What If God Were . . . Andy Gibb?
March 5, 2002: The Osbournes premieres on MTV. It is probably symptomatic of my incipient geezerhood that I watched it once, didn't find it remotely entertaining, and never bothered with it again.
March 5, 1982: John Belushi dies of an overdose in Los Angeles. Not entirely a surprise when it happened, but a tragedy that grows in proportion as the years go by. There's never been anyone quite like him since, and the fact that we seldom hear anybody called "the new Belushi" indicates that we don't expect to get anyone like him again.
March 5, 1976: After the Beatles' British contract with EMI Records expired in February 1976, the label could do whatever it liked with the band's back catalog. So on this date, they rerelease all of the singles that they'd released previously, plus one--"Yesterday," which has never been released as a single in Britain before. Although it had been Number One in America 11 years before, it gets only to Number 8 in Britain this time, probably due to overkill: All 23 of the rereleases make the British Top 100, and six of them reach the Top 50.
March 5, 1963: The most famous plane crash in country-music history kills Patsy Cline, who was the first Nashville star to cross over to pop in a way we'd recognize as modern. Also killed were singers Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, who were fairly significant stars at the time, but who are most famous now for the way they died.
March 5, 1955: Elvis Presley appears on TV for the first time--not, as is widely believed, on The Ed Sullivan Show, but on a local TV show in Shreveport, Louisiana, called Louisiana Hayride.
Mary Wilson of the Supremes is 62. Wilson has made a career over the last 35 years of being officially in charge of deflating Diana Ross' ego, mostly by referring to her whenever possible as "Diane," her given name, and not the more glamorous "Diana" given to her by Berry Gordy.
David Gilmour of Pink Floyd is probably 60. One of my sources says 59, but I'm inclined to think it's wrong because, in telling a magazine earlier this year that Pink Floyd would never play together again after its Live 8 appearance last year, he gave as one of the reasons that "I am 60 years old."
Kiki Dee is 59. Her most famous moment was probably duetting with Elton John on "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" in 1976, but her single solo hit, "I've Got the Music in Me," from 1974, is a pretty good moment, too. And her early-90s duet with Elton on the Bing Crosby/Grace Kelly hit "True Love" is gorgeous.
Andy Gibb would be 48, had he not died in 1988. There's a plausible theory, which I should probably explore in more detail because it's entirely my theory, that the 1970s jumped the shark--that its Top-40 music never had the same sound or feel again--after Gibb's "I Just Want to Be Your Everything" spent four months in the Top 10 in 1977.
Number-One Songs on This Date, All-90s Edition:
1999: "Believe"/Cher. With which she set a record for the longest span between Number Ones, 28 years since "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" in 1971, a record that is likely to last until 28 years after whenever Aerosmith scored its first Number One.
1996: "One of Us"/Joan Osborne. A record that asked the simple question, "What if God were one of us?" thereby outraging Christian fundamentalists who apparently never read Matthew 25.
1994: "The Sign"/Ace of Base. Twenty years after delivering unto the world Abba, Sweden sends another package.
1991: "One More Try"/Timmy T. Completely generic white-boy R&B, which achieved levels of popularity out of all proportion to its actual worth. You'd heard it on other records a million times before and you've heard it a million times since--which, come to think of it, probably accounts for its success here.
1896: "She May Have Seen Better Days"/George J. Gaskin. According to Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954, Gaskin scored 19 Number Ones between 1891 and 1900 on the rudimentary record charts that existed in that period. Irish tenors were hugely popular and often recorded back then, largely because their voices tended to reproduce well on the era's primitive technology. Navigate to an MP3 of "She May Have Seen Better Days" here, where you will notice that Gaskin doesn't so much "sing" as "declaim."