November 8, 1975: What a Difference

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(Pictured: in the fall of 1975, Howard Cosell’s ABC variety show beat NBC to the title it wanted for its new late-night comedy show.)

November 8, 1975, was a Saturday. The morning papers say that heiress Patty Hearst has been found competent to stand trial on federal bank-robbery charges. Union railroad workers agree to delay a potential nationwide strike to November 18. The nation’s unemployment rate is up to 8.6 percent. Seventeen-year-old Debby Kent spends the evening at a skating rink in Bountiful, Utah, but she never comes home. Shortly before his execution 14 years hence, serial killer Ted Bundy will confess to having murdered her. Fighter planes from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana are scrambled to chase UFOs, and two people in France claim to have seen space creatures who were picked up by mysterious cars. The United States opens an embassy in Mozambique. Actress/party girl Tara Reid and pro basketball player Brevin Knight are born. In pro wrestling, golden bad-boy Nick Bockwinkle defeats perennial champion Verne Gagne to win the heavyweight championship. In college football, Iowa beats Wisconsin, 45-28.

In Chicago, the Tribune is crowded with full-page ads from car dealers. Chicagoland AMC dealers will sell you a new 1976 Gremlin for $2597, although automatic transmission and air conditioning are options that will cost you more. Another full-page ad touts the 1976 Pontiac Astre hatchback, which gets 35 miles per gallon of gas on the highway and 22 in the city. The new Dodge Dart Lite gets 36 and 24. If you’d like something bigger, Dave Cory Ford in Niles, Illinois, will put you into a 1976 T-Bird for $6099. Prices on outgoing 1975 models have been cut at many dealerships. Most will be open tomorrow for your convenience.

On CBS tonight, the lineup includes The Jeffersons, Doc (a sitcom from MTM Productions starring Barnard Hughes, Elizabeth Wilson, Mary Wickes, and Professor Irwin Corey), The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show. NBC features Emergency! and the theatrical movie The Sugarland Express, starring Goldie Hawn and directed by Steven Spielberg. ABC’s lineup includes the variety show Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell, cop drama SWAT, and secret agent series Matt Helm, starring Tony Franciosa. Later tonight, NBC’s Saturday Night airs its fourth episode, hosted by actress Candice Bergen with musical guest Esther Phillips. Phillips performs her current hit, “What a Difference a Day Makes.” Because The Sugarland Express bumps the late local news by 15 minutes, Saturday Night doesn’t begin until 11:45 Eastern time.

On the Billboard 200 album chart, Elton John’s Rock of the Westies becomes the second album in history to debut at #1. His Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy had been the first, earlier this year. Rock of the Westies bumps the Jefferson Starship’s Red Octopus, last week’s #1, to #2. Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd is #3. Also among the Top 10: Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, Minstrel in the Gallery by Jethro Tull, and Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years. On the Hot 100, Elton’s “Island Girl” is in its second week at #1. Elton is not #1 everywhere, however. At WABC in New York, “Fly Robin Fly” by Silver Convention tops the singles chart. KHJ in Los Angeles places War’s “Low Rider” at #1. At WAKY in Louisville, the #1 song is “I’ll Go to My Grave Loving You” by the Statler Brothers, despite the fact that WAKY is a Top 40 station also playing Elton, Silver Convention, and War, among others. Clearly, they didn’t call themselves “wacky” for nothing.

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October 3, 1975: Get Down

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(Pictured: KC and the Sunshine band, getting down tonight.)

October 3, 1975, was a Friday. President Gerald Ford vetoes a bill intended to expand food programs for needy children, claiming it would give aid to families above the poverty line; next week, Congress will override the veto. In California, the arraignment of Symbionese Liberation Army members Bill and Emily Harris on charges stemming from their crime spree with Patty Hearst is delayed so Emily Harris can find a new lawyer. Future singer India Arie and future rapper Talib Kweli are born. The emperor and empress of Japan are in the United States on a state visit; President Ford will host a state dinner in their honor tonight. Scientists in the Soviet Union recover an unmanned military spacecraft that had lost contact with controllers shortly after launch on Monday. The campus newspaper at Marquette University in Milwaukee reports on the activities of Barry McArdle, who’s been traveling around Wisconsin and elsewhere selling real estate on the moon. A Navy submarine commander is admonished for having permitted a topless dancer to perform on board his sub.

On daytime TV today, celebrity guests on The $10,000 Pyramid are Adrienne Barbeau and Peter Lawford, and Jim Stafford is celebrity co-host of The Mike Douglas Show. Shows in primetime tonight include M*A*S*H, Barnaby Jones, Hawaii Five-O, Sanford and Son, Chico and the Man, and The Rockford Files. ABC broadcasts a late-night special featuring episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus; in December, the Python troupe will sue to keep ABC from broadcasting a second special, citing the “mutilation” of their work when ABC edits the episodes to make room for commercials and to remove what it calls “offensive” material.

Gentle Giant plays White Plains, New York, and KISS plays Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. Bonnie Raitt plays Seattle with Tom Waits opening. The Who plays Stafford, England, and releases The Who By Numbers in the UK. Also released in the UK today: Extra Texture by George Harrison. At WJET in Erie, Pennsylvania, “You,” the lead single from Harrison’s album, moves to #23 from #27. “Fame” by David Bowie tops the chart, dethroning “Get Down Tonight” by KC and the Sunshine Band, which slips to #2. The two hottest records on the chart are “I Only Have Eyes for You” by Art Garfunkel, jumping from #15 to #5, and Morris Albert’s “Feelings,” taking an even greater leap from #21 to #6.

In Wisconsin, a teenage music geek couldn’t possibly know that years from now, current hits like “Games People Play,” “Bad Blood,” “Miracles,” “Lady Blue,” and “Lyin’ Eyes” will still be encoded with the late-afternoon light that bathes his world as he gets off the school bus, heads into the house, and hurries to turn the radio on.

February 1, 1975: Please, Mister

February 1, 1975, is a Saturday. William Saxbe resigns as Attorney General to become U.S. ambassador to India. The resignation of Claude Brinegar, Secretary of Transportation since 1973, becomes official. Antwan “Big Boi” Patton of Outkast is born. Robert W. Straub is inaugurated as governor of Oregon. Two successful penalty shots are executed in the National Hockey League, by Steve Atkinson of the Washington Capitals and Lorne Henning of the New York Islanders. Shows on CBS tonight include The Jeffersons and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. James Garner of The Rockford Files is on the cover of TV Guide.

Little Feat plays the Olympia in Paris. Led Zeppelin is in Pittsburgh. Genesis appears live in Kansas City, Kansas. Joe Walsh plays New York City. Miles Davis does two shows in Osaka, Japan. The afternoon show will be released on his album Agharta; the evening show will be released on Pangaea. KISS wraps its Hotter Than Hell tour in Santa Monica, California, with opening act Jo Jo Gunne. Barry Manilow concludes a two-week engagement at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago, where “Mandy” is at #1 on WLS for a second week. “Please Mr. Postman” by the Carpenters spends a second week at #2. “Lady,” by Chicago band Styx, slides in at #3, just ahead of “Best of My Love” by the Eagles at #4. Two songs enter the Top 10 for the first time: “Never Can Say Goodbye” by Gloria Gaynor and the hottest record on the chart, “You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt, which jumps in from #25. On the WLS album chart, Greatest Hits by Elton John and Not Fragile by Bachman-Turner Overdrive continue in the #1 and #2 positions for a ninth straight week.

Over on the Billboard Hot 100, the highest debuting song of the week is “I’ve Been This Way Before” by Neil Diamond, which comes on at #73. (It will eventually peak at #34 and spend just three weeks in the Top 40.) Songs that will be more familiar in the future also debut, including “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns, “Part of the Plan” by Dan Fogelberg, and future #1 hits “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” by Freddy Fender and “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” by B. J. Thomas. The oddest debut of the week is at #86: “Please Mr. President” by Paula Webb, a 10-year-old girl’s letter to President Ford, asking help with her family’s hard times. Although it will get only as high as #60, it resonates with lots of Americans during an especially difficult season in our national life.