September 17, 1978: Don’t Look Back

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(Pictured: Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta attend the premiere of Grease in appropriate attire, 1978.)

September 17, 1978, was a Sunday. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin sign the Camp David Accords. The peace agreement was reached after 12 days of secret negotiations mediated by President Jimmy Carter, who will win the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. Carter also designates the coming week as National Port Week. The Guttenberg, Iowa, fire department responds to a car fire. In South Middleton, Massachusetts, a man reports seeing six “humanoid figures” in reflective clothing standing beside the road in front of his house; after a few minutes, they walk into the woods and disappear. In LaPorte, Indiana, the new LaPorte Historical Society museum opens. Hurricane Greta strikes Honduras. In Monroe, Wisconsin, local businessman Archie Myers is grand marshal of the Cheese Days parade.

It’s the third Sunday of the NFL season, which has expanded from 14 games to 16 this year; The Oakland Raiders defeat the Green Bay Packers 28-3. Bobby Allison wins the NASCAR Delaware 500. In the American League, the Boston Red Sox defeat the New York Yankees 7-4; New York leads Boston in their division by two and a half games, having made up a 14-game deficit since July. The season will come down to a one-game playoff on October 2, which will be won by the Yankees. Battlestar Galactica premieres on ABC, and the 25th season of The Wonderful World of Disney premieres on NBC. The CBS news show 60 Minutes begins a new segment called “A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney.” CBS also airs promos for a new series that will premiere the following night: WKRP in Cincinnati.

AC/DC plays Allentown, Pennsylvania; Little Feat plays Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Black Sabbath plays Kansas City, Missouri, with Van Halen opening; Bob Dylan plays New Haven, Connecticut; Bruce Springsteen plays New York City; saxophonist Dexter Gordon plays San Francisco; Frank Zappa plays Atlanta. On the Billboard Hot 100 dated September 16, 1978, the top five singles are in the same positions as the previous week: “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey is #1, followed by “Three Times a Lady” by the Commodores, “Hot Blooded” by Foreigner, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” by Olivia Newton-John, and “Kiss You All Over” by Exile. The only new entry in the Top 10 is Boston’s “Don’t Look Back,” at #8. The highest-charting new song is Barry Manilow’s “Ready to Take a Chance Again,” at #70, and the biggest mover is Ambrosia’s “How Much I Feel,” moving from #80 to #63 in its third week on.

Perspective From the Present: I attended the Cheese Days parade that afternoon, as Monroe is my hometown. That night, I reluctantly returned to college an hour away, in Platteville, where I was a freshman. I was, like many freshmen, having a difficult time adjusting, and there was at least one Sunday night that fall when I announced to my parents that I wasn’t going back. I always did, though, and I’d eventually start feeling like I belonged. Getting on the air at the campus radio station at the end of the semester helped a lot.


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