May 26, 1974: Let It Happen

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(Pictured: Paul McCartney and Wings, 1974.)

(Life on lockdown is continuing for us (if not for many others in my state) but Life on Lockdown is taking this Tuesday off. Here’s another post from the old One Day in Your Life blog that has never appeared here.)

May 26, 1974, is a Sunday. Tomorrow is Memorial Day. President Nixon is spending a second consecutive weekend at his home in Key Biscayne, Florida. A wire service story observes that six months ago, aides would have discouraged him from taking back-to-back weekends off, fearing bad press, but Nixon has reportedly adopted a “let it happen” attitude, given the impeachment hearings now taking place in Congress. Investigators in California have intensified their search for a man they believe can lead them to Patty Hearst and her Symbionese Liberation Army cohorts, who have been on the run since six SLA members were killed in a shootout with Los Angeles police on May 17th. At a funeral home in New York City, mourners have been filing past the casket of composer and bandleader Duke Ellington, who died on Friday. His funeral will be held tomorrow.

The Treasury Department and U.S. Mint say 32 million pennies are “missing.” The director of the Mint says the shortage is because people keep pennies “in dresser drawers, pickle jars, piggy banks,” although a Treasury official blames simple neglect of the unpopular coin. The shortage of pennies has prompted some stores to round prices to the nearest nickel and others to make change with one-cent postage stamps. Still others are rewarding customers who pay with pennies. Osco Drug Stores in the Chicago area have a weekend special on Schlitz beer, at $1.15 for a six-pack. Fifths of selected brands of bourbon, vodka, rum, and gin are $2.98 each. JC Penney Auto Centers have a closeout special on a FM stereo/8-track tape deck for your car, originally $119.95, now $79.88. Automobile air conditioning units are also on sale, starting at $159.88 plus installation.

The best-selling fiction book this week is Watership Down by Richard Adams; Merle Miller’s Plain Speaking, an oral history-style biography of Harry S Truman, is the nonfiction best-seller. In her nationally syndicated newspaper column, Dr. Joyce Brothers writes about sexuality among older adults. “The young think sex is their prerogative and therefore resist the notion that their grandparents can not only have but enjoy sex.” In baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox, dueling for the top of the American League East, continue a weekend series. The Brewers won yesterday, 9-2, to reclaim first, which the Sox had taken with a win on Friday night. A. J. Foyt has the pole position for today’s running of the Indianapolis 500. New safety measures are in place after the fiery 1973 crash involving driver Swede Savage, who died about a month later; activities leading up to the race were curtailed in response to the ongoing gasoline shortage.

On TV tonight, ABC has its traditional tape-delayed broadcast of the Indy 500, which is won by Johnny Rutherford. The CBS lineup includes Apple’s Way (a family drama from the creator of The Waltons), Mannix, and Barnaby Jones; on NBC it’s The Wonderful World of Disney, Columbo, and a news special on cancer. At KHJ in Los Angeles, the top three songs are unchanged from the week before: “The Streak,” “The Loco-Motion,” and “Band on the Run.” Three new songs move into the Top 10: “You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics, “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely” by the Main Ingredient, and “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays. They replace Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” “The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night, and Mike Oldfield’s Exorcist theme, “Tubular Bells.” The biggest mover on the station’s chart is “Be Thankful for What You Got” by William DeVaughn, up eight spots to #18.

Perspective From the Present: I have written elsewhere about the smoky fire we had in our house sometime in the spring of 1974, although I no longer remember the precise date. It was, and it was not, a remarkable disruption in our lives; my brother and I were displaced from our bedrooms for the whole summer amidst the repainting of the house upstairs and down, but I merely moved my hanging-out space to our furnished basement. With a radio, a TV, and a couch, I had everything I needed.

Many of “the young” Dr. Joyce Brothers wrote about in 1974 are grandparents now, and another generation of grandchildren is skeeved out at the idea of Nana and Papa getting it on. But they are, kids. They are. Possibly even as you’re reading this.

5 thoughts on “May 26, 1974: Let It Happen

  1. Brian L Rostron

    Tape delay of a major sporting event from the Midwest – that’s something we’ll probably not see again any time soon.

    1. The Indy 500 wasn’t seen live until 1986. From 1971 to 1985 it was same-day tape delay. Before that, it wasn’t seen until the next weekend’s ABC Wide World of Sports, which showed just highlights and not the whole race. If you didn’t have live radio coverage in your town, you were outta luck til then.

  2. Wesley

    Nice new repeat, JB. Is that the way to properly phrase this entry? Anyhow, this post points out again what you’ve alluded to previously about how extreme the pop music scene seemed to be in 1974. The hits here show it: For every “Band on the Run,” “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely” and “For the Love of Money,” you’ve got “The Streak,” “Tubular Bells” (does anybody play this anymore?) and “The Show Must Go On,” easily the worst Three Dog Night record to make the top twenty, maybe even top forty or top 100 (I haven’t had the inclination to check). I don’t know what bother me more, the fact that the group thought recording a song opening and ending with circus music would be a great idea or that enough record buyers and radio programmers agreed with the same notion.

    And of course, “Be Thankful for What You Got” is definitely the most sampled song here for later records. DeVaughn is still around today, as are Oldfield, Ray Stevens, Elton John, Paul McCartney, and members of Grand Funk Railroad, Three Dog Night, The O’Jays and The Stylistics. So that’s encouraging to note as well.

    1. mikehagerty

      1974 was the year I decided that I wasn’t meant to be a Top 40 disc jockey.

      The music was, as Wesley notes, schizophrenic, and the on-air approach that seemed to work at the time was to speed the 45s up to 49 and either inhale some helium or sound like you needed a wheelbarrow for a jockstrap and puke your way through the intros and the time and temp.

      Fortunately, I’d just been exposed to what was then called Adult Contemporary (before it became “Continuous Soft Hits”), which was the best of the Top 40 hits minus the five or six hardest songs and Top 40 gold that went back to either the beginning of the Beatles or the beginning of Elvis, depending on the station. And you got to sound conversational, which is pretty much all I’ve ever been able to do.

  3. porky

    I was surprised recently by an American Top 40 show that played the album version of “The Show Must Go On,” wherein at the end of the record the “Entrance of the Gladiators” slowly but surely winds down to a complete stop.

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