Monday, 18 October 2021

lying awake intent at tuning in on you

Originally recorded by songwriter Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club—featuring Thomas Dolby on keyboard, the follow-on version performed by the synth-pop group the Buggles, released a month prior as the debut single from their first studio album The Age of Plastic, the foundational, nostalgic hit, influenced by the music of Kraftwerk and inspired by memories of covertly listening to Radio Luxembourg late at night, topped the UK charts this week in 1979. The accompanying music video, first aired on Top of the Pops, went on, just after midnight on the first day of August 1981, to mark the beginning of MTV’s broadcasting run.

Monday, 30 August 2021

live at five

This 1979 industrial (as in in the trade) theme music anthology really revs one up for the network news, coming in strong with the familiar-sounding opening track by Craig Palmer Energy, a masterpiece of the genre. There are multiple volumes of Palmer’s works, both for syndication and for one-off events, though we were unable to find out more about this rather prolific and pervasive composer unfortunately—though not everyone wants a biopic and we can appreciate letting one’s works speak for themselves—that formed the soundscape of televised reporting and sports coverage (see also) in the 1980s. More bracing openings and interstitials coming up in the panel below.

Monday, 16 August 2021

ohh, you make my motor run, my motor run

Best performing single of the summer of 1979, The Knack was awarded a Gold Record for selling a million copies on this day of their breakthrough year, the fastest assent of any song since the Beatles in 1964 with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Written by bandmates Beron Averre and Doug Fieger, it was sort of a courtship of Sharona Alperin, who was initially opposed to the use of her name but posed for the cover and went on to eventually become Fieger’s girlfriend and fiancee. Parodied as “My Bologna” with the approval of The Knack, the song also helped launch the career of “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

i feel the earth move

On this day in 1976 at the Avignon Festival—title taken from the post-apocalyptic novel about the aftermath of global thermonuclear war—the Philip Glass Ensemble premiered the four act opera Einstein on the Beach—see previously here and here—a trilogy of portraits of personal vision and transformational thinking that spurred revelation through ideas rather than brute force and might. This two-hour excerpt from 1979 faithful recreates the staging from the five-hour debut.

Friday, 21 May 2021

to russia with elton

Starting with a venue in Leningrad on this day in 1979, Elton John gave the first of a series of eight concerts in the Soviet Union, marking the largest-scale tour thus far of a Western artist (see also), preceded by smaller shows by Boney M and Keith Richards. A subsequent live broadcast from the Rossiya Concert Hall in Moscow (the evening of 28 May) that was also carried by BBC1 marked the first satellite link-up between the USSR and the West and helped diffuse geopolitical tensions at he height of the Cold War.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

revenge of the sixth

A bit deflating like learning a super hero’s catch-phrase was derived from a Ted Cruz joke or some other detestable tool, we were a little disheartened to learn the albeit non-canonical, not endorsed Star Wars holiday is sourced and cited to a celebratory message that the Conservative Party took out in the London Evening News just after exit polls declared Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister on this day in 1979:“Congratulations Maggie, May the Fourth be with you!” The advertisement caused some consternation among the Tories—thinking bringing in such a pop culture reference, though two years old by then, out of place, though calling Reagan’s his missile shield, the Strategic Defence Initiative after the space opera made the pun socially acceptable, and made the phrase, trope an enduring relic of the Reagan-Thatcher era.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

white night riots

On what would have been the eve of assassinated City Supervisor Harvey Milk’s forty-ninth birthday—among the first openly gay politicians to serve in any capacity, tens of thousands rallied in San Francisco on this evening in 1979 in response to the lenient sentence handed down to the murderer, formerly fellow district supervisor Dan White, who crept into City Hall (avoiding the metal detectors) and shot Milk and mayor George Moscone the previous November.
White’s infamous Twinkie defence notwithstanding (his dietary shift to sugary, unhealthy foods symptomatic of his underlying depression, his attorneys argued), it was perceived that the court doled out the lightest verdict possible—voluntary manslaughter—because of White’s status as a former police officer and firefighter and the justice system was seen as biased and protecting one of its own. Although the march started out as peaceful, clashes between police and protesters turned violent and the police carried out retaliatory raids on gay establishments. Refusal on the part of the gay community to apologise for the protest resulted in greater political capital, leading to the election of Dianne Feinstein as mayor, who appointed a more inclusive commissioner to run the department who recruited more gay members to the force.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

elle est ohoho!

Via Dark Roasted Blend’s latest Link Latte (with much more to explore), we are introduced to the musical stylings of pop duo Ottawan (Annette Eltice and Patrick Jean-Baptiste) with their 1979 break-through single D.I.S.C.O., the initialism spelt out, “She is D, delirious—she is I, incredible—she is S, superficial—she is C, complicated—she is oh-oh-oh! Even if this group strike you as new, you are probably familiar with their other hit to reach the charts with Hands Up! (Give me Your Heart) which was covered by the Norwegian band Hype in 1995—which became a pretty popular standard in Europe. Hands up, baby, hands up! Gimme your heart, gimme, gimme.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

users are losers

Commissioned by the US National Crime Prevention Council as a mascot to raise public awareness on personal safety and security in 1979 and named the following July in a nation-wide contest, McGruff the Crime Dog has waged a on balance a helpful outreach campaign. Though best remembered for his message to prevent kidnapping and taking common-sense precautions to deny crime the chance to occur in the fist place, McGruff was also enlisted to discourage bullying and as on this 1986 gem of an album below, the use of drugs.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

the silicon chip inside her head gets switched to overload

On this day in 1979 a sixteen-year old Brenda Spencer opened fire at a neighbouring elementary school as pupils were arriving for the day in Santa Barbara, California, killing the principal and a janitor and injuring nine others, tragically marking one of the first in a painfully legacy of senseless gun violence and school shootings, well-covered in the media but resulting in no change in attitudes.  The rifle and ammunition an unbidden Christmas gift from her father, interrogators asked Spencer why she had committed such an atrocity, to which she responded, “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.” Musician and activist Sir Robert Frederick Zenon (Bob) Geldof and his band The Boomtown Rats were touring in the area about a month after the incident occurred with legal proceedings on-going and was inspired to pen the song after the unreality of the call of the reporters and Spenser’s response. Far from wanting to glorify the act through infamy, Geldof hoped his song would help prevent acts like this in the future.

Friday, 4 January 2019

public access

The always engrossing Kottke directs our attention to the untold story of Philadelphia television producer, social justice activist, librarian and prolific hoarder Marion Stokes (*1929 - †2012) whose obsession for preserving the present as it happened for future generations was transmuted into a secret personal campaign to record live news broadcasts and archive them, netting some seventy thousand VHS tapes spanning the years from 1979 to 2012.
The Iranian hostage crisis (previously here and here) which spawned the 24/7 news coverage cycle was Stokes’ initial impetus and she planned her professional and family life around the recording time of a long-play cassette, around six hours so she would be present to exchange tapes and keep the archives—having expanded into CNN and others—going. It was not merely a hobby or a way of taking work home, however, as Stokes knew that television stations were losing their independence and doing a horrendous job at conservation, even given the tools available to them. Her thirty-three years of continuous footage ended with her death that coincided with the taping of the massacre at Sandy Hook. Learn more about the documentary in development at the links up top and peruse the video archives here as well.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

der kuss oder glasnost coast to coast

This kiss that has launched a thousand homages occurred during the fraternal encounter between Soviet statesman Leonid Brezhnev and DDR General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party Erich Honecker in October of 1979—celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the creation of East Germany with pledges of mutual support.


The graffiti version that features prominently on the Berlin Wall (My God, help me to survive this deadly love), however, came much later. Dmitri Vrubel completed his mural on this date in 1990 and has been conserved as a testament to the times since. The photographer who captured the kiss on film, a French free-lancer named Rรฉgis Bossu, and the artist Vruble met themselves in March of 2009 when the curators of the East Side Gallery invited back all the still living artists to repaint their works in more durable colours and undo thirty years of vandalism and weathering—and the updated attribution credits them both.