The 1956 novelty song “The Flying Saucer” was one of the first mashup records. The words of the first spaceman ever to land on Earth? “A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bam-boom!”
The 1950s United States UFO craze was a bit wild. Rumours of flying saucers and extra-terrestrial visitors flourished under the shadow of Cold War paranoia. The time was ripe for – what else? – some solid parodies.
“The Flying Saucer,” a 1956 novelty record by by Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman, rode that wave. It was a mash-up song, mixing their own narration of an alien visit with brief excerpts from the most popular hits of the day. The term associated with this technique is the “break-in,” where the songs responded to the narration as a call-and-response. For example:
Pardon me, madam, would you tell our audience what would you do if the saucer were to land?
“Duck back in the alley” [from Little Richard’s “Long Tale Sally”]
Thank you and now that gentleman there:
“What I’m gonna do is hard to tell” [from Fats Domino’s “Poor Me”]
And the gentleman with the guitar, what would you do, sir?
“Just take a walk down Lonely Street” [from Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel”]
And, of course, once the aliens land, they bring a message of hope and love for us all:
And now I believe we’re about to hear the words of the first spaceman ever to land on Earth:
The music publishers of the sampled records, naturally, sued them for unlicensed use. The suit was not successful, although I don’t know whether it was considered a transformative work (like Duchamp’s L. H. O. O. Q.) or simply a protected parody.