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Cold War Music from the Golden Age of Homeland Security

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Russian Bandstand: Spencer and Spencer [1959]

This ridiculous song on how the Communists might have adapted Dick Clark's popular music show, 'American Bandstand,' is a rapid-fire (literally) satire that reflects—in the broadest possible comic terms—how many Americans assumed cultural matters were handled behind the Iron Curtain. From all reports, however, Soviet television programming was never quite this entertaining. Trivia note: The 'rock' song that is played within this spoken word piece is a snippet of Chuck Berry's Maybelline…played backwards. Reportedly, there is another version of Russian Bandstand that replaces Berry's reversed excerpt with music from a faux Russian folk group. This may explain why the single's label includes a credit to The Sonia Pryor Choir.

Spencer And Spencer were actually novelty 'break-in' song pioneer Dickie Goodman and Mickey Shorr, a Detroit, Michigan DJ. Dickie Goodman was born in Hewlett, New York in 1934 and dropped out of New York University when he decided songwriting was the only thing he wanted to do with his life. He hit upon the 'break-in' concept, with his frequent partner, Bill Buchanan, in 1956 when they were kicking song ideas around. 'Break-In' songs involved weaving excerpts of hit records into a narrative, usually a mock newscast. Taking their cue from Orson Welles' famous 'War Of The Worlds' radio broadcast, Buchanan & Goodman had a major hit with The Flying Saucer Parts 1 & 2 which utilized snippets of hits from The Platters, Little Richard, Elvis Presley and others. The record, which sold 500,000 copies in three weeks, spawned numerous knock-offs including one by Alan Freed, one of the first DJs to give Saucer airplay (The Spaceman on Coral). Goodman & Buchanan would release additional variations on their gimmick such as Santa And The Satellite, Flying Saucer The 2nd and Public Opinion before Buchanan decided to retire.

Goodman recruited Shorr for Russian Bandstand and one other Spencer And Spencer single, Stagger Lawrence/Stroganoff Cha Cha released on the Gone label in 1960. Shortly after the partnership broke up, each satirist released their own 'Ben Casey' parody songs in 1962 (Goodman's Ben Crazy and Shorr's Dr. Ben Basey). By 1963 Goodman had gone on to become president of 20th Century Fox Records where his business savvy enabled him to engineer the quick release of a compilation of John F. Kennedy speeches within days of the president's assassination. The spoken word record ('John Fitzgerald Kennedy: The Presidential Years, 1960- 1963') quickly became a Top Ten hit. After Goodman's tenure at Fox Records, he became a joke writer for 'The Ed Sullivan Show' and released the occasional 'break-in' record when the spirit moved him. His last major hit, Mr. Jaws, was inspired by the box office phenomenon of Steven Spielberg's 1975 shark epic. Goodman died in 1989.

Mickey Shorr's DJ career is notable for his championing of R&B and rock 'n' roll. He made his biggest impact in this regard beginning in 1955 on Detroit, Michigan's WJBK-AM. After his novelty music career ended, he eventually started a successful chain of stereo stores in Michigan. Shorr died in 1988. A tragic Cold War-related footnote to Shorr's life is that in 1969 his 17-year-old son, Hank, successfully hijacked a plane to Cuba and reportedly told captive passengers during the flight that he intended "join the revolution." The younger Shorr died in Cuba the following year of undisclosed causes.

LYRICS/TRANSCRIPTION:
Russian Bandstand: Spencer and Spencer [1959]

Spoken: Welcome to Russian Bandstand
This is your host, Nikita Clarkchev
In Russia almost everybody watches Russian Bandstand
(Machine gun fire)
Now everybody watches Russian Bandstand
Ha, ha, ha

Next is number one song in Russia
(Excerpt of Chuck Berry song played backwards)

(But we don't like that song)
You've got to like that song
It's number one song

(But we don't like…)
(Machine gun fire)

Who else doesn't like that song?

(I don't like…) (Machine gun fire)
(…any other song)

Too late, comrade! Now, anybody else don't like?
(We like that song)
Alright, now a word from our sponsor. You better listen

Light up Stroganoff
New short length cigarette
Each cigarette, two puffs
That's all you got time for
Work twenty-two hours a day salt mine
It's only cigarette with microphone filter
So be careful comrades, secret police are listening
It's only cigarette I smoke, right Comrade Mamarelachev
Right, only cigarette you can buy

Next on the Russian Bandstand is country's number one singing star,
Nikita Presleychev
What are you going to sing, Nikita
(Chuck Berry song played backwards)

No, that's wrong song
(Machine gun fire)
Tomorrow we have new number one singing star
Tomorrow we have new number one song

Hey, comrade, we are secret police,
Tomorrow we'll have new host on Russian Bandstand
(Machine gun fire)

Spencer and Spencer [1959]
Russian Bandstand
(Spencer-Spencer)
Argo 5331

CATEGORY: SONGS: RED SCARE[ 1 | COMMENTS | Feb 22, 06 | 1:39 pm ]

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