Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ten Great Songs From One Great Week
The songs the radio played this week in history

May 20-26, 1979

American Airlines Flight 191 - American Airlines Flight 191 was a regularly scheduled passenger flight from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago to Los Angeles International Airport. On May 25, 1979, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 operating the flight crashed moments after takeoff from Chicago. All 258 passengers and 13 crew on board were killed, along with two people on the ground. Until the September 11 attacks, it was the most devastating air disaster in the history of the United States. It remains the deadliest aviation accident to occur on U.S. soil, as well as the second most devastating involving a DC-10, after Turkish Airlines Flight 981. It was also the third worst aviation disaster in history at the time, and is currently the tenth worst.

The flight began its takeoff roll at 3:02pm. Everything appeared normal until just after the plane reached takeoff speed, when the number one engine and the pylon assembly that attached it to the wing separated from the aircraft, ripping away a 3-foot  section of the leading edge of the left wing. Both the engine and pylon flipped over the top of the wing and landed on the runway. As the airplane was already above takeoff speed, the flight crew continued the takeoff. The airplane became airborne about 6,000 feet down the 10,000-foot runway.

The pilots were aware that the number one engine had failed, but could not have known it had separated from the plane, as the wings and engines were not visible from the cockpit and the control tower did not inform the flight crew of the problem. Investigators subsequently concluded the flight crew thought engine one had merely failed.

In addition to the engine's failure, several related systems failed. The number one hydraulic system, powered by the number one engine, failed but continued to operate via motor pumps which mechanically connected it to hydraulic system three. Hydraulic system three was also damaged and began leaking fluid, but maintained pressure and operation up until impact. Hydraulic system two was undamaged. The number one electrical bus, whose generator was attached to the number one engine, failed causing several electrical systems to go offline, most notably the captain's instruments, his stick shaker, and the slat disagreement sensors. While a switch in the overhead panel would have allowed the captain to restore power to his instruments, it was not used. It may have been possible for the flight engineer to reach the backup power switch (as part of an abnormal situation checklist - not as part of their take-off emergency procedure), in an effort to restore electrical power to the number one electrical bus. That would have worked only if electrical faults were no longer present in that number one electrical system. Furthermore, the flight engineer would have needed to rotate his seat, release his safety belt and stand up, to reach the switch. Since the plane never got higher than 350 feet above ground, and was airborne for no more than 50 seconds, there wasn't sufficient time to take such an action. In any event, the first officer was flying the airplane and his instruments continued to function normally.

Witnesses observed the aircraft continue to climb to about 300 feet above ground level while spewing a white vapor trail of fuel and hydraulic fluid. The first officer raised the nose up to 14 degrees to reduce the airspeed from 165 knots to 153 knots, the speed specified in the emergency procedure for engine failure during takeoff. However, the engine separation had severed the hydraulic fluid lines that controlled the leading edge slats on the left wing, causing the slats outboard (towards the tip of the wing) of the separated engine to retract under air load. The retraction of the slats raised the stall speed of the left wing to approximately 159 knots, 6 knots higher than the prescribed emergency speed. As a result, the left wing entered a full aerodynamic stall. The resulting asymmetric lift caused the plane to roll rapidly to the left and enter a steep dive from which it could not recover despite maximum opposite control inputs by the first officer. Flight 191 crashed in a 112-degree bank into an open field approximately 4,600 ft from the end of the runway.

Large sections of aircraft debris were hurled by the force of the impact into an adjacent trailer park, destroying five trailers and several cars and demolishing an old aircraft hangar at Ravenswood Airport that was used for storage. The fuselage cut a trench into the empty former airfield and the large amount of jet fuel generated a huge fireball.

The plume of smoke could be seen from the downtown Chicago Loop, 17 miles to the southeast. The aircraft had disintegrated in the crash and explosion. There were some post-crash fires but they were very small as there were no large pieces of the aircraft left intact to burn. A fireman assisting at the scene of the crash later stated, "We didn't see one body intact, just trunks, hands, arms, heads, and parts of legs. And we can't tell whether they were male or female, or whether they were adult or child, because they were all charred." Another first responder on the scene stated, "It was too hot to touch anybody and I really couldn't tell if they were men or women. Bodies were scattered all over the field."

All 271 passengers and crew on board were killed instantly by the impact and subsequent explosion, making it the most devastating aviation accident in U.S history. Two employees at a nearby repair garage were killed and two more severely burned. Of the 273 victims, only about a dozen bodies were found intact. Three additional residents were injured from falling aircraft debris. The airplane crashed in a field northwest of the intersection of Touhy Avenue (Illinois Route 72) and Mount Prospect Road on the border of Des Plaines and Mount Prospect, Illinois.

Music Charts:

#1 Single -- "Reunited" by Peaches and Herb
#1 Album -- "Breakfast In America" by Supertramp

Other Events:

1895 – Playwrigh Oscar Wilde is convicted of "committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons" and sentenced to serve two years in prison.
1925 – John T. Scopes is indicted for teaching Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in Tennessee.
1953 – At the Nevada Test Site, the United States conduct their first and only nuclear artillery test.
1955 – A night time F5 tornado strikes the small city of Udall, Kansas, killing 80 and injuring 273.
1961 – President John F. Kennedy announces his goal to initiate a project to put a "man on the Moon" before the end of the decade.
1968 – St. Louis Gateway Arch is dedicated.
1977 – The first Star Wars film is released in theaters.
1979 – Six-year-old Etan Patz disappears from the street just two blocks away from his New York City home, prompting an international search for the child, and causing U.S. President Ronald Reagan to designate May 25th as National Missing Children's Day (in 1983).
1986Hands Across America takes place.
2000 – Israel withdraws its army from most of the Lebanese territory after 22 years.
2011 – Oprah Winfrey airs her last show, ending her 25 year run of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Hot Stuff -- Donna Summer

This Disco classic was written by Pete Bellotte, Harold Faltermeyer and Keith Forsey. Bellotte co-wrote a few other hits for Summer, including "Love To Love You Baby" and "Heaven Knows." Faltermeyer had a solo hit in 1984 with "Axel F," and Forsey's credits include "Don't You (Forget About Me)" for Simple Minds and "Shakedown" for Bob Seger. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, who is a prolific session musician and at one point was a member of Steely Dan, did the guitar solo. Summer won a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance on this song. It was the first year the award was given out, and she beat out the very un-Disco Rickie Lee Jones, Tanya Tucker, Carly Simon and Bonnie Raitt.

Love Takes Time -- Orleans

This was the biggest hit the group achieved after front man John Hall left to launch a solo career. The song is about the fickle and unpredictable nature of love, pointing out that it needs tending and work over time, and often fails because people get caught up in the moment and fail to follow up on it. After 6 years and 5 top 100 singles, including "Dance With Me" (#6 in 1975) and "Still The One" (#5 in 1976), this was the band's last hit. While the band reunited for a number of comeback shows, lead singer and guitarist Larry Hoppen passed away last July.

Renegade -- Styx

This Classic Rock staple tells the story of a man who has committed associated theft and is heading to the gallows to die. Enclosed in the lyrics are a letter to his mother. This song was written by Tommy Shaw who also sang lead vocals, while James Young supplied the guitar solo. Since 2001, the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line has been devoted to "Renegade." According to team lore, during the 2008 season that culminated with the Steelers Super Bowl XLIII win, the defense was able to keep the opposing team from scoring nine out of ten times when the song was played.

Chuck E's In Love -- Rickie Lee Jones

At the age of 21, Jones began to play in clubs in Venice. She met Alfred Johnson, a piano player and songwriter, and in the first week they worked together they wrote some of Jones's most famous songs, including "Company." Nick Mathe, a neighbor, took an interest in Jones's music, helped her get publicity photos with Bonnie Shiftman who was then at A/M, and in their off hours the three of them shot Miss Jones' first photos. Rickie Lee played music in showcases, worked with cover bands in clubs, and sat in with Venice jazz bands, where her cover of "My Funny Valentine" became something of a local legend. It wasn't until she moved to Hollywood that her career took off. In early 1978 and through the efforts of Ivan Ulz, she came to the attention of Dr. John and Little Feat's Lowell George. George recorded her song "Easy Money" for his first solo record. Jones also met Tom Waits and Chuck E. Weiss, who were to figure largely in her early career. Also in 1978, producers Lenny Waronker and Tommy LiPuma heard about her, and after a bidding war, signed Jones to Warner Brothers Records for a five-record deal. The unknown Jones was about to change the course of pop music at a time when it was highly divided by genre. If her early career accomplished anything, it was to help bring female musicians out of the prevailing folk rock genre and into different musical experience.

She Believes In Me -- Kenny Rogers

Rogers was reaching the peak of his career at this time, and "She Believes In Me" became one of his biggest crossover hits in the late spring of 1979, reaching number one on the Billboard Country Singles chart. The song also peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart, and #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. It was also a minor pop hit in Great Britain reaching #42. The melody of the chorus also bears a striking resemblance to the chorus of "Lost Without Your Love" by soft rock band Bread (released in 1977), with the chords and structure being almost identical.

Old Time Rock And Roll -- Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

This is one of the few songs Seger recorded that he didn't write. It was written by the songwriters George Jackson and Thomas Jones, who worked for Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, where the song was recorded. Although Seger worked on the lyrics, he didn't take any songwriting credit. This means that Seger doesn't own the publishing rights to the song, and Jackson and Jones control when it is used in movies and commercials. According to Seger, he was feeling generous that day, and says not seeking composer credit was "the dumbest thing I ever did." Seger claims he changed all the original lyrics except for the "old time rock and roll" part. He made sure to take a dig at Disco music, which was fading in popularity.

Heart Of The Night -- Poco

Legend, the Cotton-Young album with cover art by graphic artist (and later comedy actor) Phil Hartman, was the group's most commercially successful album, containing two Top Twenty hits, "Crazy Love" written and sung by Rusty Young (which also had a seven-week run at Number 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart in early 1979, the biggest hit on the AC chart that year) and Cotton's "Heart of the Night". The album was certified gold, Poco's first album to achieve this distinction in original distribution. Kim Bullard (keyboards) joined the band in December 1978 just as Legend was being released. While "Crazy Love" was riding up the charts, ABC Records was sold to MCA Records. Poco was retained by MCA and the album was reissued on the MCA label. With the momentum built up from the album's success, Poco played their new hit "Heart of the Night" on the live album No Nukes in support of nuclear-free energy, which featured several other big artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne.

Rock and Roll Fantasy -- Bad Company

Popular belief was that singer Paul Rodgers was so enamoured of the Jeff Bridges film Bad Company that he chose to name his band after it. However, Rodgers himself disavowed that notion in an interview with He explained the idea came from a book of Victorian morals that showed a picture of an innocent kid looking up at an unsavory character leaning against a lamppost. The caption read "beware of bad company."

Is She Really Going Out With Him -- Joe Jackson

A minimalist New Wave song recorded with his band, "Is She Really Going Out With Him" was Joe Jackson's amusing commentary on hot girls hooking up with butt ugly dudes. Jackson makes this clear in the marvelous opening line, "Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street." In the Songfacts interview with Joe Jackson, he explained that the song was written with a humor that was lost on some listeners. Said Jackson: "That is just one of those songs that started with the title. I heard that phrase somewhere and I thought that could be a kind of funny song about gorgeous girls going out with monsters. It just started from there. It was just a funny song, or supposed to be funny. It was a great surprise to me when some people interpreted it as being angry."

Heart Of Glass -- Blondie

Blondie members Debbie Harry and Chris Stein (who were later married) wrote the first version of this song in early 1974, shortly after they first met. They didn't have a proper title for the song, and would refer to it as "The Disco Song." Harry explained on the show Words and Music: "Lyrically, it was about a stalker who was pursuing me, and Chris saved me from him." It wasn't until they recorded this song in 1978 that Stein came up with the title "Heart Of Glass." He didn't know that it was also the title of a 1976 German movie directed by Werner Herzog. The video for this song showed the band performing it in an empty discotheque, and was very popular, thanks to the many close-ups of Debbie Harry. Blondie was one of the few American bands that made videos in the years before MTV. They did so because they were very popular in Australia and Europe, and by producing videos, they could be featured on shows in those continents when they couldn't travel there.

1 comment:


The tragedy of AA191 is stuck in my mind all too well, probably due to the indelible nature of the iconic photo of the flight banking at a near 90 degree angle above O'Hare ( that ran on the front page of the Dallas Morning News (and likely hundreds of other newspapers) the next day. I remember staring at that photo, pondering the fact that at the exact moment it was taken all souls aboard must have been utterly terrified...and just seconds later they were all silenced forever. It still makes me shudder when I think about it (and it must come to mind at least once every Memorial Day weekend). The fact that the catastrophe occurred at my hometown airport struck a deep chord as well.

Anyway, your music lists are always entertaining and welcome, bringing to mind a great many weekly phone "Shayne's Charts" phone calls. Thanks!