Author Archive: jb

March 27, 1973: Who Do We Think We Are?

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(Pictured: Cabaret stars Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey at the movie’s Paris premiere in September 1972.)

(Here’s the first of a few repeats of One Day in Your Life posts from the now-defunct One Day in Your Life blog, as promised earlier in the week.)

March 27, 1973, was a Tuesday. Newspapers headline the agreement between the United States and North Vietnam that will result in the release of the last prisoners of war from North Vietnam and withdrawal of American troops from South Vietnam later this week. But the Nixon Administration has also announced that military operations will continue in Cambodia until Communist forces agree to a cease-fire. Congressional Republicans are demanding that the White House provide more information about the Watergate break-in and operations against the McGovern campaign last year. In meetings today, President Nixon orders aide John Ehrlichman to conduct his own investigation of Watergate, since White House counsel John Dean hasn’t reported the results of the investigation he’s doing. In a conversation with Secretary of State William Rogers, the president places blame for Watergate on Attorney General John Mitchell and Deputy Chief of Staff Jeb Magruder. Among his public events today, Nixon meets with Lindy Boggs of Louisiana, who was elected to the House of Representatives one week ago to fill the seat previously held by her husband. Hale Boggs and Alaska congressman Nick Begich were aboard a plane that disappeared in Alaska last October; both men are presumed dead, although their bodies will never be found.

Playwright Noel Coward died yesterday at his estate in Jamaica; he was 73 years old. Tonight is Oscar night. Cabaret wins eight awards, including Best Actress for Liza Minnelli, Best Supporting Actor for Joel Grey, and Best Director for Bob Fosse. The Godfather wins three, including Best Picture. Marlon Brando is awarded Best Actor, but he is boycotting the ceremony in protest of treatment of American Indians and sends an actress named Sacheen Littlefeather to accept in his place. Dressed in Apache garb, she gives a brief speech declining the award on Brando’s behalf.

In sports, UCLA won its seventh straight NCAA men’s basketball championship last night, defeating Memphis State 87-66 in St. Louis. UCLA’s Bill Walton was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. It’s the first time the national championship game has been held on a Monday following semifinals on Saturday. In the NBA tonight, the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers 85-84. Wilt Chamberlain of the Lakers plays 46 of the 48 minutes of the game but does not score a single point. Oscar Robertson scores 25 for the Bucks and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has 24. It’s the last regular season game for the Bucks, although the Lakers have one more tomorrow, the last day of the regular season. Both the Bucks and Lakers will end up with 60-22 records, but the Boston Celtics have the league’s best record with 68 wins and 14 losses. The American Basketball Association will also end its regular season tomorrow. The league’s top teams going into the playoffs are the Carolina Cougars, Kentucky Colonels, and Utah Stars.

The three TV networks air 16 game shows and 12 soap operas today, including second episodes of The $10,000 Pyramid and The Young and the Restless, both of which premiered yesterday on CBS. At KQV in Pittsburgh, “Neither One of Us” by Gladys Knight and the Pips takes a mighty leap from #9 to #1 on the station’s latest survey. Last week’s #1, “Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack falls to #2. “Love Train” by the O’Jays blasts to #6 from #20 the previous week. Three other songs are new in the Top 10: “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” by the Spinners, “Danny’s Song” by Anne Murray, and “Call Me” by Al Green. The highest-debuting new song on the survey is “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band” by the Moody Blues at #16. New songs in the Hit Parade Bound section of the survey are Helen Reddy’s “Peaceful,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder, and “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel. Top albums include Elton John’s Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player, No Secrets by Carly Simon, Hot August Night by Neil Diamond, and Who Do We Think We Are by Deep Purple.

March 25, 1985: You Like Me

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(Pictured: Dynasty star Diahann Carroll.)

March 23, 1985, was a Monday. The lead story on all three network newscasts tonight concerns the fatal shooting of an American soldier by a sentry near a Soviet military post in East Germany. Major Arthur D. Nicholson was on an espionage patrol near the post. The United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and France agreed after World War II to permit certain types of intelligence operations, although all four admit trying to bend the rules. The United States has lodged a protest and says the Soviet account of what happened is incorrect. It’s the first diplomatic crisis to erupt since Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet leader. The networks also report on the Reagan Administration’s efforts to persuade Congress to increase funding for the MX missile system. CBS reports on a controversial teacher competency test mandated in Arkansas. Governor Bill Clinton defends the test, while teachers’ unions are critical. CBS and NBC both report on a court decision in Chicago prohibiting night baseball at Wrigley Field. Mayor Harold Washington defends the decision, while some people fear it may eventually result in the Cubs moving out of the city. In college basketball, the field is set for this weekend’s Final Four after games on Saturday and Sunday. Georgetown, Memphis State, St. John’s, and Villanova will play in the national semifinals on Saturday, with the championship game one week from tonight.

Diahann Carroll, whose career has been revitalized by her role in Dynasty, is on the cover of TV Guide. Tonight, ABC nearly doubles the ratings of its competitors with a Barbara Walters special featuring interviews with Neil Diamond, Barbara Mandrell, and Boy George, and the 57th Academy Awards. CBS counters with its regular Monday-night lineup of Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Kate and Allie, Newhart, and Cagney and Lacey. NBC shows the Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose. At the Oscars, Best Picture nominees are Amadeus, The Killing Fields, A Passage to India, Places in the Heart, and A Soldier’s Story. F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce both get Best Actor nominations for Amadeus; Sally Field is nominated for Best Actress for her performance in Places in the Heart. All of the Best Original Song nominees were significant pop hits: “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now),” “Footloose,” “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” and “Ghostbusters.” Among the winners: Amadeus, Abraham, Field (who, during her acceptance speech, exclaims “You like me! You really like me!”), and “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”

Billy Joel and supermodel Christie Brinkley, who were married on a yacht in New York Harbor on Saturday, are on their honeymoon in an undisclosed location. The Grateful Dead plays Springfield, Massachusetts, and Deep Purple plays East Rutherford, New Jersey. U2 plays Richfield Coliseum in suburban Cleveland, and Julian Lennon plays Austin, Texas. At WBBM-FM in Chicago, “We Are the World” by USA for Africa vaults from #7 to #1, displacing “Material Girl” by Madonna, which falls to #2. Madonna is also at #8 with “Crazy for You,” up from #23. Several other stars have two songs on the chart: Wham, with “Careless Whisper” at #5 and “Everything She Wants,” which debuts at #29; the Time, with “Jungle Love” at #15 and “The Bird” at #24; Foreigner, with “That Was Yesterday” at #18 and “I Want to Know What Love Is” at #22; and David Lee Roth, with “California Girls” at #25 and the new “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” at #37.

Perspective From the Present: On April 1, Villanova would upset Georgetown in the NCAA men’s basketball final by a score of 66-64 to become the lowest-seeded team (#8) ever to win the title. And as March turned to April, “We Are the World” was the song everyone wanted to hear. In small-town Illinois, my radio station was happy to give it to them.

Note to Patrons: This is a new One Day in Your Life post. Now through the end of May, while we’re all sitting at home hoping not to get sick, I’m gonna bust out some extra content, including ODIYL posts that appeared for the first time at the now-defunct ODIYL site but never here. The repeats will run intermittently, sometimes outside my usual Monday/Wednesday/Friday posting schedule, although the first one will go up on Friday.

Beyond that, you can expect a lot of activity here, new stuff and repeats, for as long as the crisis lasts, because what else do I have to do?

Serious Purpose

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Several eternities ago, back on March 12, while I was on what was supposed to be a three-week trip to Minnesota, I tweeted the following: “As long as I’m not quarantined, my station’s building is open, and ICE/CBP isn’t outside my door with guns to keep me inside, I’m going to work.” But after the trip ended early, on Sunday the 15th, and once I got back home, the time came to decide whether to actually do it. And I wavered a bit. The Mrs. works at home; she’d been isolated for a week, and if I could keep from catching anything I hadn’t picked up already, maybe it was best for me to stay isolated too.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t. Ann and I talked it over, and radio people should do radio, especially in a time such as this. So I plunged back into the usual routine early last week, filling in on a couple of night shifts and a couple of middays. And this week, in keeping with the role I’ve had for these many years, I’ll be plugged in wherever they need me to be.

Like other radio stations, mine has taken whatever steps it can to protect the people who have to work. The studios are supplied with cleaning products, and we’re all keeping our distance from one another. I think we all know that it’s not going to be foolproof. People are going to get sick eventually. But we aren’t going through our days worrying about that.

(One might argue that’s what the nights are for.)

Old radio guys like me came up in the business when it was in the DNA of radio stations to operate in the public interest, convenience, and necessity. When news broke or a crisis happened, we snapped into service mode automatically, if only by following the cues of the veterans around us. For younger broadcasters, there’s maybe a learning curve. If you view yourself mainly as an entertainer, it’s another thing entirely to become a conduit through which life-and-death information has to flow. A lot of radio stations don’t have news departments anymore, so it’s up to jocks to be the journalists. And who are the grizzled old veterans to serve as role models for them?

I guess it’s gonna have to be me.

You can take a cue from covering severe weather. When you talk about a tornado, blizzard, or hurricane, people are gonna be hanging on your every word, so you have to be credible. You have to get stuff right. You have to rely on good sources. Don’t hype, but don’t downplay the seriousness either. But unlike severe weather, which lasts a few hours in most cases, or a few days in the case of a blizzard or a hurricane, the crisis we’re in right now is going to last far longer. How are we to maintain that sense of purpose, that credibility, that seriousness, for months on end?

You’ll need to find the right tone, and to do that, don’t forget who you were before this all started. In my case, I always try to present information I think my audience will find entertaining and/or informative, although last week I leaned more toward informative. However, last week, I also couldn’t resist making a joke about how after Prince Albert of Monaco was diagnosed with the virus, he’d be spending his two-week isolation in a can. But when it’s time to talk about the impact or potential impact of the virus on our listeners, in our home towns, whatever we say needs to be delivered with an underlying sense of serious purpose.

A sense of serious purpose will have to be our lodestar as the crisis deepens, and as it starts to affect each of us personally. Somebody pointed out on Twitter on Friday night that jokes about the virus and about quarantine are going to be a lot less funny once people we know get sick or start dying. Right now, I don’t know how that’s going to affect me as a radio personality—how it’s going to change what’s appropriate to me to do on the air—but I suspect that by this time next week, I will.

Consultant Fred Jacobs collected some stories about life on the air in the early days of the coronavirus crisis. Read ’em here.

Also: I’m not going to write about Kenny Rogers, because other people have done it better, including Professor O’Kelly, and Tom Erlewine, and Kyle Coroneos, and Alfred Soto. Read them. 

Unstreakable

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(Pictured: Robert Shaw, Robert Redford, and Paul Newman in The Sting.)

The March 23, 1974, edition of Billboard magazine featured several stories on various efforts by Congress and the record industry to stop piracy. Various firms have been selling tapes of copyrighted music, taking advantage of loopholes in the law. The FCC is considering whether copyright information could be electronically encoded within the audio of records, tapes, commercials, and other broadcast material to deter pirates. Officials at the CBS and ABC radio networks are in favor of the idea, but they want at least a year to test out potential effects of encoding on audio quality, as well as its effect on the networks’ own encoded signals, which are used to send alerts to affiliates, and to switch programs automatically.

In other news:

—Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson have signed a deal with producer Michael Viner to appear in and provide music for a mixed live-action/animated movie called Ringo’s Night Out. Viner and Nilsson have already collaborated on Til Sex Do Us Part, which Viner describes as “a highly artistic X-rated movie which has been well-received in Europe.”

—A number of DJs have either been streaked by someone while on the air, or gone streaking themselves. Exorcist Records released “Streaking” by Zona Rosa and had it delivered to progressive FM stations in Los Angeles by a streaker. The story concludes: “If you haven’t been personally streaked this past week, perhaps it’s only because you’re un-streakable.”

—The ninth annual Academy of Country Music Awards show will be on March 28 and broadcast on tape delay as part of ABC’s Wide World of Entertainment late-night series. It’s the first-ever telecast of the awards. Charlie Rich and Merle Haggard lead the nominations with five each. Roger Miller will host; presenters will include Dennis Weaver, Bob Eubanks, and Barbi Benton.

—The “Talent in Action” section reviews a Long Island performance headlined by Humble Pie with Spooky Tooth and Montrose; Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie at Carnegie Hall; Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton in Oxnard, California; and a New York City showcase for an unsigned bluegrass band called Breakfast Special, which is opened by Buckingham Nicks, which “offered both promise and problems in a brief but telling set.” After remarking that Lindsey Buckingham’s role as lead guitarist and lead vocalist “seems a bit taxing,” reviewer Sam Sutherland says, “Ms. Nicks also encounters problems, chiefly in her solo style, which points up the occasional roughness of her voice and the strident quality to her top end that makes duets bracing but proves less fruitful when she takes the stage alone.”

—Since last August, eight Canadian acts have appeared in Billboard‘s “New on the Charts” feature, giving Canada more than any other country including England. David Foster of the Vancouver-based group Skylark says that he believes Canadian musicians would take as predominant a position in 70s pop as English musicians did during the 60s. Apart from Skylark, the new Canadian hitmakers include Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Bill Amesbury, Wednesday, Ian Thomas, newsman Gordon Sinclair (whose spoken-word tribute “The Americans” had been a hit earlier in the year), and Terry Jacks.

—Jacks is just off three weeks at #1 on the Hot 100, but it’s likely that most popular musician in America at the moment is one who’s been dead since 1917. Three albums of Scott Joplin rags are in the Top 10 of the Best Selling Classical LPs chart; Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” recorded by Marvin Hamlisch, debuts on the Hot 100 this week at #88. The album “The Entertainer” comes from, the original soundtrack of the movie The Sting, is at #15 on Top LPs and Tape. That chart is topped by Barbra Streisand’s The Way We Were; Greatest Hits by John Denver is #2. The top 10 on the album chart also includes Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves, Band on the Run, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and Tales From Topographic Oceans by Yes. The new #1 on the Hot 100 is “Dark Lady” by Cher. “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks is at #2.

Perspective From the Present: This same week, Cash Box reported that Til Sex Do Us Part would be released in New York and other cities in April. That doesn’t seem to have happened, and in fact, I can’t find any evidence of a movie called Til Sex Do Us Part being released anywhere until 2002, and it’s not the one Viner and Nilsson supposedly produced. As for Ringo’s Night Out, Viner spent $15,000 on a “pilot” for the film, which got a screening for potential investors in June 1974, but it didn’t impress enough of them, and the full film was never made.

The Way Up

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(Pictured: Stevie Nicks in ’86.)

During the week of February 22, 1986, the Philippines’ People Power Revolution forced President Ferdinand Marcos from office in favor of Corazon Aquino. Also that week, future professional basketball player Rajan Rondo was born and hockey star Jacques Plante died. At the end of the week, Swedish prime minister Olof Palme was assassinated, a murder that remains unsolved today. Return with us now to that week to see what was happening below the Top 40 featured in a recent American Top 40 post.

43. “Goodbye Is Forever”/Arcadia. How many different Duran Duran spinoffs were there, anyway? And does anybody remember any of them now?

44. “No Easy Way Out”/Robert Tepper. The original cue sheet for the 2/22/86 AT40 show includes the text of promos Casey voiced to run the week before it aired. Two of the four promos mention potential new songs on the chart, name-checking Tepper and “No Easy Way Out,” a weird choice given that nobody outside of his family would have had the slightest idea who Robert Tepper was at that moment. “No Easy Way Out” was from the Rocky IV soundtrack, which had two singles on the chart already, “Burning Heart” by Survivor (at #9 in this week) and “Living in America” by James Brown (at #5). (The “No Easy Way Out” video wasn’t intended to be funny in 1986, but it’s hilarious now.)

51. “The Super Bowl Shuffle”/Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew. This is down from its chart peak of #41 the week before. There are only 11 listings for the song at ARSA, all but one from Chicago. WLS had the song at #1 for the week before the Super Bowl in January; their FM sister, Z95, listed it at #1 for four weeks in January and February and two more weeks in the Top 10 after that. My station’s programming syndicator never added it, but I seem to recall that we got a promo copy somehow—or maybe I went to the record store and bought it. We were in Illinois and a plurality of the students at the local state university were from the Chicago area, so we had to play it.

52. “Kiss”/Prince and the Revolution
60. “I Can’t Wait”/Stevie Nicks
These are the two highest debuts of the week. “Kiss” would hit #1. “I Can’t Wait” would eventually top out at #16, and its shiny 80s production makes it sound as dated as ragtime.

56. “Live Is Life”/Opus. “Live Is Life” is a triumph for catchy-but-brain-dead simplicity.

57. “Addicted to Love”/Robert Palmer
79. “Your Love”/The Outfield
80. “Something About You”/Level 42
95. “What Have You Done for Me Lately”/Janet Jackson
Some big, iconic hits, on the way up.

61. “Somewhere”/Barbra Streisand. On the 2/22/86 AT40, Casey took note of a new entry in the Book of Records. With The Broadway Album, Barbra had set a new record for longest time between #1 albums—22 years—breaking a mark Frank Sinatra had held since 1966.

67. “Caravan of Love”/Isley Jasper Isley
71. “Secret”/OMD
There’s a whole list of records that got on my station for only a few weeks but never entirely left my head. OMD released two of them in 1986: “Secret” and “Forever (Live and Die).” “Caravan of Love,” meanwhile, is completely in the pocket for 1986 but a nice throwback to the glory days of soul music at the same time.

75. “The Power of Love”/Jennifer Rush. A number of people have opened up the firehose on this song, including Celine Dion (who took it to #1 in 1994), Air Supply, and Laura Branigan. But this is the original, which was #1 in the UK and many other countries around the world in 1985. It would get to #57 on the Hot 100.

77. “Lying”/Peter Frampton. “Lying” was Frampton’s first Hot 100 hit since “I Can’t Stand It No More” in 1979, and would be his last one to date, although he would make what Billboard now calls its Mainstream Rock chart as late as 1994.

Thanks to social media, I have recently reconnected with my partner on the morning radio show I was doing in 1986. After I left the station at the end of the year, Mitch continued his career as a news reporter for a few years, but he eventually got out of radio and is now a teacher, author, and coach in his home state of Michigan. We were thrown into a partnership by circumstance, but we were both willing to make it work, and by the summer of 1986, we would develop some chemistry, which we did on our own, because we got no coaching or critique from anybody.

I don’t have any tapes of our show, which is almost certainly a good thing.

God Save the Queen

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(Pictured: Freddie Mercury and Brian May, on stage the same week I bought A Night at the Opera.)

I have written previously about my 1976 daybook, which I crammed with trivia, sports scores, and little notes about the ongoing life of 16-year-old me. The entry for March 12, 1976, shows that I bought the album A Night at the Opera by Queen on that day. I did most of my record-buying at shopping-mall stores in Madison, but since March 12 was a Friday, I suspect I picked it up somewhere in my hometown.

I was, like many others who bought the album that spring, inspired to lay my money down by “Bohemian Rhapsody.” In mid-March 1976, it was nearly six weeks away from reaching its peak of #9 on the Hot 100, but it had already hit #1 in cities across the country. In Chicago, WLS didn’t chart it until the end of February, but for the week of March 27, it went from #20 to #5, and to #1 the week after that, the first of five weeks at #1.

I listened to A Night at the Opera constantly for a year or two before putting it on a shelf and pretty much leaving it there. But I listened to it again not long ago, and I may listen to it more often in the future, because while it’s as familiar as the weather, it’s also mighty good. Listen to it here (and watch, because there’s some vintage video) while I rank the tracks.

12. “God Save the Queen.” It was inevitable that they would record this at some point, but it’s a throwaway.

11. “Sweet Lady.” I am trying to listen with two sets of ears: the ones I have now, and the ones that absorbed this album multiple times a week in 1976. I think I like “Sweet Lady” more now than I did then, but I like other songs better, so it ranks down here.

10. “Death on Two Legs.” I always wonder what my parents thought when they heard me blasting some guy singing “insane, should be put inside, you’re a sewer rat decaying in a cesspool of pride.”

9. “I’m in Love With My Car.” I got my driver’s license while “Bohemian Rhapsody” was high on the charts, and I liked this song more then than I do now.

8. “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon.” I was tempted to rank this and “Seaside Rendezvous” together, campy vaudeville-style tunes that they are, but I didn’t, for reasons I’ll explain below.

7. “Love of My Life.” This is pretty campy too—those harp flourishes take it over the top—although I suspect that Freddie Mercury is completely sincere in his delivery of it.

6. “The Prophet’s Song.” When I was playing the album in 1976, I would frequently skip this, the first cut on side 2. I like it much better now; the stacked choruses, voices multiplying voices, are every bit as impressive as the similar choral effect on “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

5. “Good Company.” Inspired by traditional jazz of the 1920s, this song is responsible for teaching me the verb to dandle: “Take good care of what you’ve got, my father said to me / As he puffed his pipe and Baby B he dandled on his knee.” If you always heard it as “dangled,” I get it. I’d probably have thought the same thing if the lyrics weren’t printed on the album jacket.

4. “Seaside Rendezvous.” I was re-listening to this album in the car, and “Seaside Rendezvous” was the last song I heard before I got out. I sang it to myself, over and over, for the next couple of hours. Like “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon,” it hasn’t got much to do with rock ‘n’ roll, but there may not be anything more purely pleasurable in the whole Queen catalog.

3. “You’re My Best Friend.” I think I have said in the past that this is the best thing on A Night at the Opera. I’m inclined to think that only when I’m not listening to the rest of A Night at the Opera at the same time.

1. (tie) “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “’39.” I am unable to resolve the conflict between 1976 me and 2020 me. I liked “’39” back in the day, but I adore it now, for its gorgeous wall of sound and the sad story of time travelers whose trip has unexpected consequences. As for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” as much as I thirsted to hear it over and over back then, I really don’t need to hear it again now. But when I do, I’m impressed as much by its sheer audacity as I am by the production itself.

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