September 16, 1987: Just Can’t Stop

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(Pictured: Michael Jackson on stage, 1987.)

September 16, 1987, is a Wednesday. A front-page story in the New York Times details the growing plagiarism scandal surrounding Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Biden’s committee is holding confirmation hearings for Supreme Court appointee Robert Bork. Pope John Paul II continues a visit to the United States; today, he’s in Los Angeles, where he celebrates mass at Dodger Stadium and stresses the need for religious communities to draw together “in a common concern for man’s earthly welfare, especially world peace.” President Reagan speaks on the steps of the Capitol at “A Celebration of Citizenship,” as school children across the country celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution. The mayors of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and Hsin Tien, Taiwan, sign a sister-city proclamation. National Football League players and owners are eyeball-to-eyeball in a labor dispute; in six days, the players will go on strike, resulting in the cancellation of one week’s games and the playing of three others with replacement players. Bob Boone of the California Angels appears in his 1,919th game at catcher, which is a major league record.

Calvin and Hobbes decide to secede from their family. On CBS-TV tonight, it’s the premiere of Wiseguy, starring Ken Wahl. On NBC, the final season of St. Elsewhere begins. The New York Times reports that investment firm Smith Barney is dropping John Houseman from its TV ads; for several years, Houseman has told viewers that Smith Barney makes money the old fashioned way: “they ear-r-r-r-r-n it.” The current edition of Variety includes the obituary of TV star Lorne Greene (Bonanza), who died last week at age 72. Films set to open this coming weekend include Fatal Attraction, Hellraiser, and The Pick-Up Artist. Top movie last weekend: Stakeout, starring Emilio Estevez and Richard Dreyfuss.

Pink Floyd plays Cleveland, Boston plays Nashville, and Bob Dylan plays Nuremberg, Germany, with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers opening. The Grateful Dead plays Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Dead’s biggest hit single to date, “Touch of Grey,” is at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. That chart is topped by Los Lobos and Michael Jackson, sitting at #1 and #2 for the second consecutive week with “La Bamba” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” is at #3, followed by Whitesnake and “Here I Go Again”at #4. Madonna is in the Top 10 with “Who’s That Girl” (#9) and she also has the highest debuting song on the Hot 100 with “Causing a Commotion,” which comes in at #41. Also in the top 10: Huey Lewis and the News (“Doing It All for My Baby” at #7) and “When Smokey Sings” by ABC (#8), which cleverly incorporates the main riff from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ 1970 hit “Tears of a Clown.” Smokey himself is at #21 with “One Heartbeat.”

Perspective From the Present: During the week of October 3, “One Heartbeat” would reach #10 and become Smokey Robinson’s final Top 10 hit to date. “La Bamba” would be knocked from the #1 spot the next week by “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Although Michael Jackson’s Bad had been released two weeks before, it didn’t knock the La Bamba movie soundtrack from #1 until the week of September 26. Such were the limitations of chart methodology in the pre-Soundscan era. Bad was, nevertheless, the album absolutely everyone was talking about 30 years ago this month, and Michael-mania was raging anew. It was so pervasive that even my radio station—which played elevator music—briefly made room for “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

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January 9, 1987: Uh-Oh

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(Pictured: Carly Simon, 1987.)

January 9, 1987, is a Friday. Controversy over the Iran-Contra Affair, which was first revealed late last November, continues to boil. Newspaper reports indicate that Israel had passed word to the United States that Iran would release American hostages held there in exchange for the resumption of arms shipments, and that President Reagan had been notified the previous September that Israel had sold arms to the Nicaraguan contras. In business news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 2,000 for the first time in history yesterday. Arthur Lake, the actor who played Dagwood in a series of films based on the Blondie comic strip, and Pete Lucia, former drummer in Tommy James and the Shondells, die. Singer Paolo Nutini is born. The first modern simulator ride, “Star Tours: The Adventures Continue,” opens at Disneyland. The ride cost twice as much money, $32 million, as it took to build the whole park in 1955.

The most popular movies in theaters this weekend are The Golden Child, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Crocodile Dundee, and Little Shop of Horrors. ABC-TV leads off its night with episodes of Webster and Mr. Belvidere; CBS airs Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Dallas, and Falcon Crest; NBC’s lineup includes new episodes of Miami Vice and Crime Story. Some viewers in the Newtown, Connecticut, area may have trouble seeing anything. Housatonic Cable reported this week that repairs to existing lines needed after a recent blizzard have slowed the installation of new lines.

Ratt plays Detroit, Metallica plays Holstebro, Denmark, Iron Maiden plays Pittsburgh, and Triumph plays Toronto. At KKHT in Houston, the new #1 single is “Stay the Night” by Benjamin Orr of the Cars, which knocks “Is This Love” by Survivor to #2. Four records each make seven-place jumps into the top 10: “Someday” by Glass Tiger, “At This Moment” by Billy Vera and the Beaters, Madonna’s “Open Your Heart,” and “Falling in Love (Uh-Oh)” by the Miami Sound Machine. Other major movers on the chart include “Shake You Down” by Gregory Abbott and “Coming Around Again” by Carly Simon. In Davenport, Iowa, the new jock at KRVR wraps up his first week on the air, voice-tracking elevator music from 3 to 9PM. He’s getting used to new co-workers and a new daily routine, and he hasn’t had much time to think about whether he’s made a good move. There will be time for that later.

Perspective From the Present: That week, The Mrs. and I were settling into our new place, in a giant apartment complex at the intersection of  two busy streets in Davenport. We would have preferred to live in part of an old house, as we’d done briefly right after we got married, but we couldn’t find one we liked. The complex seduced us with a pool and a clubhouse—which neither of us ever set foot in, as it turned out. Our unit was advertised as having a fireplace, although it was actually a free-standing woodstove in the corner that heated up like the mouth of Hell with just a couple of sticks of firewood, and we ended up not using it much. We didn’t get to know our neighbors very well either, because people seemed to move in and out frequently. For a while, we shared a bedroom wall with a couple who were very loudly—and frequently—in love. We never actually saw them, so we never knew what they looked like, how old they were, or anything else about them except for their remarkable sexual appetite, which led us to nickname the guy the “pagan love beast.” After a year and a half, we moved on, part of a stretch that saw us with six addresses in five years, the sort of thing newlyweds and young disc jockeys did then, and do now.