January 19, 1974: Gap and Fizzle

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(Pictured: the Queen.)

January 19, 1974, was a Saturday. The morning papers headline the decision to send the controversy over the 18-1/2 minute gap in one of the Watergate tapes to a grand jury for investigation. Today, President Nixon gives a noontime radio address on the energy crisis, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger prepares for another round of shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East. South Vietnam and China battle in the South China Sea over some disputed islands. Hewlett-Packard introduces its first programmable calculator, the HP-65, nicknamed the Superstar; list price $225. NASA takes a photograph of Comet Kohoutek, which was hyped as the Comet of the Century when it was discovered last year. Although still visible to the naked eye through the end of this month, it is a fizzle, not nearly the spectacle it was made out to be. In college basketball, Notre Dame snaps UCLA’s record-setting 88-game winning streak. Trailing 70-59 with 3:30 to go, Notre Dame scores the last 12 points to win 71-70.

Future comedian Frank Caliendo and future NFL player Walter Jones are born. Future hockey Hall-of-Famer Jacques Laperriere of the Montreal Canadiens suffers an injury that ends his career. The current edition of TV Guide features an article about celebrity homes, with a photo of actor Paul Lynde in his mirrored dining room. On TV tonight, new episodes of M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show air on CBS; shows on NBC include Emergency; on ABC, The Partridge Family and Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law. Later tonight, many stations around the country will air an edition of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert starring the Steve Miller Band and the Raspberries. Bob Dylan plays two shows in Hollywood, Florida, Wishbone Ash plays Passaic, New Jersey, and Charles Mingus plays Carnegie Hall.

At WCFL in Chicago, “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band holds at #1, and “Sister Mary Elephant” by Cheech and Chong climbs to #2. “One Tin Soldier” by Coven, which is #1 across town at WLS, sits at #3. New in the Top 10 are “Let Me Be There” by Olivia Newton-John, “You’re Sixteen” by Ringo Starr, and “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder. Tops on the album chart are Jim Croce’s You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, the Carpenters’ compilation The Singles, and Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Northwest of Chicago, in the farm country of southern Wisconsin, a radio-crazed eighth-grader listens every minute he can and shares his obsession with his friends, most of whom are not nearly as obsessed as he is.

Perspective From the Present: The fall of 1973 and winter of 1974 are among the bleakest seasons of the 1970s for the Top 40. Lots of bland pop music and funkless R&B (“Living for the City” excepted, which is one of the deepest grooves ever to hit AM radio), although there are some gems to be found: “Rockin’ Roll Baby,” “Love’s Theme,” the Staple Singers’ “If You’re Ready,” and “Hello It’s Me” by Todd Rundgren, although the bubblegum geek in me also digs the DeFranco Family’s “Abracadabra.” The best record of the season is probably “Until You Come Back to Me” by Aretha Franklin, although it’s a song I probably didn’t hear much back then. I was still listening to WLS in the winter of 1974, and they charted it for just three weeks. But I would discover it years later, and it would eventually earn a spot on my Desert Island list.

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October 30, 1974: Rumble and Jump

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(Pictured: Evel Knievel poses with his Sky Cycle, a picture taken after his unsuccessful attempt to jump the Snake River Canyon in Idaho in September 1974.)

October 30, 1974, was a Wednesday. Last night here in the States (but at 4AM on the 30th in Zaire, where the fight is held), Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in the eighth round to regain the heavyweight championship in “the Rumble in the Jungle.” In one of four games played in the World Football League tonight, Southern California beats Charlotte 34-25. Today, President Ford holds a cabinet meeting. Among the subjects discussed: how to ensure better public compliance with the 55MPH speed limit. The Omaha Register newspaper reports on a Nebraska state trooper who claims to have been abducted by a UFO, and the Gettysburg Times covers the dedication of a new parking lot at the First Lutheran Church in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. A teenager named Laura Aime disappears after a Halloween party in Utah. She will be found murdered, and in 1988, serial killer Ted Bundy will confess to the crime. Chicken magnate Frank Perdue is involved in a fatal traffic accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike; he will eventually be charged with involuntary manslaughter, but the case will be dismissed.

Shows on TV tonight include Cannon and The Manhunter, starring Ken Howard, on CBS, Little House on the Prairie on NBC, and the TV movie Death Cruise on ABC. In the UK, filming continues on The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Spirit plays Denver and Golden Earring plays Chicago. Eric Clapton plays Boston, Fleetwood Mac plays Jackson, Mississippi, KISS plays Columbus, Ohio, and David Bowie plays Radio City Music Hall in New York. At WDRQ in Detroit, “I Love Q, I Honestly Love Q” by Olivia Newton-John holds at #1; another record that some radio stations have altered to promote themselves, “Life Is a Rock” by Reunion, is at #16. (In Chicago, it’s heard as “life is a rock but WLS rolled me” and “life is a rock but ‘CFL rolled me”). Al Green’s magnificent “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)” leaps from #12 to #5, and “I Can Help” by Billy Swan vaults from #20 to #13. In Wisconsin, a high-school freshman hears Green’s chuckle at the start of “Sha La La” and knows precisely what it means—the song feels so good that you just can’t keep it in.

Perspective From the Present: Some of the stuff on the WDRQ chart that I never heard back then is mighty fine, like “Let’s Straighten it Out” by Latimore (#3). It’s a slow-cookin’ deep soul record that would barely sneak into the national Top 40. “Evil Boll Weevil” by Grand Canyon (#24) is a break-in record about Evel Knievel’s then-recent attempt to jump over the Snake River Canyon in Idaho. It was devised by Jeff McKee and Ed Brown, jocks at WQXI in Atlanta, although the first voice heard on it is almost certainly Chicago legend Fred Winston. Brown impersonates Ed Sullivan, who died in mid-October 1974; McKee said that Sullivan’s death kept many stations from adding the record.

August 8, 1974: Fate

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(Pictured: Stills, Young, Nash, and Crosby onstage in the summer of 1974.)

August 8, 1974, was a Thursday. Britain, Greece, and Turkey begin a second round of negotiations in Geneva over the fate of Cyprus, which had been invaded by Turkey last month after a Greek-backed coup overthrew the island nation’s government. New Yorkers are buzzing about stuntman Phillippe Petit, who eluded security at the World Trade Center and walked a tightrope between the two towers yesterday. In Wenatchee, Washington, investigation and cleanup continue after a railroad tank car explosion killed two and injured 66 on Tuesday. Illinois governor Dan Walker draws the first winning numbers in the new Illinois State Lottery at the State Fair in Springfield. In Georgia, Savannah State College holds its 110th commencement exercises.

Howie Pollet, star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1940s, dies at age 53, and Nuremberg defendant Baldur von Schirach, one-time head of the Hitler Youth, dies at age 66. Future MMA fighter Mike Budnik is born. National Football League players continue a strike that began last month over a rule restricting player movement from team to team. The inaugural season of the World Football League continues; reports today claim that the league’s robust attendance figures are inflated and the vast majority of fans get in free; tonight in Jacksonville, over 43,000 watch the hometown Sharks get a last-second win over the Hawaiians 21-14. In today’s Peanuts strip, Sally channels Theodore Roosevelt to ward off a playground bully. The People’s Republic of Congo issues a stamp commemorating the joint Apollo-Soyuz space mission that will take place in 1975. In Washington, the design of what will become the Hart Senate Office Building is approved. Vice-President Gerald Ford awards the Congressional Medal of Honor to Army Lieutenant Loren Hagen of Fargo, North Dakota; Hagen was killed in action in 1971 and his father accepts the medal.

President Nixon is up before 4AM meeting with aides and making phone calls. He arrives in the Oval Office at 9AM, gets a haircut at 10:15, and spends the rest of the day in brief meetings and calls with staffers, attorneys, and members of Congress, pausing at 5:30 to veto an ag bill. At 8 in the evening, he meets with a large congressional delegation, and at 9:01 Eastern time goes on TV to announce that he will resign the next day. Network primetime schedules are disrupted by the resignation news; earlier in the day, the three broadcast networks scheduled 18 game shows and 13 soap operas, although resignation news preempted some of them. Liza Minnelli plays the Great Allentown Fair in Allentown, Pennsylvania; her show is delayed so that Nixon’s resignation speech can be broadcast over the sound system. Joni Mitchell plays Pine Knob Music Theater in suburban Detroit, where she announces Nixon’s resignation to the crowd.

Johnny Cash plays Las Vegas, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young play Jersey City, New Jersey. An unknown California rock band called Van Halen plays another of its regular gigs at Gazzari’s in West Hollywood. At WCFL in Chicago, “Annie’s Song” by John Denver is #1, knocking “Rock Your Baby” by George McCrae to #3. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” by Elton John is at #2. The hottest record on the chart is “The Air That I Breathe” by the Hollies, leaping to #5 from #16. Also new in the top 10: “Wild Thing” by Fancy at #10. Also making a big move: “Machine Gun” by the Commodores, from #24 to #14. The #1 album at WCFL is Elton John’s Caribou. WCFL afternoon jock Larry Lujack is pictured on the back of the station’s survey alongside ads for Cruz Garcia Real Sangria and Unguentine aerosol for sunburn.

Perspective From the Present: I spent much of the resignation week with my grandparents, who had sold their farm and moved to town earlier in the year. I devoured the newspapers and watched everything that was on TV, including Nixon’s speech on the night of the 8th and the coverage of his departure the next day. Although I was only 14, I knew what I was seeing was like nothing else in American history, traumatic and sad but at the same time an example of the way the world is supposed to work: great wrongs do not go unpunished, and those who perpetrate them get the comeuppance they deserve, one way or another. It doesn’t work that way anymore, and it didn’t always work that way then, either. In 1974, however, it did.

May 26, 1974: Let It Happen

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(Pictured: Paul McCartney and Wings, 1974.)

(This post, like others in the category An Entirely New Day, is brand-new and has never appeared anywhere else.)

May 26, 1974, is a Sunday. Tomorrow is Memorial Day. President Nixon is spending a second consecutive weekend at his home in Key Biscayne, Florida. A wire service story observes that six months ago, aides would have discouraged him from taking back-to-back weekends off, fearing bad press, but Nixon has reportedly adopted a “let it happen” attitude, given the impeachment hearings now taking place in Congress. Investigators in California have intensified their search for a man they believe can lead them to Patty Hearst and her Symbionese Liberation Army cohorts, who have been on the run since six SLA members were killed in a shootout with Los Angeles police on May 17th. At a funeral home in New York City, mourners have been filing past the casket of composer and bandleader Duke Ellington, who died on Friday. His funeral will be held tomorrow.

The Treasury Department and U.S. Mint say 32 million pennies are “missing.” The director of the Mint says the shortage is because people keep pennies “in dresser drawers, pickle jars, piggy banks,” although a Treasury official blames simple neglect of the unpopular coin. The shortage of pennies has prompted some stores to round prices to the nearest nickel and others to make change with one-cent postage stamps. Still others are rewarding customers who pay with pennies. Osco Drug Stores in the Chicago area have a weekend special on Schlitz beer, at $1.15 for a six-pack. Fifths of selected brands of bourbon, vodka, rum, and gin are $2.98 each. JC Penney Auto Centers have a closeout special on a FM stereo/8-track tape deck for your car, originally $119.95, now $79.88. Automobile air conditioning units are also on sale, starting at $159.88 plus installation.

The best-selling fiction book this week is Watership Down by Richard Adams; Merle Miller’s Plain Speaking, an oral history-style biography of Harry S Truman, is the nonfiction best-seller. In her nationally syndicated newspaper column, Dr. Joyce Brothers writes about sexuality among older adults. “The young think sex is their prerogative and therefore resist the notion that their grandparents can not only have but enjoy sex.” In baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox, dueling for the top of the American League East, continue a weekend series. The Brewers won yesterday, 9-2, to reclaim first, which the Sox had taken with a win on Friday night. A. J. Foyt has the pole position for today’s running of the Indianapolis 500. New safety measures are in place after the fiery 1973 crash involving driver Swede Savage, who died about a month later; activities leading up to the race were curtailed in response to the ongoing gasoline shortage.

On TV tonight, ABC has its traditional tape-delayed broadcast of the Indy 500, which is won by Johnny Rutherford. The CBS lineup includes Apple’s Way (a family drama from the creator of The Waltons), Mannix, and Barnaby Jones; on NBC it’s The Wonderful World of Disney, Columbo, and a news special on cancer. At KHJ in Los Angeles, the top three songs are unchanged from the week before: “The Streak,” “The Loco-Motion,” and “Band on the Run.” Three new songs move into the Top 10: “You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics, “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely” by the Main Ingredient, and “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays. They replace Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” “The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night, and Mike Oldfield’s Exorcist theme, “Tubular Bells.” The biggest mover on the station’s chart is “Be Thankful for What You Got” by William DeVaughn, up eight spots to #18.

Perspective From the Present: I have written elsewhere about the smoky fire we had in our house sometime in the spring of 1974, possibly in May, and maybe even on Sunday the 26th, although I no longer remember precisely when. It was and was not a remarkable disruption in our lives; my brother and I were displaced from our bedrooms for the whole summer amidst the repainting of the house upstairs and down, but I merely moved my hanging-out space to our furnished basement. With a radio, a TV, and a couch, I had everything I needed.

Many of “the young” Dr. Joyce Brothers wrote about in 1974 are grandparents now, and another generation of grandchildren is skeeved out at the idea of Nana and Papa getting it on. But they are, kids. They are. Possibly even as you’re reading this.