May 26, 1974: Let It Happen

(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

(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

(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

(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.

May 2, 1967: Name of the Game

(Pictured: Frank and Nancy Sinatra in the studio, 1967.)

(Late correction below.)

May 2, 1967, was a Tuesday. Armed members of a militant group known as the Black Panthers interrupt a session of the California House of Representatives, which is debating a bill, supported by the National Rifle Association, that would forbid the carrying of loaded firearms in public places. The Panthers argue that blacks need to be armed to protect themselves against oppressive policing. Police stop more Panthers outside the capitol and confiscate 15 weapons. Remarkably, nobody is arrested. Elvis and Priscilla Presley spend their first full day as husband and wife after marrying yesterday in Las Vegas. Also yesterday, police in Chicago foiled an attempted airplane robbery that would have netted the two thieves a bag of stocks and bonds worth two million dollars. Also in Chicago, the combination of a strike by milk truck drivers and a lockout by dairies leads to milk shortages in the city. A UFO is spotted over Montezuma, Iowa. Martin Luther King speaks at Unionville High School in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, west of Philadelphia. Organizers ask him not to talk about Vietnam, or about controversial congressman Adam Clayton Powell.

The Toronto Maple Leafs win hockey’s Stanley Cup, beating Montreal 3-1 to take the series 4-2. It’s the fourth Cup in six seasons for the Leafs; 50 years later, they will not have won another. On a busy day of major-league baseball, the Cincinnati Reds lose to the Cardinals in St. Louis, 5-0, but still have the majors’ best record at 15-and-6. In the American League, the Washington Senators and Kansas City Athletics split a doubleheader. Both games end up 1-o. The CBS TV lineup tonight includes Daktari, The Red Skelton Hour, Petticoat Junction, and on an edition of CBS Reports, “The National Science Test.” CBS runs ads in newspapers with a form viewers can use to answer the questions that will be presented on the show. On NBC, it’s The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., Occasional Wife, and the movie Fame Is the Name of the Game, which will later be turned into a weekly series. ABC airs episodes of Combat!, The Invaders, Peyton Place, and The Fugitive.

The Beach Boys open a tour of Ireland in Dublin. Carl Wilson misses the show, apparently due to illness. having been arrested for draft evasion in New York last week. He’s released on bond today, and will rejoin the band later in the week. Sam and Dave perform in Stockholm, Sweden. A short-lived club, the Rock Garden, closes in San Francisco. During its five weeks of operation, it hosted shows by Big Brother and the Holding Company, Love, the Grateful Dead, the Steve Miller Blues Band, the Buffalo Springfield, and Country Joe and the Fish. It later becomes a Latin jazz club and a soul-music club. Club-goers in Chicago can hear jazz singer Barbara McNair at the College Inn and the Mongo Santamaria Septet at the London House. In London, England, Nancy Sinatra records the theme song for the James Bond movie You Only Live Twice. It appears in the movie, although the version of the song released as a single will be recorded later, in Los Angeles.

At WABC in New York, Nancy’s duet with her father, “Something Stupid,” hits #1 on the new All-American survey. Last week’s #1, “Happy Together” by the Turtles, falls to #2. “The Happening” by the Supremes is at #3, just ahead of a new entry in the Top 10, “I Got Rhythm” by the Happenings (#4), and “Groovin'” by the Young Rascals (#5). Also new in the Top 10: “Close Your Eyes” by Peaches and Herb. “Respect” by Aretha Franklin is new on the survey at #14. “Respect” was a WABC Pick Hit last week. This week’s Pick Hit is “The Congressional Record” by the Hardly Worthit Players. One of the players, Bill Minkin, had charted twice earlier in the year as Senator Bobby with novelty versions of “Wild Thing” and “Mellow Yellow.”

Perspective From the Present: Even though this blog featured a 1967 post just a couple of weeks ago, there’s no harm in going back to that particular well so soon. Every day, it seems, we learn about something else that’s been part of our lives for exactly half-a-century. The world we live in today was born during the 1960s, and that fact comes home day by day, anniversary by anniversary.

(Correction to Carl Wilson story, about which my original sources were unclear, courtesy of the new Twitter feature Peace and Love, tweeting the summer of 1967 from a Wisconsin perspective, curated by our friend Jeff Ash.)