January 19, 1974, was a Saturday. The morning papers headline the decision to send the controversy over the 18-1/2 minute gap in one of the Watergate tapes to a grand jury for investigation. Today, President Nixon gives a noontime radio address on the energy crisis, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger prepares for another round of shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East. South Vietnam and China battle in the South China Sea over some disputed islands. Hewlett-Packard introduces its first programmable calculator, the HP-65, nicknamed the Superstar; list price $225. NASA takes a photograph of Comet Kohoutek, which was hyped as the Comet of the Century when it was discovered last year. Although still visible to the naked eye through the end of this month, it is not nearly the spectacle it was made out to be. Trailing 70-39 with 3:30 to go, Notre Dame scores the last 12 points to defeat UCLA 71-70, snapping UCLA’s record-setting 88-game winning streak.
Future comedian Frank Caliendo and future NFL player Walter Jones are born. Future hockey Hall-of-Famer Jacques Laperriere of the Montreal Canadiens suffers an injury that ends his career. The current edition of TV Guide features an article about celebrity homes, with a photo of actor Paul Lynde in his mirrored dining room. On TV tonight, new episodes of M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show air on CBS; shows on NBC include Emergency; on ABC, The Partridge Family and Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law. Later tonight, guests on this weekend’s edition of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert are Rod Stewart and Faces, Livingston Taylor, and Osibisa. Bob Dylan plays two shows in Hollywood, Florida, Wishbone Ash plays Passaic, New Jersey, and Charles Mingus plays Carnegie Hall.
At WCFL in Chicago, “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band holds at Number One, and “Sister Mary Elephant” by Cheech and Chong climbs to Number Two. “One Tin Soldier” by Coven, which is Number One across town at WLS, sits at Number Three. New in the Top 10 are “Let Me Be There” by Olivia Newton-John, “You’re Sixteen” by Ringo Starr, and “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder. Tops on the album chart are Jim Croce’s You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, the Carpenters’ compilation The Singles, and Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Northwest of Chicago, in the farm country of southern Wisconsin, a radio-crazed eighth-grader listens every minute he can, and shares his obsession with his friends, most of whom are not nearly as obsessed as he is.
Perspective From the Present: The fall of 1973 and winter of 1974 are among the bleakest seasons of the 1970s for the Top 40. Lots of bland pop music and funkless R&B (“Living for the City” excepted, which is one of the deepest grooves ever to hit AM radio), although there are some gems to be found: “Rockin’ Roll Baby,” “Love’s Theme,” the Staple Singers’ “If You’re Ready,” and “Hello It’s Me” by Todd Rundgren, although the bubblegum geek in me also digs the DeFranco Family’s “Abracadabra.” The best record of the season is probably “Until You Come Back to Me” by Aretha Franklin, written and produced by Stevie Wonder, although it’s a song I probably didn’t hear much back then. I was still listening to WLS in the winter of 1974, and they charted it for just three weeks. But I would discover it years later, and it would eventually earn a spot on my Desert Island list. Here’s a 2005 performance with Aretha and Stevie together that does a nice job of capturing the vibe of the original.