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Flashback Fridays: March 1979

Forty-two years ago, the number one song on the radio was the Bee Gees’ hit, “Tragedy.” “Tragedy” was one of many hits from the musical trio, whose harmonious vocals ruled the airwaves throughout the height of the disco era. They are best remembered for their soundtrack for the John Travolta film, 1977’s Saturday Night Fever. Several hits emerged from this album, including “Staying Alive,” “Night Fever,” “How Deep is Your Love,” and “If I Can’t Have You”; “Tragedy” was just another addition to their long-line of hits. This track, however, would be one of the group’s final hits. After their follow-up single, “Love You Inside Out” topped the charts for a week in June, the Bee Gees became yesterday’s news. By this point in the music industry, the disco genre had become so oversaturated that there was a rapid decline in popularity and support for disco artists. The Bee Gees struggled to find success throughout the eighties, though they remained innovative artists in the shadows of the industry. Their 1981 LP, Living Eyes became the first ever CD to be played in public; leading vocalist Barry Gibb produced and co-wrote multiple songs and albums for different artists, such as Barbra Streisand’s 1980 LP, Guilty, and Diana Ross’ 1985 LP, Eaten Alive. Fortunately, the trio made a comeback during the late eighties with both successful tours and albums.

The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was signed 16 months after Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s visit to Israel in 1977, after intense negotiations. The main features of the treaty were mutual recognition, cessation of the state of war that had existed since the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Normalization of relations and the withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had captured during the Six-Day War in 1967. Egypt agreed to leave the Sinai Peninsula demilitarized. The agreement provided for free passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal, and recognition of the Strait of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba as international waterways. The agreement also called for an end to Israeli military rule over the Israeli-occupied territories and the establishment of full autonomy for the Palestinian inhabitants of the territories, terms that were not implemented but which became the basis for the Oslo Accords.

Nearly forty-two years ago, American rock band KISS was on the verge of releasing their platinum-selling record, Dynasty. KISS were arguably as popular to the American rock scene as were the Bee Gees to the disco scene, selling millions of records over the span of just a couple of years. The group blew up in popularity with their first ever live-album, 1975’s Alive!, which spawned their iconic rendition of “Rock n’ Roll All Nite.” Despite their overwhelming success, tensions in the band were at a breaking point in 1979. Drummer Peter Criss has been in a major car accident in 1978, leaving his drumming abilities less than mediocre. Filling in for him on this record is future David Letterman drummer, Anton Fig. Dynasty was a massive commercial success, spawning the hit single “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.” Fans of KISS were outraged because the song had a disco instrumentation. Regardless of its disco leanings, the rest of the Dynasty album was full of hard rock anthems. This would be the last album “featuring” the original four members. The tour that followed later in the year was full of animosity and tension between the band members. After their final show in December, the original members would not perform together until over fifteen years later.

The China Syndrome is a 1979 American drama neo-noir thriller film directed by James Bridges and written by Bridges, Mike Gray, and T. S. Cook. It follows a television reporter and her cameraman who discovered safety cover ups at a nuclear power plant. “China syndrome” is a fanciful term that describes a fictional result of a nuclear meltdown, where reactor components melt through their containment structures and into the underlying earth, “all the way to China”.

Ironically, The China Syndrome was initially criticized for being a “character assassination” of the nuclear industry. Just twelve days after its release, the Three Mile Island accident occurred just a couple counties away from Minersville. This partial meltdown at the nuclear facility rose alarm towards this field of energy. The “International Nuclear Event Scale” rated this incident a five on a seven-point scale. The event was so alarming that President Carter himself visited the site just two days after the meltdown. Cleanup of the area began in August of that year and lasted well into 1993, costing over a billion in damages. The undamaged portion of the plant remained in use until its shutdown in September of 2019.


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