May 17, 1973: Damage

(Pictured: the launch of Skylab, 1973.)

May 17, 1973, was a Thursday. The U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities opens televised hearings into the burglary of Democratic National Committee offices in Washington’s Watergate office complex. President Nixon talks to his lawyer, Fred Buzhardt, about the Huston Plan, a domestic spying program devised in 1970 to disrupt student protest movements—a conversation that will be recorded on the White House taping system to be revealed at the Watergate hearings later in the summer. Nixon is concerned that the Watergate committee knows about the plan, and he hopes to concoct a strategy to contain the political damage if the plan (which was never carried out, over objections from the FBI) is revealed. The president also signs an executive order regarding the “Inspection of Income, Excess-Profits, Estate, Gift, and Excise Tax Returns” by the Senate Commerce Committee. The Reverend Sun Myung Moon gives a speech in which he declares, among other things, “The whole world is in my hand, I will conquer and subjugate the world.” Three nuclear weapons are exploded underground in Colorado. The blasts, code-named Rio Bravo, are intended to release hard-to-get natural gas resources in the area. Rio Bravo is part of Operation Plowshare, an ongoing effort by the Atomic Energy Commission to find peaceful industrial uses for nuclear weapons. (The gas released will be too radioactive for use.)

The first group of three Skylab astronauts was to be launched today, but the launch has been postponed until the 25th. The first task for former moon-walker Pete Conrad, Paul Weitz, and Joe Kerwin will be fix damage to the orbiter suffered during its launch this past Monday. The three will spend 28 days in space, doubling the previous American record for mission length. CBS-TV airs the 1967 movie Countdown, starring James Caan as an American astronaut sent on a year-long mission to the moon. It follows an episode of The Waltons. NBC’s primetime lineup includes The Flip Wilson Show, Ironside, and The Dean Martin Show. ABC has The Mod Squad, Kung Fu, and Streets of San Francisco. During the day, the three broadcast networks air 17 game shows and 14 soap operas. The New York Review of Books publishes a review of the controversial movie Last Tango in Paris.

David Bowie plays Dundee, Scotland, and is mobbed by fans on the way to his limo afterward. In London, the Rolling Stones wrap up 11 days of work on their forthcoming album, Goats Head Soup. Canadian rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive releases its first album. At WCFL in Chicago, the top of the survey dated May 12, 1973, comprises a strange brew of rock and cheese: “Sing” by the Carpenters (at #1), “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” by Vicki Lawrence,  Donny Osmond’s “The Twelfth of Never,” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando and Dawn alongside Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein,” “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, and Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years.” WCFL’s album chart for the week is topped by Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. The top 10 also includes both new Beatles compilations, 1962-1966 and 1967-70, released last month.