August 19, 1991: Every Heartbeat

(Pictured: Amy Grant, 1992.)

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

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

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

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

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

July 16, 1971: Stone Age

(Pictured: planet Earth in the summer of 1971, photographed from Apollo 15.)

July 16, 1971, was a Friday. Life magazine reports on the three Soviet Soyuz 11 cosmonauts who died during re-entry on June 29; consumer advocate Bess Myerson is on the cover. Preparations continue for the Apollo 15 moon mission, which will launch in 10 days. Maryann Grelinger of Kansas City, Missouri, sends President Nixon a telegram in response to the announcement yesterday that he will visit China. It says, “Have fun in Red China. Hope they keep you.” At the Western White House in San Clemente, Nixon meets with the National Security Council to discuss the Middle East and South Asia. Demographers estimate that the population of the world has passed the four billion mark. Future actor Corey Feldman is born. During his year in Vietnam, radio relay operator Rick Holt of Dundalk, Maryland, writes his parents nearly every day, sometimes more than once. Today he writes another letter. Jeanne M. Holm, director of Women in the Air Force, is promoted to brigadier general, becoming the first woman in the U.S. military with that rank.

NBC Nightly News reports the discovery of the Tasaday, a Stone Age people living in an isolated part of the Philippines. (Years later, some anthropologists accuse the discoverers of the Tasaday of perpetrating a hoax.) A paper titled “Fiber Digestion in the Beaver” is accepted for publication by the Journal of Nutrition. New movies for the weekend include The Hunting Party starring Candice Bergen and Gene Hackman and The Devils, directed by Ken Russell and originally given an X rating before cuts were made. Top movies already out include Shaft, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and McCabe and Mrs. Miller.

Creedence Clearwater Revival plays in Boston. Duke Ellington plays at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Top 40 fans are enjoying a harmonic convergence of great radio records and superb summer songs pumping out of AM radios everywhere. At WLS in Chicago, Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” tops the chart for a fourth week; James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” (which King wrote, and on which she plays) holds at #2.

Also charting near the top this week: “Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds, “Draggin’ the Line” by Tommy James, “Sooner or Later” by the Grass Roots, and “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” by the Fortunes. Classic one-hit wonders are afoot, like “Funky Nassau” by Beginning of the End, and “Rings” by Cymarron. The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” is in its first week on the chart. An eleven-year-old music fanatic in southern Wisconsin lives with the radio on every waking moment, absorbs it all, and will never forget it.

June 17, 1994: Don’t Turn Around

(Pictured: the opening ceremony from the 1994 World Cup at Soldier Field in Chicago.)

June 17, 1994, is a Friday. Former football star O.J. Simpson, suspected of murdering his wife and a friend, fails to turn himself in to Los Angeles police, instead leading them on a low-speed freeway chase watched by millions on live television. Opening ceremonies for the 1994 World Cup, which is being played in the United States for the first time, are held at Soldier Field in Chicago; just after welcoming 750 million worldwide TV viewers, mistress of ceremonies Oprah Winfrey falls from the dais. In the inaugural game, Germany beats Bolivia 1-0. In the NBA finals, the Houston Rockets take a three-to-two lead in the series over the New York Knicks with a 94-81 victory in New York. (The Rockets will win the championship in seven games.)

The sale of Cheerios is up in the air at the moment, pending an FDA investigation of whether an unapproved pesticide was used on the oats in the cereal. DirecTV is first demonstrated to consumers at an electronics store in Mississippi; within ten months the system will have grown to one million subscribers across the country. The animated film The Lion King opens, but the top-grossing film of the weekend will be Wolf, starring Jack Nicholson and James Spader. Former White House aide Kathleen Willey writes a brief letter to President Clinton praising his recent D-Day speech; when Clinton is accused four years later of having groped Willey in ’93, Clinton’s office will release the letter and several others hoping to prove that his contacts with Willey were all above board. In Collinsville, Illinois, the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle is sold to new owners.

In Detroit, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss of KISS, along with assorted lawyers, cops, and a film crew, descend on a KISS fan convention to take back memorabilia they claim was stolen from a warehouse in New York City. The Grateful Dead and Cracker play Eugene, Oregon, and Metallica plays Middletown, New York. The Southern Spirit ’94 tour, which features Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, the Marshall Tucker Band, and Ted Nugent, plays St. Louis. Whitney Houston plays Hartford, Connecticut. Phil Collins plays the SkyDome in Toronto; among those in attendance is Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, who’s in town with his bandmates for the weekend to shoot the video for “Love Is Strong,” from their forthcoming album Voodoo Lounge.

On the Billboard Hot 100 that comes out tomorrow, “I Swear” by All-4-One is in its fourth of what will be 11 straight weeks at #1. (A country version by John Michael Montgomery, which peaked at #42, is hanging on at #87.) Ace of Base has two hits in the Top 10, “The Sign” at #5 and “Don’t Turn Around” at #6. In addition to Ace of Base, a Swedish group sometimes compared to ABBA, the chart has a distinctly 70s feel: Big Mountain’s reggae-style over of Peter Frampton’s “Baby I Love Your Way” is at #7, Joshua Kadison’s “Beautiful in My Eyes,” which sounds like a lesser album track by Elton John, is at #19. General Public’s cover of the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” is at #26, and Mariah Carey’s cover of Nilsson’s “Without You” is at #29. Also on the Hot 100: Bruce Springsteen, Meat Loaf (with “Objects in the Rear-View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are”) , Aerosmith, and John Mellencamp (with another 70s cover, “Wild Night”), and Boston.

Perspective From the Present: “Objects in the Rear View Mirror” is far better than its title, which isn’t saying much, since that title is one of the worst in history. Seriously, though, the song is pretty good even though it’s three minutes too long, but that’s standard in the oeuvre of Mr. Loaf. The video, along with several others from the Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell album, is directed by Michael Bay, future director of The Rock, Armageddon, and several Transformers movies, among others.

March 18, 1978: Family Reunion

(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.

February 20, 1980: Come Sit Next to Me

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

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

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

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

January 20, 1988: Coke in the Morning

(Pictured: George Harrison,Yoko Ono, Ringo Starr, Julian Lennon, and Sean Lennon at the induction of the Beatles into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)

January 20, 1988, is a Wednesday. In Arizona, a committee of the State House of Representatives continues hearings into whether Governor Evan Mecham should be impeached. Mecham is under indictment for perjury and has already been the target of a recall drive. He had canceled the state Martin Luther King holiday shortly after his inauguration a year earlier, a move that had cost Arizona millions in canceled convention business, and had been accused of making racist remarks. He will be removed from office on April 4. At the White House, President Reagan greets a group of students from Suitland, Maryland, and briefs a group of civic leaders on American aid to the Nicaraguan contras.

This morning’s New York Times contains a story about Coca-Cola’s upcoming “Coke in the Morning” marketing campaign, an attempt to persuade young adults to get their morning caffeine fix from Coke instead of coffee. Elsewhere in the paper, there’s a feature about actress Elizabeth Taylor and her five-year battle with her weight, which has resulted in the diet book Elizabeth Takes Off.  On TV tonight, ABC’s “dramedy” experiment continues with Hooperman, starring John Ritter, and The Slap Maxwell Story with Dabney Coleman. Also on TV tonight: Highway to Heaven and Magnum. P.I. The Olympic torch, on its way to Calgary, Canada, for the upcoming winter games, reaches Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. In other flaming Canadian news, a giant fireball is seen in the sky over British Columbia, accompanied by sonic booms. Scientists will determine that it was a meteorite, and that portions of it may have reached the ground near Vancouver Island.

Aerosmith plays Coliseum Vancouver, Rush plays Dallas, Yes plays Pensacola, Florida, and Barry Manilow appears on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. At the third annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, the Drifters, the Supremes, Les Paul, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, and Berry Gordy are honored. Entertainment includes a super-session featuring the inductees along with Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, Mick Jagger, Ben E. King, Elton John, Yoko Ono, Ringo Starr, and Little Richard.

George Harrison has the top single on the Billboard Hot 100 dated January 16 with “Got My Mind Set on You,” knocking “So Emotional” by Whitney Houston to #2. “The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson is at #3 and “Need You Tonight” by INXS at #4. (In September, “Need You Tonight” will be named Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards.) The Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter” and “Could’ve Been” by Tiffany make strong moves into the top 10. The highest-debuting song in the top 40 is “Can’t Stay Away From You” by Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine at #36. George Michael’s “Father Figure” is the highest-debuting song among the Hot 100 at #49.

January 14, 1986: Party All the Time

(Pictured: Moonlighting stars Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd.)

January 14, 1986, is a Tuesday. President Reagan issues proclamations for Save Your Vision Week, National Poison Prevention Week, and a National Day of Prayer, issues an executive order extending the deadline for the final reports of the National Committee on Space, and hosts a state dinner for the president of Ecuador. The Voyager II spacecraft sends back more pictures from its flyby of the planet Uranus. The New York Times quotes AIDS researcher Anthony Fauci as saying that by 1996, three to five million Americans will be HIV positive and a million will have died of AIDS. (In 1996, the actual number of deaths is estimated at 362,000.) Actress Donna Reed dies of cancer at age 64.

Running back Craig James is on the cover of Sports Illustrated, after the New England Patriots qualified for the AFC championship game against the Miami Dolphins. Last Sunday, the Patriots beat Miami and the Chicago Bears beat Los Angeles to qualify for the Super Bowl, which will be played on January 26. The first player taken in today’s baseball amateur draft is pitcher Jeff Shaw by the Cleveland Indians; the second player taken is outfielder Moises Alou by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pitcher Curt Schilling is chosen in the second round by the Boston Red Sox. He will be traded while still in the minors, and will not pitch for the Red Sox until 2004. On TV tonight: Growing Pains, Moonlighting, the detective show Riptide, and the Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes All-Star 50th Anniversary Celebration, produced by Lorne Michaels.

AC/DC plays Whitley Bay, England and Reba McEntire joins the Grand Ole Opry. Smokey Robinson releases the album Smoke Signals. KISS plays Norfolk, Virginia, with opening act W.A.S.P. Lionel Richie’s “Say You Say Me” continues to top the Billboard Hot 100; “Party All the Time” by Eddie Murphy holds at #2. New in the Top 10 are “Talk to Me” by Stevie Nicks and “Walk of Life” by Dire Straits.” Wham’s “I’m Your Man” jumps from #20 to #14. New in the Top 40 are “Living in America” by James Brown, “The Sun Always Shines on TV” by a-ha, Dream Academy’s “Life in a Northern Town,” “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister, and “Tarzan Boy” by Baltimora. A Top-40 station in western Illinois is playing all of them, although the morning jock wonders precisely why anybody thought “Party All the Time” was a good idea.