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About Buchanan & Goodman

Pioneers of the "break-in" novelty record (and therefore godfathers of the entire concept of sampling, complete with the legal entanglements), Buchanan & Goodman were in the long run not much more than a footnote in the history of rock & roll, but their records are still fitfully amusing curios of a simpler, more low-tech time.

Dickie Goodman and Bill Buchanan were struggling pop songwriters in New York in 1956 when Goodman came up with the idea of using lines from current hits of the day to comment on another mid-'50s fad, UFO sightings. Buchanan & Goodman scrounged enough studio time to record "The Flying Saucer, Parts 1 and 2," Goodman taking the role of the rat-a-tat newsman John Cameron Cameron (a running joke throughout the duo's records based on the NBC newsman John Cameron Swayze) and the pair dropping in bits of songs like Smiley Lewis' "I Hear You Knocking" and the Penguins' "Earth Angel" as the punch lines to Mad Magazine-style jokes. After being rejected by every label they could think of, Buchanan & Goodman took the record to Alan Freed at New York's WINS radio, who started playing the song nightly, getting the attention of George Goldner at Roulette Records, who signed the duo and created the Luniverse label (originally Universe until another label laid claim to the name) just for their singles. Buchanan & Goodman quickly followed up their debut Top Five hit with "Flying Saucer the 2nd," "Flying Saucer the 3rd," and even the Western parody "Flying Saucers Go West" before that well ran dry.

Buchanan & Goodman were sued by 17 different record labels for copyright infringement after the success of the initial singles, suits that were eventually dismissed with the ruling that "break-in" records were parodies that did not infringe on the sales of the works being parodied. Wisely using the lawsuits as a chance for a little self-publicity, the pair released 1957's Buchanan & Goodman on Trial before branching out into new topics like TV dramas Ben Casey ("Ben Crazy") and The Untouchables ("The Touchables" and "The Touchables In Brooklyn"), Santa Claus, and even international politics in the Cold War parody "Berlin Top Ten." However, the duo over-saturated their market, and the craze for break-in records waned by 1959, when the duo split up. (Some histories claim that Buchanan & Goodman actually split up much earlier, with the later Buchanan & Goodman singles being solo efforts by Goodman under the familiar name.) Dickie Goodman temporarily took a break from the novelty market, trying to re-establish himself as a serious songwriter (his biggest hit was Bobby Vee's "Please Don't Ask About Barbara"), as Bill Buchanan continued to make break-ins, first with Bob Ancell ("The Creature" and "Meet the Creature") and then with Howard Greenfield (the Beatles parody "The Invasion"), who was much better known as Neil Sedaka's songwriting partner. Buchanan even released a solo single, a cover of Phil Silvers' novelty hit "The Thing," that's unusual in being the only proper "song" in the pair's entire oeuvre, not counting the bizarre, deliberately bad instrumentals that often filled up the flip sides of their singles to reduce the chances of DJs flipping over the records. Bill Buchanan retired from music in the early '60s, moving to Texas to become a jeweler before dying on August 1, 1996.

Dickie Goodman's return to break-in records came in 1961 with the political satire "Washington Uptight," followed in 1962 by a poorly received carbon copy of Allan Sherman's early folk song parodies called My Son the Joke. After that misstep, Goodman devoted the rest of his career to making break-in records, releasing dozens of them on his own small labels. Despite occasional successes ("Mr. Jaws" was a Top Five hit in 1975, nearly two decades after "The Flying Sauce'") and an intriguing bent towards political commentary (Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were frequent satirical targets), many of Goodman's solo singles smacked of bandwagon-jumping desperation, with only occasionally amusing results. On November 6, 1989, a little over a year after releasing his last single, "Safe Sex Report," and facing personal and financial difficulties, Dickie Goodman committed suicide at his home in Los Angeles.

Several anthologies of Buchanan & Goodman's singles have appeared, most of them unauthorized bootlegs. Legitimate reissues include Rhino's 1983 LP Dickie Goodman's Greatest Hits and 1997's Greatest Fables, credited to Dickie Goodman & Friends and including new break-ins by Goodman's son Jon Goodman. ~ Stewart Mason

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