December 6, 1969, is a Saturday. In what is billed as college football’s “game of the century,” Texas comes from two touchdowns behind to defeat Arkansas 15-14. President Richard Nixon attends the game in Fayetteville, Arkansas, along with future president George H. W. Bush. There are two NFL games today: the New York Jets beat the Houston Oilers 34-26 and the San Francisco 49ers beat the Chicago Bears 42-21. The Bears’ record falls to 1-11-1 on the season. Sonny Liston is knocked out by Leotis Martin in Las Vegas; George Foreman fights on the undercard. The University of Dayton opens its new arena with a basketball game against Bowling Green. Future actress Torri Higginson and future stripper Alyssa Alps are born. The man who kidnapped Cindy Birdsong of the Supremes and two friends earlier this week turns himself in to police. NBC presents a Hallmark Hall of Fame special titled The Littlest Angel starring Johnnie Whittaker, Fred Gwynne, Cab Calloway, and Tony Randall. ABC’s lineup includes The Lawrence Welk Show. Among the shows on CBS tonight are Petticoat Junction, Mannix, and the special With Love From Hollywood starring Ann-Margret and her guest Lucille Ball.
Jethro Tull plays the Fillmore East in New York City, Led Zeppelin plays a show in France, and Pink Floyd plays one in Wales. Bill Cosby performs in Des Moines, Iowa, and the Monkees, now down to a trio of Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and Michael Nesmith, play their final show in that configuration, in Salt Lake City. Ten Years After plays Copenhagen and Janis Joplin plays Charlottesville, Virginia. The Rolling Stones, whose new album Let It Bleed was officially released yesterday, conclude their American tour at Altamont Speedway in California with Santana, Jefferson Airplane, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and the Grateful Dead. Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, with Eric Clapton and George Harrison on guitar, play the Empire Theater in Liverpool. It’s Harrison’s first performance in his hometown since 1965. Tomorrow’s show in London will be recorded and released next year as Delaney and Bonnie and Friends on Tour With Eric Clapton.
On the new Cash Box chart issued today, the Beatles hold the top spot for a third week with “Come Together.” “And When I Die” by Blood Sweat and Tears is at #2. Neil Diamond’s “Holly Holy” is the lone new song in the Top 10. The biggest mover in the Top 40 is “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” by B. J. Thomas from #32 to #22, although two records make big leaps into the Top 40: “I Want You Back” by the Jackson Five is at #28 (from #50 the week before), and “Don’t Cry Daddy” by Elvis Presley is at #38 (from #55).
Perspective From the Present: The year 1969 was my first as a sports fan. I had endured the collapse of my beloved Chicago Cubs in September, and on this day I watched the Texas-Arkansas game. I would probably have looked in on the NFL games, too. I would have heard a few of the top songs of the week on the radio because my parents were inveterate listeners, but I wouldn’t have paid much attention to them, apart from “Try a Little Kindness” by Glen Campbell, which sticks in my memory but I don’t know why.
We have noted previously at this blog how many of the songs from the fall of 1969 carry darkness with them, starting with “Come Together.” There’s a profound sense of loss in Stevie Wonder’s “Yesterme, Yesteryou, Yesterday,” the various mysteries of “Cherry Hill Park” by Billy Joe Royal (just how much of a freak was Mary Hill, and why did she leave town so suddenly?), the sound of dancing skeletons in “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” and a looming disaster in “Eli’s Coming.” There are certainly other ways one might choose to hear that season, but all the evidence, from the top of the record charts to the stageside scene at Altamont, points into the dark.