1970 – John Lennon’s “Instant Karma!” is released in the US

“Instant Karma” (also known as “We All Shine On”) was Lennon’s third solo single (that is, single as a non-Beatle – although George Harrison contributed electric guitar, piano and backing vocals), and the first to be a great success. It sold over a million copies in the US alone, and was a top ten hit in eleven different countries. It was also one of the quickest produced songs of all time, taking literally only ten days from recording to release (February 6 was its debut in the UK).

Like much of Lennon’s work, it is a vague hippie anthem, raising philosophical questions and radiating optimism – although not without its sly touches, such as the lines “Get yourself together / Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead”. Two months later, Paul McCartney would announce the official end of the Beatles, but until them, “Instant Karma” would compete with “Let It Be” (the second last Beatles single) on the charts.

Referenced in:
God Pt II — U2

1970 – “Monday Night Football” premieres

Although there had been occasional special matches played on a Monday night before 1970, it was not until that season of NFL play that they became a regular feature of the game. The first Monday Night Football game was played between the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns, at Cleveland Stadium.

The Browns defeated the Jets 31-21, and all the action was relayed to the loungerooms of America by the commentary team of Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson and DOn Meredith. The experiement was a roaring success – even movie and bowling alley attendances dropped on Monday nights as Americans stayed home to watch the games. Monday Night Football has been a regular feature of the game ever since, about to enter its 44th season.

Referenced in:

TV Party — Black Flag

1970 – The National Guard opens fire at Kent State University

In what Hunter Thompson called “this brutal year of our Lord, Nineteen-Hundred and Seventy”, there was brutality a-plenty on display, a veritable war across the USA. Largely fought between those who had awoken from the American Dream to the rather less pleasant reality, and those who wished very very deeply to stay safely asleep, there was violence on both sides of the table, and each side was convinced that the other had drawn first blood.

The Kent State shootings, at the university of that name in Kent, Ohio, were one of the last explosions of this violence. The students had gathered to protest President Nixon’s illegal invasion of Cambodia, which he had announced on May 30. In 13 seconds, 77 Ohio National Guard troops fired 67 rounds into a crowd of over 2000 students, killing 4 and wounding 9 others (one of whom was paralysed by their injuries). Further violence was narrowly averted by Kent State faculty members led by Glenn Frank, who pleaded with students and Guardsmen alike to disperse and was heeded.

In the wake of the shootings, universities across the nation held sympathetic protests, as did many others. No criminal charges were ever brought against the Guardsmen involved, despite the fact that no less an authority than Vice-President Spiro Agnew (a qualified lawyer) pronounced the killings to be murders.

Referenced in:

Ohio — Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Driving Across Mythical America — Pete Atkin

1970 – Sonny Liston dies in suspicious circumstances

Sonny Liston was found dead by his wife on January 5, 1971, but the date that appeared on his death certificate is December 30, 1970. This date is based on a police estimate, but since the police also ruled that his death was due to a heroin overdose and Liston’s autopsy showed no evidence of such an event, the date may also be suspect.

In addition, several things one would expect to find at the site of a heroin injection, such a tourniquet or similar to tie off with and a spoon to cook in, were absent from the scene of Liston’s death. Nor did Liston have any history of heroin use – and it’s hard to believe that he could have kept such a thing a secret, given his well-known love of drinking and partying to excess.

It is widely believed that his death was a result of a criminal hit, ordered by unknown underworld figures, and that the police investigation and its findings were a coverup.

Referenced in:
Song for Sonny Liston — Mark Knopfler

1970 – Neil Young releases ‘Southern Man’

Neil Young, that ageless and eternal figure of musical protest, has rarely attracted more controversy than in 1970, when he released “Southern Man”. Nearly six minutes long, it expressed Young’s contempt for slavery and slaverholders in his trademark hard rock style, and left no one with ears to hear in any doubt as to where he stood on the issue of race in America.

Never released as a single (the song appeared as the fourth track of Young’s 1970 album “After the Gold Rush”), its uncompromising lyrics made it one of the best known songs on the album – a notoriety that only grew after Lynyrd Skynyrd prominently criticised the song in their best known song “Sweet Home Alabama”.

Reportedly, there was no particular animosity between Young and the members of Skynyrd regarding the songs, just an honest disagreement of opinions. Indeed, at the time of the plane crash that killed Skynyrd, Young and the band were trying to sync up their schedules so that Young could perform “Sweet Home Alabama” with them sometime.

Referenced in:

Ronnie and Neil — Drive-By Truckers
Sweet Home Alabama — Lynyrd Skynyrd

1970 — Jimi Hendrix dies

Widely acclaimed as the greatest guitar player of all time, Jimi Hendrix was only 27 years old when he died. He had released only 4 albums before his death, but he was already one of the iconic figures of the Sixties. He popularised the use of the Fender Stratocaster, the guitar on which he played, and he played some of the greatest live sets of all time at Woodstock and Monterey.

Although occasional allegations of murder or suicide have been made, it seems most probably that Hendrix’ death was a tragic accident. He asphyxiated on his own vomit after taking a combination of an overdose of sleeping pills (Hendrix was unfamiliar with the brand and it was stronger than he likely realised) and red wine. He died in London, but his body was returned to his native Seattle for burial.

Referenced in:
L.A. Money Train — Rollins Band
Six Strings Down — Jimmie Vaughan
(He’ll Never Be An) Ol’ Man River — This Is Serious Mum
Rock And Roll Hall Of Death — Mitch Benn And The Distractions

1970 – Alex Jesaulenko marks over Graeme Jenkin in the 1970 VFL Grand Final

By half time, it looked like it was all over for Carlton. Another good year for them, but on the day, Collingwood had them outmatched. Minutes before the end of the second quarter, Jesaulenko marked over Jenkin (in what would become one of the game’s most iconic images), but it availed the Blues little. When the second quarter siren sounded, Carlton trailed by 44 points, an all-but insurmountable lead.

The half-time oration by Ron Barassi, with its legendary injunction to handball, has also become legend. Carlton changed their style of play in the game’s second half, to a faster, looser style of play that depended more on handballing than kicking to move the ball forward. Carlton kicked 8 goals to Collingwood’s 3 in the third quarter, and even though they entered the final term trailing by about three goals, the momentum had decisively shifted in their direction. They won the game by only 10 points, but a narrow win is still a win.

Referenced in:

The Back Upon Which Jezza Jumped – This Is Serious Mum

Happy Grand Final Day to my fellow Aussie Rules fans!

And to the rest of you:
honestly, you don’t know what you’re missing out on here 🙂

1970 – The Nigerian civil war ends with Biafra’s surrender

In 1960, Nigeria acheived independence from the British Empire. Following independence, Nigeria was divided primarily along ethnic lines and in January 1966, members of the Igbo ethnic group began a military rebellion, intending to secede from Nigeria and form an independent sovereign state as the Republic of Biafra.

The official secession was proclaimed in May 1967, but was followed almost immediately by an invasion. The Nigerian army reclaimed its lost territory inch by blood soaked inch, and finally, a ceasefire was reached in January 12, 1970. Over one million people had died in the war.

Referenced in:
Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner — Warren Zevon