record's content propelled it to #17 on Billboard's soul chart; a John and Ernest follow-up called "Soul President Number One" would never reach the charts. The gag track on the other side ("Part Two") is a two-minute continuation of the jumbled up "Superfly" utterance that closes side A. On his 45cat profile, Passantino reports that Curtis Mayfield had sued the duo over it, but settled "for $1,000 and a withdrawal of the song."

The samples: A mystery version of Jackie Ross's "Selfish One," "I Got Ants in My Pants" (James Brown), "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (Temptations), "Keeper of the Castle" (Four Tops), "Me and Mrs. Jones" (Billy Paul), "I'll Be Around" (Spinners), "Shaft" (Isaac Hayes), "Back Stabbers" (O'Jays), "Love Train" (O'Jays), "Freddie's Dead" (Curtis Mayfield), "Daddy's Home" (Jermaine Jackson).

Side A: "Super Fly Meets Shaft"

Side B: "Part Two"

"Watergrate" (1973)
Dickie Goodman

Written and produced by Dickie Goodman * 45: "Watergrate" / "Friends" * Label: Rainy Wednesday * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#42)

Among the fallout of the Watergate break-in scandal was this break-in record by Dickie Goodman, which came out shortly after the Senate Watergate committee hearings became a regular televised event. Side B contained soul instrumental filler music played by nameless session players, with writing credits to "P.D." (public domain). The "Watergrate" title jibed with all of the other mangled names on the record, such as "John Snitchell."

The samples: "Soul Makossa" (Manu Dibango), "Pillow Talk" (Sylvia), "Drinkin' Wine Spo-De-O-Dee" (Jerry Lee Lewis), "Stuck in the Middle with You" (Stealers Wheel), "No More Mr. Nice Guy" (Alice Cooper), "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" (Dawn Featuring Tony Orlando), "Wild Flower" (Skylark), "The Cisco Kid" (War), "Funky Worm" (Ohio Players), "Reelin' in the Years" (Steely Dan), "I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Superstar)" (Glen Campbell), "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" (Stevie Wonder), "My Love" (Paul McCartney and Wings).

Side A: "Watergrate"

Side B: "Friends"

"Energy Crisis '74" (1974)
Dickie Goodman

Written by Dickie Goodman * Produced by Dickie Goodman and Phil Kahl * 45: "Energy Crisis '74" / "Ruthie's Theme" (Rainy Wednesday) * LP: Mr. Jaws and Other Fables by Dickie Goodman (Cash, 1975) * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#33)

This Top 40 hit perhaps took the edge off of radio listeners waiting in the early seventies' notoriously long gas lines, a direct effect of the Arab oil embargo. Helen Reddy's recurring "Leave Me Alone" voiced the precise response cynical Americans expected to hear from higher ups regarding the crisis. Side B ("Ruthie's Song") contains the kind of horn-rock filler music that also appeared on "Watergrate," and as explained earlier (see "Speaking of Ecology"), "Ruthie" was the name of Goodman's mistress—an especially good reason, perhaps, for its public domain writing credit.

The samples: "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)" (Helen Reddy), "Smokin' in the Boys' Room" (Brownsville Station), "Livin' for the City" (Stevie Wonder), "Helen Wheels" (Paul McCartney and Wings), "Mind Games" (John Lennon), "The Joker" (Steve Miller Band), "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (Elton John), "Hello It's Me" (Todd Rundgren), "You're Sixteen" (Ringo Starr), "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" (Charlie Rich), "Top of the World" (The Carpenters).

Side A: "Energy Crisis '74"

Side B: "Ruthie's Theme"

"Mr. President" (1974)
Dickie Goodman

Written by M. Alexander * Produced by Dickie Goodman * 45: "Mr. President" / "Popularity" * Label: Rainy Wednesday * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#73)

At this stage the Watergate hearings were all about tapes and missing conversations, as was this record. "Mr. President" would be the last of Goodman's political break-in offerings to crack the Hot 100. (M. Alexander was likely a Goodman pseudonym.) His final two charting hits, occurring in the second half of the decade, would be movie tie-ins: "Mr. Jaws" (#4 in 1975) and "Kong" (#48 in 1977).

The samples: "The Streak" (Ray Stevens), "Seasons in the Sun" (Terry Jacks), "Bennie and the Jets" (Elton John), "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" (Stevie Wonder), "My Girl Bill" (Jim Stafford), "Dancin' Machine" (Jackson 5), "The Entertainer" (Marvin Hamlisch), "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" (Gladys Knight and the Pips), "The Loco Motion" (Grand Funk), "Oh My My" (Ringo Starr), "Hooked on a Feeling" (Blue Swede), "I Won't Last a Day Without You" (The Carpenters).

"Mr. President"

"Evil Boll-Weevil" (1974)
Grand Canyon

Written by Jeff McKee and Ed Brown * Produced by Jeff McKee * 45: "Evil Boll-Weevil" / "Got to Find My Way Back" * Label: Bang * Billboard charts: (#72)

The stuntman Evel Knevel was a subject all age groups could fully understand, unlike the political quagmires that previous charting break-in records had been lampooning. But Jeff McKee, the co-writer and producer (with no involvement from break-in king Dickie Goodman) explains in the comments for the YouTube link that this single suffered from bad timing. It mimicked Ed Sullivan but appeared at the same time as the beloved TV personality's death in October 1974, affecting stations' willingness to air it. McKee and co-writer Ed Brown worked at Top 40 station WQXI in Atlanta, hence the "Chattahoochee," "Doraville" and "Peachtree" references. An outtake from Paul "I Go Crazy" Davis, signed to Bang at the time, appears as the single's flip, possibly the best of all "break in" B sides. Listen to the guitar hook—it's one to remember.

The samples: "Jet" (Paul McCartney and Wings), "Summer Breeze" (Seals and Crofts), "Rocket Man" (Elton John), "It's My Life" (The Animals), "Evil Ways" (Santana), "Dialogue (Part I & II)" (Chicago), "Sweet Home Alabama" (Lynyrd Skynyrd), "Help Me" (Joni Mitchell), "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (Elton John), "Baby You're a Rich Man" (Beatles), "Clap for the Wolfman" (The Guess Who), "Here, There and Everywhere" (Beatles), "Rock and Roll Heaven" (Righteous Brothers), "Feel Like Makin' Love" (Roberta Flack), "Billion Dollar Babies" (Alice Cooper), "Do It Again" (Steely Dan), "Doraville" (Atlanta Rhythm Section), "Please Come to Boston" (Dave Loggins), "La Grange" (ZZ Top).

Side A: "Evil Boll-Weevil"

Side B: "Got to Find My Way Back"


  1. I have vivid memories of "Mr. Jaws" being played on WABC-AM in New York. I also remember one time one of the jocks saying something like "Well, that was the longest three minutes of my life" when it ended. Guess they got tired of it in heavy rotation.

    1. No doubt that comment came from the legendary Dan Ingram who was decades ahead when it came to sarcasm on the air.

  2. Ha! I remember Goodman's "Hey ET" getting tons of airplay although it never ended up charting...

  3. Thank you. Awesome information.

    I found this page by way of "The Flying Saucer" song. Hearing that brought back an earworm of 'The Worst That Could Happen" mashed with "1, 2, 3, Red Light" and others, so I'm guessing 1968 or '69.

    Does this ring a bell, or is it just my mind playing tricks?


    1. The record you're thinking of is called "Moonflight" by Vik Venus (Actually NY disc jockey Jack Spector). It is on YouTube.