December 11, 1972: Corner of the Sky

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(Pictured: an artist’s conception of an astronaut and the lunar rover on the moon.)

(Correction below.)

December 11, 1972, is a Monday. At 2:55 Eastern time this morning afternoon, Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt land in the Taurus-Littrow valley of the moon. During their first EVA (extra-vehicular activity), Cernan breaks a fender off of the lunar rover the astronauts use to drive on the surface; they improvise a fix with a paper map and some duct tape. The investigation continues into the crash of a United Airlines plane near Midway Airport in Chicago last Friday. Forty-five people died including two on the ground. One of the passengers killed was Dorothy Hunt, wife of E. Howard Hunt, one of the Watergate burglars. Today, President Nixon’s taping system captures a conversation with Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman in which the president worries that the $10,000 in cash found on Mrs. Hunt’s body might be traced back to the White House as hush money. Nixon and Haldeman also discuss legal and PR strategies to defuse the Watergate scandal, and whether blame could be placed on Attorney General John Mitchell. Funeral services are pending for Louella Parsons, who pioneered the Hollywood gossip column beginning in the 1920s. She died on Saturday at age 91. In Cincinnati, City Hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Yesterday, major league baseball owners agreed to adopt the designated-hitter rule starting in 1973. In a compromise move, the DH will be used only in the American League and only on a three-year experimental basis. After three years, the rule will either be adopted by the National League or scrapped entirely. Also yesterday, veteran AWA wrestler George “Scrap Iron” Gadaski appeared on a bill in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. His opponent was 23-year-old Richard Fliehr from Memphis, Tennessee, who made his professional debut, and who wrestles under the name Ric Flair. Today, future professional hockey player Daniel Alfredsson is born.

In today’s Peanuts strip, Sally gives a report on dinosaurs. Tonight’s lineup on CBS includes Gunsmoke, Here’s Lucy, The Doris Day Show, and The New Bill Cosby Show. NBC has Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and the 1964 theatrical movie A Shot in the Dark starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. ABC airs an episode of The Rookies followed by Monday Night Football with the New York Jets at the Oakland Raiders. Despite 403 yards passing by Jets quarterback Joe Namath, the Raiders win 24-16. It’s the final Monday night game of the year; the regular season will conclude this coming Sunday.

Genesis makes its American debut at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. The Grateful Dead plays Winterland in San Francisco, and Led Zeppelin plays Cardiff, Wales. After a concert in Knoxville, Tennessee, James Brown is arrested on suspicion of starting a riot when he’s actually talking to fans about drug abuse. He is charged with disorderly conduct but swiftly released after threatening to take legal action against the city. At KDNT in Denton, Texas, “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” by Johnny Rivers leaps all the way from #14 to #1 on the new survey released today. Last week’s #1, “I’m Still in Love With You” by Al Green falls to #6. Between those two are “Living in the Past” by Jethro Tull, the Stylistics’ “I’m Stone in Love With You,” “Corner of the Sky” by the Jackson Five, and Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones,” which makes the biggest move within the survey, from #17 last week to #5 this week. Four songs debut within KDNT’s Top 40: “Been to Canaan” by Carole King at #15, “Sitting” by Cat Stevens and “Your Mama Don’t Dance” by Loggins and Messina at #25 and #26 respectively, and Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” at #30. The new #1 single on the Hot 100, “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy, does not appear on the KDNT chart. The #1 album in Denton is Catch Bull at Four by Cat Stevens. Catch Bull at Four has just dropped out of the #1 spot on the Billboard album chart after a three-week run, replaced this week by the Moody Blues’ Seventh Sojourn.

Perspective From the Present: I think I’ve said before, somewhere, that what I remember of certain times or places, apart from songs that call them back, is the light. December 1972 is the warm yellow light filling the junior-high gym during basketball practice, the bluish-white street light harsh against the 6PM darkness outside the back door of the school, where Mother would pick me up after practice, and the dashboard lights of the ’65 Comet—and the AM radio playing Johnny Rivers, Al Green, Billy Paul, and all the rest.


June 17, 1972: Too Late

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(Pictured: John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, and Jimmy Page, on stage in the summer of 1972.)

June 17, 1972, was a Saturday. President Nixon signs the Public Buildings Amendments of 1972, but notes that a couple of provisions are unconstitutional. Earlier in the day, five burglars are arrested inside the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., suspected of having broken into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. In Boston, nine firefighters die when a section of the burning Hotel Vendome collapses. The Libertarian Party holds its first national convention in Denver; the American Mathematical Society holds its 695th meeting in Seattle. Rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun retires from NASA, and the United States ends its occupation of Okinawa, which had gone on since 1945. Tropical Storm Agnes moves into the southeastern Caribbean. Tomorrow it will become a hurricane, and for the next week will drop heavy rain on the East Coast. Severe flooding will occur in New York and Pennsylvania. Total damage from Hurricane Agnes will be estimated at $3 billion, and 120 people will die. Pop singer Julie London, now one of the stars of Emergency!, is on the cover of TV Guide. WNEW-TV in New York City shows Island of Lost Souls as this week’s Creature Feature, while WPIX counters with a Chiller Theater presentation of Killers From Space.

As the final event of a weeklong religious revival, a giant Christian music festival is held in downtown Dallas; its headliners include Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. Organizers claim it attracts 200,000 people. Elvis Presley plays two shows, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, at Chicago Stadium. The Grateful Dead, with Pigpen McKernan onstage for the last time and New Riders of the Purple Sage opening, plays the Hollywood Bowl, Muddy Waters plays Montreux, and Led Zeppelin plays Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon. The Eagles, whose debut album is officially released today, open for Jethro Tull in Las Vegas.

At WAVZ in New Haven, Connecticut, their Hit Power survey for the week lists 60 songs, and the sap quotient is high: “The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr. tops the list; Donny Osmond, David Cassidy, Jimmy Osmond, and Wayne Newton are also on the air. But there’s classic soul aplenty to take the curse off: “Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites, “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers, and “Too Late to Turn Back Now” by the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose, all in the Top 10. The hottest record on the survey, leaping from #31 to #16, is “People Make the World Go Round” by the Stylistics. The highest debuting new single of the week is “Tumbling Dice” by the Rolling Stones, from the nation’s top album, Exile on Main Street, which had been dropped from the station’s survey the week before but is back on again.

In Wisconsin, a 12-year-old boy just out of the sixth grade is playing Little League baseball with more enthusiasm than talent, and doing farm work with no enthusiasm at all. What he really loves is the radio. For him, it really is too late to turn back now.

December 4, 1972: Winter Show

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(Pictured: Elizabeth Montgomery, at center, plays Password.)

December 4, 1972, is a Monday. Time magazine reports on the opening of the SALT II arms limitation talks. At the Vietnam peace talks in Paris, North Vietnamese negotiator Le Duc Tho tells Henry Kissinger that even if the United States were to use nuclear weapons against his country, “our children will continue the struggle.” Five mice are selected to fly aboard Apollo 17, the final mission to the moon, which will be launched on Wednesday—if mission controllers don’t go on strike as they are threatening to do. Future porn star Nikki Tyler, future NBA player Howard Eisley, and future NFL linebackers Ted Johnson and Damien Covington are born. An executive at Motorola tells the company’s lead designer, “We have to build a portable telephone.” Less than four months later, Motorola will unveil the predecessor of the cellular phone at a press conference. In Merced, California, seven-year-old Steven Stayner is kidnapped. He will be held for nearly eight years; in 1989, his story will be told in the TV miniseries I Know My Name Is Steven.

Guest celebrities on Password this week are Elizabeth Montgomery and Bert Convy. Stars on Hollywood Squares are Wally Cox, Nanette Fabray, Jan Murray, John Davidson, Paul Lynde, Marilyn Michaels, Don Rickles, Della Reese, and Vincent Price. On NBC tonight, Jack Klugman, Rich Little, and Henny Youngman appear on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Also on NBC, it’s The Perry Como Winter Show, a Christmas special with guest stars Joey Heatherton, Art Carney, and the Muppets. In tonight’s NFL game, the Los Angeles Rams beat the San Francisco 49ers 26-16. Roman Gabriel throws two touchdown passes for the Rams and David Ray kicks four field goals. At the 92nd Street Y in New York, author Erica Jong reads from her current bestseller Fear of Flying.

In a courtroom in Nice, France, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and Mick Taylor are cleared of drug charges. Led Zeppelin plays Glasgow, Scotland, the Velvet Underground plays Reading, England, and Lynryd Skynyrd plays Atlanta. Disc jockey Don Imus celebrates his first anniversary on the air at WNBC in New York. At WCOL in Columbus, Ohio, it’s a glorious week for soul music: “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations knocks “I’m Stone in Love With You” by the Stylistics from #1 to #5 on the new music survey out today; “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul is at #7, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes is at #9, and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” is at #11. Also on the chart is a cover of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by a British group called Blue Haze, at #12. In a small Wisconsin town without a single black resident, the manager of the seventh-grade basketball team is deeply into soul music nevertheless.

Perspective From the Present: “I’m Stone in Love With You” is a wonder. It makes me feel stupidly happy whenever I hear it, and nobody made prettier records than producer Thom Bell did. He and his songwriting partner, Linda Creed, were responsible for some of the most glorious confections of the 1970s, including all of the Stylistics’ signature hits and “Rubberband Man” by the Spinners. Bell and Creed (who died in 1986) are both in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. As for “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” I knew neither the song nor the Blue Haze version of it back then, although I have since come to adore the Platters’ version.

July 7, 1972: When the Music’s Over

July 7, 1972, was a Friday. Congressmen Gerald Ford of Michigan and Hale Boggs of Louisiana conclude a trip to China. On a visit to North Vietnam, Jane Fonda is photographed in the gunner’s seat of a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. The first female FBI agents since 1927, Susan Roley and Joanne Pierce, are sworn in, and the state of Pennsylvania graduates its first state-trooper class to contain women. In the women’s final at Wimbledon, Billie Jean King defeats Evonne Goolagong. In Baltimore, Club Hippo opens its doors; at its closing in 2015, it will be the oldest gay bar in the country still operating under its original name. Democratic presidential nominee-apparent George McGovern appears on the cover of Life magazine in advance of the Democratic National Convention, which will begin on July 10; the magazine also contains a photo of Russian chess champion Boris Spassky, who is waiting in Iceland for American opponent Bobby Fischer to show up for their world championship match. In Alabama, Lieutenant Governor Jere Beasley is acting governor for a final day. Beasley became acting governor on June 5 because Governor George Wallace was recovering from an assassination attempt in a Maryland hospital; state law required the lieutenant governor to take over if the sitting governor was out of the state for more than 20 days.

The movie Deliverance premieres in theaters. The last of 267,787 Cadillacs produced in the 1972 model year rolls off the assembly line. The Council of Wisconsin Librarians is officially formed. Montreal Expos outfielder Ken Singleton returns to the lineup for the first time in over a week, wearing a special uniform because he is allergic to some of the material in the Expos’ regular uniform. He drives in three runs and leads the Expos over San Francisco, 7-2. Future football players Michael Westbrook and Darnay Scott, future basketball star Lisa Leslie, and future slasher-film actress Heather Kafka are born.

B.B. King plays Yankee Stadium and the Rolling Stones play Knoxville, Tennessee. That same day, back in England, the Stones appear on The Old Grey Whistle Test, with a 1966 filmed performance of “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow.” Miles Davis completes recording sessions for his album On the Corner, to be released in December. At 1AM, New York’s WCBS-FM plays “When the Music’s Over” by the Doors and goes silent for five hours. At 6AM, DJ Johnny Michaels plays “Runaround Sue” by Dion to launch the first all-oldies radio station. At WLS in Chicago, “Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond holds at #1, just ahead of Billy Preston’s “Outa-Space,” “The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr., and “Nice to Be With You” by Gallery. “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers and “Too Late to Turn Back Now” by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose are up to #5 and #6, each making five-place jumps from last week. “Living in a House Divided” by Cher makes a strong move to #16 from #23.

Perspective From the Present: One night during the high summer of 1972—and we might as well call it Friday, July 7—I went on a campout with three of my best friends at the time. We took two pup tents and went into the woods behind one guy’s house, although we decided that the woods were a bit too scary, so we pitched our tents in an adjacent hay field, and then stayed up all night behaving like 12-year-olds. We listened to WLS for something like 14 straight hours, and that meant the week’s top songs over and over—often enough for me to associate several of them with that night forever after.

June 10, 1972: Grand Slam

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(Pictured: what you might have seen from the stage in 1972 if you were David Cassidy.)

(Correction below, thanks to a reader.)

June 10, 1972, was a Saturday. In Rapid City, South Dakota, a series of thunderstorms drops 15 inches of rain in six hours, causing a flood that kills 237 people. In Madison, Wisconsin, the National Weather Service records a killing frost, the latest one ever. President Nixon officially submits the SALT Treaty with the Soviet Union to the Senate for ratification. The Baader-Meinhof terrorist group blows up a bomb at the West German embassy in Dublin, Ireland. No one is hurt. The rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun officially retires from NASA. In Texas, state senator Barbara Jordan is governor for a day. The event features a swearing-in ceremony attended by high school students from her Senate district, fellow legislators, family, and friends. To make the honor legal, Jordan was elected Senate president pro tem and the sitting governor and lieutenant governor arranged to be out of the state for the day. Jordan’s father suffers a stroke after the ceremony and dies the next day. In November, Jordan will be elected the first black woman to serve in Congress.

Kentucky Derby winner Riva Ridge, who had finished fourth at the Preakness, wins the Belmont Stakes. There hasn’t been a winner of horse racing’s Triple Crown since Citation in 1948. Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves becomes the National League’s all-time home run leader when he hits the 694th 649th of his career, a grand slam, as the Atlanta Braves beat Philadelphia 15-3. The CBS-TV lineup tonight includes All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, Arnie, and Mission: Impossible. On NBC, it’s Emergency! and McMillan and Wife. ABC devotes all of primetime to the 1964 political thriller Seven Days in May.

Jazz pianist Bill Evans plays in Ljubljiana, Yugoslavia. Elvis Presley plays his first-ever concerts in New York City, at Madison Square Garden, one in the afternoon and another in the evening. John Lennon and Bob Dylan both attend. David Cassidy plays Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, David Bowie plays Leicester, England, while Gordon Lightfoot plays the Royal Albert Hall in London, and Badfinger plays in Whitchurch. The Rolling Stones, one week into their epic 1972 American tour, play in Long Beach, California, the same day Exile on Main Street hits #1 on the U.S. album chart. At WCFL in Chicago, the Stones’ “Tumbling Dice” is at #2 on the singles chart, behind only  the new #1 song, “Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook. Last week’s #1, “Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens, is down to #6. “It’s Going to Take Some Time” by the Carpenters makes a strong move from #13 to #7, although Billy Preston’s “Outa-Space” is the hottest record on the survey, moving from #30 to #17. The WCFL list includes David Cassidy, Donny Osmond, Wayne Newton, and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards doing a bagpipe version of “Amazing Grace,” but also has Millie Jackson (“Ask Me What You Want”) and J. J. Cale (“After Midnight”). The Chicago Tribune reports that popular WLS DJ Larry Lujack will be leaving the station by the end of the year. Although his agent won’t say, Lujack is expected to land at WCFL. And he will—within about a month.

March 22, 1972: Fever

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(Pictured: Playboy impresario Hugh Hefner, surrounded.)

March 22, 1972, is a Wednesday. The big headline on the morning papers is Ed Muskie’s Illinois primary win over Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern yesterday. Today, Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment and sends it to the states for ratification. Later today, Hawaii will become the first state to ratify. In Montana, a convention adopts a new state constitution and sends it to the voters. The United States Supreme Court rules in the case of Eisenstadt v. Baird, striking down a Massachusetts law forbidding the sale of contraceptives to unmarried people. It will be considered an important case in establishing a right to privacy. The National Commission on Marihuana [sic] and Drug Abuse issues its report, which recommends relaxing marijuana laws, including the decriminalization of simple possession. The Nixon Administration opposes the commission’s conclusions, and it will not implement its recommendations. Nixon nominates a number of federal judges; the New York Central Railroad closes a number of stations. New York Congressman Ogden Reid announces that because the Republican Party has moved to the right and he can’t support Nixon for reelection in November, he will become a Democrat. An article in the Wall Street Journal announces that Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner plans to launch another magazine, Oui, which will have a “European slant.” In Wisconsin, a law goes into effect lowering the age of adulthood, including the drinking age, from 21 to 18. Future pro athletes Shawn Bradley (basketball), Cory Lidle (baseball), and Elvis Stojko (figure skating) are born.

On TV tonight, guests on the PBS series Soul! are Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. NBC presents a Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Harvey, starring Jimmy Stewart, and follows it with a repeat of Night Gallery. CBS broadcasts an episode of The Carol Burnett Show; Burnett is also a guest on ABC’s Password this week. ABC’s primetime lineup includes The ABC Comedy Hour, featuring a group of impressionists known as the Kopykats, who include Rich Little, Frank Gorshin, Fred Travalena, and Charlie Callas. On ABC after the late local news, Dick Cavett’s guests include Diahann Carroll, Fran Tarkenton, and Michigan Congressman John Conyers. Joe Cocker and Dave Mason play Philadelphia, the Grateful Dead plays New York City, Black Sabbath plays Detroit with opening act Yes, the Mahavishnu Orchestra plays Los Angeles, and Emerson Lake and Palmer play Long Beach, California.

At WISM in Madison, Wisconsin, the new Music Guide comes out tomorrow, with morning DJ Clyde Coffee pictured on the cover. “A Horse With No Name” by America will hold at #1 for another week; “Puppy Love” by Donny Osmond moves up to #2. The biggest mover in the Top 10 is “I Gotcha” by Joe Tex, moving from #8 to #5. Two songs will debut in the Top 10: “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack (#7, up from #14) and “Rockin’ Robin” by Michael Jackson (#8, up from #18). “Jungle Fever” by the Chakachas is up 10 spots, from #27 to #17. Four songs are new in the Top 30: “Day Dreaming” by Aretha Franklin, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” by Wings, “Betcha By Golly Wow” by the Stylistics, and “The Family of Man” by Three Dog Night.

About an hour south of Madison, a sixth-grader is immersed in the second-semester grind of Mr. Schilling’s class at Northside School, with Easter vacation sparkling in the near distance. He’s gone to Northside since the middle of second grade, so the place is as familiar as the weather. Outside the classroom, he’s turned his attention to baseball spring training now that the state basketball tournament is over, but he also obsessively follows the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks as they wind down the regular season before their pursuit of a second straight championship. He frequently listens to Bucks games on the radio, and more frequently listens to WLS from Chicago, which has already made clear to him who he is, and what he’s supposed to be.