Party From Outer Space
Filed under: Media, Music | Tags: Albert Brooks, Albert King, Charlie Van Dyke, Dickie Goodman, flying saucer records, Jack Benny, mockumentary, old-time radio |
The late Dickie Goodman‘s “flying saucer” novelty records were a staple of Top 40 radio in the ’60s and ’70s. In a flying saucer record, an interviewer asks questions of “people” and each answer is a sampled line from a hit song of the day.
Many years ago a friend introduced me to comedian Albert Brooks‘ 1975 parody of flying saucer records, “Party From Outer Space” (and its setup track, which until yesterday I thought was not a separate track). My friend dubbed a copy of both tracks on to cassette and gave it to me. When the subject of “Party From Outer Space” came up at Chez QC a couple days ago — I don’t recall the context — I knew I just had to hear it again for the first time in years. I figured finding it online would be easier than digging through unorganized piles of cassettes. My oldest son made it easy for me by doing the online legwork. Thanks, S.
Brooks, best known for his movie writing, directing, and acting, was described by Rex Reed in 1999 as the West Coast Woody Allen. Like Allen, Brooks started his show business career doing standup comedy. I just happened to have recently blogged about Allen’s standup comedy albums.
The premise of “Party From Outer Space” (1:35) as explained in the setup track (1:42), which you should listen to first, is as follows: Brooks wants to make a flying saucer record. His attorney — “superstar lawyer David Braun” — convinces him the expense of licensing and paying royalties for the hit song samples would be prohibitive. Rather than giving up, Brooks decides to use lines from his own self-created “hit records”.
Below I’ve transcribed “Party”. Most of the humor will not be apparent from reading the transcript.
Mission Control: Attention, attention! This is Mission Control. We switch you immediately to our Hollywood correspondent!
Hollywood correspondent (HC): Hello, everybody I’m reporting from the first party ever held in outer space. Everybody is here and I mean everybody. Old movie stars, statues, politicians, dead people, the works. Look! Isn’t that Lassie? Swell party, isn’t it Lassie?
Lassie ( “singing” a line from a pop/rock “record”): I’m havin’ a great time. Thanks
HC: Thank you! Gee, What a polite animal. Oh oh! Here comes Abraham Lincoln. Hi, Abe!
Abraham Lincoln ( “singing” heavy metal): Ooooh, I just met Lassie!
HC: Me too. She’s a lovely dog. Thanks for being so honest. Oh my goodness. Look over there. It’s the great Al Jolson.
Al Jolson: ( “singing” country): Don’t bother me now …
HC: Why not, Al?
Al Jolson ( “singing” the rest of the line): … I’m having lunch.
HC: So you are! Looks good, too. Well, let’s move away now and change the subject. Oh! Maybe I can get a word with the Statue of Liberty! Excuse me. What brings you here, maam?
Statue of Liberty ( “singing” in the style of a pop ballad): I’m with him
HC: Well, I hope the both of you have a very good time. Try the cheese dip. Oop — looking for more people to talk to. Excuse me, sir. Are you a celebrity?
Unidentified Partygoer ( “singing” bubble gum/novelty): No, no, no, no, no, no!
HC: I didn’t think so. You don’t have that certain something. Uh oh! There’s Richard Chamberlain! Hello, Dick.
Richard Chamberlain (not singing): Hi; nice to see you.
HC: Nice to see you too, Dick. Always a pleasure. Well, time to be leaving. Let’s say goodbye to Lassie.
Lassie ( “singing” reggae/pop): I talked to you once, already.
HC: Indeed you did and we were very grateful for it. See you all next year in another party from outer space.
Brooks pulls this off masterfully.
- The interviewer is precisely in the Goodman style.
- While the whole track is parody, each of the song samples is also a parody — of a genre, or possibly a specific song (although I’m unable to identify any specific songs — if you can please leave a comment).
- The Jolson exchange, in which the line is split into two parts, is another nod to Goodman.
- “You don’t have that certain something” — ha! Perfect.
- Richard Chamberlain’s spoken word reply, coming as it does after a near track-long buildup, turns the whole thing on its side brilliantly.
The sad thing about “Party” is its primary appeal is to a rather small audience of middle-aged radio geeks. Sure, many folks fondly remember flying saucer records and would get a kick out of “Party”. But the sheer brilliance of the parody and the intricacies of its construction would be lost I feel on all but aficionados of Top 40 radio of the ’60s and ’70s — aficionados of not just the music but the formatics as well.
After satisfying my jonesing to hear “Party”, I checked out the rest of Brooks’ humorously titled album, A Star is Bought, and was delighted to find “Party” is just the tip of the comedic iceberg. Audio files for the whole album are available for download. (CMA: I’m providing audio links only because I’m not able to find the album or individual tracks for sale online.)
A Star Is Bought is actually a concept album — a “mockumentary” narrated by legendary Top 40 DJ Charlie Van Dyke. Victor W. Valdivia, the album’s reviewer on AllMusic.com, explains the premise of the album (hey, I think “premise” is my word of the week):
Albert Brooks has decided to become a massive crossover music star, and so has designed and constructed an album to appeal to as many constituencies as possible.
“Willard”, in his review of the album on his blog Never Get Out Of The Boat! explains further:
… Brooks attempts to reach every possible radio demographic by including everything from talk radio chatter, blues music, novelty records, nostalgic radio shows and more. In typical Brooks fashion, he documents the entire “concept” along the way, from idea to album …
In addition to “Party”, these tracks are highlights for me:
- “The Englishman-German-Jew Blues” (1:20 setup, 4:30) — Brooks attempts to tell an old joke while blues great Albert King attempts to sing.
- “The Albert Brooks Show #112” (1:27 setup, 10:37) — a bullseye send-up of Jack Benny-style radio comedy of the World War II era. Brooks doesn’t miss a thing — Asian assistant, sardonic mother/secretary, war bond commercial woven into the program content, braying lawyer, and more. It’s by far the album’s longest track and it’s magnificently crafted. Interestingly, Valdivia describes it as “the album’s sole clunker.”
I have to admit my “Party” caveat — that it’s primarily for radio geeks — applies to the entire album. Non-radio geeks should find some of it enjoyable, though. Make sure that for each track you listen to, you listen to the setup track preceding it first.