(Pictured: Michael Jackson on stage, 1987.)
September 16, 1987, is a Wednesday. A front-page story in the New York Times details the growing plagiarism scandal surrounding Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Biden’s committee is holding confirmation hearings for Supreme Court appointee Robert Bork. Pope John Paul II continues a visit to the United States; today, he’s in Los Angeles, where he celebrates mass at Dodger Stadium and stresses the need for religious communities to draw together “in a common concern for man’s earthly welfare, especially world peace.” President Reagan speaks on the steps of the Capitol at “A Celebration of Citizenship,” as school children across the country celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution. The mayors of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and Hsin Tien, Taiwan, sign a sister-city proclamation. National Football League players and owners are eyeball-to-eyeball in a labor dispute; in six days, the players will go on strike, resulting in the cancellation of one week’s games and the playing of three others with replacement players. Bob Boone of the California Angels appears in his 1,919th game at catcher, which is a major league record.
Calvin and Hobbes decide to secede from their family. On CBS-TV tonight, it’s the premiere of Wiseguy, starring Ken Wahl. On NBC, the final season of St. Elsewhere begins. The New York Times reports that investment firm Smith Barney is dropping John Houseman from its TV ads; for several years, Houseman has told viewers that Smith Barney makes money the old fashioned way: “they ear-r-r-r-r-n it.” The current edition of Variety includes the obituary of TV star Lorne Greene (Bonanza), who died last week at age 72. Films set to open this coming weekend include Fatal Attraction, Hellraiser, and The Pick-Up Artist. Top movie last weekend: Stakeout, starring Emilio Estevez and Richard Dreyfuss.
Pink Floyd plays Cleveland, Boston plays Nashville, and Bob Dylan plays Nuremberg, Germany, with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers opening. The Grateful Dead plays Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Dead’s biggest hit single to date, “Touch of Grey,” is at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. That chart is topped by Los Lobos and Michael Jackson, sitting at #1 and #2 for the second consecutive week with “La Bamba” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” is at #3, followed by Whitesnake and “Here I Go Again”at #4. Madonna is in the Top 10 with “Who’s That Girl” (#9) and she also has the highest debuting song on the Hot 100 with “Causing a Commotion,” which comes in at #41. Also in the top 10: Huey Lewis and the News (“Doing It All for My Baby” at #7) and “When Smokey Sings” by ABC (#8), which cleverly incorporates the main riff from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ 1970 hit “Tears of a Clown.” Smokey himself is at #21 with “One Heartbeat.”
Perspective From the Present: During the week of October 3, “One Heartbeat” would reach #10 and become Smokey Robinson’s final Top 10 hit to date. “La Bamba” would be knocked from the #1 spot the next week by “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Although Michael Jackson’s Bad had been released two weeks before, it didn’t knock the La Bamba movie soundtrack from #1 until the week of September 26. Such were the limitations of chart methodology in the pre-Soundscan era. Bad was, nevertheless, the album absolutely everyone was talking about 30 years ago this month, and Michael-mania was raging anew. It was so pervasive that even my radio station—which played elevator music—briefly made room for “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”