Here at ETS we are reflecting somewhat on the meaning of 1969 on its 40th anniversary and remembering where we were. To be honest, I was a little young for 1969 (although my mother swears I saw the moon landing). My first “9” year I remember was 1979.
This is an interesting year because quite frankly, it was not a good one. Inflation was around 12% around, gold was way up (maybe higher in absolute dollars than it was now), and gas lines were forming in the summer. This was when the rust belt really began to earn its nickname.
And there was the Iran hostage crisis which is rarely discussed these days (and which I have blanked out a bit), but was like an overwhelming wave of absolute darkness back then. This is where Nightline got started, and in our household, was required viewing at least once a week…for over a year that the crisis went on. It was truly, truly awful.
I was also not enthralled with the artistic output from either radio (“Heartache Tonight” is depressing and neither the “Logical Song” or “Reunited” have ever worked for me) or TV. Even 70s TV classics like Happy Days and Charlie’s Angels were losing steam. All that was left was reruns of Star Trek, Get Smart and the OLD Battlestar Galactica (which was quite excellent later in the season)…and WKRP in Cincinnati which had a running theme of Johnny Fever bemoaning the death of rock and roll (we hear you man).
But there is one shining moment. One Saturday evening as we were preparing to watch Saturday Night Live (which was in its first glory period), we saw the dreaded news logo meaning that SNL would be interrupted to bring us the latest on the crisis.
Just as were preparing the change the channel, someone yelled “Wait!”. It wasn’t the Iran crisis, but the “Tokyo Crisis” (when Paul McCartney was arrested in Japan for possession of weed). Finally, someone willing to snort in the face of danger. Saturday Night Live also gave us the “Pepsi Syndrome” (when a can of Pepsi caused a nuclear meltdown), Steve Martin, “Jane You Ignorant Slut” and John Belushi as Captain Kirk (there…was…none…better). Good memories. Precious memories.
Looking back at 1979 in retrospect, I see that there are other seeds of change that were beginning to sprout and waiting for the 80s to arrive. 1979 was the year of “Heart of Glass” (Blondie) and others like “Cruel to be Kind” (Nick Lowe), “Rock Lobster (The B-52s) and “Let’s Go” (The Cars). Somewhere in a practice rink, the U.S. Olympic hockey team was learning to work together to win the gold in 1980 (sweet). And apparently there are some musical classics I forgot were from 1979 like Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me.”
Is this a lesson that I should wait for better days or see the brighter side? Sort of. But more importantly, I think it’s a reminder that while life can rob you of hope, confidence, the will to fight and your creativity (all while still in graduate school)…it can never rob you of your sense of humor. At least not mine. As long as channels like Bravo TV and VH1 show the ridiculous and The Soup and The Dish are there to lampoon it…I feel confident we will somehow survive as a nation.
I don’t think I want to repeat 1979, but I do thank it for The Tokyo crisis and some of those obscure singles I bought in iTunes while I wait for the unknown future of 2010.