(Pictured: a group of travelers arrives at the airport in Rome on September 28, 1970.)
September 28, 1970, was a Monday. It’s the first day of the fall semester at Kent State University in Ohio, where four anti-war protesters were killed by National Guardsmen in May. Folk singer Phil Ochs headlines a memorial event that includes speeches by civil rights activist Dr. Ralph Abernathy and Thomas Grace, a student wounded in May. Last week, the Scranton Commission investigation into the shootings determined that even if the Guardsmen believed they were in danger, the situation did not call for lethal force. Thirty-two Americans taken hostage three weeks ago in a series of airplane hijackings in the Middle East arrive in Cyprus on their way home; six more former hostages are free in Jordan but yet to start for home. Time‘s cover story this week is about Palestinian guerillas and the Jordanian civil war. Egyptian president Gamel Abdel Nasser dies of a heart attack at age 52 and is succeeded by Anwar Sadat; author John Dos Passos dies at age 74. Running for reelection in California, Governor Ronald Reagan visits a Honda car plant in Gardena. President and Mrs. Nixon visit Pope Paul VI during their trip to Rome. Also in Rome today: the Rolling Stones, who arrive from Vienna for a concert tomorrow night.
This week’s Sports Illustrated features a cover foldout with pictures of major league managers Danny Murtaugh of Pittsburgh, Leo Durocher of the Chicago Cubs, and Gil Hodges of the New York Mets. Inside, the magazine reports on the controversy surrounding eight black football players at Syracuse University who have been suspended for the season over their discrimination complaint against the university. In today’s Peanuts strip, Lucy wonders why Schroeder never gives her flowers. On TV tonight, ABC’s second broadcast of Monday Night Football stars the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, who race to a 31-0 lead in the second quarter on the way to beating the Baltimore Colts, 44-24. The Colts will lose only one more game this season on their way to a Super Bowl win. Major sponsor Ford promotes the new 1971 Mustang, LTD, Maverick, and Torino models among the game’s commercials. CBS counters with Gunsmoke, The Lucy Show, Mayberry RFD, The Doris Day Show, and The Carol Burnett Show. NBC’s lineup includes The Red Skelton Show (new on NBC after 19 seasons on CBS), Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, and the theatrical movie The Lost Man, a 1969 film starring Sidney Poitier as a revolutionary on the run from the police.
Findings of a coroner’s inquest into the death of Jimi Hendrix on September 18th are announced in London. Hendrix choked to death while intoxicated on barbiturates. Badfinger plays at Eastern Washington College in Cheney, Washington; Yes plays at Aberystwyth University in Wales. The Moody Blues play the Spectrum in Philadelphia. At WDBQ in Dubuque, Iowa, “Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond spends another week at #1 according to the station’s new music survey. New in the Top 10 are “Joanne” by Michael Nesmith, “Groovy Situation” by Gene Chandler, and “Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor. The biggest mover on the chart is “Candida” by Dawn. Among the new songs on the survey are the latest hits by Mark Lindsay, Melanie, and Linda Ronstadt, along with last week’s Premier Single, “Don’t You Know” by Beefcake.
Perspective From the Present: Moody Blues flutist Ray Thomas fell off a stage platform just before the Spectrum show, breaking two toes—and his flute. He asked if anyone in the audience happened to have a flute he could use, and someone did. Whether this happened on September 28 or the night before isn’t clear; neither is it clear whether the Moodys played on back-to-back nights at the Spectrum or just one, and whether Thomas asked for a replacement flute on the first night or the second night. As for the band Beefcake, our friend Larry Grogan suspects it may be made up of songwriters Chris Arnold, David Martin, and Geoff Morrow, who recorded under several different names, and who wrote dozens of songs for acts from Elvis on down, including “Can’t Smile Without You,” made famous by Barry Manilow.
And as for the bigger hits from the fall of 1970, you know how I am about all that.
(Pictured: a high school scene, September 1976.)
I have written many, many One Day in Your Life posts about days in 1976 over the years, although not very many new ones as part of The 1976 Project. But here’s one.
September 2, 1976, was a Thursday. It’s Election Day in Barbados. It’s the first day of school in Dayton, Ohio, and the first day of a new desegregation plan for the city’s schools. In Monroe, Wisconsin, the new school year is about one week old. A newly minted junior is taking third-year French, Social Psychology, Contemporary Family Living, Creative Writing, Journalism, and a physical education course. After a yearlong flight, the Viking II spacecraft has reached Mars; tomorrow, it will become the second spacecraft to make a soft landing on the planet, joining Viking I, which landed in July. Even though it is Thursday, President Gerald Ford discusses political strategy for the upcoming presidential campaign with advisers from the House and Senate known as the Wednesday Group. The group includes Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania, who pledges his support for Ford despite having been named Ronald Reagan’s running mate before the Republican National Convention earlier in the summer. Ford is told that labor leaders dislike Jimmy Carter, and that “the Christ-like evangelism of Carter is not as strong as the president’s quiet faith.” Ford also receives advice on how to look into the camera during the upcoming debates, and he is urged to make a whistle-stop train tour in West Virginia.
In today’s Peanuts strip, Charlie Brown and Linus review the baseball season. Five games are played in the majors; the Los Angeles Dodgers sweep a doubleheader from the Montreal Expos. The first Canada Cup international hockey tournament opens; the Canadian team, loaded with NHL stars, is a heavy favorite. (Two weeks later, they will win it.) The NBA Portland Trail Blazers send LaRue Martin, who had been taken first overall by the Blazers in the 1972 NBA draft, to Seattle in exchange for future considerations. Daytime talk show Dinah Shore’s guests today are Jerry Lewis, Chad Everett, Marvin Hamlisch, Charo, and Julius LaRosa. Tonight, network prime-time TV is mostly reruns, including The Waltons, Hawaii Five-O, and Barnaby Jones on CBS and Welcome Back Kotter, Barney Miller, and The Streets of San Francisco on ABC. NBC airs a nature special about the Galapagos Islands and The Oregon Trail, the pilot for a proposed western series. Later, comedian David Brenner fills in for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show; one of his guests is singer Robert Goulet. Elvis Presley plays Tampa, Queen plays Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Band plays Boston Music Hall.
At WLS in Chicago, Elton John’s duet with Kiki Dee, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” holds on to #1 for a fourth week on the chart dated August 28, 1976. The songs at #2 and #3, “You Should Be Dancing” by the Bee Gees and “Let ‘Em In” by Paul McCartney and Wings, hold their spots for a third week, and the songs at #4 through #6 are there for a second consecutive week: Lou Rawls’ “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” (which will go on to spend a third week at #4), “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” by England Dan and John Ford Coley, and “Shake Your Booty” by KC and the Sunshine Band. Also in the Top 10: “Play That Funky Music,” “A Fifth of Beethoven,” Seals and Crofts’ “Get Closer,” and “This Masquerade” by George Benson. Farther down the Top 40, the change of seasons is on, where other indelible hits of summer (“Kiss and Say Goodbye,” “Love Is Alive,” “Afternoon Delight”) mingle with the equally indelible hits of fall (“Lowdown,” “Still the One,” “If You Leave Me Now”).
Buckle up, newly minted high school junior. You are about to take the ride of your life.
(Pictured L to R: singer Harry Babbitt and bandleader Kay Kyser, who were enjoying a big hit in the summer of 1948.)
Reader Ken commented recently that he doesn’t think we’re interested in the 1940s. Not exactly true. I just haven’t found a reason to write about the 40s—until now.
July 22, 1948, was a Thursday. President Harry Truman holds a news conference in which he’s asked first about the situation in Berlin. The Soviet Union has blockaded the city, but the Allies have responded with an airlift of food and other necessities. Truman is asked about the November election and the economy, among other topics. The Associated Press reports that 3,603 polio cases have been reported so far this year in the United States, over a thousand more than the same period in 1946, which was the worst polio year on record. The Chicago Tribune prints the story on the same page as a story about the discovery of a new antibiotic, aureomycin, and next to a report about 132 people departing from Chicago to a shrine to the Virgin Mary at St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec, seeking cures for various ailments. In Newfoundland, voters decide by referendum to join the Canadian confederation. It was the second vote in two months; an earlier vote failed when neither Canadian union, continued union with Britain, nor independence reached 50 percent. Although it wasn’t on the ballot, some Newfoundlanders favored becoming an American possession.
Ten big-league baseball games are played, including three doubleheaders. In one of them, the Pittsburgh Pirates take the first game from the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3, but the second is called on account of darkness, tied 1-1. In New York, the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians 6-5; Bob Feller pitches five innings and gets the loss; he’s lifted for a pinch hitter and is replaced in the sixth by Satchel Paige. Joe DiMaggio has a home run and four RBIs for the Yankees. Among the spectators is an eight-year-old Ohio boy named Jack Nicklaus, who is attending his first major-league game. Future novelist S. E. Hinton, who will write The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, among others, is born. Author Shirley Jackson, whose short story “The Lottery” has become controversial since it was published in The New Yorker last month, tells the San Francisco Chronicle that she hoped to shock readers with “a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.”
The current edition of The Billboard reports on recent TV coverage of the Republican National Convention, suggesting that politicians will quickly need to learn how to adapt their personal styles to the new medium. On the same page, readers learn that NBC will begin sending kinescopes of its programming to affiliates not connected by coaxial cable, to make network shows more widely available. NBC advises that not all programs will be kinescoped, and there will obviously be a time lag between the original broadcast and the kinescoped repeats. The lag may be greater in some cases due to the economizing practice of “bicycling,” in which one station receives the kinescope film, broadcasts it, and then sends it on to another station for broadcast there.
The Billboard also contains its weekly Honor Roll of Hits. The #1 song on the list is last week’s #2, “Woody Woodpecker,” inspired by the popular cartoon character and available in four different versions. The Kay Kyser version is the most popular. The previous week’s #1, “You Can’t Be True, Dear,” falls to #2. It’s available in at least 13 versions. Organist Ken Griffin’s instrumental version is the most popular at the moment, although the same recording with overdubbed vocals by Jerry Wayne was a hit in the spring. Holding at #3 is “My Happiness.” Buyers can choose from 11 different versions. A duet by Jon and Sondra Steele is the most popular, just nosing out versions by the Pied Pipers (a vocal group who have performed with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and its singer, Frank Sinatra) and Ella Fitzgerald. Four days earlier, a 13-year-old named Elvis Presley recorded himself singing “My Happiness” at the Memphis Recording Service as a gift for his mother.
Perspective From the Present: I am unable to find detailed TV listings for the summer of 1948, but my guess is that early adopters (only 0.4 percent of the population had sets in 1948) saw a lot of test patterns. During the 1947-48 TV season, only NBC and DuMont offered network primetime programming, and then for only a couple of hours a night at most. Summer might have been even quieter. Come fall, however, ABC and CBS would begin primetime programming, and the TV boom would be on.
(Pictured: Bicentennial fireworks explode over the tall ships in New York Harbor, July 4, 1976.)
Over the years I have written many, many One Day in Your Life posts about days in 1976. I have resisted repeating every one of them for The 1976 Project, but I’m making an exception for this one, which first appeared in 2011.
July 4, 1976, is a Sunday. It is the American Bicentennial, a celebration that has been in the making for several years. President Gerald Ford visits Valley Forge and Philadelphia for activities marking the date. In suburban Philadelphia, the NFL Eagles open training camp. New coach Dick Vermeil, annoyed by the fireworks he can hear bursting around the city, tells an aide, “I don’t care whose birthday it is, tell them to turn it off.” After Philadelphia, Ford heads to New York for Operation Sail, the flotilla of ships from around the world sailing in New York Harbor, before returning to the White House. Presumed Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter spends the day in Westville, Georgia, dedicating a new courthouse. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service officially lists the bald eagle as an endangered species. In Uganda, Israeli forces rescue Jewish hostages held by terrorists at Entebbe Airport. The National Air and Space Museum opens at the Smithsonian. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall suffers a heart attack, leading to speculation that he might resign his seat. A power plant malfunction in Wyoming leaves about a million people in Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah without power for as much as six hours.
In the first game of a doubleheader in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia Phillies catcher Tim McCarver hits a grand-slam home run, but is called out for passing teammate Garry Maddox on the bases. The Phillies win the game anyway, but the Pirates take the nightcap. It’s one of four doubleheaders scheduled in the majors today. Cale Yarborough wins the NASCAR Firecracker 400 at Daytona.
At the Roundhouse in London, the Ramones play their first British gig, opening for the Flamin’ Groovies. The Sex Pistols play the Black Swan in Sheffield, England; opening for them is a newly formed band called the Clash. A musician named Tom Petty writes a song called “American Girl.” In future years, it will be rumored that the song is about a girl who committed suicide jumping from a dormitory tower at the University of Florida, but Petty won’t say, and researchers will find little confirming information. Elvis Presley’s tour continues in Tulsa. Elton John plays Schaefer Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, and Fleetwood Mac plays Tampa. On a special edition of American Top 40 heard around the country this weekend, Casey Kasem plays each song that was Number One in America on July 4 from 1937 through 1976. Still topping the nation’s singles chart on this day: “Silly Love Songs” by Paul McCartney and Wings, for a fifth week. “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band is right behind. The only new song in the Billboard Top 10 is Gary Wright’s “Love Is Alive.” The biggest mover in the Top 40 is “Let Her In” by John Travolta, leaping from 26 to 13. New in the Top 40 are “I Need to Be in Love” by the Carpenters, “Silver Star” by the Four Seasons, and “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy.
In Wisconsin, a 16-year-old AT40 fan doesn’t listen to the radio much on this Bicentennial day, although last night, he was up late listening. WMAQ, a country station in Chicago, counted down its top songs of all time. Number One was “Behind Closed Doors” by Charlie Rich. Today, he spends most of the day at a family picnic, although is able to watch some of the TV coverage of bicentennial events. That night, he and his family will go to their traditional spot to watch the hometown fireworks. It seems to him as though life is going on as it always had. Years from now, however, he will understand that the summer of 1976 is not just different. It’s eternal.
(Pictured: Billy Casper, 1966 U.S. Open champion, lines up a putt.)
The world turns a day at a time, and before too long, 50 years have gone by. But the week of June 18, 1966, is a week that has, in a sense, never really ended.
From top to bottom, the Billboard Top 40 contained an astounding bounty of music, and to listen to the radio in that week—in that summer, in that year—must have been remarkable, and hard to turn off. The top four songs held their positions from the previous week: “Paint It, Black,” “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?,” “I Am a Rock,” and “When a Man Loves a Woman.” “Monday Monday” had just dropped out of the Top 10. Also on its way down: Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 and #23” Also in the Top 20 were hits by the Four Seasons (“Opus 17”), the Beatles (“Paperback Writer”), the Animals (“Don’t Bring Me Down”), and James Brown (“It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”). The highest-debuting record of the week within the 40 was “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James and the Shondells. Great soul stars were everywhere: Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, Sam and Dave, the Supremes, the Temptations. The week also sparkled with indelible singles by less famous acts: “Sweet Talkin’ Guy” by the Chiffons, “Red Rubber Ball” by the Cyrkle, “Oh How Happy” by Shades of Blue, “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love” by the Swingin’ Medallions, and the Standells’ “Dirty Water.”
(The bottom of that week’s Top 40 contains three songs from our One Week in the 40 list—each placed within the Top 40 for a single week. The Kinks’ “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” jumped from #41 to #36 for the week before falling back to #44 the next week. At #39 was “S.Y.S.L.J.F.M. (The Letter Song)” by Joe Tex, and at #40 sat “The Last Word in Lonesome Is Me” by country star Eddy Arnold.
Elsewhere that week:
Sunday, June 19, was Father’s Day. Ed Wynn, whose career as a comedian ran from vaudeville to television, and whose son, Keenan Wynn, also became a prominent actor, died at age 79. Many dads watched the U.S. Open golf tournament, where Billy Casper come from seven strokes behind over the last nine holes to catch Arnold Palmer and force an 18-hole playoff for the championship. On Monday the 20th, Casper won the playoff by four shots. Five doubleheaders were played in the majors on Sunday; only six games were played on Monday. The Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants led their leagues as the week began.
The week before, the Supreme Court had ruled that police must read suspects their rights before questioning them. On Monday, the House of Representatives sent the Freedom of Information Act to President Johnson on a 307-0 vote. (Johnson, who would have preferred to keep much non-classified information secret, reluctantly signed the bill on the Fourth of July.) Later in the week, the Senate cast a unanimous vote for a package of new regulations for automobile safety, mandating that all new cars be equipped with seat belts, shoulder belts, rear-view mirrors, hazard lights, door locks, and other safety features beginning with the 1968 model year. The Organization of American States voted to withdraw peacekeeping troops from the Dominican Republic. Johnson had sent about 22,000 American soldiers to the Dominican Republic the year before to intervene in the country’s civil war, in hopes of stopping a Communist takeover.
The constitutional rights of the accused, the right of citizens to know what their government is doing in their name, to what extent the government has a duty to protect the health and safety of citizens, the proper way to project American power abroad—we have never really stopped discussing those issues. Much as we have never stopped listening to the songs that soundtracked them a half-century ago.
(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.