January 15, 1991: In the Heat of the Night

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(Pictured: An American family watches war news from the Persian Gulf.)

January 15, 1991, was a Tuesday. Today, Iraq fails to meet a UN-mandated deadline for withdrawing 545,000 troops from Kuwait. They’re faced by over 800,000 international coalition forces, the majority of which are from the United States. Yesterday, UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar returned from meetings with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and told reporters he sees little hope that war in the Persian Gulf can be averted. Pope John Paul II sends Saddam a letter urging him to “take courageous steps which can be the beginning of a true journey towards peace.” A partial eclipse of the sun is visible in parts of Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. In Texas, Democrat Ann Richards takes the oath of office as governor.

Today’s Dilbert strip features an appearance by Dan Quayle’s brain. ABC’s primetime lineup includes Who’s the Boss?, Head of the Class, Roseanne (which wins the ratings race for the night), Coach, and thirtysomething. CBS airs Rescue 911 and the theatrical movie The Presidio. NBC’s lineup includes Matlock, In the Heat of the Night, and Law and Order. At the movies Home Alone continues to dominate the box office along with Awakenings starring Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams. Pairings are set for the NFC and AFC championship games this weekend: the Los Angeles Raiders will play at Buffalo and the New York Giants will play at San Francisco. The NBA’s top team, the Boston Celtics, are 29-and-6 and have the night off. Among the eight games played tonight, the Portland Trail Blazers beat Minnesota 132-117, running their second-best record to 32-and-7. Clyde Drexler leads Portland with 32 points. The league’s third-best team, San Antonio, loses to Utah 124-102. The league’s worst team, the Denver Nuggets, drops to 7-and-29 after getting hammered by Seattle, 146-99.

A new version of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” recorded with war in the Persian Gulf looming, is officially released. Lennon’s son Sean and Lenny Kravitz rewrote the original lyrics, which are sung by artists recording as the Peace Choir. They include Yoko Ono, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Hornsby, Al Jarreau, Cyndi Lauper, Little Richard, LL Cool J, MC Hammer, Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt, Terence Trent D’Arby, Tom Petty, Adam Ant, and others. On the Billboard Hot 100, “Justify My Love” by Madonna is in its second week at #1. “Because I Love You” by Stevie B holds at #2. Only one song is new in the Top 10: “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C&C Music Factory. “I’m Your Baby Tonight” by Whitney Houston falls out of the Top 10. There’s practically no movement anywhere: Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” and “I’m Not in Love” by Will to Power make the biggest jumps in the Top 20, three places each (#7 to #4 and #20 to #17 respectively). There’s only one new song in the Top 40: “Love Makes Things Happen” by Pebbles at #40. Only three new songs debut on the Hot 100; the highest is “Iesha” by Another Bad Creation at #78. AC/DC plays Portland, Oregon, Guns ‘n’ Roses plays Rio de Janeiro, and Anthrax plays Montreal.

Perspective From the Present: On this day, The Mrs. and I had a new arrival in the house. We had adopted Abby, our first cat, shortly after the holidays. For a while, we left the radio on and tuned to my station while we were gone so she would hear my voice throughout the day. Like most Americans, we went to bed on the night of the 15th figuring we’d be at war pretty soon, maybe before we got up Wednesday morning. That day, I went to work as usual, doing my afternoon show at the little station in Clinton, Iowa. The bombing started in the Gulf a little before 6:00 that night, and what had been called Operation Desert Shield turned into Operation Desert Storm. After I read the first couple of bulletins, we joined network news coverage and let it roll for the next 18 hours or so. Although there wasn’t much for me to do, I remember staying at the station until midnight, partly because we needed to have an operator there, but partly because I didn’t want to be anywhere else while history was being made.


July 11, 1991: Right Here, Right Now

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(Pictured: a multiple exposure of the 1991 total solar eclipse, taken in Mexico.)

July 11, 1991, is a Thursday. Headlines this morning include the inauguration of Boris Yeltsin as the first popularly elected president of Russia yesterday. A total solar eclipse is visible in Hawaii, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America. Totality, which occurs this afternoon, lasts six minutes and 53 seconds. It will be the longest solar eclipse until the year 2132. During the eclipse, a UFO is sighted over Mexico City. The eclipse leads all three network newscasts tonight. Other stories covered include contentious hearings into the nomination of Robert Gates to be CIA director, and the controversy over the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. CBS reports on a music industry agreement to tax digital audio tape and equipment that makes “mirror image” copies. In Washington, the National Women’s Political Caucus celebrates its 20th anniversary. Among those on the dais tonight are Washington mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon, former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, former representatives Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm, journalist Linda Ellerbee, and author Betty Friedan.

In major-league baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays, who have the American League’s best record, open their lead in the Eastern Division to six games over the Boston Red Sox by beating Texas 2-0. The National League’s best record belongs to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who beat Cincinnati 10-6. Elsewhere, the fourth-place Milwaukee Brewers get a 5-1 win over the equally woebegone Chicago White Sox. Bill Wegman pitches a complete game for the Brewers. After tying the game in the bottom of the ninth on a home run by George Bell, the Chicago Cubs lose to Houston 6-4 in 11 innings. Both teams are largely out of the National League race.

The New England Journal of Medicine carries a report by a neurologist about a patient who suffers seizures when she hears the voice of Entertainment Tonight co-host Mary Hart. Fox airs new episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 and The Simpsons tonight. It’s the second summer that the network has tried to get more eyeballs on some of its shows by putting new episodes up against reruns on the other networks. The Simpsons noses out The Cosby Show in the ratings, but 90210 is beaten by the night’s ratings leader, Cheers. Also on NBC tonight, A Different World, Wings, and L.A. Law. ABC airs a Sea World special, an episode of Gabriel’s Fire, a detective drama starring James Earl Jones, and the newsmagazine Primetime Live. CBS trails with the reality show Top Cops, the drama The Trials of Rosie O’Neill starring Sharon Gless, and Candid Camera. On late-night TV tonight, Arsenio Hall’s guests are actor Patrick Swayze and rock band Nelson. Jay Leno fills in for Johnny Carson and welcomes actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, comedian Paul Provenza, and violinist Itzhak Perlman. Schwarzenegger’s latest movie, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, is #1 at the box office this week. It will be #1 after the coming weekend as well, withstanding the challenge of new releases Point Break (starring Swayze), Boyz N the Hood, and the reissue of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians.

Alice Cooper plays Irvine, California, and Stevie Nicks plays Dallas. Garth Brooks plays Calgary, Alberta, and Keith Jarrett plays London. Paul Simon plays Firenze, Italy, and Guns ‘n’ Roses plays Denver. On the new Billboard Hot 100 that comes out on Saturday, “Rush Rush” by Paula Abdul and “Unbelievable” by EMF hold at #1 and #2. “Right Here Right Now” by Jesus Jones is up to #3 from #5. Big movers within the Top 40 include “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, up to #12 from #20, and “Everything I Do (I Do It for You)” by Bryan Adams, up to #14 from #31. “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” by Lenny Kravitz is up to #18 from #25. Four songs are new in the Top 40 including “3AM Eternal” by the KLF and “Crazy” by Seal. The highest debut on the Hot 100 is “Time, Love, and Tenderness” by Michael Bolton at #59. Also debuting this week are “You Could Be Mine” by Guns ‘n’ Roses and “Unforgettable,” a manufactured duet between Natalie Cole and her late father, Nat.

In Clinton, Iowa, a radio DJ and program director shows up for work, for another day of the usual routine, summer festivals, summer promotions, and day-to-day odds and ends. If he’s started wondering whether there’s life after radio—and he will, before too much more time has passed—the feeling is still buried.

August 19, 1991: Every Heartbeat

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(Pictured: Amy Grant, 1992.)

August 19, 1991, was a Monday. In the Soviet Union, President Mikhail Gorbachev is placed under house arrest by a group of KGB conspirators. Within a week, Soviet republics will begin to declare their independence; Gorbachev will resign as president on Christmas Day, and the Soviet Union will cease to exist. In the United States, Hurricane Bob makes landfall in southern New England. Six people are killed in Connecticut, and some locations on Cape Cod report wind gusts up to 125 MPH. Damage estimates will range up to $1.7 billion. In the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, riots break out after a Guyanese boy is struck and killed by a car containing a prominent Hasidic Jewish leader. In Gurnee, Illinois, the village board holds its regular meeting, disposing of all business in 57 minutes, and state inspectors visit the sewage treatment plant in Orting, Washington. Sports Illustrated features golfer John Daly on its cover, reporting on his out-of-nowhere victory in the PGA Championship one week before. For the second time this month, Steffi Graf regains the top spot in world ranking among female tennis players from Monica Seles.

The Los Angeles Times reports that singer Billy Preston was arrested yesterday on sex charges involving a 16-year-old boy; he will be sentenced to drug rehab and house arrest. Judas Priest plays Toronto and Phish plays Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Bob Dylan plays Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and Primus plays Portland, Oregon. Guns n’ Roses plays Copenhagen, Denmark, and George Thorogood plays suburban Indianapolis.

On the Billboard Hot 100, “Everything I Do (I Do It for You)” by Bryan Adams is #1 for the fourth straight week; “Every Heartbeat” by Amy Grant is #2. There’s precious little movement in the Top 40. “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch makes the biggest move, from #35 to #25; “My Name Is Not Susan” by Whitney Houston moves from #36 to #29. The highest debut within the Top 40 belongs to Huey Lewis and the News: “It Hit Me Like a Hammer” is at #35. Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” is new at #39.

Perspective From the Present: I have been told that in radio music research, 90s music doesn’t test as well with listeners as 70s and 80s music does, even among those who grew up in the 90s. That doesn’t mean there were no good singles on the radio, however. There are several on this chart. Two of them are “The Motown Song” by Rod Stewart and “Everybody Plays the Fool” by Aaron Neville. Both of them were far different on the singles than they were on their respective albums: On Rod’s album Vagabond Heart,”The Motown Song” name-checks the Temptations and brings them aboard for backup vocals, then buries them in the mix. (The single, which is also the version used on the video, is much, much better.) The album version of “Everybody Plays the Fool” is a limp momentum killer on the radio, while the 45/video version is remixed to amp up the energy, and makes it a much better record.

Also remaining really good and/or essential after all these years: “Hard to Handle” by the Black Crowes, “Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty, “Walking in Memphis” and “Silver Thunderbird” by Marc Cohn, and “Losing My Religion” by REM. Largely forgotten but still remaining pretty good: “Power of Love”/”Love Power” by Luther Vandross.