July 9, 1977: Going Away

(Pictured: 1977 British Open competitors Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.)

July 9, 1977, is a Saturday. Alice Paul, a leading figure in the votes-for-women movement in the early 20th century and author of the Equal Rights Amendment, dies at age 92, as does anthropologist and author Loren Eiseley, age 69. An Illinois woman, Cathleen Crowell, tells police she was raped and picks her attacker out of a police mug book; the man, Gary Dotson, will be convicted two years later. In 1985, Crowell will admit she made up her story, and in 1988, Dotson will become the first person exonerated by DNA evidence. At the IGA Foodliner in Cass City, Michigan, round steak is $1.19 a pound, a twin-pack of Pringles potato chips is 69 cents, and iceberg lettuce is 39 cents a head. In the third round of the British Open, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson both shoot 65 to tie for the tournament lead. (Tomorrow, Watson will birdie the final hole to win the championship.) Future actor Milo Ventimiglia is born. CPO Sharkey star Don Rickles is on the cover of TV Guide. Ben E. King and the Average White Band play the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, as do Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. The San Francisco Kool Jazz Festival features Natalie Cole, Wild Cherry, and Tavares, and Chicago plays Alpine Valley near Milwaukee. A Wisconsin teenager attends an emotional going-away party for several of his classmates who will be leaving the next morning for a month in Europe.

Perspective From the Present: On American Top 40 that weekend, Casey Kasem counted ’em down as usual. Although the show is not quite all killer and no filler, it’s close. Of the top 20, only a couple songs are ones nobody needs to hear again (“Love’s Grown Deep” by Kenny Nolan and the Rocky theme “Gonna Fly Now”). On the bottom half of the list, once you take out the country crossovers (“Luckenbach, Texas,” which I like, and “Lucille,” which I do not), you’re left with only a couple of dogs—although one of them is the execrable “Telephone Man.” While some of what’s left is burned beyond recognition—“Margaritaville,” I’m lookin’ at  you—a batting average of .800 is pretty good for a show on the edge of the disco era, although your mileage may vary.

Casey remarks that Marvin Gaye’s former #1 hit “Got to Give It Up,” which is sitting at #6 this week, is only the fourth #1 single of the rock era to be recorded live. Presumably this means “live in concert” as opposed to “live in one studio take” because the other three songs Casey mentions, Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips,” Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling,” which I wrote about at Popdose way back when, and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver, are all concert recordings. Except “Got to Give It Up” isn’t live; it was on Gaye’s Live at the London Palladium, but it’s a studio cut with live ambiance provided by some guests at the recording session.

When Casey introduces the week’s #1 song, “Undercover Angel” by Alan O’Day, he says it’s only the third “fantasy song” in history to reach the #1 position. He defines fantasy as magical things that couldn’t happen in the real world, and mentions Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby” (also written by O’Day) and Elton John’s recent cover of the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” as the other two. This strikes me as a pretty thin reed to grasp in search of a factoid. I can think of several #1 hits that are fanciful: “The Night Chicago Died” is a fictional story set on “the east side of Chicago,” a place that doesn’t exist; there was never any such thing as “Crocodile Rock”; and if America’s “A Horse With No Name” isn’t a fantasy, I’ll eat my hat.

On the subject of that going-away party: every person has a few days and/or nights in life that remain indelible for all time, that we will not, cannot, must not forget. That night is one of a very few in mine.

February 28, 1977: Every Piece

(Pictured: the Electric Light Orchestra takes a bow in February 1977.)

February 28, 1977, is a Monday. President Jimmy Carter is in the Oval Office by 7AM today; his agenda includes afternoon meetings with five Democratic governors in town for the National Governors’ Conference, and with Mr. and Mrs. John Denver. At a press briefing, Carter’s deputy press secretary Walter Wurfel is asked about Carter’s statement during his presidential campaign that he would make available “every piece of information this country has” about UFO sightings. Wurfel says Carter was referring only to information that wasn’t “defense sensitive.” Any sensitive information would remain secret. Carter has family time in the evening, including about an hour in the White House bowling alley with the First Lady, his son Jeff, and other guests. Future country star Jason Aldean is born; Jack Benny’s sidekick Eddie “Rochester” Anderson dies at age 71. Linda Ronstadt is on the cover of Time; the cover story about her has a distinctly sexist edge. Ralph Nader is on the cover of People. In today’s Peanuts strip, Snoopy and Woodstock converse.

Jack Albertson of Chico and the Man gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On Dinah!, Dinah Shore welcomes author Alex Haley and several members of the cast of Roots, which aired last month and became a cultural phenomenon. Merv Griffin welcomes country singer Mel Tillis, actor David Soul, and Ed McMahon. On CBS tonight, long-running hits The Jeffersons and Maude are sandwiched around two newer sitcoms, Busting Loose, starring Adam Arkin as a young man who’s just moved out of his parents’ house, and All’s Fair, starring Richard Crenna and Bernadette Peters as a conservative newspaper columnist and liberal photographer who fall in love despite their political and age differences.

Ray Charles plays the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles; during the show, a fan jumps on stage with a rope and tries to strangle him. Concert security subdues the man before Charles is injured. The concert continues without further incident and no police report is ever filed. In Toronto, Keith Richards is arrested for possession of heroin, cocaine, and drug paraphernalia. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play St. Louis. Genesis plays Buffalo, New York. The Electric Light Orchestra concludes a three-night stand at the Uptown Theater in Chicago. At WABC in New York City, George Michael is on the evening shift. On the station’s new Musicradio survey, officially out tomorrow, “Torn Between Two Lovers” by Mary Macgregor holds at #1 for a fourth week; “New Kid in Town” by the Eagles, which tops the Billboard Hot 100, holds at #2. The hottest song on the survey is Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” moving to #7 from #17. Also new in the Top 10: “Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart at #8. The survey lists the Top 10 albums but doesn’t number them; first on the list is the soundtrack from A Star Is Born. Also listed: Hotel California, Pink Floyd’s Animals, Songs in the Key of Life, Boston, Rumours, Year of the Cat, Night Moves, Wings Over America, and Jethro Tull’s Songs From the Wood.

Perspective From the Present: The album charts from the winter of 1977 remain astounding after all this time. One album not listed is one I wanted for quite a while and received for my birthday, probably during the weekend before: Olé ELO, a compilation by the Electric Light Orchestra. My girlfriend gave it to me under protest, saying that an album didn’t seem like a personal-enough gift. Although I don’t recall the details after all this time, she probably gave me other, more personal gifts that weekend as well.

January 25, 1977: Feel Like Dancing

(Pictured: Kris Kristofferson, Barbra Streisand, and producer Jon Peters at the premiere of A Star Is Born in December 1976.)

January 25, 1977, is a Tuesday. The weather across the country is generally pretty good for the depths of winter, although Cleveland and Detroit get some snow. Among many actions during his first week in office, President Carter continues to address natural gas shortages around the country, and he has rescinded President Ford’s order lifting price controls on gasoline. Top administration officials must now drive themselves to work instead of taking government limousines. Today, Budget Director Bert Lance announces a plan to award taxpayers a $50 rebate for each exemption they claim, to help stimulate the ecomomy. The Senate confirms Griffin Bell as Carter’s attorney general, and Joseph Califano is sworn in as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. In Racine, Wisconsin, teachers go on strike. Movie stuntman Dale Van Sickel dies at age 69, and in Waterloo, Wisconsin, an early-morning house fire kills three children aged 3, 8, and 10.

The National Hockey League all-star game is played in Vancouver; the Wales Conference team beats the Campbell Conference team 4-3. At the Prange-Way department store in Madison, Wisconsin, bicentennial glassware is closeout priced—six 15-ounce glasses for $2.99, one dollar off. A local appliance store invites customers to a demonstration of the new Litton microwave oven. About an hour south of Madison, a farm wife with three sons aged 16, 14, and 10, not known for being an early adopter of new technology, will soon get one for her kitchen.

Led Zeppelin announces an upcoming American tour, set to open in Texas at the end of February. (Dates will be postponed when Robert Plant comes down with laryngitis.) Queen plays Ottawa, Ontario; KISS plays Terre Haute, Indiana; ELO is at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and the Atlanta Rhythm Section appears at the Bottom Line in New York City. Tom Waits appears on the daytime TV show Dinah!, where he performs “Step Right Up” from his album Small Change. David Brenner co-hosts The Mike Douglas Show this week; today, guests include Phyllis Diller, actor David Doyle, and film director Dino DeLaurentiis. On primetime TV, NBC’s lineup includes Police Story, and CBS airs episodes of  M*A*S*H, One Day at a Time, and Kojak, but most viewers are watching the third episode of Roots, which ABC has scheduled on eight straight nights to get it over with, fearing it will be a ratings disaster.

On the Billboard Hot 100 dated January 22, 1977, “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder” hits #1. “Car Wash” by Rose Royce is at #2, and last week’s #1, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” by Leo Sayer, is #3. New in the top 10 are “New Kid in Town” by the Eagles at #7, “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band at #9, and “Torn Between Two Lovers” by Mary Macgregor at #10. (The latter two each make 10-place jumps from the previous week.) Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen,” from the movie A Star Is Born,” makes the biggest move within the top 40, up to #20 from #35. The highest debut within the 40 is “Dancing Queen” by ABBA at #33.

To read more about the music of January 1977, click here.