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 9, 1977: Going Away

(Pictured: 1977 British Open competitors Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.)

July 9, 1977, is a Saturday. Alice Paul, a leading figure in the votes-for-women movement in the early 20th century and author of the Equal Rights Amendment, dies at age 92, as does anthropologist and author Loren Eiseley, age 69. An Illinois woman, Cathleen Crowell, tells police she was raped and picks her attacker out of a police mug book; the man, Gary Dotson, will be convicted two years later. In 1985, Crowell will admit she made up her story, and in 1988, Dotson will become the first person exonerated by DNA evidence. At the IGA Foodliner in Cass City, Michigan, round steak is $1.19 a pound, a twin-pack of Pringles potato chips is 69 cents, and iceberg lettuce is 39 cents a head. In the third round of the British Open, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson both shoot 65 to tie for the tournament lead. (Tomorrow, Watson will birdie the final hole to win the championship.) Future actor Milo Ventimiglia is born. CPO Sharkey star Don Rickles is on the cover of TV Guide. Ben E. King and the Average White Band play the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, as do Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. The San Francisco Kool Jazz Festival features Natalie Cole, Wild Cherry, and Tavares, and Chicago plays Alpine Valley near Milwaukee. A Wisconsin teenager attends an emotional going-away party for several of his classmates who will be leaving the next morning for a month in Europe.

Perspective From the Present: On American Top 40 that weekend, Casey Kasem counted ’em down as usual. Although the show is not quite all killer and no filler, it’s close. Of the top 20, only a couple songs are ones nobody needs to hear again (“Love’s Grown Deep” by Kenny Nolan and the Rocky theme “Gonna Fly Now”). On the bottom half of the list, once you take out the country crossovers (“Luckenbach, Texas,” which I like, and “Lucille,” which I do not), you’re left with only a couple of dogs—although one of them is the execrable “Telephone Man.” While some of what’s left is burned beyond recognition—“Margaritaville,” I’m lookin’ at  you—a batting average of .800 is pretty good for a show on the edge of the disco era, although your mileage may vary.

Casey remarks that Marvin Gaye’s former #1 hit “Got to Give It Up,” which is sitting at #6 this week, is only the fourth #1 single of the rock era to be recorded live. Presumably this means “live in concert” as opposed to “live in one studio take” because the other three songs Casey mentions, Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips,” Chuck Berry’s “My Ding-a-Ling,” which I wrote about at Popdose way back when, and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver, are all concert recordings. Except “Got to Give It Up” isn’t live; it was on Gaye’s Live at the London Palladium, but it’s a studio cut with live ambiance provided by some guests at the recording session.

When Casey introduces the week’s #1 song, “Undercover Angel” by Alan O’Day, he says it’s only the third “fantasy song” in history to reach the #1 position. He defines fantasy as magical things that couldn’t happen in the real world, and mentions Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby” (also written by O’Day) and Elton John’s recent cover of the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” as the other two. This strikes me as a pretty thin reed to grasp in search of a factoid. I can think of several #1 hits that are fanciful: “The Night Chicago Died” is a fictional story set on “the east side of Chicago,” a place that doesn’t exist; there was never any such thing as “Crocodile Rock”; and if America’s “A Horse With No Name” isn’t a fantasy, I’ll eat my hat.

On the subject of that going-away party: every person has a few days and/or nights in life that remain indelible for all time, that we will not, cannot, must not forget. That night is one of a very few in mine.

June 10, 1972: Grand Slam

(Pictured: what you might have seen from the stage in 1972 if you were David Cassidy.)

(Correction below, thanks to a reader.)

June 10, 1972, was a Saturday. In Rapid City, South Dakota, a series of thunderstorms drops 15 inches of rain in six hours, causing a flood that kills 237 people. In Madison, Wisconsin, the National Weather Service records a killing frost, the latest one ever. President Nixon officially submits the SALT Treaty with the Soviet Union to the Senate for ratification. The Baader-Meinhof terrorist group blows up a bomb at the West German embassy in Dublin, Ireland. No one is hurt. The rocket scientist Wernher Von Braun officially retires from NASA. In Texas, state senator Barbara Jordan is governor for a day. The event features a swearing-in ceremony attended by high school students from her Senate district, fellow legislators, family, and friends. To make the honor legal, Jordan was elected Senate president pro tem and the sitting governor and lieutenant governor arranged to be out of the state for the day. Jordan’s father suffers a stroke after the ceremony and dies the next day. In November, Jordan will be elected the first black woman to serve in Congress.

Kentucky Derby winner Riva Ridge, who had finished fourth at the Preakness, wins the Belmont Stakes. There hasn’t been a winner of horse racing’s Triple Crown since Citation in 1948. Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves becomes the National League’s all-time home run leader when he hits the 694th 649th of his career, a grand slam, as the Atlanta Braves beat Philadelphia 15-3. The CBS-TV lineup tonight includes All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, Arnie, and Mission: Impossible. On NBC, it’s Emergency! and McMillan and Wife. ABC devotes all of primetime to the 1964 political thriller Seven Days in May.

Jazz pianist Bill Evans plays in Ljubljiana, Yugoslavia. Elvis Presley plays his first-ever concerts in New York City, at Madison Square Garden, one in the afternoon and another in the evening. John Lennon and Bob Dylan both attend. David Cassidy plays Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, David Bowie plays Leicester, England, while Gordon Lightfoot plays the Royal Albert Hall in London, and Badfinger plays in Whitchurch. The Rolling Stones, one week into their epic 1972 American tour, play in Long Beach, California, the same day Exile on Main Street hits #1 on the U.S. album chart. At WCFL in Chicago, the Stones’ “Tumbling Dice” is at #2 on the singles chart, behind only  the new #1 song, “Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook. Last week’s #1, “Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens, is down to #6. “It’s Going to Take Some Time” by the Carpenters makes a strong move from #13 to #7, although Billy Preston’s “Outa-Space” is the hottest record on the survey, moving from #30 to #17. The WCFL list includes David Cassidy, Donny Osmond, Wayne Newton, and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards doing a bagpipe version of “Amazing Grace,” but also has Millie Jackson (“Ask Me What You Want”) and J. J. Cale (“After Midnight”). The Chicago Tribune reports that popular WLS DJ Larry Lujack will be leaving the station by the end of the year. Although his agent won’t say, Lujack is expected to land at WCFL. And he will—within about a month.

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.

April 9, 1983: Let’s Dance

A wedding picture, 1983. All fashion and grooming choices seemed like a good idea at the time.

April 9, 1983, was a Saturday. By joint resolution of Congress, it is National POW/MIA Recognition Day and the last day of National Drug Abuse Education Week. The space shuttle Challenger lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California after its five-day maiden voyage. Rehearsals are held for the Academy Awards, which will be presented Monday night. Newspapers across the country publish a UPI story reporting that the city council of Ottumwa, Iowa, has declared the town to be the “video gaming capital of the world.” In his weekly radio address, President Reagan touts his tax cuts, and warns that “liberal Democrats in the House of Representatives want you to pay more—much more.” Stonyfield Farm produces its first batch of yogurt. There is an avalanche in California’s American River Canyon.

Quarterback John Reaves of the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits sets league records for pass attempts and pass completions in a 22-16 overtime win over the Denver Gold. Julio Franco of the Cleveland Indians hits his first major-league home run. Tanya Roberts guest-stars on the pilot episode of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, broadcast on CBS. Stephen Bishop and Oxo are guests on American Bandstand. Joan Rivers hosts Saturday Night Live with musical guest Musical Youth. The Grateful Dead plays the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia. In Brooklyn, New York, Metallica does its last show with guitarist Dave Mustaine, who later forms Megadeth. Bob Seger performs in Seattle. Rush wraps up a two-night stand in Montreal. Steve Forbert plays the Lone Star Cafe in New York City. Thin Lizzy plays in Dublin.

On the latest Billboard Hot 100, the top 3 songs are unchanged from the previous week: Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” is in its 6th week at the top, followed by Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran. “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners zooms to #4 from #11. Jackson’s “Beat It” moves into the Top 10 from #14. The biggest move within the Top 40 is made by Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science,” jumping from #26 to #16. “Overkill” by Men at Work is new in the Hot 100 all the way up at #28. David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” entered the Top 40 at #29 from #43 the week before, and Duran Duran’s “Rio” is new at #40, up from #58. The oldest record on the chart, in its 21st week on, is “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash. It’s at #86 this week, down from #50.

Perspective From the Present: Yup, that’s our wedding picture at the top of the page, for on April 9, 1983, the Mrs. and I became Mr. and Mrs., getting married in my hometown church. I nursed a slight hangover through much of the day thanks to an impromptu bachelor party two nights before. My parents kept inviting wedding guests to what was supposed to be a small family gathering between the church reception and the dance, and they ended up with 150 people in their house. My ex-college roommate took his tux back to my parents’ house on Sunday, where he summed up the feelings of many guests, and of the bride and groom, when he said to my father, “Let’s do this again sometime, but not right away.”

February 1, 1975: Please, Mister

February 1, 1975, is a Saturday. William Saxbe resigns as Attorney General to become U.S. ambassador to India. The resignation of Claude Brinegar, Secretary of Transportation since 1973, becomes official. Antwan “Big Boi” Patton of Outkast is born. Robert W. Straub is inaugurated as governor of Oregon. Two successful penalty shots are executed in the National Hockey League, by Steve Atkinson of the Washington Capitals and Lorne Henning of the New York Islanders. Shows on CBS tonight include The Jeffersons and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. James Garner of The Rockford Files is on the cover of TV Guide.

Little Feat plays the Olympia in Paris. Led Zeppelin is in Pittsburgh. Genesis appears live in Kansas City, Kansas. Joe Walsh plays New York City. Miles Davis does two shows in Osaka, Japan. The afternoon show will be released on his album Agharta; the evening show will be released on Pangaea. KISS wraps its Hotter Than Hell tour in Santa Monica, California, with opening act Jo Jo Gunne. Barry Manilow concludes a two-week engagement at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago, where “Mandy” is at #1 on WLS for a second week. “Please Mr. Postman” by the Carpenters spends a second week at #2. “Lady,” by Chicago band Styx, slides in at #3, just ahead of “Best of My Love” by the Eagles at #4. Two songs enter the Top 10 for the first time: “Never Can Say Goodbye” by Gloria Gaynor and the hottest record on the chart, “You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt, which jumps in from #25. On the WLS album chart, Greatest Hits by Elton John and Not Fragile by Bachman-Turner Overdrive continue in the #1 and #2 positions for a ninth straight week.

Over on the Billboard Hot 100, the highest debuting song of the week is “I’ve Been This Way Before” by Neil Diamond, which comes on at #73. (It will eventually peak at #34 and spend just three weeks in the Top 40.) Songs that will be more familiar in the future also debut, including “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns, “Part of the Plan” by Dan Fogelberg, and future #1 hits “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” by Freddy Fender and “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” by B. J. Thomas. The oddest debut of the week is at #86: “Please Mr. President” by Paula Webb, a 10-year-old girl’s letter to President Ford, asking help with her family’s hard times. Although it will get only as high as #60, it resonates with lots of Americans during an especially difficult season in our national life.