July 9, 1977: Going Away

(Pictured: 1977 British Open competitors Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.)

July 9, 1977, is a Saturday. Alice Paul, a leading figure in the votes-for-women movement in the early 20th century and author of the Equal Rights Amendment, dies at age 92, as does anthropologist and author Loren Eiseley, age 69. An Illinois woman, Cathleen Crowell, tells police she was raped and picks her attacker out of a police mug book; the man, Gary Dotson, will be convicted two years later. In 1985, Crowell will admit she made up her story, and in 1988, Dotson will become the first person exonerated by DNA evidence. At the IGA Foodliner in Cass City, Michigan, round steak is $1.19 a pound, a twin-pack of Pringles potato chips is 69 cents, and iceberg lettuce is 39 cents a head. In the third round of the British Open, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson both shoot 65 to tie for the tournament lead. (Tomorrow, Watson will birdie the final hole to win the championship.) Future actor Milo Ventimiglia is born. CPO Sharkey star Don Rickles is on the cover of TV Guide. Ben E. King and the Average White Band play the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, as do Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. The San Francisco Kool Jazz Festival features Natalie Cole, Wild Cherry, and Tavares, and Chicago plays Alpine Valley near Milwaukee. A Wisconsin teenager attends an emotional going-away party for several of his classmates who will be leaving the next morning for a month in Europe.

Perspective From the Present: On American Top 40 that weekend, Casey Kasem counted ’em down as usual. Although the show is not quite all killer and no filler, it’s close. Of the top 20, only a couple songs are ones nobody needs to hear again (“Love’s Grown Deep” by Kenny Nolan and the Rocky theme “Gonna Fly Now”). On the bottom half of the list, once you take out the country crossovers (“Luckenbach, Texas,” which I like, and “Lucille,” which I do not), you’re left with only a couple of dogs—although one of them is the execrable “Telephone Man.” While some of what’s left is burned beyond recognition—“Margaritaville,” I’m lookin’ at  you—a batting average of .800 is pretty good for a show on the edge of the disco era, although your mileage may vary.

Casey remarks that Marvin Gaye’s former #1 hit “Got to Give It Up,” which is sitting at #6 this week, is only the fourth #1 single of the rock era to be recorded live. Presumably this means “live in concert” as opposed to “live in one studio take” because the other three songs Casey mentions, Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips,” Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling,” which I wrote about at Popdose way back when, and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver, are all concert recordings. Except “Got to Give It Up” isn’t live; it was on Gaye’s Live at the London Palladium, but it’s a studio cut with live ambiance provided by some guests at the recording session.

When Casey introduces the week’s #1 song, “Undercover Angel” by Alan O’Day, he says it’s only the third “fantasy song” in history to reach the #1 position. He defines fantasy as magical things that couldn’t happen in the real world, and mentions Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby” (also written by O’Day) and Elton John’s recent cover of the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” as the other two. This strikes me as a pretty thin reed to grasp in search of a factoid. I can think of several #1 hits that are fanciful: “The Night Chicago Died” is a fictional story set on “the east side of Chicago,” a place that doesn’t exist; there was never any such thing as “Crocodile Rock”; and if America’s “A Horse With No Name” isn’t a fantasy, I’ll eat my hat.

On the subject of that going-away party: every person has a few days and/or nights in life that remain indelible for all time, that we will not, cannot, must not forget. That night is one of a very few in mine.

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One thought on “July 9, 1977: Going Away

  1. That “fantasy” trivia has always been a burr on my backside. I’m guessing novelty songs were exempt from the tabulation, unless Casey’s gang thinks it entirely possible for purple people eaters to fly among us, mad scientists to host parties for the likes of the Wolfman and Count Dracula (and son), and Memphis DJs to transform into waterfowl beneath the mirror ball.

    Speaking of Top 40 atrocities, further apologies for “Telephone Man” in the ’77 Special. To paraphrase a notorious internet gasbag, that was my Seventies. I couldn’t help myself.

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