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In the wake of this week’s release of Kong: Skull Island, one can’t help but remember the last two Kong crazes. The mid 2000s remake had some merchandise and buzz, but it was nothing like the sheer lunacy that accompanied the 1976 remake. Maybe it’s because this writer was four-years-old and things mean more when you’re that age, but it seemed like you couldn’t turn anywhere without seeing the big ape on magazine covers, on glasses at fast food chain Burger Chef, in toy store aisles and all over the news. Today, we’ve come to accept the marketing blitz that goes with blockbusters, but Dino’s Kong was a beast ahead of his time.
Kong even had a song. Unauthorized, but a song nonetheless. “The King of Novelty” Dickie Goodman had made a career out of records that would cash in on the latest craze, from a 1956 remix of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds called “The Flying Saucer,” which earned him a lawsuit. A judge ruled that the sample heavy work was actually an original piece of art, putting Dickie around 30 years or so ahead of rap music. In the ’60s, he did songs spoofing Ben Casey (“Ben Crazy”), The Untouchables (“The Touchables”) and Batman (“Batman and His Grandmother”).
His highest charting song ever was 1975’s “Mr. Jaws.” It’s another example of what Dickie did best: the “break-in record,” where a reporter would ask questions of famous movie characters and be answered by famous song lyrics. Here’s an example from “Kong”:
Radio announcer: “We’re here on Skull Island, where a forty foot gorilla has just kidnapped Dwan, a young actress. Hey Kong, what did you tell her?”
The answer? Rod Stewart singing “Tonight’s the Night.”
There’s really nothing like Dickie’s “Kong,” put out on his label Shock Records, out there today. It made #48 on the Billboard chart before fading away, but Dickie kept plugging away, doing send ups of Star Wars, Superman, E.T. and Return of the Jedi. His final recording was a parody of safe sex announcements, released just before he took his own life in 1989.
I can’t even explain to you how many times I listened to this record. My family still has PTSD from it 41 years later.
So, this weekend when you’re out there watching Samuel Jackson chasing Kong all over Skull Island, try and remember Dickie, working his heart out to make a little money off whatever fad or trend came his way. I mean, the guy took a tumble off the World Trade Center for his art, after all. Just listen!