(Pictured: Stills, Young, Nash, and Crosby onstage in the summer of 1974.)
August 8, 1974, was a Thursday. Britain, Greece, and Turkey begin a second round of negotiations in Geneva over the fate of Cyprus, which had been invaded by Turkey last month after a Greek-backed coup overthrew the island nation’s government. New Yorkers are buzzing about stuntman Phillippe Petit, who eluded security at the World Trade Center and walked a tightrope between the two towers yesterday. In Wenatchee, Washington, investigation and cleanup continue after a railroad tank car explosion killed two and injured 66 on Tuesday. Illinois governor Dan Walker draws the first winning numbers in the new Illinois State Lottery at the State Fair in Springfield. In Georgia, Savannah State College holds its 110th commencement exercises.
Howie Pollet, star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1940s, dies at age 53, and Nuremberg defendant Baldur von Schirach, one-time head of the Hitler Youth, dies at age 66. Future MMA fighter Mike Budnik is born. National Football League players continue a strike that began last month over a rule restricting player movement from team to team. The inaugural season of the World Football League continues; reports today claim that the league’s robust attendance figures are inflated and the vast majority of fans get in free; tonight in Jacksonville, over 43,000 watch the hometown Sharks get a last-second win over the Hawaiians 21-14. In today’s Peanuts strip, Sally channels Theodore Roosevelt to ward off a playground bully. The People’s Republic of Congo issues a stamp commemorating the joint Apollo-Soyuz space mission that will take place in 1975.
In Washington, the design of what will become the Hart Senate Office Building is approved. Vice-President Gerald Ford awards the Congressional Medal of Honor to Army Lieutenant Loren Hagen of Fargo, North Dakota; Hagen was killed in action in 1971 and his father accepts the medal. President Nixon is up before 4AM meeting with aides and making phone calls. He arrives in the Oval Office at 9AM, gets a haircut at 10:15, and spends the rest of the day in brief meetings and calls with staffers, attorneys, and members of Congress, pausing at 5:30 to veto an ag bill. At 8 in the evening, he meets with a large congressional delegation, and at 9:01 goes on TV to announce that he will resign the next day. Network primetime schedules are disrupted by the resignation news; earlier in the day, the three broadcast networks aired 18 game shows and 13 soap operas.
Liza Minnelli plays the Great Allentown Fair in Allentown, Pennsylvania; her show is delayed so that Nixon’s resignation speech can be broadcast over the sound system. Joni Mitchell plays Pine Knob Music Theater in suburban Detroit, where she announces Nixon’s resignation to the crowd. Johnny Cash plays Las Vegas, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young play Jersey City, New Jersey. An unknown California rock band called Van Halen plays another of its regular gigs at Gazzari’s in West Hollywood. At WCFL in Chicago, “Annie’s Song” by John Denver is #1, knocking “Rock Your Baby” by George McCrae to #3. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” by Elton John is at #2. The hottest record on the chart is “The Air That I Breathe” by the Hollies, leaping to #5 from #16. Also new in the top 10: “Wild Thing” by Fancy at #10. Also making a big move: “Machine Gun” by the Commodores, from #24 to #14. The #1 album at WCFL is Elton John’s Caribou. WCFL afternoon jock Larry Lujack is pictured on the back of the station’s survey alongside ads for Cruz Garcia Real Sangria and Unguentine aerosol for sunburn.
Perspective From the Present: I spent much of the resignation week with my grandparents, who had sold their farm and moved to town earlier in the year. I devoured the newspapers and watched everything that was on TV, including Nixon’s speech on the night of the 8th and the coverage of his departure the next day. Although I was only 14, I knew that what I was seeing was like nothing else in American history, traumatic and sad but at the same time an example of the way the world is supposed to work: great wrongs do not go unpunished; those who perpetrate them get the comeuppance they deserve, one way or another. It doesn’t work that way anymore, and it didn’t always work that way then, either. Forty years ago today, however, it did.
April 9, 1976, is a Friday. Frisch’s Big Boy Restaurants in the greater Cincinnati area invite you in for fish fillets tonight with fries, salad, and a roll for $1.60. It’s the second day of the major-league baseball season, but only two games were played yesterday; 16 teams open their seasons today, including the Chicago Cubs, who lose to the Cardinals 5-0 in St. Louis. On a trip to Texas, President Ford visits the Alamo in San Antonio during the morning and then goes to Dallas. He throws out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ season opener, staying only for the first inning. In the first pro sports event at the new Seattle Kingdome, Pele scores two goals as the New York Cosmos defeat the Seattle Sounders in pro soccer, 2-1. Folksinger Phil Ochs, most famous for “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” hangs himself; he was 35. A strong earthquake kills eight people in Ecuador. In Nagoya, Japan, a 13-year-old boy takes a series of photos that seem to show a UFO. In Syracuse, New York, the Onondaga County Public Library unveils its new logo. In Madison, Wisconsin, the first edition of a new weekly newspaper, Isthmus, is laid out in the living room of one of its co-founders.
New movies in theaters include All the President’s Men starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford and Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot. On daytime TV, Foster Brooks ends a week co-hosting The Mike Douglas Show; guests today include Gloria Swanson, Frankie Valli, and Geraldo Rivera. The Merv Griffin Show welcomes Kaye Ballard, Jack Jones, comedian Charlie Callas and impressionist Marilyn Michaels. In prime time, the animated special The First Easter Rabbit, featuring the voices of Burl Ives and Robert Morse, airs on NBC, and so does The Rockford Files. CBS airs an episode of Sara, starring Brenda Vaccaro as a schoolteacher in an 1870 Colorado town. She will be nominated for an Emmy, but the show will end after 13 episodes. Rush plays the Indianapolis Coliseum with special guests Ted Nugent and the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver. On separate bills, Genesis and Donovan play New York City. The Electric Light Orchestra and Journey play Huntsville, Alabama. Bruce Springsteen plays Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.
The Midnight Special airs on NBC following Johnny Carson. Host Helen Reddy welcomes Fleetwood Mac, who perform a blazing version of their new hit “Rhiannon.” Also on the show, Gary Wright, Barry Manilow, Queen, and Hamilton Joe Frank & Reynolds, who perform “Fallin’ in Love” with Reddy and their recent hit “Winners and Losers,” and then come back for a second spot doing “Every Day Without You.”
Perspective From the Present: Helen Reddy is Australian, but I get distracted listening to her by trying to figure out what the hell her accent actually sounds like. She does not seem to have rehearsed “Fallin’ in Love,” and then she ad-libs an awkward introduction to “Winners and Losers,” but it’s not enough to spoil the song, which is insanely great. Somebody preserved this thing for 38 years, and the YouTube video is a little jumpy, but you can watch it right here.
February 10, 1964, was a Monday. By a vote of 290 to 130, the House of Representatives passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and sends it to the Senate. President Lyndon Johnson makes a statement in the Cabinet Room regarding the certification of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, which gained enough states for ratification late last month. Johnson also sends a message to Congress advocating adoption of a public-health program that will be known as Medicare, and he releases a report recommending a new system of satellites for global communication. Two Australian navy ships on maneuvers collide in Jervis Bay; 81 sailors die. Future media personality Glenn Beck is born. The Rotary Club of Dickinson, Texas, holds its first meeting. The Manley Popcorn Machine company, which makes commercial poppers and other concession equipment used in theaters, stadiums, and schools, gets a patent for a new control mechanism.
Guests on The Ed Sullivan Show last night included Terry McDermott, America’s lone gold-medal winner at the just-completed Winter Olympics, held in Innsbruck, Austria, and the Beatles. (Before the show, McDermott, who is a barber, was photographed pretending to cut Paul McCartney’s hair.) Today, the Beatles hold a press conference at the Plaza Hotel in New York, where they are presented with gold records for Meet the Beatles and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” They will remain in the city until tomorrow, when a snowstorm will force them to take a train to Washington, D.C., for the first date on their American tour. On TV tonight, ABC airs The Outer Limits and Wagon Train; CBS has episodes of I’ve Got a Secret (with special guest Jonathan Winters), The Lucy Show, The Danny Thomas Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and East Side, West Side, which stars George C. Scott as a New York social worker. Tonight’s episode of the latter is the pilot, which has never been broadcast because some roles were recast with different actors before the series premiered last September. CBS is apparently running it at last because they’ve decided to cancel the show.
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers record an entire album, to be called Free for All. An item in the Harvard Crimson announces that Bob Dylan will be the featured performer on Jubilee Weekend in April. Del Shannon will also appear. At WIBG in Philadelphia, where DJs Joe Niagara and Hy Lit call themselves the fifth and sixth Beatles, “I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and “I Saw Her Standing There” are co-#1s on the station’s survey. The Beatles are also at #3 with “She Loves You” (tucked in behind Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me”), at #13 with “Please Please Me” and “From Me to You,” and at #44 with “My Bonnie,” an old recording with Tony Sheridan. The hottest record on the survey does not belong to the Beatles, however: “Dawn” by the Four Seasons is up to #6 from #34. Others in the top 10 are Major Lance (“Um, Um, Um, Um, Um”), Rick Nelson (“For You”), the Marketts (“Out of Limits”), Andy Williams (“A Fool Never Learns”), the Impressions (“Talking About My Baby”), and the Tams (“What Kind of Fool”). Notable farther down: “My Boyfriend Got a Beatle Haircut” by Donna Lynn (#71) and “The Boy With the Beatle Hair” by the Swans (#84).
Perspective From the Present: Donna Lynn was 14 in 1964, and she actually got a whole album out of her novelty single. It features chipper-sounding versions of several recently popular songs and something called “I Had a Dream I Was a Beatle,” which sounds almost exactly like “My Boyfriend Got a Beatle Haircut.” The Swans’ “The Boy With the Beatle Hair” was released on Philadelphia’s Cameo label and is far better than “My Boyfriend Got a Beatle Haircut,” by a long shot. Both made the Hot 100; Lynn got to #83 and the Swans to #85 , peaking in early March.
But the Beatles proved to have somewhat greater staying power.
If you have watched much TV lately, you’ve seen the USAA Insurance ad in which a young woman says her policy was earned “orbiting the moon in 1971.” She’s referring to the flight of Stuart Roosa, command module pilot aboard Apollo 14, who I presume is her grandfather. Roosa’s crewmates were original Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard, who would famously hit a golf ball during his moon walk, and Edgar Mitchell, who reportedly did ESP experiments while on the surface of the moon, and has spoken repeatedly since of his belief that UFOs represent genuine extraterrestrial visitations. So they were an unusual group of men—and their mission to the moon launched on January 31, 1971.
That day was a Sunday. If you watched The Ed Sullivan Show that night—then heading toward cancellation later in the spring after 23 years on the air—you’d have seen the Temptations, on the show for the fifth time in four years, singing their new song, “Just My Imagination,” along with a medley of recent Motown hits that also included George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” The Jackson Five played a show in their hometown, Gary, Indiana. The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Detroit Pistons 131-104; the Bucks ran their record to 44-and-9 on the way to their only NBA championship later in the spring. The “Winter Soldier” investigation sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War” began in Detroit. A protester was shot to death at an antiwar rally in Los Angeles.
In Salt Lake City, KCPX was playing the hits, and not necessarily the same ones that other stations were playing elsewhere in the country, including (from their survey dated February 1, 1971):
5. “Most of All”/B. J. Thomas. I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for this song about a guy on a train, and the lovely last verse:
Tomorrow there’ll be snow in Minnesota
But I won’t be around to watch it fall
I’ll be heading for an old familiar station
Hopin’ you still love me most of all
There’s a spectacular version of “Most of All” in which Thomas teams with acoustic bluesman Keb’ Mo’, which you should go and listen to right now. It’s from an album of duets he released last year, which you and I should probably go and buy right now.
11. “Nothing Rhymed”/Gilbert O’Sullivan (up from 17). Over a year-and-a-half before most of us would hear of this guy thanks to “Alone Again (Naturally),” he was moping on this.
13. “D.O.A.”/Bloodrock (down from 8) and 14. “1900 Yesterday”/Liz Damon’s Orient Express (down from 13). KCPX was on “D.O.A” before most of the country, charting it at #1 for the week of December 21, 1970, a couple of weeks before it hit the Hot 100. Outraging the public decency is a good career move; 40-plus years later, “D.O.A.,” the thoughts of a guy dying after being injured an accident, is the only thing Bloodrock is remembered for, even though it’s complete garbage. It’s supposed to be eerie, but it’s not—it’s just exploitative and stupid. “1900 Yesterday,” on the other hand, is eerie in the best way, and as evanescent as the smoke from a cigarette. (Together, those two records represent one of the great train-wrecks of all time, and #15, “Hang on to Your Life” by the Guess Who, only adds to the carnage.)
19. “Whole Lotta Love”/C.C.S. The Led Zeppelin song covered by a band made up of several members of Blue Mink including famed session bassist Herbie Flowers. It was the theme for the British TV show Top of the Pops for much of the 70s.
I would certainly have watched the Apollo 14 launch that afternoon. If the Bucks were on TV—and I don’t know if they were—I’d have been watching that, too, for I was a huge fan that winter. (A year to the day before, I had attended my first Bucks game, at the Dane County Coliseum in Madison. The program I bought that day is still around here somewhere.)
I can’t say I remember anything else about that day, except for the music. It’s what I expect to remember when I’ve forgotten everything else.
I think I can remember watching the Kennedy assassination drama on TV 50 years ago this weekend. I was three. While I’m sure my parents had the TV on all weekend like everybody else in America, I can’t be entirely sure that the image of a coffin on a bier in a funeral procession isn’t from a later time, from watching the now-iconic footage we’re all watching again this weekend.
(Whether I was watching or not, I grew up thinking about the events of November 22, 1963. Within weeks, the Associated Press published The Torch Is Passed, a narrative of the assassination weekend along with all the famous photos. Mom and Dad bought a copy, and I read it over and over as a kid. As I got older, I read a lot of the books postulating various assassination conspiracies, but I no longer have patience for them. That some of the more byzantine conspiracies could survive 50 years without unraveling strains credulity: Oswald did it, but we’ll never know precisely why, and I’m OK with that.)
I am looking at the Wisconsin State Journal‘s Morning Final (newsstand price: seven cents), which landed on doorsteps around Madison at breakfast time on November 22, 1963. The weather forecast on the front page is for mild weather, occasional rain, and possible thundershowers, with a high around 60. The Wisconsin legislature adjourned last night, although the governor was rumored to be considering a special session to address a controversial highway bill. A state representative was embroiled in scandal over a shady stock transaction. U2 pilot Joe Hyde of LaGrange, Georgia, was missing after wreckage of his plane was found in the Gulf of Mexico, presumably having crashed on a reconnaissance flight over Cuba. At the bottom of the front page, a story about the president’s trip to Texas mentions the catcalls he received at some stops, and his wife’s popularity.
Inside the paper, readers learn that Dave Fronek will start at quarterback for the Wisconsin Badgers in their season-ending game against Minnesota tomorrow, and injured quarterback Bart Starr could play for the Packers on Sunday against San Francisco. The high school basketball season is set to begin tonight. There are a couple of display ads urging readers to shop early for Christmas. The back pages of the paper are crowded with ads for movies (a quadruple feature at the Badger Drive In: Juvenile Jungle, Young and Wild, Unwed Mothers, and The Wayward Girl) and restaurants (lobster for $2 at Namio’s and the Tiki but just $1.75 at Nate’s Place). Those staying in tonight can look forward to episodes of Bob Hope Theater, Burke’s Law and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour on TV. At 7:00, Madison radio station WISM-FM (at 98.1) will present The Stereo Demonstration Hour.
None of those things happened, with one exception: controversially, the NFL played its games as scheduled on Sunday; the Packers won 28-10 in front of 45,000 fans in Milwaukee. The Badgers were en route to Minnesota when news of the assassination broke; the game would be postponed to the next Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. Basketball games were canceled; stores, theaters, and restaurants closed; TV stations carried assassination coverage, and radio stations either reported the news or played somber music.
At breakfast, Madison had been expecting another ordinary autumn weekend. By shortly after lunchtime, the world was transformed. I quote again the single best thing ever written about the assassination, from essayist Lance Morrow, written for Time magazine on the 20th anniversary: “The real 1960s began on the afternoon of November 22, 1963 . . . . It came to seem that Kennedy’s murder opened some malign trap door in American culture, and the wild bats flapped out.”
(If you’re interested in the music on the radio 50 years ago today, click here.)
November 1, 1983, is a Tuesday. One day after another Senate vote refusing to raise the debt ceiling, and after a contentious White House meeting today, President Reagan criticizes recalcitrant Republican senators in his diary. The New York Times publishes an interview with House Speaker Tip O’Neill, who blasts Reagan: ”He only works three to three-and-a-half hours a day. He doesn’t do his homework. He doesn’t read briefing papers. It’s sinful that this man is president.” Secretary of State George Shultz receives a memo stating that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons capability, possibly acquired from the United States. Twenty-one year old Kimberly Nelson disappears in Seattle; in 1986, her body will be found, another one of the 49 confirmed victims of the Green River Killer. The Texas Department of State Health Services begins screening all newborns for sickle-cell traits. Former major league outfielder Art Ruble, who played in 56 games with the 1927 Detroit Tigers and 19 with the 1934 Philadelphia Phillies and recorded a lifetime batting average of .207, dies at age 80, and John Alexander, who will catch eight games and pinch-hit in three others for the 2006 GCL Braves of the Gulf Coast League during his only season of professional baseball, is born.
CBS airs four soaps and four game shows during the day today, including The Price Is Right, The New $25,000 Pyramid, Press Your Luck, and Tattletales. In prime time, ABC airs new episodes of Just Our Luck (soon to be canceled), Happy Days, Oh Madeline (starring Madeline Kahn as a bored suburban housewife married to a romance novelist), and Hart to Hart. NBC’s lineup includes The A Team and Remington Steele.
Tina Turner plays Lund, Sweden, and Queensryche plays the Ritz in New York City. Stevie Ray Vaughan plays Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and ZZ Top plays Hamburg, Germany. AC/DC plays Memphis. At B96 in Chicago, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler and “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton hold the top two spots on the survey again this week. Moving up within the top 10 are “True” by Spandau Ballet and “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie. “Say Say Say” by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney is new in the top 10. “Church of the Poison Mind” by Culture Club, “Heart and Soul” by Huey Lewis and the News, and “Suddenly Last Summer” by the Motels are the chart’s biggest movers. About 250 highway miles southwest of Chicago, at WXXQ in Macomb, Illinois, it’s the new guy’s first day. He and his wife, married six months, moved to town yesterday. He’s on the air from 5 until 8 in the evening, which is not exactly the afternoon show he thought he would be doing.
Perspective From the Present: I needed a job that fall, but Macomb was not my first choice. I’d been chasing a job in Madison, at a new station that was assembling its first staff—Magic 98. But when they never called and the offer from Macomb came in ($200 a week!), I took it.
From the jump, I was not particularly happy there. Some of it was the process of adjustment—I do not handle change well, and there’s no change bigger than the one that comes when you leave the nest, which is what The Mrs. and I had done, leaving behind familiar Dubuque. But some of it was legit. There wasn’t enough off-air work—production, promotions, whatever the hell—to keep six full-time jocks busy, and as a result, I spent a lot of time hiding out in the programming office reading the newspapers and trying to look busy. The music format was one of those small-town, all-things-to-all-people trainwrecks that had us playing country by day and Top 40 with album cuts at night. The office was full of smokers, and I’d come home every night reeking. After four years part-time and full-time at KDTH, which was fabulously well equipped and efficiently run, I felt as though I had taken a step backward with this new job. And given the size of my ego at the age of 23, that I was too good for it.
That, of course, was probably not true. A few years ago, I found an old aircheck that must have been from my first week down there. It was terrible. I was terrible. And probably exactly where I should have been.