December 1, 1972: Mellow, busy days.

We continue the PAST LIFEs series, in which we revisit the last few months of LIFE magazine, issue by issue, on the 50th anniversary of its departure. Four are left.

This week we tackle the issue of December 1, 1972, which you can read here if you want. My grandpa saved this one.


“Mellow, busy days after the White House.” Well, you can scarcely accuse LIFE of trying to goose the drama in its cover story this week, can you? I expect 10 pages of, “Dad watched the baseball for a while and then went for a walk.”

Volkswagen is holding the line on price with its 1973 Beetle, keeping the ’72 price of $1,999. According to the online inflation calculator, that’s $13,984.18 in October 2022 money. Seems to me that when you haven’t invested substantial money in the redesign or improvement of the car, you can get away with that kind of thing, and perhaps even should be required to.

Managing Editor Ralph Graves pretty much hands his column to Margaret Truman for a discussion of the writing process of her book about her father. It doesn’t tell you anything interesting. Some mellow, busy days went into its writing, I’d say.

GE takes a full-page ad, urging you to give the pretty girl in your life a GE Sunlamp so she can get a tan whenever she chooses. I mean, if she wants skin cancer that badly, why not enable her? (I wonder if GE has ever been sued over the lasting effects of tanning lamps, or whether it can rely on the simple legal defense that GE never forced anyone at gunpoint to sit in front of a sunlamp.)

“The Beat of LIFE” begins with Juan Peron, returned to Argentina, gazing happily out onto street-choking crowds of Peronistas. Thank God I live in a country that doesn’t have irrational political cults of personality … right?

An interesting spread shows us the work of Vatican art repairmen who are carefully fixing the marble face of Michelangelo’s Madonna, after an attacker named Lazlo Toth (!) took a hammer to it in May.

LBJ, who seems to show up a lot in these parts lately, is shown celebrating his 38th wedding anniversary with Lady Bird; Prince Charles, ditto, is shown on his 24th birthday wearing a kilt. The shots are paired by some editor’s debatable stretch-logic.

Hugh Sidey is pretty good this week, reporting on what life is like at Camp David, where President Nixon is spending a lot of time lately. If I had access to Camp David I’d probably be there a lot too. Sidey reports that the President was recently seen taking a casual walk while wearing “purple flared trousers” — a vision unfortunately not captured on camera.

Panasonic shows off its system for playing quadraphonic recordings. I think of George Harrison’s long-ago wisecrack that he was always skeptical of quadraphonic because you only have two ears.

Polaroid takes out two pages to advertise its full line of Polaroid Land Cameras. Wonder why Edwin Land had to have his last name on the product line? Kodak cameras aren’t — er, weren’t — Eastman Kodaks; George Eastman put his name on the company but not on the product.

I skim the masthead and am reminded that the editor of LIFE is a Thomas Griffith. We never seem to see him; he lurks in the clouds. (Why is it Managing Editor Ralph Graves gets a column but the big boss doesn’t?)

Cyclops watches Saturday morning network television kids’ programming. The only program he has a kind word for is the Jackson 5ive cartoon series. (He says something nice about ZOOM, again, but it’s not on on Saturdays.) He also notes the phenomenon of the networks cannibalizing their adult programming for cartoon equivalents. “Not much harm is being done,” he says, “and no good at all.”

Holland House touts packaged sour mix. Is it really that hard to mix an acceptable drink from scratch? I don’t do a lot of that, so maybe it is.

McDonald’s takes a full page to tell us that it serves Coca-Cola, not “a second-class soft drink.” Of course I am drawn to the anachronisms in the ad. There is no mention of “Coca-Cola products,” just the flagship … and McD’s touts its burgers and fries but nothing else from its menu. And of course the Coke pouring out of the tap is draining into one of those big styrofoam cups that are collectively not-decomposing under our feet by the billions.

Book reviewer Melvin Maddocks weighs in pithily and effectively on five books, including John Gardner’s The Sunlight Dialogues, which is apparently set in Batavia, New York, in the late 1960s. I might have to check that one out; I think the last good book I read that was set in western New York was Yobgorgle.

Next up is a two-page ad; the way it’s duplicated online, we see the photo — a smiling, attractive young man and woman under an umbrella, with a few prominently displayed hardcover books — before we can see the caption.

It’s mildly amusing to stop on the photo, without moving on to the caption, and brainstorm about what it might want to sell us. What will the accompanying pitch turn out to be? They don’t have cigarettes, hamburgers, or glasses of whiskey, so no, no, and no. They could be bright young Chevy Nova owners … but if they were, they’d be required by law to be standing next to the car, so no dice.

It could be something totally random — maybe they are so happy because they slept well on a certain mattress.  Or maybe it’s a public-service shock ad: These happy young Americans don’t know that they have gum disease, venereal disease, the yellow jack, and a leaky muffler that’s trying to kill them with carbon monoxide.

Oooooh, or maybe it’s America’s Light and Power Companies telling us that these people work at a nuclear plant and you should pay for more nuclear plants because they’re awesome! (See, I’ve become fluent in the ad-language of 1972 LIFE.)

Nooooooo, after all that, it’s an ad for the Army, recommending military service as a destination for those who aren’t quite ready to tackle college. I didn’t guess that, maybe because chauvinist me saw the pretty girl and didn’t think “soldier.” Be better, Blumenau.

Richard Schickel doesn’t much like Lady Sings the Blues, The Valachi Papers or Rage, though he finds things to praise about the first and last of them, mainly in the performances of Diana Ross and George C. Scott.

Westclox takes out an ad to reassure all those people who toss and turn all night because they’re worried that their alarm clock won’t ring in the morning. I have tossed and turned on plenty of nights and that has never been the reason. Indeed, anyone who ranks that among their biggest concerns ought to sleep soundly.

Sylvania expends lots and lots of words guiding you, the reader, through the process of evaluating and buying a stereo set. Not surprisingly, all the best features just happen to be built into Sylvanias.

“21 Years Ago in LIFE,” a photo essay about a rural South Carolina midwife clashes absurdly with the cover photo of leggy actress Suzy Parker. (is there any other kind of actress? If there is, they didn’t make the cover of LIFE, at least not back then.) I am heartened to learn that LIFE readers apparently deluged the midwife with donations that helped her open her own clinic; as of December 1972 she was still in business, with plans to retire in the coming year. I guess LIFE was good for something more than selling gift-wrapped whiskey.

The retrospective section ends with photos of three people who peaked before my time — Phil Silvers, Anthony Eden and Dean Acheson.

Virginia Slims follows with another of its “you’ve come a long way, baby” ads. This one merits seeing because of the remarkable matching floral outfit the model is wearing. I don’t think that’s a skirt, but it doesn’t look quite like pants either. Whatever it is, the pattern just screams.

Letters is oddly free of fireworks this week, except maybe from a Massillon, Ohio, resident who disputes LIFE’s claim that the people there have forgotten the sacrifices of Vietnam War soldiers. (The boys don’t all grow up to work in the steel mill, either.)

A spread shows Henry Kissinger at the American ambassador’s house in Paris in between peace negotiating sessions, then some pictures of American and Vietnamese leaders stepping outside during breaks in the negotiations. They are apparently our first glimpses of the process, but they don’t show much — just older men in coats standing or pacing outside buildings. I guess nobody turned any handsprings.

The editorials are pretty bland — one points out that 91 percent of West German voters took part in a recent election, as opposed to only 55 percent in the US Presidential election, and says “more people oughta vote here!” without bothering to propose any methods or solutions to make it happen.

Southern Comfort takes one of those off-putting ads that tells you to go buy the product but neatly sidesteps any discussion of what it tastes like or what’s in it. I go to Wiki to find out what is in it, and am at least heartened to learn that it’s based on whiskey again, after a period in which a corporate owner changed the base to neutral spirits.

The best part of the ad, hands down, is that — for a mere 75 cents or two for a dollar — you can get a poster that combines SoCo drink recipes and “fascinating facts on astrology, numerology, palmistry.” I have no idea how you shoehorn two subjects as diverse as those onto a single poster, but I bet it made a fine decoration for dorm rooms everywhere.

Yay NFL!!!!!!! Changes to the rules in 1972 have encouraged the running game, and a bunch of running backs are gaining mad yards; LIFE “talks” to seven of them in one-paragraph blurts. John Riggins admits that he’s thrilled to be on bubble-gum cards; Mercury Morris says that running on AstroTurf reminds him of running on the streets where he grew up; Floyd Little tells some scary stories about getting his bell rung; and OJ Simpson says he’s guilty, guilty, guilty.

Well, OK, one of those is made up.

Ford-Lincoln-Mercury makes a bold promise in blue type: They’ll fix it right the first time or they’ll fix it free the second time. I find this promise in no ways reassuring, as it is eight words too long. They also guarantee their service work for 90 days or 400 miles, whichever comes first, and that doesn’t give me the feelgoods either; you mean I might have to be back at the dealership in four months? Screw that, I’m buying a Volvo.

The Consumer Watch column returns with useful advice on which pets can make you sick, and with what illness. Goldfish are the safest, LIFE counsels; “no one has pinned anything serious on them yet.” A noble pet, the goldfish.

A Time-LIFE ad introduces us to a hostess of color who speaks only English, but can cook recipes from the world over, thanks to her Time-LIFE cookbooks. Coq au vin is once again cited as one of the world’s glamour dishes, along with beef Stroganov [sic] and cheese fondue.

Margaret Truman’s narrative of her father’s post-Presidency begins with the subhead: “Back home, Truman dealt with grass, pesky tourists and the verdict of history.” I am still not compelled … although I look at the story just long enough to see Truman and Eisenhower throwing some smack at each other on Eisenhower’s inauguration day.

Kodak takes an ad for its Instamatic X-15, which shoots 126-format cartridge film. Twelve exposures and you’ve gotta shell out for a fresh cartridge (and pay to get the old one developed). I like now better.

Hitachi takes an ad for various electronic products, including portable TVs. The room where the kids used to sleep when we visited my grandparents had a portable black-and-white in it for a while (can’t remember whether it was a Hitachi), and a portable TV served as our family’s computer monitor for a while in the Apple II+ days, so I actually have modestly fond recollections of small televisions. Today they are all barn-sized; I don’t necessarily like now better.

The story plods along; LIFE advertises itself as the perfect Christmas gift (I wonder when Hanukkah fell in 1972, and whether I will see it mentioned in LIFE); you can buy a Zippo lighter with a Dallas Cowboys helmet on it. Harry Truman verbally drills a friendly long-haired young man; eat it, Harry. A photo shows four Presidents at the funeral of Sam Rayburn, and it’s astonishing how much younger JFK looked than all the other old white political men in the surrounding pews.

The UCLA Art Gallery has assembled a touring show of rope art, and LIFE introduces us to it, with an introduction that doesn’t sound particularly sold on the whole idea. The headline and subhead are in one of those great ’60s typefaces I should know the name of but don’t (Zappa used it on the Absolutely Free cover, if memory serves.)

LIFE devotes several pages to the case of an Iowa couple whose five sons were taken from them and put into foster care, based on assertions that the parents were “retarded,” they kept a shabby house, and the boys’ behavior was incorrigible and beyond their control. (Their “moderately retarded” 11-year-old daughter and a baby remained with the parents, I assume because they hadn’t acted out like their brothers.)

The implication seems to be that the parents were railroaded, and that juvenile authorities were biased against them … but it doesn’t feel to me like LIFE has (or presents) evidence to prove that point. The parents’ case, at press time, had gone all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled against them. We are left to conclude that the system was stacked against the parents all the way down the line, but it’s just as easy to come to the conclusion that, well, they had chances to prove their side, and they must not have done so. A sad story, yes … but it feels to me that LIFE tries to set up an argument that it doesn’t have solid backing for.

Parting Shots depicts the cast of an upcoming movie about the fall of Nazi Germany; it is apparently the first time Hollywood has shown Adolf Hitler and his henchmen as on-screen presences. Alec Guinness takes on the Hitler role. For balance, we also get British actor Simon Ward, star of the contemporary (and recently panned) Young Winston, duplicating Churchill’s famous bulldog portrait with photographer Yousof Karsh.

Should that bring back any unpleasant memories for LIFE readership of a certain age, they can drown them with some gift-wrapped Walker’s bourbon and chase them with menthol cigarettes.

Three issues to go.

December 12, 1981: A smile relieves a heart that grieves.

Been a while since I blogged an American Top 40 countdown, but people always seemed to like ’em, so here we go.

This is one I downloaded from the Internet Archive during the brief golden moment when someone had a cache of AT40s uploaded there. (Come to think of it, someone could have another cache uploaded there now. I love the Internet Archive but there’s something Wild West about it.)

Nineteen eighty-one wasn’t a tremendously good year for pop music, if memory serves, but let’s dive in and see if we find anything that suits us.

At this point, Casey has been doing AT40 countdowns since July 1970, and he is something of an established cultural presence in his little niche. He has also stopped appearing in horrible movies like the one with the guy with two heads.

Also at this point, a certain narrator of your acquaintance is in third grade when this airs. He is not yet listening to top 40 radio of his own accord, although he might hear it here or there in his travels amid the post-Pleistocene geography of the Rust Belt. He is aware that last week’s Number One is a big song that lots of people know, let’s put it that way, and other than that he is chiefly occupied with his NFL pencils.

So what does the Caser have to give us this week? (Favourites in bold, as always.)

Casey begins by playing the top three hits of last week, as he used to do after he moved to four hours in 1978 and had more time to kill. In the interest of suspense, I won’t tell you what the Top Three was last week; I’ll wait until the songs come up in this week’s countdown. (Edit: It turns out this week’s Top Three is unchanged from last week.)

No. 40: Don McLean with a new version of a song he charted with earlier, if I understand Casey correctly. Debuting this week, “Castles In The Air.” I’ve got a dream I want the world to share too, Don.

This is sort of soggy (“I’m weak but I can’t face that girl again”) … and yet not completely disastrous. “Strife” rhymes with both “life” and “wife” … and OK, maybe I take back whatever nice I was gonna say about this one.

I dunno: Nine-plus years after “American Pie” it’s nice to see the guy still exerting a commercial foothold, but the song has little to say for itself.

We’re counting down to the latest hit by the Beatle who almost didn’t make it through childhood, Casey says. I know who that is, and I can’t remember what he had on the chart in December 1981, and I kinda don’t wanna find out. But time is one-way, and so are these countdowns.

No. 39: From the LP Nine Tonight, here’s a former Top 10 hit: “Tryin’ To Live My Life Without You,” Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. There’s just something square and professional about this; I bet bar bands did great versions of it, because it just sorta plays by the rules. Again, I respect the artist but this is not his most incandescent work.

(I seem to write that, or variations on that, a lot. Maybe I am a bastard for expecting every artist to conjure up their most incandescent work every time they appear in front of me. This song kept Bob Seger in the general American consciousness as a commercially viable performer and is that so bad? Just accept the pleasant, Kurt, even when it drops eight spots.)

No. 38: Casey discusses the medical history of Ringo Starr, which involved repeated lengthy stays in the hospital as a boy. The first volume of Mark Lewisohn’s Beatles history is heartily recommended for its summation of Ringo’s medical bedevilments, as well as its capturing of the entire long-lost Liverpool milieu from which the Fab Four emerged.

(Ringo Starr became “the final Beatle,” the Caser says, and it’s a two-horse race to determine whether that analysis was truly correct.)

Ringo’s 10th solo hit is a tune written by George Harrison, “Wrack My Brain.” Ringo declares himself “all dried up,” and it’s hard to argue with him.He is, perhaps, coasting into the Forty on a post-Lennon wave of Beatles goodwill, rather than any particular quality in his current single. (Can you sing this song? I bet you can’t.)

This will be Ringo’s final Top 40 hit.

No. 37: One of four debut hits, Billy Joel with “She’s Got a Way.” This is a live version from the Songs from the Attic live elpee, although it’s faithful to the original studio version. According to Wiki, this was recorded at the Paradise club on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, which I have walked past a quarter-million times but have never been inside.

There is absolutely no reason Paul McCartney couldn’t have written this song except that he never managed to set aside time to think of it. This is BJ’s 15th Top 40 hit, apparently. It’s not among his greatest but it’s among his pretty-goodest and that counts for something.

No. 36: Caser drops some station call letters, like KCRV in Carruthersville, Missouri (where’s that?) and 6KG, Kalgoorlie, West Australia. The single, debuting this week, is the Stones with “Waiting On a Friend.”

Years ago I was hanging at Penfield High with some friends of mine who had business to transact in the front office. The secretary asked me if I needed anything and I said, “No, thanks. I’m just waitin’ on a friend” — reducing the other friend I happened to be with to giggles.

I guess I lead the sort of life where even a momentary outburst of laughter 35 years ago is mentally preserved as a high point, worthy of remembering.

Is this Sonny Rollins’ only appearance in the American Top 40? It’s gotta be. Unfortunately, Sonny was robbed of full credit by the fact that Tattoo You was partially comprised of vault tapes, and the Stones didn’t credit the contributing musicians because doing so would have made clear that they were cleaning out their leftovers.

Anyway, this — like “She’s Got A Way” — is a solid second-rank single for its performing artist. The kind of single that Internet commenters write deep-dives about in 2022, making cases about how underrated it is.

A listener in Mississippi wants to know what family act in the rock era has hit Number One the most times. Casey’s intro makes it clear that — three years after that family act reached unbelievable peaks — the listener in Mississippi damn well oughta remember them. But we’ll get validation in a moment. We’re just waitin’ on a friend.

No. 35: In their second week, up five notches, Queen and David Bowie with “Under Pressure.” In December 1981 this is just a random one-off from a pair of superstars. Give it a dozen years or so, and it will become An Event.

I will shamelessly promote the writing of Chris O’Leary here: He’s written two excellent books analyzing the work of David Bowie song-by-song (Rebel Rebel and Ashes to Ashes), and he is also a former college colleague of mine on the Boston University Daily Free Press. By Chris’s telling, “Under Pressure” was an impromptu studio collaboration that became, in the rearview mirror, something noteworthy for both artists.

By the late-year, can-we-wrap-it-up-yet-and-move-on standards of December 1981 — a year owned by the likes of AC/DC and REO Speedwagon — this song is an earthquake, particularly when Freddie Mercury’s “give love, give love, give love” makes way for Bowie’s “Love is an old-fashioned word.”

Anyway, I have no idea what the kids at the CYO youth dances thought of it, but this is art plus hooks plus concept plus heart …. and I’m gonna bet you won’t find that too often in the remaining 34 songs on this week’s Forty. (Casey mentions that this is Number One in England … and this week, England is a few steps ahead of the States.)

Now we’ll answer the question about family acts. It’s not the Jacksons, or the Everlys, or the Beach Boys. The act with the most Number Ones was the Bee Gees — you, listener, would have to have the attention span of a mayfly not to recall them — with nine Number One hits.

No. 34: Genesis, down five slots, with “No Reply at All.” I am hard-put to explain why I enjoy this. But as I’ve said in the past, there was a period from 1980-1982 — before Miami Vice, before the omnipresence of Phil Collins — when Genesis seemed to me to represent smart pop. They could play in odd time signatures, but then turn around and hire the Earth Wind & Fire Horns and record a shameless earworm like this.

I suppose there is a certain retrospective pleasure, too, in hearing Genesis before they toppled off the cliff — before they were an inescapable cultural presence, and were just an experienced rock band with catchy ideas.

No. 33: A band whose lead singer and keyboardist met while recording commercial jingles. Their first Top 40 hit, up a notch: Survivor, “Poor Man’s Son.”  About 12 steps down from Genesis, I’m afraid. Skip.

Casey teases the upcoming Top 100 year-end countdown, featuring a bunch of 1981 names. Then …

… No. 32: The biggest-ranking debut song this week, the Cars with “Shake It Up.” There are better Cars songs, but I don’t know if we’ll specifically hear Casey mention Boston again this week, so I have to apply the bold.

I wish I hadn’t traded in my secondhand copy of the first Cars LP from 1978, which is just astonishingly good, and which I didn’t fully appreciate at the time. I suppose I could buy another one.

No. 31: There are two former Number One songs still hanging on this week. This is one, down 14 notches. Christopher Cross, “Best That You Can Do (Arthur’s Theme),” a.k.a. the theme from Arthur, a.k.a. “The Moon and New York City.”

I remember hearing this one on the radio in 1981, perhaps at the family cottage on Keuka Lake that was new to us that summer, and it seems in retrospect like a defining earworm of its year. The writing credit for this includes Peter Allen, Carole Bayer Sager, and Burt Bacharach, which is a pretty distinguished pedigree. Still not bolding it.

No. 30, up six: Ronnie Milsap, “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For the World.” I seem to remember this one coming over the radio, as well.

This isn’t the worst single we’ll hear this week either, however little interest I  have in country crossovers. If you heard it at the time, you can probably sing the chorus, too.

No. 29: Barry Manilow, “The Old Songs.” Do I have to listen to this and objectively evaluate it? My drink needs refreshing.

Oh, boy, a Long Distance Dedication. This letter is from a group of federal prison inmates in Oklahoma. “The music box is all we got.” They ask for “I’m Comin’ Out,” by Diana Ross, as a prelude to the day when they will be released into free society.

No. 28: This hit looks like it will place among the Top 100 of 1981. Down 18 notches, after 11 weeks in the Top 10, the Rolling Stones with “Start Me Up.” For all its ubiquity, “Start Me Up” really is that great and that jagged and that raw.

As you, the reader, probably know, this began life as a reggae song that was thrown onto the discard pile. I guess there’s a lesson in the fact that even Mick and Keef couldn’t recognize the raw pulsing heart of ROCK N’ ROLL directly in front of their noses, at least not immediately.

No. 27: Casey notes that Eddie Rabbitt just headlined for the first time at a major Las Vegas nightclub. You’ll have to excuse me if I am less than moved by that career achievement. (I still have that “you’d make a dead man come” business in my head; I’m not in Conventional Showbiz Mode right now.)

Rabbitt is up five notches with “Someone Could Lose a Heart Tonight.” I have no memory of this and I am blessed for it.

No. 26: More station namedrops, including KDWB, St. Paul/Minneapolis. Up two spots, Stevie Woods with “Steal the Night.” Who and what? This has that blanket of synth-strings going on in the background; this seems like the kind of music the narrator of “Hey Nineteen” would play to seduce the nineteen-year-old.

This sucks. Anyway:

No. 25: The latest hit by “the hard-rockin’ J. Geils Band.” Casey tells a story about Peter Wolf’s family background in vaudeville. Geils checks in with “Centerfold,” and while I might be kinda tired of it now, I’m trying to picture it from the viewpoint of December 12, 1981, when it was fresher. It’s just a shame that Magic Dick didn’t have more to do here.

No. 24: Up two notches, “Heart Like a Wheel” by the Steve Miller Band. As cold and clinical as the rest of Miller’s oeuvre, only less memorable. Miller’s first AT40 appearance since “Swingtown,” and he probably had name recognition to thank for it.

No. 23: Casey starts talking about “melodies from the classics,” and bleah, this can’t bode well for the average listener. He’s setting up a medley of Mozart, Sibelius, Handel, Grieg, etc.: the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and “Hooked On Classics.”

Classical music has much to offer … but sod this business of taking the top-line melodies and plopping them down atop disco beats.

No. 22: Chilliwack, from Canada, with “My Girl.” Good on ’em for making the Forty — before Rush, even — and it’s certainly an improvement over “Hooked On Classics.” Not quite hauling out the bold for this bit of Canadian falsetto longing, but it ain’t half bad as December 1981 goes. This is the Number One song in Canada this week, Casey reports … and maybe Canada, like England, is a step ahead of the States.

No. 21: Paul Davis of Meridian, Mississippi — the home of Peavey guitars and amplifiers — up four notches with “Cool Night.” Another song I oddly remember from the radio, far beyond any relation to my actual exposure to it, and I am tempted to bold it. I won’t, quite.

Suddenly this feels like the kind of countdown on which one would encounter Todd Rundgren and Utopia. One won’t, I think, but I’ll keep up my defenses anyway, just in case.

No. 20: The first hit single by the Go-Gos, up one notch with “Our Lips Are Sealed.” I dunno, there’s a certain new-wave verve to it, and it’s not as tired as “Vacation.” The bridge — “Hush, my darlin’, don’t you cry” — is an all-too-brief moment of genius. Five points for the clap track, too.

No. 19: Kool and the Gang, up three with “Take My Heart.” Zero memory tracks of this one. Apparently Eumir Deodato produced it, and Brian Jackson (the same Brian Jax from Gil Scott-Heron’s Midnight Band? One would have to assume so) plays keyboards on the album. That’s a pretty great pedigree for a nothing single like this one.

No. 18: The Caser name-drops more stations, including WDNH in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. I’ve been to Honesdale. I think it’s one of those places where “pizza” means tomatoes spread over thick bread.

Down 12 notches, Daryl Hall and John Oates with “Private Eyes.” This song is as astonishing as Kool’s is forgettable — this is one of Hall and Oates’s two or three best ever. (What else ranks? “You Make My Dreams,” and either “Sara Smile” or “She’s Gone.” Thanks for asking.)

Anyway, yeah, this is trebly and paranoid and tightly wound and Cold War-flavored, and yet at the same time also richly giving in the fine pop tradition. And is there more clap track? There might be.

It ain’t gonna get better but on we go:

No. 17: Juice Newton, up three notches with “The Sweetest Thing.” Remember Juice Newton? Hope she enjoyed her year or two. Is it OK if I don’t listen to the whole thing? It’s my blog, so yes, it is.

Casey tells the story of Jackie Wilson, who suffered a heart attack six years ago onstage in New Jersey and remains in a semi-comatose state. He invites readers to drop Jackie Wilson a Christmas card care of AT40, and spins Wilson’s “Higher and Higher.” Have I always found this song repetitious? Yes, I have.

No. 16: George Benson, a Pittsburgh native who’s since moved to Maui, up seven notches (the biggest mover this week) with “Turn Your Love Around.” This is the sort of early-’80s jazzy pop that’s kinda grabby, but not enough for a bold.

Casey mentions that “Bette Davis Eyes” and “Endless Love” each spent nine weeks at Number One in 1981, and if you tune in to the year-end holiday countdown, you can find out which one was Number One for the year. I am less than enthralled by the options.

No. 15: Barbra Streisand, up four spots, with “Comin’ In and Out of Your Life.” I’m waiting for rock n’ roll punch from this countdown and I’m not getting it. Perhaps I am wasting my time on a drawn blind, as the song says.

No. 14: Neil Diamond up two notches with “Yesterday’s Songs.” El blando supremo. I can’t imagine fifteen-year-olds were buying this, so who was responsible for keeping Neil D. in the Forty?

A reader question from Quebec: Which recording acts have had the most million-selling singles and albums? From fifth to first: Elton John; Diana Ross; the Rolling Stones; the Beatles; and Elvis Presley.

No. 13: Up five notches, Hall and Oates with “I Can’t Go For That.” This continues with the barbed sonic paranoia, but it doesn’t do it for me the way “Private Eyes” does.

No. 12: Lindsey Buckingham up a notch with “Trouble.” I’ve never quite been sold on Buckingham as a pop genius, and this doesn’t change my mind.

No. 11: Stevie Nicks and Donhenley, up a notch with “Leather and Lace.” This is better than “Trouble,” and, OK, it’s pretty good (“I am stronger than you know.”)

I’ve just arbitrarily decided to spell Don Henley’s name as one word: Donhenley. It looks like one of those bogus names they put on suburban subdivisions: “All modern conveniences! Six designs to choose from in Donhenley Estates.”

OK, time for the 10 biggest hits. Can this be over yet?

No. 10: Journey up one with “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Once again I encounter a now-tired song in a setting where it is ascendant, and not yet a part of the fixed pop-culture landscape. It’s a good piece of work; doesn’t mean enough to me to bold it, but it was inescapable for a reason.

Casey teases the life story of Frankie Lymon. Oh, boy.

Meanwhile, at No. 9, we have Quarterflash with “Harden My Heart.” One of those Benatar-ish tough-chick tunes. Nice chorus. Band from the club circuit Makes It. Nice job.

Casey explains what happened to Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, then cues Diana Ross at No. 8 with “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”

Why does this cover version even exist? What did Diana Ross — a weathered veteran of the pop music wars — see in its naive message in 1981? Who wanted to hear it? And, maybe most importantly: Given the passing of Frankie Lymon years before, who got paid for it?

No. 7:  Down two notches, Air Supply with “Here I Am.” It passeth midnight here, where I am, and I arven’t the patience to appreciate the professional pop craftmanship that these gents are capable of bringing to the table.

Another long distance dedication — this time to a couple who went to high school together, then met and dated on vacation — from a guy who wants to hear “This Magic Moment” to help him remember a kiss on the beach.

No. 6, up two: Rod Stewart with “Young Turks.” Songs like this kind of deflate one’s notion of a Top Ten hit as being a cultural phenomenon, and a thing that means something to somebody. There were actually people who hung out by the radio waiting to hear this?

No. 5: Another radio-station call-out, including Rediffusion Singapore. The #1 soul song in the country: Earth Wind & Fire,. “Let’s Groove.” I run out of stuff to say.

No. 4: The Commodores holding for the second week with “Oh No.” See No. 5. Lionel Richie gets himself paid, and three cheers for that much, but I don’t have to hear it again. The Commodores’ 16th Top 40 hit.

No. 1 on the country chart: “Still Doin’ Time” by George Jones. No 1 on the album charts: Four by Foreigner. And for the second straight week on the pop chart ..

… No. 3: “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” the Police. I have a pretty firm no-bold policy where Sting is involved, but this does stomp most everything else around it, and I don’t mind hearing it more than once.

No. 2: Foreigner for the third week in a row with “Waiting For A Girl Like You.” A fellow traveler of the post-Pleistocene geography of the Rust Belt on lead vocal. It’s pretty good. Professional. Not too bad.

No. 1: This song just broke the tie for most Top Ten hits by a female singer in the past 10 years. It’s Olivia Newton-John with “Physical,” the most popular song in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive week.

I have vague memories of when this was a sociological phenomenon — like when people would make jokes about it, and when parodies would be played on the radio, and when it had sort of a general pop-culture buzz. That seems like a long time ago.

Kind of a damp squib, this countdown.

Unloading the hopper.

A few post-Thanksgiving odds and ends.

# # # # #

It’s Michael Dukakis turkey soup time!


Some explanation for those who don’t know or have forgotten:

The former governor of Massachusetts and Presidential candidate is an evangelist for stock and soup made from leftover turkey carcasses — he’s one of those “everybody throws out the best part!” merchants.

Dukakis’ penchant for soup entered the mass consciousness (and the Mass. consciousness) in 2015, when the Boston Globe published his recipe for turkey soup, along with his open invitation for anyone in the Boston area to swing by his house and drop off carcasses they weren’t going to use. According to subsequent articles, he received deliveries of 28 picked-over fowl — filling his freezer and those of his neighbors — along with one that later arrived in the mail and that he threw out.

(In more recent years, it seems to have become a mini-tradition for Boston media outlets to run a “please don’t bring Michael Dukakis your turkey carcass this year” story. Exhibit One here; Exhibit Two here.)

As the Duke himself has said, there is nothing secret or magic about turkey stock. Simmer a carcass for a couple of hours with some aromatics, and you have a stash of stock that can be filed away in the freezer, defrosted anytime, and turned into a quick dinner using whatever stray add-ins you can find in the pantry or at the bottom of the crisper drawer.

We don’t do this at my house every year. But somebody brought it up this year … and in these inflationary times, I feel especially frugal.

So I threw the old bird into a pot with two bay leaves, some sliced-up onion and carrot, a little celery, and a few peppercorns. Later tonight, after it simmers and cools, I’ll discard the solids, portion out the broth, and put it up in the freezer for whatever the winter brings.

Waste not, want not.

# # # # #

I have been enjoying a quiet and lovely Thanksgiving, with both kids at home (though one is about to ship out again as I type this). Couldn’t ask for better. I hope my readers are enjoying the same, or something like it.

# # # # #

I was researching one of my baseball stories a little while ago when I came across this Sports Illustrated story from April 1972 with a berserk, breathtaking first paragraph — one Hunter S. Thompson would have applauded.

The rest of it’s pretty good too, but the intro just puts you there.

# # # # #

Got “published” recently in one of those weird ways that I do.

The alumni magazine at my alma mater, Boston University, threw out a request, or a challenge, or an invitation, for alums to write a poem about gratitude. They got 80 poems or so in return.

They put ’em all on the website, but they only had room for about a dozen in the fall quarterly issue of the print magazine. Mine made the cut.

(That might have owed more to its brevity than anything else.)

Anybody wanting to know what I had to say about gratitude can find my poem, and 79 others, on the Bostonia website.

I told my wife that I should submit an entry to the alumni achievements section of Bostonia that says, “Kurt Blumenau, COM/CAS ’95, got published in the fall 2022 issue of Bostonia.” Seems like one of those jokes that would fail to amuse the person on the receiving end, though.

# # # # #

Been researching the Nuns’ Days they used to have at Fenway Park in the 1960s and there will probably be writing on that subject at some point (not here; maybe here.)

Is it baseball season yet?

Slow and thankful.

I had a whole post mapped out in my head this morning about the end of a personal streak … but by luck, grace, and/or patience, it will have to appear another day.

To the best of my knowledge, in my post-high school running history, I have never had to either abandon a 5K to injury or walk part of the way. The caveman has always shown up, done his thing from start to finish, and gone home in one piece — whether he was running a half-marathon, or a 5K shortened to two-and-a-half miles by sloppy conditions, or distances in between.

(I do remember one race that I came out of with some knee problems, years ago in Pennsylvania, but it didn’t stop me from running and finishing.)

The half-marathon I ran in Hartford in early October has left me with some nagging leg-muscle problems. My right calf is particularly troublesome. It feels fine as long as I don’t run … but as soon as I try to run, it sooner or later feels like an alligator is biting it, too painful to run through.

I don’t think I tore anything, because the pain is not constant — it only hurts if I push it. The problem is, pushing it is integral to my preferred (indeed, only) method of staying in shape and blowing off stress and frustration.

Anyway, I signed up for my favored Thanksgiving Day 5K in Framingham — the one I triumphantly returned to in 2019 — as well as another race in early December, before I realized the calf problem wasn’t going to magically vanish with a few days of grudging idleness and a couple of ibuprofen.

I hadn’t run in at least a week-and-a-half when I went to Framingham this morning, and had even rolled back my walking workouts to a fair degree.

I figured I would jog at a deliberately gentle pace until the calf complained, at which point I would walk the rest of the way. It would still be a workout in the crisp air, and burn a few calories, and get me out of the house. Plenty of other people walk the 5K; I wouldn’t be alone.

But the calf was kind to me. It started feeling tight maybe a mile in, and it was pretty tight at the end, but the alligator never bit down. I was able to jog every step of the way, punctuating my finish with an emphatic two-footed jump on the timing pad.

It didn’t occur to me until later that a fat man’s two-footed jump is maybe not the best thing for timing equipment. Hopefully they build those timing pads strong, knowing that at least a couple people are going to thump down on them hard. C’mon, fat man, act like you’ve been there before.

Anyway, my streak of completing races lives for another day. The streak might not survive the race on December 4, but if it doesn’t, that’s fine too.

(I also enjoyed my unique-to-Framingham post-race tradition of a Budweiser and a banana. Somebody always has a couple cases of beer at the finish line, and I take one with thanks. It’s the only Bud I drink in a typical year. If I knew who was responsible, I might write a check to support their beer fund. It’s a nice perk.)

My shorter streak of completing 5Ks in a time half my age is over, but that’s OK. I’ll have to make it a goal to get back there, gradually, over time.

I’m not getting younger, so running half my age oughta get easier every day, right? Right?

On the drive in I listened to Can’s Tago Mago — not hype music; more pensive and mysterious, befitting the uncertain outcome of the race. And on the drive home through the ancient precincts of Natick and Sherborn I listened to Cheap Trick’s Dream Police, which isn’t really hype music either, just a comfortable old friend I subconsciously associate with this time of year.

That seemed sufficient for a day of limited and tightly defined triumphs.

# # # # #

As a side note, I recently signed an online petition protesting my hometown school district’s decision to fire my former cross-country and track coach.

Coach Hennessey had been there for 47 years, becoming the national leader in cross-country league-meet wins, before the district told him a few weeks before winter track season that it wasn’t renewing his contract.

The district has said only that they wanted to “go in a different direction.” For 47 years, Coach Hennessey has embodied athletic success, positive personal impact on athletes, and all-around good-natured dedication … so God knows what other direction the district wants to go in instead. Doesn’t really matter to me, as my kids don’t go there.

Some would find it interesting that I am dealing with a running problem at the same time my old coach got fired. It’s funny to think that maybe I was good to keep plodding as long as the guy who taught me to do it was still around, but once he left, some invisible level of mojo disappeared.

Of course there’s not really a direct line there. The issue is simply that I’m getting older, and have more miles on the odometer than I used to, and the simplistic “don’t think too hard, just run and stretch a little” approach that carried me this far might not be enough as I get older.

Maintaining the status quo might require more thought, effort, and strategy than it has. It probably also requires the advice of a doctor, which is something I have to buckle down and go get one of these days.

Today, though, I will be thankful. Thankful for the long-ago presence of a great coach who started me on the path, and thankful that all these years later I am still able to cross a finish line … however gracelessly.

November 24, 1972: George Wallace fights back.

We continue the PAST LIFEs series, in which we revisit the last few months of LIFE magazine, issue by issue, on the 50th anniversary of its departure. Five are left.

Something or somebody caused a spike in traffic for last week’s entry. Not sure what it was, but if you’re reading, thanks. This one might or might not be as interesting.

We are up to the November 24, 1972, issue. You can read along here if you want. My grandpa saved this one.


Depending on your perspective, the cover photo is either a stirring shot of a man who refuses to give into physical disability, or a pitiable shot of a man who is trying to convince America that he still has enough of his physical abilities to remain a viable Presidential candidate (given that Americans, with one exception, don’t have a long history of electing those with disabilities to the Presidency).

It’s Friday night and I have just had a snapping disagreement with a co-worker but will try not to let it infect my review of this magazine.

Calvert Extra, the Soft Whiskey, touts itself as a holiday gift suitable for Tom, Dick, or Harry. Presumably not Jane, Margie, or Amanda, though. Their angle: Rather than try to remember all your friends’/colleagues’/relatives’ gift preferences, just give ’em booze. Hiccup.

Managing Editor Ralph Graves introduces a photog named Bill Stack, who has his first LIFE byline with a photo essay on boot camp at Parris Island — a trip he himself took as a young recruit. The cover tease promises, “Marine boot camp is still hell,” and I am left wondering why I should want to read something that tells me what I already knew. Maybe if the photos are good …

Magnavox takes a two-page ad asking whether you want your stereo sound to come built into a console, or as separate components. I am firmly in the latter camp, by nurture, and wonder where all the consoles are now.

“The Beat of LIFE” brings us into the excitement on Wall Street on November 14, when the Dow Jones finished above 1,000 points for the very first time. White men are thrilled. I guess it’s a refreshing contrast to the stereotyped white-man-gestures-frantically Wall Street stock-trading photo.

We get a spread of college football photos: Rich Glover, Johnny Rodgers, and Greg Pruitt are stars who will face off Thanksgiving Day with the Heisman Trophy in the balance.

Then we get a spread of photos of Earth taken by the ERTS satellite — in infrared! They’re not all that interesting but they are infrared, so hooray for scientific progress. One of the photos shows New England, including the entire infra-rhode state of Rhode Island. I guess the photo that shows a six-mile swath of polluted water off New Jersey is kinda interesting.

Cheesecake alert! Twenty months before, Sonia McMahon, wife of Australia’s prime minister, had been photographed descending a staircase and displaying lots of leg. With her husband on the campaign trail, LIFE takes the opportunity to re-run the shot, along with a new photo of Ms. McMahon among a herd of sheep. Sigh.

Hugh Sidey is reasonably readable this week as he writes about the aftermath of the Presidential election. Richard Nixon is making noises about reorganizing the White House and cutting staff; Democrats of all stations stare at smoking rubble. I don’t think I said anything to my colleague that I’ll regret on Monday.

Seagram’s VO is the next whiskey into the gift-giving market. A man and woman stand in a room that, I assume, was meant to impress people in 1972 as, I dunno, old money or something. Old portraits, wood, high ceilings, a fireplace, a big Christmas tree, and like that. It does not look like a room I would want to spend time in. I bet it’s drafty.

Tyco apes Norman Rockwell with a two-page ad for electric trains, in which a young boy is surprised to find (presumably) his dad and grandpa playing on Christmas Eve with the next day’s gift of electric trains. I find the ad quite touching — not because of the painting, but because it brings back those sepia-toned days when makers of toy trains took out two-page ads in national magazines.

The other page, in hard-to-read type, lists stores in New England and New York where you can buy Tyco trains — which makes me wonder, not for the first time, about the regional “zoning” of these issues.

I blow up the size of the ad, just to try to figure out where the nearest store to my house was, and I am confronted with some crazy long-gone names: Lechmere! Two Guys! Mammoth Mart! Abraham & Straus! Naum Brothers! Sibley’s! Bradlees!

A “former New York newspaperman” named Joel Sayre gives a rave review to a book collection of drawings by John Held Jr., whose Jazz Age-type style you would recognize. Mr. Sayre notes that Held-drawn flappers “had long, racy legs with beautiful bone structure to them,” then goes on to add that they were “scant in their pectoral region”  because that was the fashion. Whatever he might have been like in person, he comes across — well, not quite as a dirty old man, but as one of those disagreeably smudged old men who doesn’t understand that, no, nobody wants to go there.

Time-LIFE takes a full-page ad (or maybe “gives itself a full-page ad” is a better way to put it) advertising a book chronicling the latest in photography gear, ideas, and approaches for 1973. Might be a fun read now.

Actually, part of it is a fun read now: The ad touts that the government’s Project Documerica has put 50 photographers to work across the country to document the condition of the environment. A whole bunch of photos from Project Documerica are available on Flickr, and they’re a marvelous time capsule of man’s inhumanity to Earth, as well as various aspects of social life. Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s.

Cyclops raves about NBC Reports, a documentary series whose subjects have included pension-plan manipulation, Japanese-American internment during World War II, accessory-to-mass-murder Caril Fugate, and the Tasaday tribe (hey, weren’t we just talking about them?) George Dickel, meanwhile, wants you to give still more whiskey.

The American Gas Association tells America they’ll have to dig deep to pay for more natural gas, but it’s worth it because gas is cleaner-burning than coal. This is accompanied by a photo of a kid blissing out in a mammoth tree. One of the problems of adulthood is you can’t climb trees any more, but that one looks big enough to hold a full-grown individual. BRB, as the cool kids on the Internet say.

Somebody is selling Swedish army officers’ coats; the look is “really now,” apparently. I am content to never have worn one. The theater critic takes up “Pippin,” which just got a photo spread a week or two ago. I learn that Ben Vereen’s character is called Leading Player, which is pretty damn stylin’. Maybe now that I’ve quit Twitter, Facebook,. and Instagram, I’ll use that as my CB handle.

For only $2 in coach, United Airlines passengers can watch 26 minutes of an NFL game while they fly — presumably a Los Angeles Rams game, since they’re the team pictured. It would be great if you plunked down your $2 and it turned out to be the Houston Oilers and Philadelphia Eagles trading fumbles and offsides penalties for 26 minutes.

(Oh, OK, I actually bother to read the ad, and allegedly those 26 minutes contain an entire Game of the Week minus time-outs, halftime and huddles. Can you really fit all the action of a football game into 26 minutes? If so, why don’t they?)

Old Grand-Dad is next, and you’ll never guess what they’re suggesting, and dude I want a shiny silver paisley-patterned box with a bottle of 100-proof inside.

Recent LIFE coverboy Joe Namath, still wearing that eyes-narrowed semi-drunken smirk that made him so much money, appears in an ad for La-Z-Boy lounge chairs. Joe has clearly been cut-and-pasted in from some other background; a slice of his hair is missing. The overall effect is disorienting.

“36 Years Ago in LIFE,” we revisit the magazine’s very first issue, with photography by Margaret Bourke-White. I believe that, as of this issue, LIFE had yet to announce its closing. Robert Taylor, “Today’s Great Lover of the Screen,” appears in one of those delightfully ripe old portrait shots. Cutty Sark brings the number of whiskies that want you to give them away to five. Why did this grand tradition fade away before I could turn 21?

The Letters section lights up with fireworks in a few places. Barbara Korth of Oakland, California, strafes LIFE for giving Jackie Robinson’s death too little space and the Onassises’ anniversary party too much. Terry Burrington, morning radio jock on WCLO in Janesville, Wisconsin, says he thinks listeners don’t need to be “put on,” “put down” or “put through” Don Imus’s daily shtick.

Regarding the spread on the children of Presidents, a reader from Hollywood asks about the children of Warren Harding and Woodrow Wilson; LIFE assures him that Harding had no children and Wilson’s kids are dead. LIFE is, of course, half-right … although Harding’s illegitimate daughter was still in the “alleged” category in 1972, as DNA testing did not prove the relationship until 2015, after her death.

David Maxey’s cover story on George Wallace in therapy plays solidly to the positive. I am trying to decide if my inability to summon sympathy and admiration for Mr. Segregation Forever is a character flaw in me.

An entertaining spread about the massive popularity of blue denim follows. I have worn blue denim every single day of my life that I could (except for the days when I wore either shorts or sweat pants) so I heartily applaud this.

What makes this article great, besides the fact that it’s mostly a free ad for Levi’s? Well, French rock n’ roll legend Johnny Hallyday (why him of all people?) makes an appearance in an eagle-studded denim shirt and studded jeans. And a California rancher is shown admiring the interior of his new Levi’s-edition AMC Gremlin. He looks damned happy, and so too would I be.

Hey, ladies: Bulova points out that its self-winding ladies’ watches wind themselves while you’re knocking back booze and necking. No, really. It seems like a triumph of design.

A big blue Olds Ninety-Eight gets a testimonial from the design head of Henredon Furniture, which seems like a name I should know but don’t. Of course, there’s a lot about furniture I don’t know, seeing as I’m typing this while seated at what used to be my older brother’s desk when he was in elementary school. The faux-walnut three-piece set has sat quietly through a lot of bad writing, including right now.

LIFE reminds people that the deadline is upcoming for its Bicentennial Photo Contest: While the deadline for submission has been extended to March 1, 1973, photos must be taken by December 31, 1972. Of course, in the days before digital dating, there is no way to know for certain when a photo is taken; it would be amusing to think of somebody taking the winning photo on February 1 just to cock a snook at the judges.

(Also, I note the specific language in the ad: You have until midnight March 1, 1973, to mail your photos to us. 11:45 p.m., March 1, 1973: The streets of Atlanta are filled with drunks, windblown newspapers … and one hell-bent photographer in a secondhand Dodge Dart, steaming toward the post office. Don’t really big cities have, like, one post office that keeps crazy hours? Or did I dream that?)

The Record-a-Call Company of Paramount, California, takes an eighth-page ad to display its telephone answering machine. The tone of the copy suggests that the idea of recording phone messages — and remotely accessing them — is new for people. Apparently Americans grew familiar with it over the next two years, as an answering machine would be a prominent part of a TV-show opening beginning in September 1974.

LIFE rolls out the first of two parts of Margaret Truman’s memoir-slash-biography, with the second to follow next week. I am acquainted enough with the Truman legend that I don’t feel like reading it. Old Harry, as previously mentioned, has less than a month to live when this issue hits stands and mailboxes.

Another California company offers readers the chance to buy a roomful of cheap furniture and “do your bit for ecology, too.”  The furniture in question (allegedly) knocks down and builds up easily, plus it’s made from “recycled paper tubes — incredibly strong — with plastic fittings and shelves.”  I suppose in an alternate universe these people were the IKEA of the Seventies.

Ronrico rum shows off a big fizzy drink but doesn’t suggest that you give its product away for Christmas. That’s just a whiskey thing, I guess. I’m listening to the Rockford Files theme now on semi-repeat and that’s a serious jam.

A full-page ad follows of a sort I’m not used to seeing in LIFE. It offers the chance to buy property at Sleepy Hollow Lake, a man-made lake and recreational development in New York’s Hudson Valley. The photo — of a Sunfish-style sailboat scudding across sunny water — features a caveat: The lake is still under development, but bonds have been posted to ensure full completion.

I go to Wikipedia, hoping to find out this was a raging scam and the property is now a county dump, lovers’ lane and impromptu skatepark … but no, the place got built, and it’s still there fulfilling its function as a privately owned vacation development. According to Wiki, the New York State-record white crappie was caught in Sleepy Hollow Lake in 2021. What a load of crappie.

I’ve mostly forgot about my colleague. Hey! An ad for Fotomat photo centers, the little booth-looking things that used to fit into stray corners of mall parking lots. You can order Christmas cards there with family photos on them, to send to the people who are also getting bottles of whiskey. You can sign them, too, with the exotic-wood Hallmark pens being sold a couple of pages later. (Fancy pens are cool but I’m always losing my writing utensils so I don’t spend any more on them than I have to.)

Benson & Hedges Multifilters runs an ad featuring a young woman wearing roughly 35 pounds of bedazzlements around her neck. She is, perhaps, not doing her neck any favors inside or out.

The boot camp essay is boot camp. There are scared kids and screaming drill instructors. You, as the cliche says, know the drill.

More interesting is Parting Shots, which touches base with Ann-Margret, who is recovering from a freak accident in which a mechanical hand she was riding dropped her 22 feet onto a Lake Tahoe stage. It sounds horrifying but apparently she’s dancing up a storm.

LIFE also interviews a Spanish-speaking passenger on a jet recently hijacked to Cuba; the passenger got to meet Fidel Castro after disembarking. The interview is short and not especially revelatory, and the pictures aren’t great either.

The issue ends on a note that is pure 1972: The student government president of the University of Hartford challenged the school president to a duel, and the president agreed, on the condition that he choose the weapon. His choice: Cream pies. After a sequence of blow-by-blow covering the rounds of the duel, the last photo in the issue shows the lavishly mustached president and his hippie-ish opponent, grinning widely, with arms around each other.

I bet it settled nothing … and all those young people who two years earlier were marching and shutting down campuses in protest probably wondered what the hell happened to the revolution.

The question would recur.

(One last note from this issue: Canadian Club runs an ad in which, apparently, a complete amateur is handed the job of lassoing a wild rhino. Canadian Club doesn’t give a good goddamn if you give it away for Christmas, apparently. Finis.)

Swirl the dawn of the tongue in the morning.

I’m doing that thing again where I go to the Internet Archive … find videos of local bands playing in summer park-and-rec concert series … watch the videos with the closed captioning on … and laugh uproariously as the poor-quality captions make these local musicians seem like they’re spouting surreal streams of consciousness.

I rarely fail to find this hilarious. And really, we should all have something in our lives that can be counted on to make us convulse with laughter without causing any direct harm to anybody else.

This time around I’m watching a video from my old hometown, of a three-piece rockabilly Fifties-type band grinding it out one summer evening before the pandemic. They’ve got the hollow-body Gretsch and the big upright bass and … well, a distinctive lyrical take on things, at least according to the captions.

(I won’t include their name in this post. In case someone happens to be searching for them online, I wouldn’t want this post to be found and the poor quality of the closed captioning to be held against them. However, I will link to the video in question, in case anyone out there wants to confirm that this exists.)

Last night I dreamed I was the elderly Henry Aaron’s home health care aide (no, seriously, I did.) Tonight I hope to consider some of these captions in my sleep, and perhaps figure out what bizarre set of occurrences they are referring to.

The bomb room? The little dog? A jug-toting bishop? “The burning in the bud”? A folded body? Singing along with blood? Conservative lips? A shooter with a book by the sea?

I think the closed captioning is trying to tell me something (the plot of a really wild novel, maybe?) and it has seized on this obscure video as its means to reach me.
















































November 17, 1972: What will Nixon do with it?

We continue the PAST LIFEs series, in which we revisit the last few months of LIFE magazine, issue by issue, on the 50th anniversary of its departure.

This week we are up to the issue of November 17, 1972, which is one of the issues my grandfather saved. You can read along with it here.

Apropos de nada, my wife and I are suckers for recipes involving spicy, flavorful, oil-slicked Asian noodles. If you are also, you will want to make friends with this recipe, now if not sooner. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww yeah.



As previously mentioned, this lemon-sucking still life depicts a man who has just won 49 states and the District of Columbia (I need not mention which fine American state turned up its nose at him) in the most dominant electoral victory in Presidential history. LIFE’s choice of cover photo is … interesting.

I am dreading a Hugh Sidey cover story. But I am obliged to open the magazine anyway, in the service of you, the reader. So here we go.

Bell Telephone takes out an ad reading Happy Valentine’s Day. The point, in mid-November, being that you can shower the people you love with love every day, so why not call tonight? (Like James Taylor, you can even set up a tape machine to do the job for you.)

Managing Editor Ralph Graves reports that the children of America are swamping LIFE with responses to its recent kids’ survey. Graves reports that LIFE’s Letters Department is working weekends just to answer all the letters. Only about a month-and-a-half later, the men and women of the Letters Department would look back fondly on the days when they worked weekends. When they worked, really.

We go directly into Sidey’s piece and it’s actually not a bad view of Richard Nixon at the moment of his greatest triumph. It is also mercifully brief and includes photos of Nixon smiling, which seems only fair. Of course Sidey can’t entirely see what’s coming, but he flags Watergate as something that could get in Nixon’s way, and that’s about as good as anybody in November 1972 was reading the tea leaves, I think.

LIFE also gives us a few pictures from the hotel room in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where George McGovern spent Election Night. Apparently, early the following morning, McGovern ate “a bowl of dry cereal.” This only further convinces me that George McGovern was an honorable man, and I yearn to know which kind of cereal he poured himself. (November 7 would have been too late for monster cereal — unless McGovern saved himself a box.) McGovern also gets a page to tell his story in first person, which Nixon didn’t get, unless he passed it up.

The ’73 Buick Century is not unattractive, but the ad Buick has drafted to sell it to America is simply a laundry list of features. Like the Solenoid-Activated Throttle Stop, “for quick, sure engine shut-off.” It was a problem at one point that your car wouldn’t shut off when you turned the key and took it out?

(I also love the Computer-Selected Chassis Springs: Apparently, based on the specific features of the car you ordered, a computer would choose the appropriate chassis springs for you. Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision, one assumes.)

Ooooh! An ad for Contac, the cold medicine consisting of hundreds of tiny colored balls inside a capsule. I thought that was cool when I was a kid, and I remember carefully twisting open a Contac capsule — or maybe some generic equivalent — to free the little balls inside my mouth rather than inside my intestines or wherever. Because, why wait for cold relief? Anyway, if you’re making a list of cool ’60s/’70s mass-market innovations, the Contac capsule has to be on it somewhere.

Bacardi tells us about all the rum drinks we already know how to make, like rum and Coke. Chrysler won’t stop talking about engineering for some weird reason. I had to scorch ginger and scallions in canola oil for dinner and my house smells magnificent in a short-order kind of way.

Oh, now this is ur-Seventies. Fisher, manufacturer of audio equipment, offers a coupon for your own copy of The Fisher Audio Standard. It’s an album of (allegedly) really high-quality, distortion-free sound that you can use to appreciate how much better Fisher gear sounds than anyone else’s. (“The nearest thing to the technically perfect LP record”!) I suddenly think it would have been fun to be back in 1972 with a disposable income, swilling rum and Coke, savoring the most nuanced of sound on my Fisher system, and popping Contac when seasonal illness overtakes me.

(You mean I would have had to read Hugh Sidey, too? No deal.)

The eternally entertaining Cyclops has watched a sequence of NBC’s Mystery Movies and raves about Richard Boone as Hec Ramsey. I wonder if his work is on YouTube or the Internet Archive, in some buried pirate’s corner; I’ve reached a point where, if Cyclops says it’s good, I’m interested in watching. (Cyclops’s description of Boone also, somewhat randomly, reminds me it has been far too long since I watched Robert Mitchum in Farewell, My Lovely. Legit, that was.)

Ohhhhhhhhhhh! Next we get a real treat — another of those ads where America’s Investor-Owned Power Companies tell us we gotta swallow a nuclear future and get it done with. This ad shows a photo of a middle-school class — allegedly from Ontario, New York — with the assertion that going to school every day exposes them to more radiation than the local nuclear power plant. (If you have been around here a long, long, long, long time, you might remember a post about the local nuclear power plant in Ontario, New York.)

Thirty-five to 40 years after this issue came out, I still had my grandfather’s old copy, and I went to work for a company that owned a nuclear power plant (not the one in Ontario, New York; rather, the one in Berwick, Pennsylvania.) I tore this ad out of the issue and hung it in my cube for quite a while as a conversation piece. What a trip to see it again.

For $8.50 and five end flaps from the cartons of Winston cigarettes — rather a high price for 1972 — you can get a square portable transistor radio with spaces to insert your favorite snapshots. So, I dunno, you can look at your friends and family while you listen to the radio. And cough up a lung. Peter Gabriel is still two years away from immortalizing Winston cigarettes in song; I suppose it would have been recursive fun to listen to “Broadway Melody of 1974” on a GE/Winston transistor radio.

Johnny Unitas, then nearing the end of his career, appears in an ad for Sharp televisions. Apparently, what Fisher’s LP is to audio — an all-knowing test — Mister Crewcut is to televisions. A book reviewer turns in quick takes on a bunch of books. Again, I wonder if anyone reads them now, or if they are paperback 25-cent specials wherever quality used books are sold. Here come the supernatural anesthetist.

Maytag reprints a testimonial from Marcia Krummel of Duluth, Minnesota, who bought a washer 17 years ago when her son was an infant. Today he’s a teenager and the blessed machine is still at it. Newspapers dot com confirms the existence of the Krummel family, and their shared fondness for golf. I sometimes think I could live in Duluth, Minnesota; I think I could tolerate some extreme northness. Pretty happy where I am, though.

(Wow. Have you ever looked at a map? Duluth makes Rochester look like Fort Myers. That’s some north shiznit. Anyway.)

Sherwin-Williams offers a sampling of nine of the wallpapers you will find at Sherwin-Williams stores … and I gotta tell ya, those are some fly, fly wallpapers. And I speak as a man who has, in his life, been blessed with some serious wallpaper. I want the wallpaper with the Continental soldier, who can sling ’em o’er his shoulder. Did I type that out loud, or did I just think it?

Richard Schickel gets to watch some good movies — he reviews Bunuel, Rohmer, Fellini, and Truffaut together in one essay. Savor it like calvados, mate; next week you’ll probably draw Shaft’s Big Score. Sleeping cheaply on the midnight show; it’s the same old ending – time to go. Some more of those one-eighth-page ads offer the reader the chance to borrow $3,000 “in complete privacy, by mail,” as well as the chance to buy a terrycloth monk’s robe. Um, what?

Schenley Canadian whiskey takes out an ad with a guy who, in the British Commonwealth, would be giving me a rude gesture. Thankfully, Continental soldiers saved me from that understanding. William Zinsser, who I still revere as a teacher of quality writing principles, turns in another stinkbomb of a Comment column. This time it’s literal, as he seems to be harpooning a cultural trend to wear musk oil. An ad for Old Forester bourbon accompanies. Yes, please.

Honeywell Pentax takes out a full-page ad for its cameras. Presumably the Honeywell Pentax is different from the Asahi Pentax K1000 that my grandfather bought circa 1981 or so; that I used for film photography for a while; and that now sits under a thick layer of dust in my basement, waiting for some sort of miracle. A good camera, the K1000.

Just like the stereo ads, this ad makes me think fondly of a time where one could be a sort of autodidact of consumer products — armed with the hippest-yet-most-affordable SLR camera, stereo, Japanese compact car, etc. Most likely I woulda slept alone anyway; none of these things substitutes for a personality.

Theater Critic Tom Prideaux is as kind as he can possibly be to Dude, which sounds like what my Philly friends would call a “hot mess,” 1972-style. An ad for George Dickel Tennessee whiskey accompanies, with a theme of holiday gift-giving. If Schroeder should wander past, he would remind us there are only 20 shopping days until Beethoven’s birthday. An ad for “counterfeit” diamonds follows, also with Christmas firmly in its sights.

Aw, man! This issue just keeps on giving — at least with the ads; the actual copy has been negligible, but who needs that? Now we get a two-page ad for the 1973 Volkswagen 412. This is the car that had a sort of slantback four-door incarnation and a square-back wagon incarnation. The car that got totally and thoroughly erased from history, in between the success stories of the Bug and Bus before it and the Rabbit afterward. I’ll take five 412s, please, and I’ll figure out where to park them later.

(The ad explains why VW is asking a rousing $3,275 for the 412. I guess that’s the downside of having a “viral” car like the Bug in your lineup — every time you try a new model, you’ve gotta explain why it’s not working the same super-cheap waters.) Suspension cracked on unmade road – the trucker’s eyes read ‘overload.’

“25 Years Ago in LIFE,” we see a “funny and now famous picture from 1914,” of British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst being removed from Buckingham Palace. Don’t lean on me, man, ’cause you can’t afford the ticket back from Suffragette City. (A relative handful of hip Americans knew what that meant in November 1972.) We also see a football player being “tackled” via a finger in the mouth, and a photo of ace placekicker Ben Agajanian of the Los Angeles Dons. If Wiki is correct, Agajanian was the Dallas Cowboys’ kicking coach in 1972; not a bad gig, as they go, if you don’t mind spending time in Dallas.

LIFE recommends itself as a good gift for Christmas. Not as good as those boxes of Life Savers you used to be able to buy, but good nonetheless. Also from “25 Years Ago,” we learn that it was a teen-girl fad to swap a sock and a shoe with a friend and walk around mismatched all day. That sounds, truth be told, like a damned cool way to approach life — distinctly cooler than anything the Class of 1991 ever came up with.

There’s also an ad for a cookbook Classic French Cooking – except this time it’s not by Julia Child, but by Pierre Franey and Craig Claiborne. LIFE in November 1972 might have been a dead end, but you could learn to coq au vin to your damn heart’s content, and that’s not nothing.

25 years ago LIFE visited with Mary Pickford but I’m more interested in the holiday-themed Canadian whiskey ad next door. There’s also a pic of war hero Audie Murphy, a name lost to the 21st century; he gave his medals to the woman he married, then divorced, and then he died in a plane crash. May as well drown life in a tide of distilled Canadian wheat, gift-wrapped at no extra cost. “It’s the last great adventure left to mankind,” screams a drooping lady offering her dreamdolls at less-than-extortionate prices.

Two pages of promo for electric heat follow. They have delightful cartoon art, including a butterfly. The good news is, we’re moving back toward electrification in the 21st century, and away from fossil fuels. The bad news? The electric heat system you put in in 1972 — if it’s still there — is as dated as the Andrews Sisters, and is probably costing you more than it would cost to just burn your furniture for heat. No solution works for long. Perhaps I should get that slogan tattooed on myself, somewhere …. starting with the inside of the eyelids.

The Letters page is always a groove and a gas. One letter writer blasts Frances Fitzgerald, the Vietnam chronicler with the green eyes and the exceptional figure; another declares, “She is engaged in the joyous search.” I’ll go back to ’72 with a Volkswagen and a case of George Dickel and engage in the joyous search; I’m not contributing much to 2022.

One Wayne Rogers writes in to share how much he enjoys working on M*A*S*H; you might know him as “Trapper John” McIntyre (Trapper John had a last name? Most people do, I guess.) Another letter writer from Lubbock, Texas, vouches that “Lyndon Johnson looks sexier in his ‘retirement’ than Burt Reynolds in his centerfold.” I’m sure that sentiment heartened the former President as he lay flat on his back with his daily thunderclap of angina, mentally offering anything and everything in his earthly possession for the reward of remaining alive two hours later.

Norge appliances takes out a two-page ad; somehow my only cultural association of Norge is that Bill Murray played a Norge repairman on Saturday Night Live the week he mooned America. Remember when that was edgy?

LIFE touts “Fresh Blood for a Sick Congress” — a new group of representatives and senators elected this fall. The irony, as I understand it, is that a tidal wave of newbies would be elected in the fall of ’74 after Watergate and Nixon’s resignation — a new wave to swamp anyone elected in 1972. John Heinz of Pennsylvania is one of the fresh faces; Jack Kemp of New York another; Joe Biden of Delaware a third.

It is interesting to think that most of these people are either dead now, or retired into a gray haze … but one — from Delaware, of all places — is still stuck neck-deep in the hubbub of national politics. Hopefully not for much longer. (Editorial comment: While Joe Biden has compiled an admirable record as a public servant, he is too old for 2024, and the Dems need to pick a successor, like, two years ago and start promoting and advancing him/her.)

Polaroid steps up with another two-page ad. “Think of it as your personal fun factory.” Good job divorcing your product from its base function and affiliating it with a sentiment. Don Draper would be proud. Don who?

The two editorials haven’t aged well. Neither has the spread for “Pippin.” Is anybody in 2022 America mounting a production of “Pippin”? A ’73 Chevy Nova hatchback is pictured in Plymouth, Massachusetts — wonder if that’s a dig at a certain other American auto brand, or just a stylish place for a photo shoot? Either way I will have to look long at this; I have tarried in Plymouth, now and again, and I wonder if I’ve been here.

LIFE presents the results of a survey on marriage. I should probably care but I don’t. Panasonic follows with a stereo ad, chock full of various pieces of gear, and in my mind I’m thinking of bass response and sound-wave patterns again. There is mad crazy woodgrain — and, for some reason, a separate phone number just for consumers in Connecticut. Why that?

An eighth-page ad features cheap watch faces with John F. Kennedy, Wilt Chamberlain, and Shaft. God bless America. A two-page ad offers a 97-LP Beethoven box set (OK, maybe not quite that exhaustive, but it has a 275-page full-color book.) Even Schroeder would have been swamped by this doorstop.

LIFE follows with a story on a Hawaiian who has found his way into Japanese sumo-wrestling culture. LIFE spends plenty of time escorting us into this curious realm. An ad with a young husband and wife welcoming a guest into their party distracts me; the guest holds a wrapped bottle of bourbon behind his back. Dude, I need to make some friends so people will come to my house and hand me bourbon. Is that the American dream? (And is it weird that the gift-carrying friend seems focused on his friend’s wife, and not on his friend?)

A spread on a New York City kid named Brian Sullivan sparks some memories. In the mid-’90s I worked for a newspaper editor named Brian Sullivan; he didn’t look like the kid in the pictures but I always wondered a little bit. (It wasn’t; the Brian Sullivan who patiently served as my boss grew up in the suburbs of Boston.) Wonder what became of Brian. He was a New York Rangers fan, apparently.

I remember the next story, too, about a Southern sheriff who reveled a little too long in his power. I don’t choose to look at Newspapers dot com to see what became of him, as I sometimes do with people I meet in these magazines. There’s an ad for a Ford Maverick the color of banana pudding and I’ll look at that instead. An ad for John Begg whiskey describes its buyers as the sorts who went in for VW Bugs in 1958; I wonder briefly if John Begg whiskey still exists, because it’s better than thinking of this redneck sheriff in Florida.

As the ugliness of the sheriff unfolds, there’s another tacky ad for $1 Santa Claus costumes for your dog, then an ad for Toyotas (with “leather-like padding,” and also with a separate phone number for Connecticut residents. Such a pain in the arse to live in Connecticut. Might as well move one state north.) The story ends with the sheriff finally being deposed by voters in his home county …. only about 20 years too late.

GE takes out an ad for its toaster ovens, outlining how it can keep the hunger of the average American household slaked from 7 a.m. to midnight. I am left with a desire to have a friendly chat with the person baking pizza at midnight. That couldn’t have ended well.

“Parting Shots” summarizes F. Lee Bailey’s involvement in a porn magazine, and David Frost and Diahann Carroll’s involvement with each other. A spread of unusual California vanity license plates provides a setting for some cheesecake. Eleven years later, the actress with the nice legs will appear in a minor role in Strange Brew, which is more than I’ve ever accomplished.

I was just thinking it was about time this issue ended already. And so it has. Only a handful left.

The arse is heard throughout the land …

… or at least in Beantown.

(Almost) every time I come out with a new Bandcamp recording, I canvass the websites of Massachusetts college and community radio stations, thinking:

Somewhere out there is a DJ who delights in declaring his complete independence and freedom from conventional radio restrictions, and his commitment to playing music you won’t hear anywhere else. I will find this guy and make him regret he was bor– … er, I mean, I will support and enable his self-declared crusade by providing him with left-of-center sounds that will truly set him apart.”

I don’t have any illusions about the amateurish and unappealing quality of the noise I make, and I’m not looking for either money or stardom.

Still, each time out, I make these modest efforts to get the “music” played. That just feels like the natural next step: Once you’ve put something out, you want to find somebody with access to a transmitter.

I have one or two inquiries out that I suspect will go nowhere. But I have already hit paydirt, from a familiar source:


A couple of days ago I sent three songs from Unlimited Pleasure (that’s the new Bandcamp jawn) to WBCA, the low-power radio station partly operated by the city of Boston.

WBCA invites Massachusetts-based artists to submit their songs, as long as they’re airplay-clean (as “Bargain Arse” is — despite its outre title, the song is an instrumental.) The station accepted three tunes from 2019’s Watts and, in fact, continues to play them at a rate of roughly two a month.

I expected they might, y’know, at least send me an email to verify I was who I said I was.

But perhaps their previous acceptance of Watts opened the door and made me a known quantity there, because “Bargain Arse” — the first of the three songs, at least alphabetically — marched right onto the airwaves last night and made itself known, only about a day or two after I submitted it.

(I suddenly have an urge to wake up James Michael Curley or Honey Fitz Fitzgerald or one of the legions of stiff-backed high-collared Cabots and Crowninshields and tell them that, not only does the city of Boston own a radio station, but it’s playing a song called “Bargain Arse.”)

The latest encounter with WBCA has rekindled a long-burning question in my mind: In a city full of terrestrial radio stations, and a world full of online broadcasters, just how many people actually listen to this particular low-powered outpost, anyway?

I’ve never found an online record that tells me. I did, once upon a time, find a terrestrial coverage map — I think in one of the station’s FCC filings. The coverage area was basically Boston, with a few chunks missed in the city proper and a few chunks of neighboring communities added. The folks whose tax dollars pay for this are the folks who get to hear it while they doze off at night.

But terrestrial coverage maps only count for one piece of the action: In the age of Internet radio, little WBCA’s potential listenership is infinite. (Sure, there’s no reason why anyone in Ho Chi Minh City would tune in to the livestream. But there’s nothing stopping them.)

So, again: Just how many ears are out there at any given moment in time?

Presumably the city of Boston tracks listenership as a means of defending or evaluating its ongoing involvement in the station. I should figure out which municipal agency controls WBCA and see if they issue an annual report of their activities. Perhaps the answer, or at least a hint of it, is there…

… or maybe not.

I have read that the city acquired its share of WBCA after the Boston Marathon bombings, intending to use it as a tool to broadcast information in case of public emergency. So maybe the station’s potential role in case of disaster is enough to justify its continued operation (on a shoestring, no doubt), and it does not need to defend its existence by reporting how many people tuned in to hear “Bargain Arse.”

That’s probably a good thing.

Goodbye, Liquorice.

Your eyes do not deceive you; things look different around here.

I hadn’t touched the design of this blog since I launched it in February 2012, in keeping with my general attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t break it.” (This is the same attitude I bring toward blinds, kitchen cabinets, clothing … pretty much everything, really.)

As a word guy, I always figured the words were supposed to be the star of the blog, and the design was just a casing wrapped around the outside.

Plus, I figured if I stuck with a moldy old design long enough, it would eventually swing back around and become, if not cool, at least some sort of retro-distinctive.

Not sure what changed my mind. Maybe it was the realization that this is my last remaining active social media presence, so I ought to freshen it up. (Well, this and LinkedIn, but I don’t use LinkedIn too actively. I’m not interested in convincing people I worked with 15 years ago that I am a Thought Leader.)

So, kind of on a whim, I picked a different design. I don’t love everything about this one, but it works well enough for my purposes, I think. I’m not done screwing around with it, so you might see new touches show up here or there as time elapses.

I’m also toying with the idea of paying whatever WordPress’s annual fee is, so that the cheesy ads go away.

Sometimes those actively bother me — I loathe those kinds of ads when I see them on other websites, and I don’t love the fact that they’re on my own little corner of the Internet.

At other times I am proud of my low-rent-ness. I drink cheap beer, I play cheap guitars, I eat store-brand cereal, and I run a free blog. It’s consistent with my personal brand, y’know? It just so happens that the price of a free blog is those stupid ads … but I imagine my readers are smart enough to pay them no mind and just keep scrolling.

Anyhow, I did a little Googling and found the announcement — from March 2011 — in which WordPress announced the launch of my old template, which was called Liquorice. Kinda funny to look at the launch announcement when it was new and fresh and exciting. I think it is now retired; you couldn’t choose it now if you wanted to.

On rolls time.

Bunbury fields forever.

Wikipedia reports the death of British actor, cricketer, and record-company president David English.

In this precinct, English is most noteworthy for sweet-talking George Harrison into writing a song about an animated cricket-playing rabbit.

Yes: George Harrison wrote a song about an animated cricket-playing rabbit — with Ravi Shankar adding sitar, no less.

You can, if you so choose, hear it here.

In fairness to George, Ringo Starr voiced what was supposed to be an animated Liverpudlian mouse, but the show got shelved … and Paul McCartney has contributed to at least two animated films … which leaves John Lennon, off the top of my head, as the only Beatle not to get sucked in by the charm of animation, unless I have forgotten something.