Thursday, August 6, 2009

1969: The Moon Landing

One small step for man ...
One giant leap for mankind.
-- Neil Armstrong

And with those words, we had officially landed a man on the moon.

In 1961, President Kennedy had challenged us as a nation to make this happen before the end of the decade ... and, in 1969, we did.

The entire world was transfixed watching the landing. Virtually EVERY country covered the ground-breaking event and congratulated The United States on their efforts to win The Space Race. (Well, every country except for China, that is ... according to Time Magazine, they virtually ignored the moon landing ... and one Hong Kong daily newspaper ran the headline "The American People Pray: God Give Me A Piece Of Bread, Don't Give Me The Moon".)

Incredibly, when Kennedy first extended his challenge back in 1961, the nation's entire manned space experience consisted of only 15 minutes and 20 seconds, which was the length of Alan Shepard's maiden voyage on May 5, 1961. In fact, virtually NONE of the equipment capable of making the journey to the moon even existed yet back in '61 ... but over the next eight years, The United States assembled a team of over 400,000 men and women at 120 universities and 20,000 industrial firms to develop the technology (and the fifteen million parts) necessary to make such a half-million-mile road trip.

Our track record up to that point wasn't very impressive ... joining "The Space Race" in 1957, after The Soviet Union launched Sputnik, The U.S. saw thirteen straight failures between 1958 and 1964 while trying to accomplish a successful "lift off" from the Cape Canaveral Launch Pad, headed toward the moon.

And the flight of Apollo 11 didn't exactly go off without a hitch either! Before Armstrong announced "The Eagle Has Landed", the crew experienced a few "tense" moments when, just 160 feet away from the moon's surface, an alarm went off signaling that only 114 seconds worth of fuel remained aboard the lunar module, leaving the crew 40 seconds to decide if, in fact, they could land within the next TWENTY seconds!!! Apparently some communication interference between the command module, the "mother ship" Columbia and The Eagle caused a false reading that potentially could have driven the crew into an area occupied with lunar boulders ... or have forced them to reach the decision to abort the mission entirely. Ultimately, Mission Control simply turned off the radar to remedy this situation and, as we now all know, The Eagle landed safely.

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong spent a total of five and a half hours on the moon's surface over the next several days collecting soil samples, moon rocks and photographs but, reportedly, NO blue cheese. (Regarding the answer to the trivia question, who was the THIRD astronaut onboard Columbia for this legendary voyage, oft-forgotten about Michael Collins stayed onboard the mother ship, controlling the steering, rendezvous and docking maneuvers.)

Incredibly, we learned on the recent anniversary of the moon landing that much of the original video filmed by NASA had been erased over the years ... the scramble was soon on to collect and clean up video from a variety of other sources in order to recapture the complete event for all posterity.

Incredibly, it is entirely possible that the footprint shown above, imprinted by Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969, on the moon's surface, may remain entirely intact some 40 years later. That's because the moon has no atmosphere and no winds ... so speculation is that, unless it was in some fashion disrupted by one of the countless meteorites that collide with the moon each year, it very likely remains EXACTLY where he left it, looking virtually identical to the photo shown above! Amazing!

Likewise, because there is no wind on the moon, The American Flag planted there had to be rigged with a support bar to keep The Red, White and Blue unfurled ... the 3 foot by 5 foot flag was stiffened with a thin wire so that it would appear to always be waving in the vacuum of the moon's non-atmospheric state!


As they say, if you remember it, you weren't there. I guess there was some faked moon landing and a concert we didn't even hear about until the next year. And Mary Jo Kopechne got driven off the Chappaquiddick Bridge (there's a song there, Bobbie, I tell ya).

But the most important thing was that I got my learner's permit. Not that my father let me touch his car ...

Graham Nash reports on a new angle to Woodstock -- his helicopter almost crashed: Ron Smith

Lol ... yeah, I remember when James Brolin landed on the moon ... with O.J. Simpson, no less!!! (lol) You'll see ALL kinds of memorable headlines from 1969 spread out over the course of this month ... I'm hoping that more and more of our readers will write in to share some of their personal memories! (kk)

The Summer of 1969 in Chicago was genuinely magical for me. I had just turned 17, the very geeky president of the Lane Tech High School Astronomical Society. As far as I was concerned, Apollo 11 was the greatest triumph humanity had ever experienced, and I was constantly down in the basement, tinkering my home-made telescope, fooling with electronics, and wondering why girls ran screaming from me.

My grubby AM radio was always on, no matter where I was, to either WCFL or WLS. (I was still too poor to afford FM.) Most people remember songs like "Sweet Caroline," "Crimson and Clover," or "Hot Fun in the Summertime," but there were lots of other odd cuts that got some play here and there, especially on the 9-noon slots. One of my favorites was "Abergavenny" by Shannon, a rousing novelty beer-hall march about taking a hike up to a small town in Wales. Shannon included Peter Knight, who went on to join Steeleye Span in 1970.

By far my favorite band was The Association, which had seen its peak in previous years and was not charting much. However ... while I was out cleaning the garage the morning of July 31, 1969, I heard a new Association single, "Goodbye Columbus," the theme of the Richard Benjamin / Ali McGraw film that was playing about that time. It was a great manic upbeat tune with a lyric that stuck in my mind:

Got to say hello, it's a lucky day!

Kiss the moon goodbye and be on my way!

It's a lucky day 'cause I found you!

Gonna build a new world around you!

Touch the sun and run, it's a lucky day!

Hello, life! Goodbye, Columbus ...

A lucky day?

Well ... That same evening, my best friend and I went over to a youth group function (coffee house! Remember those?) at our church, and by some insane accident I found myself sitting next to a beautiful girl from nearby Resurrection High School. I'm not sure where the courage came from, but I asked her out to see my favorite movie, Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, that weekend. I found to my delight that she was a bit of a girl geek, and didn't think it too freaky when I set my telescope up in her parents' driveway to show her the planets and galaxies that I was always looking at myself. We were a bit of an odd couple, but most of the oddness came from me. (See photo.)

I was dumbfounded when I learned that her favorite band was ... The Association. "Goodbye Columbus" became our song.

I married her in 1976, and forty years later, we are still together, never happier. July 31, 1969: Days don't get any luckier than that!

-- Jeff (and Carol) Duntemann

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Great story, Jeff! (And the REALLY crazy part is that I think I had those very same pants in MY wardrobe collection back then, too!!! lol)

Ironically, we just featured "Abergavenny" a short while back in Forgotten Hits. (You can find it here: Click here: Forgotten Hits: Abergavenny)

"Goodbye Columbus" was a GREAT book that didn't translate very well to the silver screen ... that's a shame, too, because both Richard Benjamin and Ali McGraw were pretty much at their peaks right around this time. Not a bad tune, though, so we'll feature this one today ... let's face it, you're not likely to hear it on the radio anytime soon!!!

Thanks again for sharing with us! (kk)

Fantastic. It was a pivotal year for a lot of my friends in my age-cohort. We were old enough to start exploring the world beyond our parents' houses, and still too young to start worrying about Vietnam.

The Peter Knight connection is key to the success of "Abergavenny." He arranged the orchestration on the instrumental accompaniment, which is amazingly complex if you tune out the voice and pay attention to the instruments.

One final note about "Abergavenny": I was at a book publishing trade show eight or ten years ago, and there was a small chamber-of-commerce type booth there pushing Wales as a potential business location. I asked the young British woman at the booth if she had any brochures about Abergavenny. She did not, and was visibly puzzled as to why I would single out such a nondescript little town, which is evidently not a tourist destination. I told her it was because of the song, which she had never heard of. I then sang a couple of verses for her right there in the booth, and she almost wet her pants laughing. Makes me wonder if there are songs known in the UK about American towns like Decatur or Hoffman Estates. (The Association did one called "Dubuque" which while not a masterpiece is still memorable.)

Good luck and keep at it!

Jeff Duntemann

THIS JUST IN: Speaking of The Association, this Friday night (as in "tomorrow"!) at 9 PM DJ Stu Weiss will be talking on the phone with Jim Yester (one of the founders and singers of The Association on his Top Shelf Oldies Radio Program, "The Pop Shoppe". It airs every Friday night from 7 PM till 3:01 AM (eastern time). The Pop Shoppe can be heard at