June 28, 1978: Life and Times

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(Pictured: Joe Walsh on stage in the summer of 1978.)

June 28, 1978, was a Wednesday. The Supreme Court rules that affirmative action programs are legal but racial quotas are not, and is ordering the University of California Medical School to admit Allan Bakke, who claimed he suffered from “reverse discrimination” because he is white. All three networks lead their evening newscasts with the Bakke decision; other stories covered by all three newscasts include the mob-related murder of five men found in the basement of the Blackfriars Club in Boston and the wedding of Monaco’s Princess Caroline to entrepreneur Phillippe Junot, both today. At the White House, President Carter has an extremely busy day of meetings, but his workday ends early enough for a late-afternoon tennis game with the First Lady, followed by dinner with his sons and their wives, and a viewing of the movie The Cheap Detective in the White House theater. In Scottsdale, Arizona, actor Bob Crane appears in a dinner theater production called Beginner’s Luck and afterward goes out on the town with a friend, John Carpenter. At some point early tomorrow morning, Crane will be strangled and beaten to death. It will be 14 years before Carpenter is arrested for the crime, although he will be acquitted at trial. Forty years from now, the case will remain unsolved.

Division leaders in baseball are the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers in the American League and the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants in the National League. The Orioles and Rangers lose today, but the Phillies win and the Giants split a doubleheader with San Diego. On TV tonight, CBS airs The Carol Burnett Show and the movie Rancho Deluxe, a 1974 western comedy starring Jeff Bridges. On NBC, it’s The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, the interview show Headliners With David Frost featuring guests Warren Beatty, Ryan and Tatum O’Neal, and Gerry Rafferty, and an edition of NBC Reports on advances in mental health treatment, hosted by Tom Snyder. ABC’s lineup includes Eight Is Enough, Charlie’s Angels, and an ABC News Closeup special talking with young criminals about why they commit crimes and how they choose their victims.

Tonight, in Monroe, Wisconsin, an aspiring radio DJ just out of high school spins tunes at the local roller rink. Weather Report plays Tokyo, the Rolling Stones play Memphis, and Barry Manilow plays Providence, Rhode Island. At WHB in Kansas City, Manilow’s “Copacabana” and the Stones’ “Miss You” are among the hottest songs of the week on the station’s new survey: “Miss You” moves from #28 to #13 and “Copacabana” from #39 to #27. Also hot in Kansas City: “My Angel Baby” by Toby Beau, up 15 spots to #11, and “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh, up 12 to #15 this week. “Love Will Find a Way” by Pablo Cruise and “Three Times a Lady” by the Commodores debut at #18 and #19 on the station’s Top 40. “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb takes over the #1 spot on the chart, knocking Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” to #2. “It’s a Heartache” by Bonnie Tyler holds at #3. The O’Jays and Heatwave are new in the Top 10 with “Use Ta Be My Girl”(#4) and “The Groove Line” (#7).

Perspective From the Present: I’d forgotten about the roller rink job until recently. It was my first paying DJ job, on Wednesday nights during the summer of 1978. The place had a fairly bodacious sound system and a decent library of music. The owner even took out an ad in the local newspaper advertising his disco night and mentioned me by name. Needless to say, I was possessed with visions of grandeur, imagining the local celebrity I was about to become, and the girls I was going to mesmerize.

The first night, five people showed up. They were girls, at least. But they were all 13 years old or younger. I am not sure we ever attracted more than five people on any given night, or that they were ever older than 13. Wednesdays, it seems, were not big nights for people to go roller skating, and no publicity, bodacious sound, or famous local DJ was going to change that.

I doggedly did a DJ show for the first few weeks, although eventually I’d simply track a disco album and go play pinball in the game room. At the end of each night, I’d get paid in cash, out of the till and off the books—a sum that worked out to less than minimum wage. It was neither fair nor legal, but I was so young and so naive that it never occurred to me to say so.

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May 30, 1978: In Through the Out Door

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May 30, 1978, was a Tuesday. America returns to work after the Memorial Day weekend. President Carter gets his wakeup call at 5AM, then meets with Cabinet officers and greets West German president Helmut Schmidt, all before 9AM. He spends the rest of his day attending events surrounding a NATO summit in Washington. It’s primary election day in Arkansas, where state attorney general Bill Clinton wins the Democratic nomination for governor over four challengers, receiving nearly 60 percent of the vote. The Washington Bullets tie the NBA Finals at two games each with a 120-116 win over the Seattle Supersonics in overtime. Dennis Johnson of the Sonics leads all scorers with 33; Bob Dandridge leads Washington with 23. Because of a previously scheduled event at the Seattle Coliseum, the game is moved to the Kingdome, and it draws a record crowd of over 39,000. Top English soccer club Manchester United completes a two-game series in the United States, beating the North American Soccer League Tulsa Roughnecks 2-1. Two days earlier, Manchester United lost to the NASL’s defending champion, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 2-1. Future major league utility man Rico Washington, who will appear in 14 games for the 2008 St. Louis Cardinals, is born. Pioneering movie art director Ben Carre, who designed the catacombs for the original Phantom of the Opera and the Mount Rushmore backdrop in North by Northwest, dies at age 94. In Wisconsin, Monroe High School holds graduation ceremonies.

On TV today, the lineup of game shows includes Card Sharks, Hollywood Squares, The $20,000 Pyramid, The Price Is Right, High Rollers, Family Feud, and Wheel of Fortune. Soaps include The Edge of Night, Ryan’s Hope, Search for Tomorrow, All My Children, The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives, The Doctors, The Guiding Light, Another World, and General Hospital. Tonight, CBS airs the NBA Finals. NBC presents two specials, Dan Haggerty Goes to the Circus and Country Night of Stars, which is hosted by Crystal Gayle and Eddy Arnold. ABC presents Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Three’s Company, Carter Country, and a Barbara Walters interview special. Her guests are Burt Reynolds, Muhammad Ali, and Michael Landon. Bruce Springsteen plays Boston Music Hall, the Stranglers play Stafford, England, and Alvin Lee plays Houston. Black Sabbath plays Coventry, England, with Van Halen opening. In Bremen, West Germany, David Bowie tapes a performance that will be broadcast on the TV program Musikladen later this year. Grace Slick of Jefferson Starship is profiled in the Washington Post Style section. In Stockholm, Sweden, Led Zeppelin goes into the studio to begin work on what will eventually be titled In Through the Out Door.

On the Billboard Hot 100, “With a Little Luck” by Paul McCartney and Wings holds at #1 for a second week. There’s not much movement among the Top 10; Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing” makes the biggest move, from #6 to #4, and only one song is new among the Top 10: George Benson’s “On Broadway” at #10. The biggest mover within the Top 40 is “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty, moving from #26 to #19. Six new songs debut in the Top 40; the highest is “Bluer Than Blue” by Michael Johnson at #33. The highest debut on the Hot 100 is “Grease” by Frankie Valli at #69. At #99, “I Go Crazy” by Paul Davis is in its 40th and final week on the Hot 100, which is the longest run in history to this point. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack tops the album chart for the 19th week in a row. Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary #1 is “Even Now” by Barry Manilow. On the Billboard country chart, the #1 song is “Do You Know You Are My Sunshine” by the Statler Brothers.

Perspective From the Present: I have more to say about my high-school graduation at The Hits Just Keep on Comin’ today. It seemed cosmically appropriate to me for the #1 song that day to be “With a Little Luck,” given its opening lines: “With a little luck we can help it out / We can make this whole damn thing work out.” I took it then a reference to whatever was behind the door we were walking through on that night. Forty years removed from that night, the question of whether the whole damn thing really did work out is up to each of us in the Class of ’78 to answer for ourselves.

December 15, 1978: Sweet Life

(Pictured: Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman.)

December 15, 1978, was a Friday. President Jimmy Carter gives a televised address to the nation announcing the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, and explains America’s new relationship with Taiwan. After the speech, President and Mrs. Carter fly to Camp David for the weekend. The city of Cleveland, Ohio, defaults on $15.5 million in short-term loans it had received to meet its financial obligations. It’s the first major American city to go broke since the Great Depression. Today is the last day of manufacture for aerosol products containing ozone-destroying fluorocarbons, following a federal government order last spring. The exhibit of treasures from the tomb of King Tut, which has been touring the country for over a year, opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Nine games are played in the NBA tonight. In a battle of top teams, the Los Angeles Lakers edge the Seattle Supersonics 100-98. Dennis Johnson of the Sonics leads all scorers with 28 points; Norm Nixon leads the Lakers with 26. New movies at the box office this weekend include Superman starring Christopher Reeve and California Suite starring Jane Fonda, Walter Matthau, Michael Caine, and Richard Pryor. The Deer Hunter opens in New York after its Los Angeles premiere last Friday. It will go into wide release in February. Philips/MCA puts laserdisc technology on the market under the name MCA Discovision. A laserdisc edition of Jaws comes out today. Actor Chill Wills, famed as the movie voice of Francis the Talking Mule and for many western roles, dies of cancer at age 76. Carter’s China speech preempts or delays scheduled network TV programming. NBC has Diff’rent Strokes, the final episode of the soon-to-be-cancelled Who’s Watching the Kids, and a two-hour episode of The Eddie Capra Mysteries. On CBS, it’s Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and Flying High, a comedy/drama about flight attendants starring Connie Sellecca. On ABC, it’s a Christmas episode of Donny and Marie followed by the TV movie Long Journey Back starring Mike Connors and Cloris Leachman.

In The Crusader, the campus newspaper at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, music critic Tim Brough names his top albums of 1978. Billy Joel plays Madison Square Garden in New York City, the Grateful Dead plays Birmingham, Alabama, Bob Dylan plays Lakeland, Florida, and Cheap Trick plays Boston. Bruce Springsteen plays San Francisco in a show broadcast on KSAN. Across town at KFRC, “Le Freak” by Chic and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond continue at #1 and #2 on the new survey out today. There’s little movement among the top 11 songs on the survey. Al Stewart’s “Time Passages” makes the biggest move of any song among the Top 30, moving from #19 to #12. There’s one new song in the Top 20, “Sweet Life” by Paul Davis, at #18. The highest debut on the chart is Cheryl Lynn’s “Got to Be Real” at #22. The top albums on KFRC are Barbra Streisand’s Greatest Hits Volume 2, Let’s Get Small by Steve Martin, and The Best of Earth Wind and Fire, Volume 1. At WSUP, the campus station at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, final exams mean some changes in the regular Friday DJ lineup. A freshman who did his first-ever live radio show yesterday will be on the air today from noon til 6.

Perspective From the Present: The freshman was, of course, me. My six-hour Friday show was supposed to be my debut, but I got asked at the last minute to fill in on the morning show the previous day. I was too busy to think much about it on Thursday, but that Friday show was the most exhilarating experience of my life. That afternoon represented the single biggest dream of my life coming true. It’s no exaggeration when I say that nothing else in my life since then—nothing else—has ever come close to the thrill of it.

October 7, 1978: First Edition

(Pictured: Bob Seger, rockin’ a Springsteen T-shirt, 1978.)

(This post is a historic one, as it’s the very first One Day in Your Life post I ever wrote at The Hits Just Keep on Comin’. The first few editions looked a lot different than the later ones would. Although I have revised most of the early ones that have and will appear here, I’m gonna put this one up almost exactly as it appeared back on October 7, 2004. I’ve made some cosmetic edits and added a link, plus Perspective From the Present at the very end. If I’m recalling correctly, I wrote the original on some public library computer while killing a morning on the road. )

Any given day can be filled with historic events, but some time has to pass before we recognize them as such. October 7, 1978, was one of those days. The Los Angeles Dodgers advanced to the World Series that night, and after the game was over, we turned on the radio.

Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights” peaked at #12 on the singles chart that day. It’s the quintessential Bob Seger record—a smart lyric about making your way in a world that wants to steal your money and break your heart, delivered with Seger’s trademark crunch. All-time classic lines: “She had been born with a face that would let her get her way / He saw that face and he lost all control.” Boston’s “Don’t Look Back” peaked at # 4. We would have been surprised to know that it would be their last major hit for eight years, until “Amanda” in 1986.

The Rolling Stones performed “Beast of Burden” and “Respectable” on Saturday Night Live. [Editor’s note: And also “Shattered.”] This was the night Mick grossed out America by licking Ron Wood’s cheek in mid-solo.

Toto’s first single, “Hold the Line,” was released debuted on the Hot 100 at #84. [I stopped using release dates in these posts fairly early on because a large percentage of Internet resources get them wrong, and chart dates are better anyhow.—ed.] Can you think of an artist that sold more records and got less love than Toto? “Hold the Line” became a radio hit because it sounded like it should be one—perfect for both Top 40 and album-rock formats.

John Mellencamp celebrated his 27th birthday. It would be the last time he celebrated a birthday without having it mentioned on lists of notable birthdays, because by the time he would turn 28, the album Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did would be out, and the single “I Need a Lover” would be on its way up the charts.

Perspective From the Present: On the Billboard Hot 100 dated 10/7/78, the top two were the same as the previous week: “Kiss You All Over” by Exile and former #1 hit “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by A Taste of Honey. Nick Gilder’s “Hot Child in the City” was up to #3 in its 18th week on; three weeks hence it would finally take out “Kiss You All Over” and set a record for the slowest-cooking #1 hit of all time. “How Much I Feel” by Ambrosia made the biggest leap within the 40, from #29 to #16; “Double Vision” by Foreigner went from #38 to #26. New songs in the 4o were “Took the Last Train” by David Gates, “Ready to Take a Chance Again” by Barry Manilow, and “Sweet Life” by Paul Davis. In addition to “Hold the Line,” eight other records debuted on the Hot 100, all between #80 and #90. Other than “Hold the Line,” Justin Hayward’s “Forever Autumn” (#82) and Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” (#86), the rest of them remained obscure. If you remember “Martha” by Gabriel (the highest debut of the week at #80) or “Mellow Lovin'” by Judy Cheeks (#88), maybe you should be writing this blog.

March 18, 1978: Family Reunion

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(Pictured: the Bee Gees with brother Andy in Florida, March 1978.)

(Promotional announcement: this is the first of four posts that will appear here in the next five days. Tell your friends.)

March 18, 1978, is a Saturday. Deposed Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Before their annual banquet, members of the fire department in Frostburg, Maryland, ring the firebell 111 times to honor the members who have died fighting fires since the department was founded 100 years ago today. In the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Kentucky wins the Mideast Regional final over Michigan State, 52-48. Leon Spinks, who upset Muhammad Ali to win the heavyweight boxing championship in February, is stripped of the title for refusing to fight Ken Norton, who is declared champion. Future NBA player Brian Scalabrine and future NHL player Jan Bulis are born; author Leigh Brackett dies, shortly after turning in a script for The Empire Strikes Back. Although she will receive a writing credit, practically none of her words or ideas will make it onto the screen.

Lindsey Wagner of The Bionic Woman is on the cover of TV Guide. This morning, CBS broadcasts the final original episodes of The Robonic Stooges, an animated kids’ show reimagining Larry, Moe, and Curly as crime-fighting robots of the future. Tonight, CBS airs the final episode of Kojak. On NBC, Jill Clayburgh hosts Saturday Night Live with musical guest Eddie Money, whose debut single “Baby Hold On” is in its fourth week on the Billboard Hot 100.

A 15-year-old girl in Illinois buys a copy of the Bee Gees’ Children of the World; looking at the cover, her father declares that the Bee Gees look “like long-haired hippie gangsters.” On the latest Hot 100, the long-haired hippie gangsters hold down the top two spots with “Night Fever” and “Stayin’ Alive.” Samantha Sang is next with “Emotion,” a song the Bee Gees wrote, produced, and sing on; Andy Gibb’s “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water,” a former #1 song, is at #5. (The lone interloper at the family reunion is Eric Clapton, whose “Lay Down Sally” has sneaked up to #4.) If that isn’t enough, the Bee Gees’ former #1 hit “How Deep Is Your Love” is hanging on at #35 in its 26th week on the Hot 100.

The Jerry Garcia Band plays Washington, D.C., U2 plays Limerick, Ireland, and Yes plays Los Angeles. The second California Jam concert is held in Ontario, California. Headliners include Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, Heart, Foreigner, Santana, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Dave Mason, Rubicon, and Bob Welch, who brings out surprise guests Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood. Nearly 300,000 fans show up, but critics focus on the generally substandard quality of the performances and the extravagance of the backstage amenities some performers demand, from pinball machines for amusement to plates of M&Ms with the yellow ones removed.

In Wisconsin, a young music geek misses all of this. He’s gone to the state basketball tournament to watch the Class A finals, although not before catching hell from his parents when they discover him trying to sneak a bottle of his favorite liquor along. For some reason, they let him go anyway.