May 30, 1978: In Through the Out Door

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May 30, 1978, was a Tuesday. America returns to work after the Memorial Day weekend. President Carter gets his wakeup call at 5AM, then meets with Cabinet officers and greets West German president Helmut Schmidt, all before 9AM. He spends the rest of his day attending events surrounding a NATO summit in Washington. It’s primary election day in Arkansas, where state attorney general Bill Clinton wins the Democratic nomination for governor over four challengers, receiving nearly 60 percent of the vote. The Washington Bullets tie the NBA Finals at two games each with a 120-116 win over the Seattle Supersonics in overtime. Dennis Johnson of the Sonics leads all scorers with 33; Bob Dandridge leads Washington with 23. Because of a previously scheduled event at the Seattle Coliseum, the game is moved to the Kingdome, and it draws a record crowd of over 39,000. Top English soccer club Manchester United completes a two-game series in the United States, beating the North American Soccer League Tulsa Roughnecks 2-1. Two days earlier, Manchester United lost to the NASL’s defending champion, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 2-1. Future major league utility man Rico Washington, who will appear in 14 games for the 2008 St. Louis Cardinals, is born. Pioneering movie art director Ben Carre, who designed the catacombs for the original Phantom of the Opera and the Mount Rushmore backdrop in North by Northwest, dies at age 94. In Wisconsin, Monroe High School holds graduation ceremonies.

On TV today, the lineup of game shows includes Card Sharks, Hollywood Squares, The $20,000 Pyramid, The Price Is Right, High Rollers, Family Feud, and Wheel of Fortune. Soaps include The Edge of Night, Ryan’s Hope, Search for Tomorrow, All My Children, The Young and the Restless, Days of Our Lives, The Doctors, The Guiding Light, Another World, and General Hospital. Tonight, CBS airs the NBA Finals. NBC presents two specials, Dan Haggerty Goes to the Circus and Country Night of Stars, which is hosted by Crystal Gayle and Eddy Arnold. ABC presents Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Three’s Company, Carter Country, and a Barbara Walters interview special. Her guests are Burt Reynolds, Muhammad Ali, and Michael Landon. Bruce Springsteen plays Boston Music Hall, the Stranglers play Stafford, England, and Alvin Lee plays Houston. Black Sabbath plays Coventry, England, with Van Halen opening. In Bremen, West Germany, David Bowie tapes a performance that will be broadcast on the TV program Musikladen later this year. Grace Slick of Jefferson Starship is profiled in the Washington Post Style section. In Stockholm, Sweden, Led Zeppelin goes into the studio to begin work on what will eventually be titled In Through the Out Door.

On the Billboard Hot 100, “With a Little Luck” by Paul McCartney and Wings holds at #1 for a second week. There’s not much movement among the Top 10; Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing” makes the biggest move, from #6 to #4, and only one song is new among the Top 10: George Benson’s “On Broadway” at #10. The biggest mover within the Top 40 is “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty, moving from #26 to #19. Six new songs debut in the Top 40; the highest is “Bluer Than Blue” by Michael Johnson at #33. The highest debut on the Hot 100 is “Grease” by Frankie Valli at #69. At #99, “I Go Crazy” by Paul Davis is in its 40th and final week on the Hot 100, which is the longest run in history to this point. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack tops the album chart for the 19th week in a row. Billboard‘s Adult Contemporary #1 is “Even Now” by Barry Manilow. On the Billboard country chart, the #1 song is “Do You Know You Are My Sunshine” by the Statler Brothers.

Perspective From the Present: I have more to say about my high-school graduation at The Hits Just Keep on Comin’ today. It seemed cosmically appropriate to me for the #1 song that day to be “With a Little Luck,” given its opening lines: “With a little luck we can help it out / We can make this whole damn thing work out.” I took it then a reference to whatever was behind the door we were walking through on that night. Forty years removed from that night, the question of whether the whole damn thing really did work out is up to each of us in the Class of ’78 to answer for ourselves.

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May 25, 1977: Hello Stranger

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(Pictured: Burt Reynolds and Sally Field in Smokey and the Bandit.)

May 25, 1977, is a Wednesday. Nine people die in a fire at the Evarard Baths, a popular gay bathhouse in New York City. The business has operated since 1888. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Fahd concludes a visit to the United States, and President Carter briefly speaks to reporters at a departure ceremony. Tomorrow Carter will hold a formal press conference. Carter also speaks at a dinner for Democratic members of Congress at the Washington Hilton Hotel. The government of China lifts a decade-old ban on the works of Shakespeare. In Big Timber, Montana, the local IGA food store is ready for the forthcoming Memorial Day weekend with rib steaks for $1.69 a pound, old-fashioned frankfurters for $1.29 a pound, 31-ounce cans of Van Camp’s pork and beans for 49 cents, and Columbia beer for $1.25 a six-pack or $5 a case.

In major-league baseball, Rod Carew gets five hits and the American League West-leading Minnesota Twins amass 24 hits altogether in a 13-5 win over the Boston Red Sox in the first game of a doubleheader. The Twins also take the nightcap 9-2. AL Eastern Division leader Baltimore splits a doubleheader with Kansas City. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who lead the National League West with the best record in baseball, lose to the Houston Astros 7-6. (They’re now 31-and-11.) The Eastern Division-leading Pittsburgh Pirates are idle. There’s no action in the NBA Finals tonight; the Philadelphia 76ers lead the Portland Trail Blazers 1 game to none, with Game 2 set for tomorrow night. On TV tonight, it’s the final episode of The Brady Bunch Hour, a variety show starring the actors from the sitcom. In today’s Doonesbury strip, Rick and Joanie negotiate the next stage of their lives now that Joanie has graduated from law school.

The movie Star Wars opens in theaters. Smokey and the Bandit is set for release on Friday. Led Zeppelin opens a four-night stand at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, and the Grateful Dead plays Richmond, Virginia. In New York City, Joan Baez plays the Palladium and Devo plays Max’s Kansas City. Elvis Presley performs in Rochester, New York. The Clash play Brighton, England.

On the current Billboard Hot 100, “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder is at  #1. “When I Need You” by Leo Sayer, last week’s #1, is at #2. “Couldn’t Get It Right” by the Climax Blues Band is at #3. Two new songs have blasted into the Top 10: “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, from the week’s #1 album, Rumours, is at #6 from #14 a week ago; “Gonna Fly Now” by Bill Conti is at #7 from #21 the week before. Also new in the Top 10: “Lucille” by Kenny Rogers, at #10, up from #12. “Lido Shuffle” by Boz Scaggs, in its 11th week on the Hot 100, spends a second consecutive week at #11. The 14-place move of “Gonna Fly Now” is the biggest within the Top 40, but two other records take nine-place jumps: “Undercover Angel” by Alan O’Day (at #19 from #28) and “Jet Airliner” by the Steve Miller Band (at #30 from #39). The biggest leap of any song in the Hot 100 is made by the Eagles’ “Life in the Fast Lane,” moving from #73 to #53 in its second week on the chart. Five songs are new in the Top 40; the highest debut is “High School Dance” by the Sylvers at #35. The highest debut on the Hot 100 belongs to Barbra Streisand’s “My Heart Belongs to Me,” coming in at #52. Barbra also has the oldest record on the Hot 100, “Evergreen,” at #83 in its 24th week on. “Hello Stranger” by Yvonne Elliman is #1 on the adult-contemporary chart. The #1 country song is “Luckenbach, Texas” by Waylon Jennings.

Perspective From the Present: School was just about out in Monroe, Wisconsin, as I finished my junior year of high school. I had landed a job at a gas station managed by a friend’s father, which meant I wouldn’t have to do farm work in the summer. My girlfriend and I were very happy. Today, the songs from the end of May play in my head and my heart whenever I want to hear them, without the need for a radio.

May 20, 1989: Forever Your Girl

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(Pictured: young Gilda, circa 1970.)

May 20, 1989, is a Saturday. It’s the last day of National Osteoporosis Prevention Week. Pro-democracy protests continue in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square; Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping declares martial law, and Chinese authorities pull the plug on TV networks covering the protests. Former Saturday Night Live star Gilda Radner dies of ovarian cancer at age 42. Steve Martin hosts the season finale of SNL that night with musical guest Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers; the show pays tribute to Gilda by showing “Dancing in the Dark,” a 1977 dance sketch with Martin. Michael Jordan hits two free throws with four seconds left to give the Chicago Bulls a 113-111 win over the New York Knicks, wrapping up the NBA’s Eastern Conference semifinals four games to two. Infielder Manny Trillo, who played 17 seasons for seven teams, appears in his final major-league game — the Cincinnati Reds release him a week later. In English soccer, Liverpool defeats Everton 3-2 in extra time to win the F.A. Cup. Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence wins the Preakness Stakes over rival Easy Goer by a nose. William E. Thomas catches a world-record-tying weakfish in Delaware Bay that weighs 19 pounds, two ounces.

On TV tonight: Cops, Star Trek: The Next Generation, the horror anthology Freddy’s Nightmares, and The Munsters Today. Stevie Nicks is the subject of a cover story in this week’s edition of the British music newspaper Record Mirror. Phish plays a high school gym in Northfield, Massachusetts; Nitzer Ebb plays Detroit; Big Country plays Scarborough, England; Cinderella plays Lexington, Kentucky; Pink Floyd plays Monza, Italy; and Stevie Ray Vaughan plays San Diego.

The new Billboard Hot 100 is topped by “Forever Your Girl” by Paula Abdul. Also in the Top 5: “Real Love” by Jody Watley at #2, last week’s #1, “I’ll Be There for You” by Bon Jovi at #3, Donny Osmond’s “Soldier of Love” at #4, and soap star Michael Damian’s cover of the David Essex hit “Rock On” at #5. The highest-debuting song within the 40 is Donna Summer’s “This Time I Know It’s for Real” at #28. Milli Vanilli’s “Baby Don’t Forget My Number” is new at #30. Debuting on the Hot 100 at #62 is a throwback—the Doobie Brothers’ “The Doctor,” which features original Doobies lead vocalist Tom Johnston and sounds like “China Grove” turned sideways. At a radio station in Iowa, a jock who would pay cash money for the privilege of playing one Doobie Brothers record instead of the Anne Murray, Andy Williams, and Barbra Streisand records he has to play all day begins to realize that just maybe what he’s doing with his life isn’t what he should be doing with his life.

May 13, 1981: Prophecy and Transformation

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(Pictured: Agnetha Faltskog of ABBA, 1976.)

May 13, 1981 is a Wednesday. Some believers in Christian prophecy spend what they think is going to be their last day on Earth. Calculations based on the foundation of Israel on May 14, 1948, indicate to them that the Rapture will take place tomorrow. (It won’t.) In Rome, a crowd of thousands in St. Peter’s Square is shocked when Pope John Paul II is shot by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca. The 19th International Symposium on Functional Equations closes in France. Seven people spot a UFO near Denison, Texas. High Point, North Carolina, institutes a new rule forbidding gay and lesbian couples, as well as unmarried heterosexual couples, from occupying public housing in the city.

Pop singer Joan Weber, who hit #1 in 1955 with “Let Me Go Lover,” dies in a New Jersey mental institution at age 45. Future Penthouse Pet of the Year Sunny Leone and future NFL linebacker Shaun Phillips are born. The Los Angeles Dodgers win their third in a row, 8-6 over Montreal; tomorrow, rookie pitching sensation Fernando Valenzuela will start against the Expos. His record is 9-and-0 with an earned-run average of 0.22 over 80 innings pitched. At the University of Wisconsin in Platteville, an aspiring DJ and his roommates spend more time watching baseball and barbecuing than studying, even though it’s finals week. At their local Eagle grocery store, fresh bratwurst is $1.58 a pound, a 52-ounce can of pork and beans is $1.09, and a 20-pound bag of charcoal is $3.09. In Doonesbury, Joanie and Rick continue to plan their wedding. On TV tonight: The Greatest American Hero, Diff’rent Strokes, and Real People. The Grateful Dead plays Providence, Rhode Island, U2 plays Santa Monica, California, Rush plays Syracuse, and King Crimson plays Paris. A Swedish magazine publishes a story about the early career of ABBA’s Agnetha Faltskog.

At WLS in Chicago, the top four singles on the survey to be released Saturday will be unchanged from the previous week: “Morning Train” by Sheena Easton, “You Better You Bet” by the Who, “Kiss on My List” by Hall and Oates, and “Too Much Time on My Hands” by Styx. (The top five albums will be similarly unchanged, with AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap leading the way; their Back in Black will hold at #8. ) The hottest singles on the new chart are “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes, blasting from #23 to #7, “Living Inside Myself” by Gino Vannelli, jumping from #29 to #18, and “For You” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, rising from #33 to #25. The latter, yet another Springsteen cover, is emblematic of how WLS has transformed itself this year, playing a greater variety of rock songs in morning drive and at night and softer stuff during the day.

May 8, 1988: Anything for You

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(Pictured: Gloria Estefan, onstage circa 1988.)

May 8, 1988, is a Sunday. Today is Mother’s Day. A jury in Seattle, Washington, finds Stella Nickel guilty on two counts of murder for putting cyanide in her husband’s Excedrin capsules. She’s the first person convicted under federal anti-tampering laws passed after the still-unsolved 1982 Tylenol poisonings in Chicago. Wisconsin is hit by 24 tornadoes today, setting a single-day record that will stand until 2005. Eastern Iowa is hit by 22, including an F3 tornado in Clinton County that does $25 million in damage. At Iowa State University in Ames, the annual pre-finals Veishea celebration weekend has been violent; early this morning, students attending a campus bonfire started throwing rocks and bottles at police. Forty-five people were arrested and eight cops hospitalized. It’s the biggest riot at ISU since the Vietnam War. In Hinsdale, Illinois, a fire at a major Illinois Bell switching center knocks out phone service in the Chicago area. Up to a half-million people will be affected over the next few weeks, and Illinois Bell will be strongly criticized for its slow response to the outages. Future porn star Violet Monroe is born. Science-fiction author Robert A. Heinlein dies at age 80. The New York Times best-seller list for fiction is topped by Robert Ludlum’s The Icarus Agenda, Love in a Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Rock Star by Jackie Collins. The nonfiction list is led by Love, Medicine, and Miracles by Dr. Bernie Siegel, Michael Jackson’s autobiography Moonwalk, and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.

This past Friday night, following a National Hockey League playoff game between the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins, Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld got into a loud altercation with referee Don Koharski that was captured by TV cameras. The NHL suspended Schoenfeld, but Devils management got a court order permitting him to coach today. Just before today’s game, Koharski and his two fellow officials announce they will not work the game. After an hour-long delay, replacement referees are found. The Devils win the game 3-1 to tie their conference final series at two games each. In the NBA, the Chicago Bulls beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 107-101 to win their first-round playoff series three games to two. Michael Jordan of the Bulls leads all scorers with 39 points. His total of 226 points in the series sets an NBA record. In baseball, the Oakland Athletics have the best record in the majors, 23-and-7, after beating the Cleveland Indians 5-1 today. The New York Mets are the class of the National League at 21-and-7 after beating Cincinnati 5-1.

At the movies this weekend, the box-office leader is the police drama Colors starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall, followed by Beetlejuice. The top new movie is Shakedown, another police drama, starring Peter Weller and Sam Elliott. Tonight’s CBS-TV lineup includes 60 Minutes, Murder She Wrote, and The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, a remake of the 1954 Humphrey Bogart movie, starring Jeff Daniels and Brad Davis. On ABC, it’s The Wonderful World of Disney, Remembering Marilyn, a special about Marilyn Monroe, and the first part of the made-for-TV movie The Bourne Identity. The FOX lineup includes 21 Jump Street, America’s Most Wanted, Married With Children, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, and The Tracey Ullman Show. NBC wins the night, however, with the first part of the science-fiction miniseries Something Is Out There. Pink Floyd plays Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, and Robert Plant plays Ottawa, Ontario. In Santa Cruz, California, Carlos Santana plays a benefit show for Salvadoran children. Depeche Mode plays Salt Lake City.

On this week’s Billboard Hot 100, “Wishing Well” by Terence Trent D’Arby is the new #1 song. “Anything for You” by Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine is #2, ahead of “Angel” by Aerosmith at #3. Last week’s #1, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” by Whitney Houston, is #4 this week. “Shattered Dreams” by Johnny Hates Jazz makes a strong move from #15 to #8. “One More Try” by George Michael jumps from #22 to #14. The highest-debuting song in the Top 40 this week is “Circle in the Sand” by Belinda Carlisle at #30. The highest debut on the Hot 100 is Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” at #53.

Perspective From the Present: The Mrs. and I were living in Davenport, Iowa, although we would move to a small suburb north of there in about a month. I did not usually work my radio job on Sundays, so I wouldn’t have been on the air when tornadoes hit eastern Iowa. I probably wished I was, though.

 

May 3, 1979: Minute by Minute

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(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.)

May 26, 1974: Let It Happen

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(Pictured: Paul McCartney and Wings, 1974.)

(This post, like others in the category An Entirely New Day, is brand-new and has never appeared anywhere else.)

May 26, 1974, is a Sunday. Tomorrow is Memorial Day. President Nixon is spending a second consecutive weekend at his home in Key Biscayne, Florida. A wire service story observes that six months ago, aides would have discouraged him from taking back-to-back weekends off, fearing bad press, but Nixon has reportedly adopted a “let it happen” attitude, given the impeachment hearings now taking place in Congress. Investigators in California have intensified their search for a man they believe can lead them to Patty Hearst and her Symbionese Liberation Army cohorts, who have been on the run since six SLA members were killed in a shootout with Los Angeles police on May 17th. At a funeral home in New York City, mourners have been filing past the casket of composer and bandleader Duke Ellington, who died on Friday. His funeral will be held tomorrow.

The Treasury Department and U.S. Mint say 32 million pennies are “missing.” The director of the Mint says the shortage is because people keep pennies “in dresser drawers, pickle jars, piggy banks,” although a Treasury official blames simple neglect of the unpopular coin. The shortage of pennies has prompted some stores to round prices to the nearest nickel and others to make change with one-cent postage stamps. Still others are rewarding customers who pay with pennies. Osco Drug Stores in the Chicago area have a weekend special on Schlitz beer, at $1.15 for a six-pack. Fifths of selected brands of bourbon, vodka, rum, and gin are $2.98 each. JC Penney Auto Centers have a closeout special on a FM stereo/8-track tape deck for your car, originally $119.95, now $79.88. Automobile air conditioning units are also on sale, starting at $159.88 plus installation.

The best-selling fiction book this week is Watership Down by Richard Adams; Merle Miller’s Plain Speaking, an oral history-style biography of Harry S Truman, is the nonfiction best-seller. In her nationally syndicated newspaper column, Dr. Joyce Brothers writes about sexuality among older adults. “The young think sex is their prerogative and therefore resist the notion that their grandparents can not only have but enjoy sex.” In baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox, dueling for the top of the American League East, continue a weekend series. The Brewers won yesterday, 9-2, to reclaim first, which the Sox had taken with a win on Friday night. A. J. Foyt has the pole position for today’s running of the Indianapolis 500. New safety measures are in place after the fiery 1973 crash involving driver Swede Savage, who died about a month later; activities leading up to the race were curtailed in response to the ongoing gasoline shortage.

On TV tonight, ABC has its traditional tape-delayed broadcast of the Indy 500, which is won by Johnny Rutherford. The CBS lineup includes Apple’s Way (a family drama from the creator of The Waltons), Mannix, and Barnaby Jones; on NBC it’s The Wonderful World of Disney, Columbo, and a news special on cancer. At KHJ in Los Angeles, the top three songs are unchanged from the week before: “The Streak,” “The Loco-Motion,” and “Band on the Run.” Three new songs move into the Top 10: “You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics, “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely” by the Main Ingredient, and “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays. They replace Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” “The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night, and Mike Oldfield’s Exorcist theme, “Tubular Bells.” The biggest mover on the station’s chart is “Be Thankful for What You Got” by William DeVaughn, up eight spots to #18.

Perspective From the Present: I have written elsewhere about the smoky fire we had in our house sometime in the spring of 1974, possibly in May, and maybe even on Sunday the 26th, although I no longer remember precisely when. It was and was not a remarkable disruption in our lives; my brother and I were displaced from our bedrooms for the whole summer amidst the repainting of the house upstairs and down, but I merely moved my hanging-out space to our furnished basement. With a radio, a TV, and a couch, I had everything I needed.

Many of “the young” Dr. Joyce Brothers wrote about in 1974 are grandparents now, and another generation of grandchildren is skeeved out at the idea of Nana and Papa getting it on. But they are, kids. They are. Possibly even as you’re reading this.

May 21, 1976: Some Kind of Test

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(Pictured: the United States Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, designed by R. Buckminster Fuller.)

(This is, believe it or not, the first 1976 post in the nearly five-month history of this blog.)

May 21, 1976, was a Friday. Near San Francisco, 27 people associated with a high school choir, mostly teenagers, are killed when their bus crashes through a guardrail and overturns. A huge fire destroys two blocks of downtown McKeesport, Pennsylvania. The United States Pavilion built in Montreal for Expo 67, which once contained the world’s longest escalator, burns to the ground. Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter announces that if he’s elected, he will support and sign a federal civil rights bill outlawing discrimination against gays and lesbians. Future talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres graduates from high school in Atlanta, Texas. Typhoon Pamela strikes Guam. A bridge over US 75 near Calvin, Oklahoma, collapses. Construction on Interstate 225, a 12-mile stretch between Denver and Aurora, Colorado, is completed after 12 years of work. Rosemany Ginn is appointed U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. Of the 12 games on tonight’s major league baseball schedule, three are completed in less than two hours; only one runs over three, a 6-5 Yankees win over the Boston Red Sox. (The previous night, the two teams had engaged in a bench-clearing brawl.) John Gottlieb Karst dies at age 82; in 1915, he played one game for the National League’s Brooklyn Robins without getting an at-bat.

Paul Anka hosts The Midnight Special; guests include the Bee Gees, Chuck Berry, Jim Croce, Peter Frampton, and the Carpenters. Elton John plays Edinburgh, Scotland. Paul McCartney’s Wings Over America tour plays the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, and the Jerry Garcia Band plays San Francisco. Lynryd Skynryd plays Greenville, South Carolina, and Weather Report plays Kansas City, Kansas. AC/DC plays London.

On the Billboard chart that Casey Kasem will count down on the coming weekend, “Silly Love Songs” by Wings hits #1, dropping last week’s chart-topper, “Boogie Fever” by the Sylvers, to #4. Two new songs move into the Top 10: “Misty Blue” by Dorothy Moore at #8 and “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling” by Barry Manilow at #10. The biggest mover within the Top 40 is “Shop Around” by the Captain and Tennille, which leaps to #17 from #31. The first four songs on this weekend’s Casey show are all new: “Never Gonna Fall in Love Again” by Eric Carmen, “It’s Over” by Boz Scaggs, “I’ll Be Good to You” by the Brothers Johnson, and “Rock and Roll Love Letter” by the Bay City Rollers. The highest-debuting song of the week, however, is Jimmy Dean’s Mother’s Day-themed spoken-word hit “I.O.U” at #35.

Tomorrow morning, as he has done for the last several Saturdays, a Wisconsin teenager will spend the morning hanging out at his local radio station, at the general manager’s invitation, in hopes of getting hired for the summer. But he only gets to watch, and never to do anything. It’s apparently some kind of test, which the teenager fails, because a job offer never comes, and he ends up working on the farm for one last summer. It occurs to him years later that his first experience with a radio job thereby ended in disappointment. If you’d told him at the time that it should make him wary of the business, he wouldn’t have listened.

May 17, 1973: Damage

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(Pictured: the launch of Skylab, 1973.)

May 17, 1973, was a Thursday. The U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities opens televised hearings into the burglary of Democratic National Committee offices in Washington’s Watergate office complex. President Nixon talks to his lawyer, Fred Buzhardt, about the Huston Plan, a domestic spying program devised in 1970 to disrupt student protest movements—a conversation that will be recorded on the White House taping system to be revealed at the Watergate hearings later in the summer. Nixon is concerned that the Watergate committee knows about the plan, and he hopes to concoct a strategy to contain the political damage if the plan (which was never carried out, over objections from the FBI) is revealed. The president also signs an executive order regarding the “Inspection of Income, Excess-Profits, Estate, Gift, and Excise Tax Returns” by the Senate Commerce Committee. The Reverend Sun Myung Moon gives a speech in which he declares, among other things, “The whole world is in my hand, I will conquer and subjugate the world.” Three nuclear weapons are exploded underground in Colorado. The blasts, code-named Rio Bravo, are intended to release hard-to-get natural gas resources in the area. Rio Bravo is part of Operation Plowshare, an ongoing effort by the Atomic Energy Commission to find peaceful industrial uses for nuclear weapons. (The gas released will be too radioactive for use.)

The first group of three Skylab astronauts was to be launched today, but the launch has been postponed until the 25th. The first task for former moon-walker Pete Conrad, Paul Weitz, and Joe Kerwin will be fix damage to the orbiter suffered during its launch this past Monday. The three will spend 28 days in space, doubling the previous American record for mission length. CBS-TV airs the 1967 movie Countdown, starring James Caan as an American astronaut sent on a year-long mission to the moon. It follows an episode of The Waltons. NBC’s primetime lineup includes The Flip Wilson Show, Ironside, and The Dean Martin Show. ABC has The Mod Squad, Kung Fu, and Streets of San Francisco. During the day, the three broadcast networks air 17 game shows and 14 soap operas. The New York Review of Books publishes a review of the controversial movie Last Tango in Paris.

David Bowie plays Dundee, Scotland, and is mobbed by fans on the way to his limo afterward. In London, the Rolling Stones wrap up 11 days of work on their forthcoming album, Goats Head Soup. Canadian rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive releases its first album. At WCFL in Chicago, the top of the survey dated May 12, 1973, comprises a strange brew of rock and cheese: “Sing” by the Carpenters (at #1), “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” by Vicki Lawrence,  Donny Osmond’s “The Twelfth of Never,” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando and Dawn alongside Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein,” “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, and Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years.” WCFL’s album chart for the week is topped by Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. The top 10 also includes both new Beatles compilations, 1962-1966 and 1967-70, released last month.

May 8, 1984: Grace Under Pressure

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(Pictured: Joanie loves Chachi, presumably.)

May 8, 1984, is a Tuesday. The Soviet Union announces that it will boycott the upcoming Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Gary Hart wins Democratic presidential primaries in Ohio and Indiana; Walter Mondale wins Maryland and North Carolina. An American clergyman, Benjamin Weir, is kidnapped in Beirut; he will be freed in 16 months as part of the Reagan Administration’s covert arms-for-hostages swap with Islamic militants. The going rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rises to 15.5 percent; the prime interest rate is now 12.5 percent. Congressional Gold Medals are awarded to Harry Truman (in honor of his 100th birthday today), Lady Bird Johnson, and author Elie Wiesel. Tonight, the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers start their game at 7:00. They’ll still be playing at 1AM when the game is suspended after 17 innings; it will be finished on the night of the 9th with the Sox finally winning 7-6 in 25 innings, the longest game in American League history. Kirby Puckett gets four hits in his major-league debut with the Minnesota Twins. He will be named the American League Rookie of the Year at season’s end, and will be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. Top movies at the box office: Breakin’, Sixteen Candles, Romancing the Stone, and Police Academy. Set to open this coming weekend: The Natural and Firestarter. On TV tonight, Joanie and Chachi get married on a special hour-long episode of Happy Days. Also on TV tonight: The A-Team.

The New York Times reports that Larry Stock, who wrote “Blueberry Hill,” has died at age 87. The Grateful Dead plays Eugene, Oregon and INXS plays Hamburg, Germany. Rush opens the Grace Under Pressure tour in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Cure plays London. Album releases today include the compilation Legend by Bob Marley and the Wailers and Roger Waters’ The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins tops the Cash Box singles chart for a third week; Lionel Richie’s “Hello” holds at #2. Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie” leaps from #20 to #11. Other strong upward movers from the chart: “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper (#33 to #20) and “The Reflex” by Duran Duran (#42 to #30). “Stay the Night” by Chicago is the highest-debuting new song in the Top 100 at #57.  Also new: Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” (at #73), “King of Suede” by Weird Al Yankovic (at #87), and “I Can Dream About You” by Dan Hartman (at #89). At a small radio station in Illinois, the new guy is working part-time nights; he will eventually graduate to a full-time gig, a split shift that has him working the noon hour and nights. It’s the sort of thing you can do when you’re 24 years old, you really need the job—and you really love radio.

Perspective From the Present: Less than three years into the video age, the form had already developed its own clichés. Several videos for this week’s top hits require a viewer to wait through a scene-setting prelude before getting to the music. This particular cliché often revealed that being able to sing is not the same as being able to act (Steve Perry, I’m talkin’ to you), although the material they’re given (whoever scripted the “Oh Sherrie” video, I’m talkin’ to you) doesn’t always help.