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.

February 20, 1980: Come Sit Next to Me

(Pictured: Freddie Mercury and Brian May of Queen, onstage in Chicago, 1980.)

February 20, 1980, is a Wednesday. At 12:01AM Eastern time, a deadline passes for the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan, which they had invaded the previous December. They do not. Thus, the United States will boycott the upcoming Summer Olympics in Moscow. In hockey at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, Team USA defeats West Germany 4-2 to advance to the medal round. On Friday, the Americans will face the Soviet Union; nobody gives them a chance to win. The European Community places a tariff on certain types of synthetic carpet yarn shipped into the UK. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, dies at 96; the Washington socialite is said to have once remarked, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me.” At the White House, President and Mrs. Carter host a state dinner for the president of Kenya, Daniel Arap Moy. An experimental onion field at Oregon State University is fertilized. With the New Hampshire primary just five days away, a CBS/New York Times poll notes that many supporters of Republican candidate George Bush don’t know what he stands for.

TV shows on the air tonight include Charlie’s Angels, Diff’rent Strokes, and Hello Larry. Steve Martin sits in for Johnny on The Tonight Show; his guest is Andy Kaufman. Iggy Pop plays Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin. In the UK, Peter Gabriel plays Exeter University and Joy Division plays High Wycombe. The Joy Division show will be released in 2007 as part of the two-disc reissue of Still. In the early-morning hours, after a night of partying, a friend puts Bon Scott of AC/DC into his car to sleep it off. Returning later in the day, the friend finds Scott lifeless. At a hospital, Scott is pronounced DOA.

On the Billboard Hot 100 that will come out this weekend, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen will take over the #1 spot from the Captain and Tennille’s “Do That to Me One More Time.” Several significant rock bands are in the Top 40 apart from Queen: Fleetwood Mac (“Sara” at #10), Pink Floyd (“Another Brick in the Wall” at #15), Led Zeppelin (“Fool in the Rain” at #21), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (“Refugee” at #23 and “Don’t Do Me Like That” at #26), and the Eagles (“The Long Run” at #27). A couple of pop acts who haven’t scored major hits since 1971 are back on the radio as well: the Dirt Band’s “An American Dream” is at #14, and “Three Times in Love” by Tommy James is at #38. At a small college town in Wisconsin, a longtime Tommy James fan is glad about that.

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.

February 10, 1990: Knocked Out

(Pictured: Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville.)

February 10, 1990, is a Saturday. South African president F. W. de Klerk announces that Nelson Mandela, imprisoned for 27 years, will be released tomorrow. In Tokyo (where it’s already tomorrow), Buster Douglas knocks out heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in one of the greatest upsets in sports history. On the South Pacific island of Java, a volcano named Mt. Kelud erupts. NASA’s Galileo probe flies by the planet Venus, taking advantage of the gravity of the solar system’s inner planets to whip it toward its ultimate destination, Jupiter. In Las Cruces, New Mexico, two gunmen open up in a bowling alley, killing four and wounding three more. Decades later, the crime will remain unsolved. The Idaho lottery gives away a $2 million jackpot.

NBC-TV’s lineup tonight includes The Golden Girls, a Columbo TV movie called Agenda for Murder, and Saturday Night Live hosted by Quincy Jones. Eric Clapton plays the Royal Albert Hall in London with a full orchestra. The second part of the show features a two-movement piece called “Concerto for Electric Guitar.” Phish plays Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and Diana Ross plays Detroit. Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” knocks Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” from the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 1o0. Also in the Top 10: Rod Stewart’s “Downtown Train” (#3), “Janie’s Got a Gun” by Aerosmith (#4), “What Kind of Man Would I Be?” by Chicago (#6), and Janet Jackson’s “Escapade” (#9). The biggest mover within the Top 40 is “Black Velvet” by Alannah Myles (#39 to #28). The highest debut within the Hot 100 is Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville’s duet on “All My Life” (#47), the followup to “Don’t Know Much,” which is in its 20th week on the Hot 100 and still at #34.

In Iowa, a radio jock shows up for his Saturday shift as usual. It had been a late night the night before—a bunch of his colleagues had gotten together to bid farewell to a couple of sales reps who had been fired earlier in the week. What he doesn’t know as he arrives is that he’s about to join them.

Perspective From the Present:  My shift was supposed to end at 6:00 that day; when the PD showed up at 5:45, there was only one reason why he’d be there on a Saturday. (The story is told in detail here.) I was out of work for about six weeks (unemployed on my 30th birthday, as it turned out); the job I found turned out to be fun for three years, if not especially remunerative. And my radio career went on.

February 1, 1975: Please, Mister

February 1, 1975, is a Saturday. William Saxbe resigns as Attorney General to become U.S. ambassador to India. The resignation of Claude Brinegar, Secretary of Transportation since 1973, becomes official. Antwan “Big Boi” Patton of Outkast is born. Robert W. Straub is inaugurated as governor of Oregon. Two successful penalty shots are executed in the National Hockey League, by Steve Atkinson of the Washington Capitals and Lorne Henning of the New York Islanders. Shows on CBS tonight include The Jeffersons and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. James Garner of The Rockford Files is on the cover of TV Guide.

Little Feat plays the Olympia in Paris. Led Zeppelin is in Pittsburgh. Genesis appears live in Kansas City, Kansas. Joe Walsh plays New York City. Miles Davis does two shows in Osaka, Japan. The afternoon show will be released on his album Agharta; the evening show will be released on Pangaea. KISS wraps its Hotter Than Hell tour in Santa Monica, California, with opening act Jo Jo Gunne. Barry Manilow concludes a two-week engagement at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago, where “Mandy” is at #1 on WLS for a second week. “Please Mr. Postman” by the Carpenters spends a second week at #2. “Lady,” by Chicago band Styx, slides in at #3, just ahead of “Best of My Love” by the Eagles at #4. Two songs enter the Top 10 for the first time: “Never Can Say Goodbye” by Gloria Gaynor and the hottest record on the chart, “You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt, which jumps in from #25. On the WLS album chart, Greatest Hits by Elton John and Not Fragile by Bachman-Turner Overdrive continue in the #1 and #2 positions for a ninth straight week.

Over on the Billboard Hot 100, the highest debuting song of the week is “I’ve Been This Way Before” by Neil Diamond, which comes on at #73. (It will eventually peak at #34 and spend just three weeks in the Top 40.) Songs that will be more familiar in the future also debut, including “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns, “Part of the Plan” by Dan Fogelberg, and future #1 hits “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” by Freddy Fender and “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” by B. J. Thomas. The oddest debut of the week is at #86: “Please Mr. President” by Paula Webb, a 10-year-old girl’s letter to President Ford, asking help with her family’s hard times. Although it will get only as high as #60, it resonates with lots of Americans during an especially difficult season in our national life.