1968 — Apollo 8’s crew become the first humans to see the Dark Side of the Moon

Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders set a lot of records on their flight. The crew of Apollo 8 were the first to travel beyond low Earth orbit, the first to see Earth as a whole planet, the first to directly see the far side of the Moon, and then the first to witness Earthrise. The 1968 mission, the third flight of the Saturn V rocket and that rocket’s first manned launch, was also the first human spaceflight launch from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, located adjacent to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Even today, nearly 50 years on, only another 21 people have ever looked upon the Dark or Far Side of the Moon with their naked eyes, and the last of them did so in 1972. Kind of makes you wonder what happened to us, that we’ve apparently lost that ambition and idealism.

Referenced in:
The Point of No Return — Immortal Technique

1968 — The Doors release “Waiting For The Sun”

Ironically, the title track of this album does not appear on it. (It was later released on their 1970 album, “Morrison Hotel”.) There were two singles from this album, “The Unknown Soldier” and the #1 hit, “Hello, I Love You” – other tracks included “Spanish Caravan”, “Five To One” and “Love Street”.

The album itself also went to number one on the charts – and it’s not even the Doors’ best-selling album. It is also the shortest of all of the Doors’ albums, with a total running time of only 32 minutes and 59 seconds.

Referenced in:

Bug Powder Dust — Bomb The Bass

1968 – The Massacre at My Lai

The Mỹ Lai Massacre is the best known American military atrocity in history. It was committed by U.S. Army soldiers from the Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the 23rd (Americal) Infantry Division. Estimates of the total death toll vary from 347 (the American estimate) to 504 (the Vietnamese estimate), and included men, women, children and infants. Some of the women were also raped.

The army initially was quite successful in covering up the massacre, and it was not until October 1969 that the first reports of it appeared in the American media. Public outcry was swift and vociferous. 14 officers were court-martialed for the killings, but only one – by the merest coincidence, the same one who had talked to the media – was convicted. Lt. William Calley was convicted on 20 charges of murder, and served a total of three and a half years for these crimes before being paroled.

Referenced in:
The Battle Hymn Of Lt. Calley — C. Company
Everybody’s Got A Right To Live — Pete Seeger

1968 – Yasmine Bleeth born

One of THE pin-up girls of the Nineties, Yasmine Amanda Bleeth is a native New Yorker, born on June 14, 1968 (the day before fellow pin up girl Courteney Cox). Bleeth is best known for the roles of Caroline Holden in “Baywatch” and Caitlin Cross in “Nash Bridges”. It was the former that made her a star – although that probably had more to do with how good she looked in a swimsuit than her acting talent (although she is a skilled actress, that’s not the element of her person “Baywatch” really spotlighted).

Unfortunately for Bleeth, she has suffered repeated bouts of addiction, concluding in a cocaine addiction in 2003 that effectively ended her career in showbiz.

Referenced in:
The Chanukah Song (Part II) — Adam Sandler

1968 – Martin Luther King is assassinated

Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, after years of non-violent struggle for civil rights. By 1967, he was moving on from that. While it remained an important part of his goals, he had also become a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War and in 1967 established the Poor People’s Campaign – both of which reflected an approach to social justice that was increasingly based on class rather than race.

King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee as he stood on the balcony of his hotel. A single shot fired by James Earl Ray caused a remarkable amount of damage, and although King was raced to a nearby hospital by his friends, the doctors were unable to save him. His death led to riots in many American cities (other than Indianapolis, where Bobby Kennedy made one of the greatest speeches of his career, and found his plea for cooler heads heeded), and a national day of mourning was declared by the President.

Referenced in:
Pride – U2
They Don’t Care About Us – Michael Jackson

1968 – Andy Warhol introduces the concept of 15 minutes of fame

Andy Warhol understood one thing about the general acceleration of life and culture in the self-reinforcing media spiral of the twentieth century: that there would be no more ‘nine days’ wonders’. We wouldn’t have time to be that patient any more. We wouldn’t have the attention spans. We would lose interest in things much more quickly, a bottomless appetite for novelty that even the internet struggles to fill.

In particular, he saw this as happening to celebrities: to them, he alloted 15 minutes apiece. It’s almost like he foresaw how debased the currency of ‘celebrity’ would become in the face of the relentless banality of reality television. Which makes it all the more remarkable that he first wrote the words “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” in the program for a 1968 exhibition of his work at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden.

Referenced in:
Jung Talent Time — This Is Serious Mum

1968 — Huey Newton convicted of manslaughter

Huey P. Newton was one of the founders of the Black Panther Party, and a man of deep thought. He had read widely in politics and philosophy, and created for himself and the Black Panthers a philosophy he called ‘revolutionary humanism’. He stood for the rights of black people across America and the world, the rights to self-determination and self-defence. But he wrestled with the need for revolutionary violence, as well as infighting in the black community.

Just before dawn on 28 October, 1967, Huey Newton and a friend were pulled over by an Oakland Police Department officer named John Frey. Frey called for backup, and after fellow officer Herbert Heanes arrived, a fight broke out. Shots were fired, and all three were wounded. Heanes testified that the shooting began after Newton was under arrest, and one witness testified that Newton shot Frey with Frey’s own gun as they wrestled. No gun on either Frey or Newton was found. Frey died later that day, and Newton was convicted of manslaughter, but a mistrial was declared. The case was tried two more times with the same outcome, and the state declined to prosecute a fourth time.

Referenced in:
Hallelujah, I’m a Bum — Barbara Dane

1968 — Prudence Farrow arrives at Rishikesh

Prudence Farrow (younger sister of Mia Farrow), came to study under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at his ashram Rishikesh for the same reason everyone else did in the late Sixties: seeking enlightenment via Transcendental Meditation. The members of the Beatles arrived there a few weeks later, and became fast friends with her – especially John.

Farrow was notoriously serious about her meditation practice, and routinely stayed in her room meditating long beyond the assigned times for classes and sessions – up to 23 hours a day, in fact. Lennon in particular made efforts to drag her out into the world, to remind her that the point of meditation was ecstatic union with the world, not separation from it. She would need to be reminded to attend meals at times.

Referenced in:
Dear Prudence — The Beatles

1968 – Otis Redding’s “The Dock of the Bay” is released

Otis Redding wrote other songs that are well remembered for, such as “Respect” (best known for Aretha Franklin’s version of it), but to most people, his name is best associated with “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”. As it should be, since it is an absolutely fantastic song.

Otis wrote the first verse in June 1967, but got a little stuck with it. More than a year later, he worked with Steve “The Colonel’ Cropper to finish the song. In a later interview, Cropper said that the song was autobiographical for Redding.

Many people have done cover versions of the song, but Michael Bolton was not one of them, whatever you may have heard.

Referenced in:
Rock and Roll Heaven — The Righteous Brothers

1968 – The Prague Spring is crushed by the Soviet Army

For eight glorious months in 1968, it appeared that some of the liberalisation that was sweeping the West had taken root in Czechoslovakia. The Prague Spring, as it was called, was a period when political controls on the populace of the nation were relaxed: restrictions of movement, speech and commerce were all reduced or removed, and the people rejoiced.

The Prague Spring came to an end when the Soviet Union decided to demonstrate why it had absorbed the easternmost portion of Czechoslovakia at the end of World War Two: without the defensible mountains of the Carpathian range to protect, there was little to stop the tanks of the Soviets – and those of Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria – rolled into the country, and restored Soviet control and Soviet oppression. It would be another 21 years until the Velvet Revolution fulfilled the promise of the Prague Spring.

Referenced in:

Prague — Arik Einstein
They Can’t Stop The Spring — Dervish

1968 — The Tet Offensive commences

The Tet Offensive – so-called because it began during the Tet Festival of 1968 – was a major offensive mounted by North Vietnamese forces that spanned nine months of 1968. Its primary goal was to inspire uprisings behind South Vietnamese lines, but in this respect, and in most traditional military respects, it failed. The offensive over-estimated Vietcong capabilities, especially in terms of arms and manpower, and under-estimated the resolve, mobility and firepower of American and South Vietnamese forces. Particular battles of the campaign were fought at Hue and Khe Sanh in January 1968, while later attacks would involve infiltration behind American lines, even striking in Saigon.
However, it was a major propaganda victory for the Vietcong in America, as the attack came as a complete surprise and demonstrated just how much America as a whole had under-estimated their foe. The Tet Offensive and the heavy casualties it inflicted – both among the American and allied forces, and among the civilian population – made the war in Vietnam a major issue in the 1968 Presidential election, and spurred opposition to the war among the American public.

Ultimately, the results of the Tet Offensive can only be seen as inconclusive. Both sides took heavy casualties, but little territory was lost on either side, and both sides soon reinforced. The war itself would drag on for another seven years before North Vietnam finally achieved victory.

Referenced in:
People of the Sun — Rage Against The Machine

1968 – the Democratic National Convention opens in Chicago

In 1968, tensions were running high in America. The Vietnam War was dividing the population into pro and anti factions, and the Civil Rights struggle was doing the same. Both sides were becoming increasingly violent, and there were serious concerns that the nation might once again be riven by civil war.

With the assassination of Bobby Kennedy having removed the obvious front-runner from the competition, and the incumbent President refusing to stand for re-election, the Democratic Party was in chaos. But Robert J. Daley’s Chicago was a stronghold of the Democrats, and as Mayor, Daley promised that the convention would run smoothly.

Others disagreed. Thousands of protesters descended upon Chicago, intent on protesting against the war, for civil rights and against the forces of the Establishment. As the convention opened, violence simmered beneath the surface. It wouldn’t take much for it to erupt…

Referenced in:
She Is Always Seventeen – Harry Chapin

1968 – Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated

Senator Robert Kennedy was doing well as June 5 started. He’d won the California primary held on the previous day, and was feeling triumphant as he addressed friends and supporters in the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. This victory had more or less sealed his position as the Democratic candidate for the Presidential election to be held later that year.

A few minutes after completing the speech, he was shot three times by Sirhan Sirhan. He was rushed to hospital, but one of the bullets had entered his head just behind his left ear. The damage was too great, and Kennedy died a day later without ever regaining consciousness. He was mourned by a grieving nation, and in his absence, Hubert Humphrey, the sitting Vice-President, won the nomination instead.

Referenced in:
She Is Always Seventeen – Harry Chapin