March 27, 1973: Who Do We Think We Are?

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(Pictured: Cabaret stars Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey at the movie’s Paris premiere in September 1972.)

March 27, 1973, was a Tuesday. Newspapers headline the agreement between the United States and North Vietnam that will result in the release of the last prisoners of war from North Vietnam and withdrawal of American troops from South Vietnam later this week. But the Nixon Administration has also announced that military operations will continue in Cambodia until Communist forces agree to a cease-fire. Congressional Republicans are demanding that the White House provide more information about the Watergate break-in and operations against the McGovern campaign last year. In meetings today, President Nixon orders aide John Ehrlichman to conduct his own investigation of Watergate, since White House counsel John Dean hasn’t reported the results of the investigation he’s doing. In a conversation with Secretary of State William Rogers, the president places blame for Watergate on Attorney General John Mitchell and Deputy Chief of Staff Jeb Magruder. Among his public events today, Nixon meets with Lindy Boggs of Louisiana, who was elected to the House of Representatives one week ago to fill the seat previously held by her husband. Hale Boggs and Alaska congressman Nick Begich were aboard a plane that disappeared in Alaska last October; both men are presumed dead, although their bodies will never be found.

Playwright Noel Coward died yesterday at his estate in Jamaica; he was 73 years old. Tonight is Oscar night. Cabaret wins eight awards, including Best Actress for Liza Minnelli, Best Supporting Actor for Joel Grey, and Best Director for Bob Fosse. The Godfather wins three, including Best Picture. Marlon Brando is awarded Best Actor, but he is boycotting the ceremony in protest of treatment of American Indians and sends an actress named Sacheen Littlefeather to accept in his place. Dressed in Apache garb, she gives a brief speech declining the award on Brando’s behalf.

In sports, UCLA won its seventh straight NCAA men’s basketball championship last night, defeating Memphis State 87-66 in St. Louis. UCLA’s Bill Walton was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. It’s the first time the national championship game has been held on a Monday following semifinals on Saturday. In the NBA tonight, the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers 85-84. Wilt Chamberlain of the Lakers plays 46 of the 48 minutes of the game but does not score a single point. Oscar Robertson scores 25 for the Bucks and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has 24. It’s the last regular season game for the Bucks, although the Lakers have one more tomorrow, the last day of the regular season. Both the Bucks and Lakers will end up with 60-22 records, but the Boston Celtics have the league’s best record with 68 wins and 14 losses. The American Basketball Association will also end its regular season tomorrow. The league’s top teams going into the playoffs are the Carolina Cougars, Kentucky Colonels, and Utah Stars.

The three TV networks air 16 game shows and 12 soap operas today, including second episodes of The $10,000 Pyramid and The Young and the Restless, both of which premiered yesterday on CBS. At KQV in Pittsburgh, “Neither One of Us” by Gladys Knight and the Pips takes a mighty leap from #9 to #1 on the station’s latest survey. Last week’s #1, “Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack falls to #2. “Love Train” by the O’Jays blasts to #6 from #20 the previous week. Three other songs are new in the Top 10: “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” by the Spinners, “Danny’s Song” by Anne Murray, and “Call Me” by Al Green. The highest-debuting new song on the survey is “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band” by the Moody Blues at #16. New songs in the Hit Parade Bound section of the survey are Helen Reddy’s “Peaceful,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder, and “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel. Top albums include Elton John’s Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player, No Secrets by Carly Simon, Hot August Night by Neil Diamond, and Who Do We Think We Are by Deep Purple.

Perspective From the Present: At my other blog, I’m doing an intermittent series on 1973, trying to figure out why that year feels like an empty space in my growing-up. This post doesn’t explain much. I would have ridden the bus to school on this morning, heard about the Vietnam agreement and Sacheen Littlefeather on the news. But what I thought or felt or did on that day is gone down the memory hole.

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March 21, 1980: Stand by Me

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(Pictured: the Clash onstage, March 1980.)

March 21, 1980, is a Friday. President Jimmy Carter announces that the United States will boycott the upcoming Summer Olympics in Moscow in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later in the day, he heads for Camp David. After West Virginia teachers receive only a $950-per-year raise from the legislature, about a quarter of them stage a one-day strike. Wool-handlers in Australia end an 11-week strike. Future soccer star Ronaldinho is born, and Philadelphia crime boss Angelo Bruno dies, shot in the head while sitting in his car.

In Doonesbury today, Mike continues work on Republican congressman John Anderson’s presidential campaign. On daytime TV, Dinah Shore welcomes actress Polly Holliday to Dinah!. Holliday’s new sitcom Flo will premiere on CBS tonight. The Mike Douglas Show features co-host Charlene Tilton and guests including actor James Franciscus and sportscaster Curt Gowdy. Celebrity guests on The $20,000 Pyramid are Joanna Gleason and David Letterman. On CBS tonight, in addition to Flo and an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard, it’s the season finale of Dallas, in which J. R. Ewing is shot. The mystery of who shot him, which will not be solved until the November 21 episode, will inspire the widespread TV practice of end-of-season cliffhangers. NBC counterprograms with an episode of Pink Lady and Jeff. It’s a quiet weekend at the movies; Kramer vs. Kramer will top the box-office again.

ZZ Top and the Rockets play Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati; it’s the first rock concert held at the venue since the deaths of 11 people in a stampede at a Who concert the previous December. Rick James plays Cleveland with his opening act, Prince. The Outlaws play at Rutgers University, Van Halen plays Medford, Oregon, and Rush plays Spokane, Washington. Gary Numan plays Brussels, Belgium, and Harry Chapin plays Binghamton, New York.

On the edition of American Top 40 to be broadcast around the country this weekend, “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd knocks “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen out of the top spot to #3. Dan Fogelberg’s “Longer” holds at #2. There’s only one new song in the Top 10, “How Do I Make You” by Linda Ronstadt. Air Supply’s “Lost In Love” is the biggest mover within the 40, up seven spots from #32 to #25. Three new songs within the Top 40 come blazing in: Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right” debuts at #27 after entering the Hot 100 at #53 last week; “Hold On to My Love” by Jimmy Ruffin comes in at #31 from #47. “Pilot of the Airwaves” by Charlie Dore is new at #39, up from #50.

Among the debuts on the Hot 100 is “Train in Vain (Stand By Me)” by the Clash at #84. It appears on their album London Calling but is not listed on the sleeve or the label. Despite prominent hand-labeling of the sleeve and the label, a couple of the jocks at WSUP, the student station at the University of Wisconsin at Platteville, will demonstrate themselves pathologically unable to figure out where it is. They will either insist on playing the wrong cut or on not playing “Train in Vain” at all. The station’s program director, an impatient fellow under the best of circumstances, is not amused.

March 19, 1976: Show Me

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(Pictured: Peter Frampton gives it all he’s got, 1976.)

March 19, 1976, was a Friday. Newspaper readers learn that Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho entered the presidential race yesterday, even though the race is well underway already. Also yesterday, Paul McCartney’s father, James, died at age 73, and the state of Kentucky officially ratified the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. (It had rejected the amendment in 1865.) Today, closing arguments continue in the bank-robbery trial of heiress Patricia Hearst. Hearst was kidnapped in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army; within weeks, she had taken the name Tania, became a member of the group, and remained underground until she was arrested in the fall of 1975. In Britain, Buckingham Palace announces the separation of Princess Margaret from her husband, Lord Snowdon. They have been married 15 years and have two children. At the White House, President Ford meets members of the National Newspaper Association and takes questions. After the public announcement of the appointment of diplomat Thomas Gates to head the United States Liaison Office in China, Ford, Gates, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft hold a classified meeting in which they discuss the political signal sent to Chinese leaders by the Gates appointment. In Sierra Madre, California, a bicentennial time capsule is buried under the flagpole of the city’s new police and fire building. The Garden State Rotary Club of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, holds its first meeting.

The Indiana Hoosiers defeat Alabama in the Mideast Regional semifinals of the NCAA basketball tournament. (On Sunday, they will qualify for the Final Four by beating Marquette, and will eventually win the national championship, going undefeated for the year.) Third-ranked UNLV is upset by Arizona, 114-109 in overtime. In Illinois, 16 teams in two classes open the state high school basketball tournament. Tomorrow, Chicago Morgan Park (class AA) and Mt. Pulaski (class A) will win championships. Celebrity guests on the recently renamed $20,000 Pyramid are Soupy Sales and All My Children actress Stephanie Braxton. Panelists on The Hollywood Squares include Bob Newhart, Shirley Jones, Hal Linden, Don Rickles, Jonathan Winters, and Arte Johnson. Joining Brett, Charles, and Richard on Match Game ’76 are Clifton Davis, Patty Duke Astin, and Joyce Bulifant. Programs on NBC tonight include Sanford and Son, The Practice, a sitcom starring Danny Thomas as a physician, and The Rockford Files. Future TV actress Rachel Blanchard and future NBA player Andre Miller are born. Guitarist Paul Kossoff, formerly of Free and currently of Back Street Crawler, dies aboard an airplane flight after years of drug abuse; he was 25.

Bette Midler plays Tarrytown, New York, the Electric Light Orchestra plays Boston, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band plays Kansas City, Kansas, Elvis Presley plays Johnson City, Tennessee, and Bad Company plays Dallas. David Bowie plays Buffalo and the Who plays Denver. On the new Billboard Top 40 that Casey Kasem will count down this weekend, “December 1963” by the Four Seasons and “All By Myself” by Eric Carmen hold at #1 and #2. Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and Johnnie Taylor’s “Disco Lady” are new in the Top 10. The hottest hits within the Top 40 are “Show Me the Way” by Peter Frampton, up 12 places to #25, and “Right Back Where We Started From” by Maxine Nightingale, up 11 places to #14.  A teenager in southern Wisconsin continues his behind-the-wheel driver’s ed instruction in eager anticipation of getting his license within a few weeks; whenever he’s in the car, the radio is always on. And whenever he’s not.

March 14, 1987: Act Up

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(Pictured: Boy George, on stage in 1987.)

March 14, 1987, was a Saturday. In his weekly radio address, President Reagan talks about the changes in his national security team, necessitated by the unfolding Iran-Contra scandal. White supremacists rally in Forsyth County, Georgia, after winning a lawsuit giving them the right to do so. A United Press International story appearing around the country today says that the World Health Organization is reporting a worldwide total of 42,704 AIDS cases, three-quarters of which are in the United States. In Los Angeles, county officials are planning to open several new AIDS testing sites, due in part to a sharp increase in AIDS cases among heterosexuals. In New York City, Larry Kramer and other gay activists form the organization ACT UP. Yesterday, a judge ordered 17-year-old Machelle Outlaw of Goldsboro, North Carolina, readmitted to her Christian school after she was expelled earlier in the week for modeling swimsuits in a department store fashion show. Among the teams winning games in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are Indiana, Wyoming, and Notre Dame. Katarina Witt wins the World Figure Skating Championships in Cincinnati. Stu Kulak, recently acquired in a trade, makes his debut with the NHL’s New York Rangers. (He will play in three games for the Rangers before being released.) TV shows on NBC tonight include The Golden Girls and Saturday Night’s Main Event, a pro wrestling show. Lower Prior Lake, in Scott County, Minnesota, records its earliest ice-out—the date on which there’s no more ice on the lake. Pope John Paul II meets the Cremonese soccer team and members of the Moscow Circus.

Wang Chung plays in Denver, and Petula Clark plays the Hamilton Hotel in Itasca, Illinois. In the UK, The Very Best of Hot Chocolate goes to #1 on the album charts. The #1 single in the UK is Boy George’s cover of Bread’s “Everything I Own,” which doesn’t hit in the States. In the States, the #1 single is “Jacob’s Ladder” by Huey Lewis and the News, which doesn’t hit in the UK. “Somewhere Out There” by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram is #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Janet Jackson’s “Let’s Wait Awhile” is at #3, making it the fifth Top-5 single from her album Control. The achievement matches only her brother Michael’s on Thriller. Rounding out the top 5: last week’s #1 single, “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi, and “Lean on Me” by Club Nouveau. For the second week, Licensed to Ill by the Beastie Boys is Billboard‘s #1 album. Bruce Springsteen’s Live 1975-1985 box set goes platinum only about three months after its release.

Perspective From the Present: I was playing elevator music at KRVR in Davenport, Iowa, and had been doing so since January. It’s likely that I had this Saturday off, and I probably slept late. I worked until 9:00 at night, and The Mrs. and I got into the habit of grabbing a late dinner and going to a midnight movie on Fridays. It’s likely we didn’t get home until something like 3:00 this morning.

Meal at 9, movie at 12, home by 3. The only way we could do that now would be to have breakfast at nine and the movie at noon.

March 7, 1993: Ordinary World

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(Pictured: Duran Duran, 1993.)

March 7, 1993, was a Sunday. Headlines on the Sunday papers include reports from Waco, Texas, where state and federal law enforcement officers have surrounded a complex occupied by members of the Branch Davidians, a religious sect led by David Koresh. A raid by agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms on February 28 resulted in a gun battle that killed four agents and five Davidians. Supreme Court justice Byron White may be considering retirement after 31 years on the court. A retirement would give the new president, Bill Clinton, the chance to make the first Democratic appointment to the court since the Johnson Administration. NBC and CBS lead their evening newscasts with the Waco story; ABC leads with a story on Clinton’s plan to close military bases.

In college basketball, top-ranked North Carolina defeats #6 Duke 83-69 to close the regular season. The game is broadcast on ABC; it will be the final game for analyst Jim Valvano, who has been fighting cancer and will die in April. Six games are played in the NBA today. The league leaders—New York, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix—all have the day off. In Milwaukee, a battle of cellar-dwelling teams finds the Detroit Pistons beating the Bucks 98-91 behind 35 points by Joe Dumars. Six games are played in the NHL. The San Jose Sharks, in their second season in the league, win their 10th game of the year, and their second in a row, beating Edmonton 6-3. They will lose their next 13 straight before getting their final win of the season on April 6 (again over Edmonton), and will end up with a record of 11 wins, 71 losses, and two ties. The first Pennsylvania Nordic Championship ski race takes place at Laurel Ridge State Park. Davey Allison wins the NASCAR Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond.

Falling Down, starring Michael Douglas, tops the box office for the second straight weekend. Last weekend, it knocked Groundhog Day to #2, and it remains at #2 this weekend. Also packing theaters: The Crying Game and Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. The top new movie of the weekend is Mad Dog and Glory, starring Robert de Niro, Bill Murray, and Uma Thurman, On TV tonight, ABC airs the family drama Life Goes On, the first episode of the newsmagazine show Day One, and a rerun of the theatrical movie Platoon. NBC airs the reality shows Unsolved Mysteries and I Witness Video. The latter, hosted by John Forsythe, often features video of natural disasters and crime and is sometimes criticized for its content. NBC closes the night with the TV movie Passport to Murder starring Connie Sellecca and Ed Marinaro. Fox airs six 30-minute programs in primetime, including In Living Color, Roc, and Married With Children. On CBS, it’s 60 Minutes, Murder She Wrote, and the TV movie The Disappearance of Nora starring Veronica Hamel, which draws the night’s highest rating.

Van Morrison plays Tilburg in the Netherlands, Duran Duran plays Hamburg, Germany, Leonard Cohen plays San Francisco, and Quiet Riot plays Cincinnati. On the Billboard Hot 100, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” has finally been knocked from the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 after 14 weeks, by “A Whole New World,” a song from the soundtrack of the animated movie Aladdin, sung by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle. Nevertheless, Whitney continues to dominate the chart. Her version of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” drops from #4 to #6, and her latest hit, “I Have Nothing,” is the highest debut in the Top 40 at #23. Elsewhere, Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World” holds at #3, “Informer” by Snow jumps from #10 to #4, and “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” by Dr. Dre holds at #5. Two songs are new in the Top 10: “Don’t Walk Away” by Jade at #9 and “Bed of Roses” by Bon Jovi at #10. The biggest mover within the Top 40 is “Freak Me” by Silk, which is up 19 spots to #21; “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors is up 1o spots to #20. On the Billboard 200 album chart, Houston’s soundtrack from her movie The Bodyguard is #1 for a 13th week. Although it will be taken out next week by Eric Clapton’s Unplugged, it will have three more runs and seven additional weeks at #1 between now and the end of May.

Perspective From the Present: I can do the math, and so I know this was 25 years ago. In my head, it seems like a lot less than that.

March 22, 1972: Fever

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(Pictured: Playboy impresario Hugh Hefner, surrounded.)

March 22, 1972, is a Wednesday. The big headline on the morning papers is Ed Muskie’s Illinois primary win over Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern yesterday. Today, Congress passes the Equal Rights Amendment and sends it to the states for ratification. Later today, Hawaii will become the first state to ratify. In Montana, a convention adopts a new state constitution and sends it to the voters. The United States Supreme Court rules in the case of Eisenstadt v. Baird, striking down a Massachusetts law forbidding the sale of contraceptives to unmarried people. It will be considered an important case in establishing a right to privacy. The National Commission on Marihuana [sic] and Drug Abuse issues its report, which recommends relaxing marijuana laws, including the decriminalization of simple possession. The Nixon Administration opposes the commission’s conclusions, and it will not implement its recommendations. Nixon nominates a number of federal judges; the New York Central Railroad closes a number of stations. New York Congressman Ogden Reid announces that because the Republican Party has moved to the right and he can’t support Nixon for reelection in November, he will become a Democrat. An article in the Wall Street Journal announces that Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner plans to launch another magazine, Oui, which will have a “European slant.” In Wisconsin, a law goes into effect lowering the age of adulthood, including the drinking age, from 21 to 18. Future pro athletes Shawn Bradley (basketball), Cory Lidle (baseball), and Elvis Stojko (figure skating) are born.

On TV tonight, guests on the PBS series Soul! are Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. NBC presents a Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Harvey, starring Jimmy Stewart, and follows it with a repeat of Night Gallery. CBS broadcasts an episode of The Carol Burnett Show; Burnett is also a guest on ABC’s Password this week. ABC’s primetime lineup includes The ABC Comedy Hour, featuring a group of impressionists known as the Kopykats, who include Rich Little, Frank Gorshin, Fred Travalena, and Charlie Callas. On ABC after the late local news, Dick Cavett’s guests include Diahann Carroll, Fran Tarkenton, and Michigan Congressman John Conyers. Joe Cocker and Dave Mason play Philadelphia, the Grateful Dead plays New York City, Black Sabbath plays Detroit with opening act Yes, the Mahavishnu Orchestra plays Los Angeles, and Emerson Lake and Palmer play Long Beach, California.

At WISM in Madison, Wisconsin, the new Music Guide comes out tomorrow, with morning DJ Clyde Coffee pictured on the cover. “A Horse With No Name” by America will hold at #1 for another week; “Puppy Love” by Donny Osmond moves up to #2. The biggest mover in the Top 10 is “I Gotcha” by Joe Tex, moving from #8 to #5. Two songs will debut in the Top 10: “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack (#7, up from #14) and “Rockin’ Robin” by Michael Jackson (#8, up from #18). “Jungle Fever” by the Chakachas is up 10 spots, from #27 to #17. Four songs are new in the Top 30: “Day Dreaming” by Aretha Franklin, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” by Wings, “Betcha By Golly Wow” by the Stylistics, and “The Family of Man” by Three Dog Night.

About an hour south of Madison, a sixth-grader is immersed in the second-semester grind of Mr. Schilling’s class at Northside School, with Easter vacation sparkling in the near distance. He’s gone to Northside since the middle of second grade, so the place is as familiar as the weather. Outside the classroom, he’s turned his attention to baseball spring training now that the state basketball tournament is over, but he also obsessively follows the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks as they wind down the regular season before their pursuit of a second straight championship. He frequently listens to Bucks games on the radio, and more frequently listens to WLS from Chicago, which has already made clear to him who he is, and what he’s supposed to be.

March 20, 1965: Showdown

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(Pictured: Matt Dillon vs. a bad guy, as seen on Gunsmoke.)

March 20, 1965, is a Saturday. Ahmadou Ahidjo is reelected president of Cameroon. In the United States, President Johnson announces that he will call up units of the Alabama National Guard to supervise a third civil-rights march from Selma to Montgomery that is set to begin tomorrow. The first march two weeks ago turned violent when state troopers attacked marchers as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. After making the announcement at the Texas White House, Johnson also discusses the situation in Vietnam and announces several federal appointments before taking questions from reporters. NASA continues preparations for tomorrow’s launch of Ranger 9, which will be the last of several probes sent to photograph the moon before intentionally being crashed into it. In today’s Peanuts strip, Lucy continues her weeklong battle against Linus’ security blanket. Inventor Leandro Malicay of Los Angeles files a patent application for a coconut shredding device. Fans of the the Chicago Cubs are mourning the death of play-by-play announcer Jack Quinlan, who died in a traffic accident last night in Arizona. He was 38, and had done Cubs games on radio since 1952. Actress Dorothy Malone of Peyton Place is on the cover of TV Guide.

Bonanza tops the primetime lineup on NBC tonight; CBS has episodes of Gilligan’s Island and Gunsmoke. In southern Wisconsin, regular programming on the local ABC affiliate is pre-empted by coverage of the state boys’ basketball tournament. Monroe completes an undefeated season by winning the championship 74-71 over Eau Claire Memorial. In Portland, Oregon, UCLA wins the NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball championship over Michigan 91-80. It’s the second straight NCAA championship for UCLA. In the consolation game between losers of the national semifinals, Princeton beat Wichita State, 118-82. Princeton’s Bill Bradley is named the tournament’s most outstanding player. St. John’s defeats Villanova 55-51 to win the NIT.

Bob Dylan plays Buffalo, New York. The Motortown Revue, starring the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, the Miracles, and Stevie Wonder, begins its three-week tour of Europe at Astoria Hall in Finsbury Park, England. Judy Garland wraps up a week of appearances at the Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami. At WMCA in New York, B. Mitchel Reid does his last show before returning to KWFB in Los Angeles, from which he’d come two years before. “Stop! In the Name of Love” by the Supremes is #1 on the WMCA survey dated March 18; two other Motown songs are also in the Top 10: “Shotgun” by Junior Walker & the All-Stars at #7 and “My Girl” by the Temptations at #9. Three British Invasion stars are in the Top 10 also: the Beatles with “Eight Days a Week” at #3, Freddie and the Dreamers with “I’m Telling You Now” at #4, and Herman’s Hermits with “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” at #5. Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” and Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” are also in the WMCA Top 10.

Perspective From the Present: Although Monroe has won state boys’ and girls’ basketball championships in more recent times, the 1965 team retains a great hold on the imagination of the locals. It was a one-class tournament back then, which meant that Monroe, a town of about 8,000 then, was competing against much bigger schools. (Monroe’s win came in the middle of a stretch in which Milwaukee Lincoln, a school that no longer exists, won four championships in seven years; one of the other schools qualifying for the 1965 tournament was the suburban Milwaukee school Wauwatosa East, my wife’s alma mater.) Thousands of fans greeted the champs when they returned to town on Sunday riding aboard a fire truck. The caravan of cars that greeted them as they came down Highway 69 is fondly remembered around town. Although I have no memory of it, my family was in one of them. Years later, the team picture of the 1965 champions would look down on us in the high school cafeteria every day.

March 19, 1971: Obsession

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(Pictured: Vice President Spiro Agnew, famed for saying things his boss, Richard Nixon, could not.)

March 19, 1971, was a Friday. Headline stories in the morning papers around the country include an antiwar protest in Boston outside a hotel yesterday, where Vice-President Spiro Agnew gave a fiery anti-media speech at a Republican fundraiser. A crowd estimated at 3,500 clashed with a group of hard-hats before being pushed back by police. Today, the prime interest rate is adjusted down, from 5.38 percent to 5.25 percent. (It will go back up in April.) In Texas, Amarillo Air Force Base closes. In the current edition of Life, TV critic John Leonard eviscerates the CBS-TV series All in the Family, which premiered in January, calling it “a wretched program” and “insulting.” The Life cover story, written by Norman Mailer, is about the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight of March 8, won by Frazier. Ali is also on the cover of the current Rolling Stone.

In Wisconsin, the state high school basketball tournament continues at the UW Field House. Semifinal games are won by Janesville Parker and Milwaukee Rufus King. Tomorrow, Parker will defeat King 79-68 for the championship. It’s the final one-class tournament; next year, the state’s high schools will be divided into two classes for tournament play. The Illinois tournament opens with four quarterfinals; Thornridge, led by future college star, NBA player, and TV broadcaster Quinn Buckner, defeats Kewanee 63-58, and will win the state crown tomorrow. In college hockey, Minnesota overcomes a 4-1 deficit to beat Harvard 6-5 in overtime and advances to the NCAA national championship game against Boston University. Tomorrow, Boston U will win the title, 4-2.

Shows on ABC tonight include The Partridge Family and The Odd Couple, plus the last original episode of That Girl, ending its run after five seasons. On NBC, The Name of the Game airs its final original episode. A Grateful Dead show scheduled for the former Chicago Coliseum (recently renamed the Syndrome) is scrapped when the venue abruptly closes. Fleetwood Mac plays Detroit and Grand Funk Railroad plays Fort Lauderdale. Led Zeppelin plays Manchester University in England. Sugarloaf, fresh off a post-show gig at the Grammys earlier in the week, continues a lengthy stand at the Whisky in Los Angeles. Keith Jarrett plays Minneapolis and Elvin Bishop plays San Francisco. Released today: The Yes Album and Aqualung by Jethro Tull.

At WLS in Chicago, “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” by the Partridge Family will be knocked from the #1 slot on Monday, when the new survey comes out, by the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination.” “She’s a Lady” by Tom Jones moves to #2, and “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye hits #3.The hottest record on the chart is “I’m Eighteen” by Alice Cooper, blasting from #30 to #16. Also up big: “Another Day” by Paul McCartney (from #23 to #12) and “We Can Work It Out” by Stevie Wonder (from #28 to #17). Among the new songs on the survey are “If” by Bread and “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night.

An 11-year-old kid in Wisconsin listens to WLS constantly, when he’s not watching sports on TV. He also watches The Partridge Family, and he bought “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” long before it was featured on the March 12 episode of the show. In years to come, he will consider “Just My Imagination” to be among his favorite songs of all time.

Perspective From the Present: I had my very own copy of the WLS survey from that week. A million years later, the songs on it are the sound of an obsession being born. I had already decided, on or around my 11th birthday, that I wanted to do what I heard the jocks on WLS doing.

I still do.

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.

March 6, 1981: I Have the Skill

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(Pictured: Walter Cronkite and his family arrive at a party celebrating his final evening news broadcast on March 6, 1981.)

(When this blog began in January, I promised to write entirely new, never-before-seen posts for it once in a while. This is the first one.)

March 6, 1981, is a Friday. President Reagan holds an afternoon news conference. The reporters asking questions were chosen after Reagan drew names from a jelly-bean jar the previous day, but there are no limits on the questions he can be asked. He takes questions on the political situation in El Salvador, his economic recovery program, and his proposed cuts in social welfare programs.  Longtime White House reporter Helen Thomas asks him if his stance on the right to life means he is opposed to contraception. He responds, “No, I am not.” In today’s Peanuts strip, Sally writes a report for school. Future actress Ellen Muth is born, and George Franconero Jr. is shot to death in front of his home in North Caldwell, New Jersey, in a suspected mob hit. Franconero, a disbarred lawyer and the brother of singer Connie Francis, was cooperating with the FBI in an investigation of organized crime.

After 19 years, Walter Cronkite anchors the CBS Evening News for the final time. He tells the audience, “I’ll be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years.” CBS has placed full-page ads in newspapers around the country touting that assignment: a trip to Moscow as part of a five-hour special report on America’s defenses and the new series Walter Cronkite’s Universe. In Platteville, Wisconsin, several young college broadcasters have a little party to watch the last Cronkite show. CBS primetime features The Incredible Hulk and two episodes of The Dukes of Hazzard. NBC lines up Harper Valley PTA, The Brady Brides, Nero Wolfe (a detective drama starring William Conrad and Lee Horsley) and NBC Magazine. ABC has Benson, I’m a Big Girl Now, and Long Journey Back, a 1978 made-for TV movie starring Mike Connors, Cloris Leachman, and Stephanie Zimbalist, about the aftermath of a real-life bus/train crash that took place in 1972.

With less than one week to go in the regular college basketball season, undefeated Oregon State remains ranked #1, with once-beaten DePaul at #2. A column in the Chicago Tribune suggests that TV commentator Billy Packer is likely done after NBC loses the NCAA tournament to CBS in 1982. (Packer will move smoothly from NBC to CBS and remain one of its lead college basketball voices until 2008.)

The Grateful Dead plays Pittsburgh and Queen plays Rosario, Argentina. Duran Duran continues its first headlining tour of the UK in Cardiff, Wales. The Boomtown Rats play Toronto, and U2 plays the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, a show that will be widely bootlegged and eventually get an official release in 2004. Ted Nugent plays Portland, Oregon, and Kansas plays in Wichita with Loverboy opening. At D93 in Dubuque, Iowa, “The Best of Times” by Styx takes over the #1 spot from John Lennon’s “Woman,” which falls to #3. “Smokey Mountain Rain” by Ronnie Milsap sits between them at #2. Two songs are new in the Top 10: “Hello Again” by Neil Diamond at #7 and “Hearts on Fire” by Randy Meisner at #10. They replace “Don’t You Know What Love Is” by Touch, which is down from #6 to #14, and whatever was #9 the previous week, which has fallen off the survey entirely. The biggest movers are all up four spots; in addition to “Hello Again,” they include “What Kind of Fool” by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb, ” “Morning Train” by Sheena Easton, and “Just Between You and Me” by April Wine.

Perspective From the Present: I had been working part-time at D93 and its AM sister, KDTH, for nearly two years by March 1981. D93 racked up enormous audience shares, although the numbers were somewhat illusory: its lone Top 40 competition in town was an AM station. D93, which was completely automated with no live jocks, had developed a modest reputation for breaking hits, although that rep came at the cost of playing lots of relative stiffs. The generic pop-rocker “Don’t You Know What Love Is,” the much more interesting “I Have the Skill” by the Sherbs, and the pointless Roy Orbison cover “Running Scared” by the Fools all made the Hot 100. But “Come to My Arms” by Graf, an attempt to clone the Doobie Brothers that’s pretty terrible, did not. Taken all together, D93’s music mix looks pretty weird, but it didn’t sound much weirder than what any other Top 40 station would have been playing in the spring of 1981.