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.