July 19, 1979: Shakeup

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(Pictured: members of Cheap Trick onstage, circa 1979.)

July 19, 1979, is a Thursday. Four days after what will be known as the “malaise” speech, President Jimmy Carter shakes up his cabinet: Benjamin Civiletti will replace Griffin Bell as Attorney General; Patricia Harris will move from Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare; G. William Miller will become Secretary of the Treasury. Secretary of Energy James Schlesinger announces his resignation. (The next week, Carter will replace his Secretary of Transportation.) In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas overthrow the Somoza government. Gene Roddenberry and Harold Livingstone complete the original shooting script for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Linebacker Tom Cousineau, drafted first overall by the Buffalo Bills in last spring’s NFL draft, signs with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League for double the money Buffalo is offering. Future St. Louis Cardinals pitcher-turned-outfielder Rick Ankiel is born. Major league baseball resumes play after the All-Star break; the Milwaukee Brewers win their seventh game in a row, 3-2 over Toronto.

Joan Baez performs at the Lincoln Memorial and leads a candlelit human-rights march to the White House. President Carter goes to the White House fence to meet with some of the marchers; Baez attempts to reach him on the phone later that night, but he’s on his way to bed and doesn’t take the call. Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, and Spyro Gyra play the Montreux Jazz Fest. Ian Hunter plays the Dallas Palladium. AC/DC plays San Diego. Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps is released. The Jackson Five open a short American tour in Pittsburgh.

Despite the proliferation of disco on the nation’s record charts, rockers are still much in evidence. The Billboard Hot 100 dated July 14, 1979, includes Cheap Trick (“I Want You to Want Me” at #8), John Stewart (“Gold,” with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, at #10), Supertramp (“The Logical Song” at #11), Van Halen (“Dance the Night Away” at #15, Peter Frampton (“I Can’t Stand It No More” at #17), and Gerry Rafferty (“Days Gone Down” at #18) among the Top 20. Also among the Top 40: Poco, KISS, Kansas, Joe Jackson, and the Doobie Brothers. Up and coming outside the Top 40: the Knack, the Charlie Daniels Band, the Cars, Blackfoot, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, the Who, and Triumph.

At the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, an aspiring radio DJ is living by himself in a mostly deserted dorm, attending summer school during the week and working his paying radio gig on the weekends. He is taking a TV engineering class widely believed by those sharing his major to be one of the toughest courses they are required to take. He is one of but two students in the class; because of that, it’s impossible to do most of the team-oriented activities the course requires. Nevertheless, the course isn’t canceled, and because he will show up more often than his lone classmate, he will get an A and she will get a B. Neither will learn much TV engineering.

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May 3, 1979: Minute by Minute

(Pictured: Woody and Keef, 1979.)

May 3, 1979, is a Thursday. It’s Election Day in Britain. The Conservative Party wins a majority in the House of Commons, which will make Margaret Thatcher prime minister. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is hit by severe thunderstorms; 37 people are injured and damage will be estimated at $5 million. Twenty-five tornadoes rumble across northeast Texas, southeast Oklahoma, and southwest Arkansas. President Jimmy Carter nominates John Macy to be the head of the new Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was created by executive order in March, and speaks to the National Council of the League of Women Voters. Carter also attends a news briefing on public land preservation in Alaska and is made an honorary member of an Alaskan Native American tribe. The East Room ceremony is also attended by the Secretary of the Interior and Theodore Roosevelt IV, environmentalist and great-grandson of the 26th president. Magazine editor Charles Angoff, who worked at H. L. Mencken’s American Mercury, The Nation, and The American Spectator, dies at age 76. Future screenwriter Emily V. Gordon is born.

Movies on TV tonight include The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island, the second reunion movie for the sitcom cast, and Ike: The War Years, about General Dwight Eisenhower, who is played by Robert Duvall. This morning, Duvall was a guest on Good Morning America, talking about the movie. Also on TV tonight: Mork and Mindy and the last episode of Highcliffe Manor, a sitcom parody of Gothic horror movies starring Shelley Fabares, canceled after only three episodes. Jazz trumpeter Clark Terry performs at Buffalo State University and Yes plays Calgary, Alberta. Van Halen plays Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the Grateful Dead plays Charlotte, North Carolina. The Moody Blues play Hollywood, Florida, and the Jacksons perform in St. Petersburg. Journey plays the University of Oregon in Eugene, and Chuck Mangione performs at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago. The New Barbarians, a band featuring Keith Richards and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, plays Cincinnati. A couple of weeks earlier, the New Barbarians played two charity shows in Ottawa, Ontario, to fulfill Richards’ probation for a heroin posession charge last year. They were joined by the rest of the Rolling Stones. “This is Keith’s thing,” Charlie Watts said that night. “We just all thought that it would be a good idea to come.”

At WLS in Chicago, depending how you count them, as much as half of the station’s Top 45 singles list is made up of disco records. “Knock on Wood” by Amii Stewart is the new #1. “What a Fool Believes” by the Doobie Brothers moves up to #2, just ahead of Frank Mills’ instrumental “Music Box Dancer.” Last week’s #1, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, is #4. Only one song is new in the Top 10: “Heart of Glass” by Blondie at #7. The biggest mover on the chart is “Blow Away” by George Harrison, leaping from #37 to #24. Cher’s “Take Me Home” is up 11 spots to #23. The top album of the week is Minute by Minute by the Doobie Brothers, in its fourth week at #1. The debut album by Dire Straits is #2 again this week, and there’s little movement among the rest of the Top 10, which includes Supertramp’s Breakfast in America, Pieces of Eight by Styx, and Cheap Trick at Budokan.

Perspective From the Present: This would have been the last week of classes before finals at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. I was finishing up Radio Production, Freshman Composition, English Literature, and Intermediate French, as well as a bowling class for physical education credit. I don’t remember a solitary thing about the Freshman Comp or English Lit courses, the names of the professors, the stuff I wrote or read, none of it. I’d had four years of high-school French without becoming especially fluent, and the Intermediate course was a struggle. By May I would have been phoning it in, if I was still bothering to attend at all. I ended up with a C, which was a minor miracle.

I got a B in Radio Production.

(HERC’s Hideaway has a lot more detail on the singles and albums on the WLS survey this week, so go check it out.)

August 3, 1979: Completely Freaked Out

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(Pictured: Yaphet Kotto, Sigourney Weaver, and Ian Holm in Alien, 1979.)

August 3, 1979, was a Friday. Headlines on the morning papers include a government report that blames operator error for the Three Mile Island nuclear accident last spring. Investigators say that operators interfered with automated safety procedures that would have minimized the accident if left alone. Also in today’s headlines: New York Yankees catcher, team captain, and 1976 American League Most Valuable Player Thurman Munson died in a private plane crash yesterday in Ohio. He was 32. Today’s Yankees game against the Baltimore Orioles goes on as scheduled at Yankee Stadium. The Orioles win 1-0. Also today, President Jimmy Carter swears in Patricia Harris as his new Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. Harris moves over from the top position in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Harris move is part of the cabinet shakeup Carter launched on July 18. Provincial elections are held in Iran to select members for a new national council to advise Ayatollah Khomeini and other leaders. Many major parties and candidates have dropped out, calling the elections “undemocratic and unlawful.”

On Navy Pier at Chicago’s lakefront, Chicagofest opens its 10-day run. The second edition of the annual festival was in jeopardy for a while earlier this year after cost overruns in 1978, but Mayor Jane Byrne was forced to back down from her proposal to replace the fest with a series of smaller neighborhood festivals. There are eight stages, each representing a different genre. Tonight, the rock stage is headlined by Jay Ferguson, the jazz stage by McCoy Tyner, the folk stage by Tom Paxton, and the country stage by the Dirt Band. Muddy Waters plays the blues stage, and he is joined by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd as the Blues Brothers. Main stage headliners during the fest include Bobby Vinton, a triple bill of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Fats Domino, the Charlie Daniels Band with Dr. Hook, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson on separate nights, Shaun Cassidy, Helen Reddy with Jim Stafford, and Chicago with Orleans. Several Chicago radio stations will broadcast from the festival, and The Mike Douglas Show will be taped at Chicagofest on weekdays. Over 100,000 advance tickets have been sold at $3.50 each. Admission at the gate will be $5.

Future actress Evangeline Lilly is born. The Muppet Movie, Woody Allen’s Manhattan, and North Dallas Forty, starring Nick Nolte, open in theaters this weekend. So do The Amityville Horror and The Wanderers, which is advertised with a pull quote from a Newsweek review calling it “Grease with brass knuckles.” During the day, the three broadcast networks air 11 soaps and 10 game shows along with repeats of Laverne and Shirley, All in the Family, and M*A*S*H. Shows on TV tonight include Diff’rent Strokes, Hello Larry, The Rockford Files, and Welcome Back Kotter. Following the late local news, ABC shows 15 minutes of highlights from the PGA Championship golf tournament. (Ben Crenshaw holds a one-shot lead after the second round; he will lose a three-hole playoff to Australian David Graham on Sunday.) ABC follows the golf with a repeat of highlights from California Jam II, a rock concert held in March 1978, starring Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Heart, Foreigner, and others.

At WLS in Chicago, “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward and “Bad Girls” by Donna Summer hold at #1 and #2 on the survey that will come out tomorrow. At #3, Cheap Trick swaps positions with Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff,” now at #4. No song among the station’s top 12 moves more than one position up or down. The biggest mover within the survey is “My Sharona” by the Knack, up 15 spots to #16. (The debut album from the Knack is new at #1, knocking Cheap Trick at Budokan to #3; Supertramp’s Breakfast in America holds at #2.) Barbra Streisand’s “The Main Event/Fight,” the title song from her current movie with Ryan O’Neal, is up to #24 from #38. “When You’re in Love With a Beautiful Woman” by Dr. Hook is up to #30 from #41.

Perspective From the Present: I have written elsewhere that in the summer of 1979 I worked Saturdays and Sundays at KDTH in Dubuque and bunked with a couple of college friends on Saturday nights. One weekend—and we might as well call it the weekend that started on Friday, August 3—we went to see Alien, which had been in theaters all summer. It was the first movie we’d ever seen with a soundtrack in stereo. When the alien sneaked up on somebody from behind and we heard the sound behind us before we saw it, we were completely freaked out. Moviegoers take such effects for granted now, but when they were new, well, damn.

February 18, 1979: Destiny

(Pictured: the Jacksons, onstage during the Destiny tour, 1979.)

February 18, 1979, is a Sunday. The top headline on the Sunday newspapers regards China’s military invasion of Vietnam. Americans are concerned about rising gasoline prices, which have reached 70 cents a gallon in the Midwest. Also in the Midwest, a major snowstorm strikes, taking aim at the East Coast, where it will drop 18 inches of snow. Snow is also recorded in the Sahara Desert, in southern Algeria, for the first time in history. Over eight inches of rain falls in Greenville, South Carolina. The all-time low temperature record is tied in New York State, when a reading of 52 below is recorded at Old Forge in Herkimer County. President and Mrs. Carter spend the weekend at Camp David, although they zip back to Andrews Air Force Base at midday for a ceremony marking the return of the remains of Ambassador to Afghanistan Adolph Dubs, who was killed in a firefight after being kidnapped last week. Following their return to Camp David in the afternoon, the Carters go cross-country skiing with family and friends. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper runs a feature story about the history of Coca Cola and illustrates it with a photo of the handwritten original recipe for Coke, thus revealing the drink’s secret formula, but nobody notices until 2011.

The Daytona 500 is broadcast live in its entirety for the first time. Richard Petty wins after a last-lap crash involving Cale Yarborough and  Donnie Allison, who are battling for the lead. Yarborough and Allison get into a fistfight on the track after the crash. Amy Alcott wins the LPGA Elizabeth Arden Golf Classic. On ABC, the first episode of Roots: The Next Generations airs. Other shows on TV tonight include Battlestar Galactica and All in the Family. On the radio, The Dr. Demento Show, heard around the country this weekend, features an interview with voiceover artist Mel Blanc; “Fish Heads” by Barnes and Barnes, who also guest on the show, tops the weekly Funny Five countdown.

The Jacksons’ Destiny tour plays Manchester, England, the Outlaws play New York City, New Riders of the Purple Sage play Rutgers University, Status Quo plays Zwolle in the Netherlands, Frank Zappa plays Hammersmith Odeon in London, and Frank Sinatra plays Chicago. Rod Stewart tops the Billboard Hot 100 for a second week with “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.” (Stewart’s album Blondes Have More Fun holds at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart.) “YMCA” by the Village People sticks at #2. The lone new entry in the Top 10 is “I Was Made for Dancing” by Leif Garrett. There’s very little movement within the Top 20; the Bee Gees’ “Tragedy” leaps to #19 from #29, where it entered the Hot 100 the week before. The highest debuting song within the Top 40 is “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits at #33.

In Wisconsin, a college-radio DJ spends the weekend back home with the family. He’ll return to school that night, weather permitting, to a single room in the dorm, a luxury made possible when his roommate decided to quit school after one semester. He hates living in the dorm, but he loves radio, and radio is what he’s there for.