(Pictured: Prince appears at the American Music Awards in January 1986.)
April 22, 1986, is a Tuesday. The nation is abuzz this morning over last night’s syndicated TV special The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults, hosted by Geraldo Rivera, during which a chamber below the Lexington Hotel in Chicago, where Capone had once lived, was opened on live TV. It did not contain cars, bodies, or money as hoped, only dirt and old empty bottles. Thirty-five percent of TV homes in America watched. In Madison, Wisconsin, just after 4AM, 20-year-old convenience store clerk Andrew Nehmer is murdered. Twenty-seven years from now, a possible suspect will be identified, but the murder will remain unsolved. Western diplomats continue discussions about a further crackdown on Libya, one week after retaliatory American bombing raids on Tripoli and Benghazi. The Libyan government is accused of sponsoring the April 5 terrorist bombing of a Berlin disco frequented by American soldiers, in which two Americans were killed and 79 wounded. President Reagan notifies Congress that the national security emergency regarding Nicaragua, in place since the previous May, will be continued. Tonight, Reagan gives a speech at the Heritage Foundation anniversary dinner. Several states get snow with record cold.
In today’s Peanuts strip, Lucy tells Linus about their sister-brother dynamic. Future football player Marshawn Lynch and future actress Amber Heard are born. Cliff Finch, who served as governor of Mississippi from 1976 to 1980, dies of a heart attack at age 59. On TV tonight, ABC’s lineup features Who’s the Boss, Perfect Strangers, Moonlighting and Spenser: For Hire. CBS airs the new family drama Morningstar/Eveningstar, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, and The Equalizer. NBC counters with The A-Team, Hunter, and an NBC White Paper news special titled The Japan They Don’t Talk About, which shows how some Japanese manufacturing differs from the industrial powerhouse portrayed in media reports. The Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 122-104 to win their first-round NBA playoff series three games to none. After scoring 63 points in the previous game, Bulls star Michael Jordan scores 19. The Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets also complete first-round sweeps.
The Los Angeles Times carries a feature story on prolific session guitarist Tommy Tedesco. The Grateful Dead play Berkeley, California, and Rush brings the Power Windows tour to Greensboro, South Carolina. Van Halen plays the Rosemont Horizon in suburban Chicago, Stevie Nicks plays Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, and Neil Diamond plays the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Van Halen’s “Why Can’t This Be Love” is new in the Billboard Top 10; Stevie’s “I Can’t Wait” holds at #16. Prince tops the Hot 100 with “Kiss”; a song he wrote under an assumed name for the Bangles, “Manic Monday,” is #2. At #99, on its way out of the Hot 100, is “A Love Bizarre” by Sheila E, co-written by Prince. In Macomb, Illinois, the local Top 40 morning-show host plays all of these songs, although his favorites at the moment are “Your Love” by the Outfield and “R. O. C. K. in the U. S. A.” by John Cougar Mellencamp, both of which sound great blasting in the car on warm spring days. Or they will, if spring ever comes to western Illinois.
Perspective From the Present: Prince’s domination of pop music in 1986 was remarkable, as described in this terrific piece by Slate‘s Chris Molanphy, which prompted me to yank the Prince post I wrote yesterday afternoon and intended for today, and put this one up instead. One Day in Your Life is the kind of thing I can do well, but I am unable to write a loving retrospective on Prince’s music and what it meant to me. That should have become clear to me yesterday, when I was writing and the following sentence just popped out: “By the time I became a Top 40 DJ a few years later, Prince was on the air all the time, the same as the weather forecast.”
Not every artist, not even the greatest and most prolific ones of our times, can move every listener, or change every listener’s life. Somebody else—many somebodies, if you hit up your favorite social media channels—is going to have to tell you about Prince’s greatness and what he meant. I’m not the one to do it. I don’t intend to demean him, or downplay his significance. He is, by any standard, one of the most significant musicians American culture has ever produced. But to this listener, it doesn’t feel like a personal loss, not like Glenn Frey or Merle Haggard. I’m neither proud of that nor ashamed by it. Although I hate the phrase “it is what it is,” it is what it is.
(Pictured: Helen Reddy, circa 1976.)
(This is a repost from 2014. Perspective at the end is from 2016.)
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: I was equipment manager of the high school baseball team, and we had a scrimmage on that Friday after school. That night, a couple of friends and I went to the local drive-in theater for what I recall as some terrible movies (although I don’t remember what they were), killing time until midnight. The Key Club at my high school was putting on a marathon basketball game that weekend, in which teams signed up to play for an hour at a time from Friday afternoon through Sunday night. I was on a team scheduled to play at midnight and again at 5AM, so the night of April 9 and 10, 1976, marked the first time I ever stayed up all night. Spring break (known to us then as Easter vacation) started on Monday the 12th. On the Tuesday the 13th, I passed my behind-the-wheel test and got my driver’s license; on Wednesday the 14th, the local radio station said they’d hire me for the summer—although they didn’t follow through on that.
An eventful few days, for sure. And now 40 years behind us.
(Pictured: Linda Ronstadt. As if you needed me to tell you.)
November 27, 1977, was a Sunday. Voters in the African country of Upper Volta approve a new constitution. In the Upper Midwest, heavy snow falls. In Green Bay, weather forecasters predict six inches will fall during the Packers’ game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings win 13-6. Elsewhere in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons beat Tampa Bay 17-0; it’s the 25th straight loss for the Buccaneers, who have yet to win a regular-season game since joining the NFL the previous season. Canada’s football championship, the Grey Cup game, is played in Montreal; after a Friday snowstorm, groundskeepers put salt on the Olympic Stadium turf to melt it, but plunging temperatures on the weekend turned the field to a sheet of ice. Despite the conditions, Montreal defeats Edmonton 41-6. Future NFL player Adam Archuleta is born. In the Sunday Peanuts strip, Charlie Brown asks Lucy for a great truth.
On TV tonight, CBS presents the theatrical movie Three Days of the Condor. NBC has a musical adaptation of The Hobbit, A Doonesbury Special, and highlights of the Miss World pageant. A Doonesbury Special will be nominated for an Academy Award and win a prize at the Cannes Film Festival. ABC has The Six Million Dollar Man and a special titled Oscar Presents the War Movies and John Wayne. In England, TV viewers are still talking about what happened the night before, when the evening newscast on a regional channel was interrupted by a message from “Vrillon, a representative of the Ashtar Galactic Command,” which advises humanity of “the course you must take to avoid the disaster which threatens your world, and the beings on our worlds around you.” The source of the broadcast will never be identified, although it will be reported that Ashtar’s origins were in an American UFO cult that first appeared during the 1940s.
The top movie at the box office is Star Wars, which has been the weekly champ since late June. Rush continues its A Farewell to Kings tour in Erie, Pennsylvania. The Jerry Garcia Band plays the Palladium in New York City. The Talking Heads play Nashville and KISS plays Kansas City. The Spinners and Dorothy Moore wrap up a weeklong stand at Mill Run Theater in suburban Chicago. At WLS, “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave takes over the #1 spot from Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life,” which had held the top spot for seven weeks and is now #2. Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” is at #3. “Come Sail Away” by Styx makes a strong move from #11 to #4; also making a big leap is the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love,” moving from #21 to #10. Other big movers include Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou” and “Isn’t It Time” by the Babys. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is the #1 album in Chicago for the 25th week.
Perspective From the Present: This day was the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. My family alternated Thanksgivings between sets of grandparents. We’d have dinner with one on Thanksgiving Day and the other on Sunday, and then switch it up the next year. I don’t remember where we went in 1977. Dinner with my mother’s family was a big, noisy event—there were 17 of us if all the cousins showed up, and by 1977 some of the cousins were bringing significant others. Dinner with my father’s family was much quieter; he was an only child, so there was just the five of us plus Grandpa and Grandma. I don’t remember preferring one dinner or the other back then.
Yesterday, my grandparents long gone and my own cousins scattered to the winds, we were 12 around the table, still the five of us plus significant others and kids, and the big wheel rolled on.
(Pictured: a classroom in the middle of the 1960s, very much like the ones at my first elementary school.)
August 31, 1965, is a Tuesday. In the Caribbean, Hurricane Betsy has been downgraded to a tropical storm. Tomorrow, she will begin to intensify again, eventually striking Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana. She will be the most destructive storm to hit the Louisiana coast to date and earn the nickname “Billion Dollar Betsy.” President Johnson signs a bill criminalizing the burning of draft cards. A truce is signed in the rebellion in the Dominican Republic. Forty-four American soldiers have died there, 27 in combat, since Johnson sent Marines to defend the government in April. The Watts riots are the cover story in Newsweek. The Atlanta Times, a newspaper launched in 1964 as the editorial voice for those opposed to the Civil Rights Movement, announces that it will cease publication. The financially troubled paper prepared two front pages for August 31: one with routine news if the paper found a new backer, and the other with the headline “Times suspends publication.” The paper will shut down for good next week. Johnson reports that 88 percent of school districts in southern and border states are preparing to comply with desegregation requirements in the Civil Rights Act of 1965. In Monroe, Wisconsin, it’s the first day of school. In today’s Peanuts strip, Sally asks Charlie Brown to defend her from a boy who knocked her down on the playground.
Following the retirement of Casey Stengel yesterday, Wes Westrum takes over as manager of the New York Mets. The Mets drop both ends of a doubleheader to the Houston Astros. Four other doubleheaders are played in the majors today. In one of them, the San Francisco Giants split with the Philadelphia Phillies. In the second game, Lew Burdette gets the win over Warren Spahn in a matchup of former Milwaukee Braves aces. The Braves, playing their final season in Milwaukee, beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-to-3 behind home runs by Hank Aaron, Eddie Matthews, and Gene Oliver.
Just off a two-night stand at the Hollywood Bowl, the Beatles play the Cow Palace in San Francisco. After the show, their limousine is mobbed by fans and its roof is crushed. The Rolling Stones play in New York City. Barbra Streisand records “He Touched Me,” from a forthcoming Broadway musical called Drat! The Cat!, which stars her husband, Elliott Gould. The show will run for only eight performances in October; the single will reach #53 on the Hot 100 in November, although the song will achieve greater fame in the 70s when it is used in a perfume commercial. At WOKY in Milwaukee, the Beatles’ single “Help,” backed with “I’m Down,” is at #1 for a second week. “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher holds at #2. Also on the chart: “California Girls” by the Beach Boys at #5, “Heart Full of Soul” by the Yardbirds at #9, the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” at #14, the Four Tops’ “It’s the Same Old Song” at #19, and “Do You Believe in Magic” by the Lovin’ Spoonful at #24.
Perspective From the Present: I confess that I do not know for certain whether Tuesday, August 31, was actually the first day of school in my hometown. (We always started the week before Labor Day, but not always on a Monday.) But whenever it was, this particular first day of school was my first day of kindergarten. The lone image I have of the day is peeking through the grate on the screen door as I hung on to the red-and-blue plastic “resting mat” we were required to take, and watching the bus pull into the driveway. Outside, the world was simmering in ways I could not comprehend, and this was my first tiny, protected step into it. A half-century later, there is much about the world I still can’t comprehend; for example, how 50 years can seem like both an immeasurably long time and no time at all.
(Pictured: Tony Orlando and Dawn. It was this or Nixon.)
Here’s a post from 2005 I found while digging in the archives of my first blog, The Daily Aneurysm. It’s been edited a bit.
On May 17, 1973, the Senate Watergate hearings began. I was in seventh grade that spring, already a news junkie, so if anybody in my school besides the teachers knew about Watergate, it was me. Our social studies teachers, Miss Alt and Miss Odell, made us watch the hearings in class. I am not sure how many students really understood what they meant—and I don’t remember how much I understood about the hearings, either. But I knew major news events when I saw them, so I was interested.
No matter what’s on the front page, above the fold, like the Watergate hearings, life goes on in countless other ways, with events that leave lighter footprints on time. . . .
(Pictured: This is not the tornado that struck my family’s farm 50 years ago today, although it looms that large in my memory.)
April 11, 1965 was Palm Sunday. Across the middle of the country, it’s the first warm spring day. In an old schoolhouse near his ranch in Texas, President Johnson signs the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the nation’s first law federally funding schools. Johnson, who had been a teacher himself as a young man, is joined for the ceremony by his first teacher. In today’s Peanuts strip, Charlie Brown battles the kite-eating tree. House Minority Leader Gerald Ford speaks at a dinner in Chicago and encourages support for the Israel Bonds Program. In his mostly lighthearted speech he compares Israel, “surrounded by a numerically larger and hostile army,” to the Congressional GOP, whom Ford says are similarly outnumbered by the Democrats. A gigantic tornado outbreak strikes the Midwest. Over approximately 11 hours, 47 tornadoes are reported from Iowa to Ohio. Storms in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio come with winds in excess of 200 MPH, and 271 people are killed. The most fatalities occur in Indiana, including 36 in and around Elkhart. Among the first communities to be hit is Monroe, Wisconsin, about 2:00 in the afternoon. The tornado carves a 27-mile path through Green, Rock, and Dane counties, destroying or damaging homes, businesses, and over 400 cars. Forty injuries are reported, but no fatalities. Winds in the Monroe tornado are estimated to have reached over 100 MPH.
A Texas entrepreneur announces the formation of the United States Football League, which will have six franchises in major cities. It is to begin play in the spring of 1966 with its championship game on Memorial Day, but the new professional league will never get off the ground. Conference finals continue in the National Basketball Association. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers take 3-2 leads in their respective series with wins today. In the National Hockey League, the Detroit Red Wings beat the Chicago Black Hawks 4-2 to take a 3-2 lead in their semifinal series. Marvin Panch wins the NASCAR Atlanta 500. Baseball’s regular season begins tomorrow; today the Chicago Cubs acquire pitcher Ted Abernathy from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for cash.
On TV tonight, ABC broadcasts Wagon Train and the sitcom Broadside, about a group of Navy WAVES assigned to a base in the South Pacific. Bonanza anchors NBC’s lineup. On CBS tonight, following Lassie and My Favorite Martian, Ed Sullivan welcomes Gerry and the Pacemakers (who are promoting their movie Ferry Cross the Mersey), Maurice Chevalier, and Soupy Sales among his guests. In London, the Beatles close the annual all-star concert presented by New Musical Express, which features the winners of the magazine’s annual popularity poll. It’s the third year the Beatles have appeared. Also on the bill: the Moody Blues, the Rolling Stones, Them, the Animals, the Kinks, and several other acts.
At WRIT in Milwaukee, several of the acts from the NME show are on the station’s latest survey. “I’m Telling You Now” by Freddie and the Dreamers is #1; “Game of Love” by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders moves to #2. The hottest record on the chart is “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” by Herman’s Hermits, moving from #20 to #3. (Herman’s version of “Silhouettes” makes another strong move, from #32 to 20.) Also new in the Top 10 are “Go Now” by the Moody Blues and “The Clapping Song” by Shirley Ellis. Also moving up: “Count Me In” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys (to #22 from #34).
Perspective From the Present: The National Weather Service in Kansas City and local weather bureaus knew about the ripe conditions for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, so at about 10:45AM, they issued a Severe Weather Forecast, which was standard operating procedure at the time. At 1:00, they updated it to say that “one or two tornadoes” might occur, but they identified a huge area of threat—essentially from Madison to Peoria and Cedar Rapids to Chicago, about 50,000 square miles. But by then, tornadoes were already hitting Iowa. (My family and I heard that updated forecast on a Rockford, Illinois, radio station in the car on the way back from our Sunday dinner.) Further alerts were issued as the storms moved across Illinois and Indiana, but the terminology wasn’t clear enough about the urgency of the situation, and as a result, many people were unaware just how dangerous the storms were. In the aftermath, the National Weather Service devised the tornado watch and tornado warning terminology that we use today.
My first baseball glove, which I would get when I started playing organized ball three or four years hence, was a Ted Abernathy autographed model.