News of the World

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(Pictured: two men dig out a Volkswagen Rabbit after the northeastern blizzard of 1978.)

It’s been a while since we looked at a vintage edition of Billboard magazine, so here’s a peek inside the issue dated February 17, 1978.

A blizzard that struck the Northeast during the first week in February had significant impacts. Retailers, wholesalers and pressing plants closed, distributors couldn’t reach customers, and a warehouse roof collapsed at Pickwick International in Somerset, Massachusetts. An Emerson Lake and Palmer show scheduled for Princeton, New Jersey, was cancelled. The storm was at its worst on a Monday, a day when many discos and theaters are closed, but operators were surprised by the sizes of the crowds that showed up on Tuesday. Club operators say that when a blizzard hits, partygoers show up earlier, stay later, and drink more. Stranded travelers in New York City actually provided a boost for retailers in Manhattan.

Frisking of audience members at concerts is on the way out, after court rulings that such warrantless searches are illegal. Venues have responded by posting signs warning that entering with “dangerous” items is prohibited, and concertgoers can be asked to voluntarily open bags or briefcases. In an item that’s plausibly related, officials in Minneapolis and St. Paul are concerned about a recent fad in which concertgoers set off cherry bombs and Roman candles inside arenas.

There’s a profile of Co-op Records, a Midwestern chain that “thrives selling progressive rock,” carrying very little country music and no classical or jazz. The article notes that the ordering process for the chain’s 25 locations is paperless—stores call the main office in Peoria, Illinois, and read their orders into a recording machine; the tapes are played back by order-pickers in the main warehouse. (For those of us who lived in Iowa and Illinois back in the day, Co-op is a beloved name, and a handful of Co-op stores still exist in 2018.)

Gary Owens also gets a profile. He’s been at KMPC in Los Angeles for 16 years, and he says a key to his success is staying on top of change. Among the Owens factoids: at WNOE in New Orleans, back in 1957, Owens came out with the first adult coloring book, to be used as a giveaway; a KMPC giveaway item was a two-piece Gary Owens jigsaw puzzle that looked wrong when it was assembled. Owens also says he had the first pet rock, a decade before it became a fad, and that he was the first DJ in the country to play Randy Newman’s current hit “Short People.”

A list of recent top-grossing concerts is led by Earth Wind and Fire, who played the Louisiana Superdome on February 3 with Deniece Williams and the Pockets, and drew over 18,000 fans at between $8.50 and $10 a ticket. In second place is Emerson Lake and Palmer, whose Boston Garden show on February 4 drew 15,500, with tickets priced from $7.50 to $10. Other big concert bills include Ted Nugent with Golden Earring and Sammy Hagar, Nazareth with Wet Willie, Rush with Pat Travers, and Gary Wright with Starcastle and Clover. Foreigner is on the road as well, with Eddie Money opening some shows and LeBlanc and Carr opening others.

“What a Wonderful World” by Art Garfunkel, Paul Simon, and James Taylor is #1 on the Easy Listening chart again this week, but the hottest mover by far is “Can’t Smile Without You” by Barry Manilow, which moves to #4 from #22. (Manilow will star in a network TV special on February 24; his guest will be Ray Charles. Also appearing: Manilow’s mother, in a comedy sketch. She’ll try to convince a cab driver that her son is famous.) The #1 song on the country chart is “Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You” by Margo Smith. “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson makes a strong move from #8 to #3. The new #1 on the Hot Soul Singles chart is “Too Hot ta Trot” by the Commodores. Saturday Night Fever remains #1 on the Soul LPs chart and the list of Top LPs and Tape. Billy Joel’s The Stranger moves from #5 to #2 on the latter, and News of the World by Queen is #3. On the Hot 100, “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees is #1.

Forty years ago this week, I was a senior in high school, counting the days until graduation in May. I showed signs of senior-itis because it was fashionable. Inside, however, I was far less excited to see the time slip away. But that’s a story to be told later on.

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