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Music Review: Dickie Goodman – Long Live The King

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A very strong case could be made for Dickie “The King” Goodman (1939 -1989) being the first artist to ever record using samples. He pioneered a genre that has been termed the “break-in” or “cut-in” song. Beginning with his first single, “The Flying Saucer” (1956), Goodman would pose as a newsman or interviewer, ask a question, and the “answer” would be from a current song. For example, in “The Flying Saucer,” Goodman (as John Cameron Cameron) asks a person on the street “If the flying saucers landed, what would you do?” The response is “Take a walk down lonely street,” from Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel.” Like most novelty records “The Flying Saucer” came and went pretty quickly, but it was Dickie’s biggest hit, reaching the number three spot on the Billboard chart that year.

“The Flying Saucer” kicks off the newly released 27-song collection Long Live The King. Goodman followed up with “The Flying Saucer Part 2,” which managed to reach number 18. He continued making these records into the ‘80s, with varying degrees of success. Since The King’s recordings were self-released, your chances of hearing them, or finding them at the local record shop, were hit or miss at best. This is one of the big attractions of the collection. There is quite a bit of material here that I had never heard before, and I was often pleasantly surprised.

The only Dickie Goodman 45 I ever owned was his second highest charting single, “Mr. Jaws” (1975). It hit number four on the chart, and was certified Gold by the RIAA. As he did on all of his recordings, Dickie took a current event, in this case the shark phenomenon sparked by Jaws, and “interviewed” the star, Mr. Jaws. Here is a sample of that classic: “Mr. Jaws, before you swim out to sea, do you have anything to say?” The band War answers with: “Why can’t we be friends, why can’t we be friends?“ It may be corny, but this stuff still makes me smile.

Besides blockbuster films and weird events, the world of politics was a rich source of parody. To his everlasting credit, Dickie Goodman never had a political axe to grind. One could listen to Long Live The King a thousand times, and never know what Dickie Goodman’s personal politics were. He found humor on both sides of the aisle, and it is very refreshing. I wonder if anyone could pull this off today, as the country is so polarized. He made it seem effortless.

There are a host of “political” tracks on the collection, including “Watergrate” (1973), “Soul President Number One” (1973), “Election ‘80” (1980), “Mr. President” (1981), and “Election ‘84” (1984). Again, none of these are really pro- or anti- either party, but they are a lot of fun to hear.

In fact, the best description for Long Live The King is “fun.” In son Jon Goodman’s liner notes, he says that his father’s songs work as something of a “time capsule.” I wholeheartedly agree. What could have been more “in the moment” in 1973 than a song about Watergate, using current hits as the punch lines?

As if his revolutionary “break-ins” were not enough, Dickie Goodman wrote and recorded his own songs as well. His “Dancin’ U.S.A.” from 1981 is included here. For a man who was active in music for so long, I imagine there are quite a few of his own tunes in the vaults somewhere. To be honest, the song is okay, sort of a disco “Back in the U.S.A.,” but this was really not his forte.

The collection ends with “Election 2012” credited to Jon Goodman featuring Dickie Goodman. This is Jon’s tribute to his father, ala the Natalie Cole – Nat “King” Cole version of “Unforgettable” back in 1991. It is fun to hear Goodman‘s brand of humor updated to today, but I have to say that the most effective bits on “Election 2012” are the recycled ones from The King. I think it is his voice. Dickie Goodman was absolutely committed, and he makes the whole concept work brilliantly.

It may seem like anyone could do this, and Dickie had plenty of copy-cats. Back in the “Mr. Jaws” days, I even tried it myself, with my little Tandy cassette recorder and stack of 45s. But nobody could ever touch Dickie Goodman. There is a reason he was The King, and Long Live The King offers up 27 great reasons why.

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About Greg Barbrick