(Pictured: Mick and Keef perform on the barely raised stage at Altamont.)
(A version of this post has appeared at this blog previously, and at the late One Day in Your Life site. This version has been revised quite a bit.)
December 6, 1969, was a Saturday. In what is billed as college football’s “game of the century,” #1 Texas comes from two touchdowns behind to defeat #2 Arkansas 15-14. President Richard Nixon attends the game in Fayetteville, Arkansas, along with congressman and future president George H. W. Bush. There are two pro football games today. In the AFL, Joe Namath throws two touchdown passes and the New York Jets hold off a late rally to beat the Houston Oilers 34-26. In the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Chicago Bears 42-21. The Bears’ record falls to 1-11-1; the 49ers are 3-7-2. Sonny Liston is knocked out by Leotis Martin in Las Vegas; George Foreman fights on the undercard. The University of Dayton opens its new arena with a basketball game against Bowling Green. Future actress Torri Higginson and future stripper Alyssa Alps are born. The man who kidnapped Cindy Birdsong of the Supremes and two friends earlier this week turns himself in to police.
Kids’ shows on TV this morning include The Pink Panther, H. R. Pufnstuf, The Banana Splits, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, and Cattanooga Cats. Tonight, NBC airs a Hallmark Hall of Fame special titled The Littlest Angel starring Johnnie Whittaker. It’s followed by the 1965 theatrical movie The Hallelujah Trail, a comedic western starring Burt Lancaster. ABC’s lineup includes The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, The Lawrence Welk Show, and the variety show Hollywood Palace. CBS starts with The Jackie Gleason Show, followed by the special With Love From Hollywood starring Ann-Margret and her guest Lucille Ball, and ends with episodes of Petticoat Junction and Mannix.
Jethro Tull plays the Fillmore East in New York City, Led Zeppelin plays in France, and Pink Floyd plays in Wales. Bill Cosby performs in Des Moines, Iowa, and the Monkees, now down to a trio of Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and Michael Nesmith, play Salt Lake City. Ten Years After plays Copenhagen and Janis Joplin plays Charlottesville, Virginia. The Rolling Stones, whose new album Let It Bleed was officially released yesterday, conclude their American tour at Altamont Speedway in California with Santana, the Jefferson Airplane, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and the Grateful Dead. Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, with Eric Clapton and George Harrison on guitar, play the Empire Theater in Liverpool. It’s Harrison’s first performance in his hometown since 1965. Tomorrow’s show in London will be recorded and released next year as Delaney and Bonnie and Friends on Tour With Eric Clapton.
At WSPT in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, “Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond is #1 this week, replacing “And When I Die” by Blood Sweat and Tears, which falls to #3. “Take a Letter Maria” by R. B. Greaves is #2. Four songs are new in the Top 10, including “Someday We’ll Be Together” by the Supremes, which will be the last Hot #100 #1 of 1969, and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” by B. J. Thomas, which will be the first Billboard #1 song of 1970. Other songs more popular in central Wisconsin than they are in other places include “Morning Dew” by the Las Vegas group Sound Foundation, Chicago favorites the Cryan Shames with “Rainmaker,” and “Ready to Ride” by Southwind, country-rockers from Los Angeles, featuring singer/guitarist John “Moon” Martin.
Perspective From the Present: Studying events from late 1969 from 50 years’ distance, the sensation of an impending ending is impossible to ignore. It may have felt that way at the time, just a little. Everyone knew how momentous the 1960s had been, and if a person had a sense of mingled relief that the decade was ending and nagging fear that the 1970s might be even wilder, nobody could have blamed them. Looking back now, certain songs popular in the last couple of months of the year give me an end-of-days vibe—“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” “Eli’s Coming,” “Fortunate Son,” “Yesterme, Yesteryou, Yesterday,” “Cherry Hill Park,” “Baby It’s You”—but that’s cherry-picking. There were just as many songs not dark at all: “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Backfield in Motion,” “Down on the Corner,” “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Jam Up Jelly Tight,” and on and on.
On this particular day, I watched the Texas-Arkansas game, and I would probably have looked in on the pro football games, too. I did not feel like the end of days was coming. What was coming was Christmas, and nine-year-old me looked forward to it like Ralphie Parker.