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October 1978








The TV mini-series Centennial premieres on NBC. At 25 hours and $25 million, the dramatization of the James Michener novel is the most out-sized program ever produced for the small screen. It runs through February 1979.
Gene Simmons, Kiss bassist with the serpentinelike tongue, receives a platinum record for his eponymously titled solo LP, one of four released concurrently by the members of Kiss, Simmons' charts the highest, to #22, guitarist Paul Stanley's also goes platinum, but the biggest hit from the quartet comes from lead axeman Ace Frehley, whose "New York Groove" reaches #13.
The Boys From Brazil, a film adaptation of Ira Levin's best-selling novel starring Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier, premieres.
Midnight Express, based on a reckless young American tourist named Billy Hayes's book about his five year stay in a Turkish prison after being arrested while attempting to smuggle hashish out of the country in 1970, is released by Columbia Pictures with relatively unknown Brad Davis playing Hayes, and John Hurt and Randy Quaid as two of his imprisoned pals. The film, hitting theaters exactly eight years to the day after Hayes was arrested, is a huge hit among young moviegoers, but draws jeers for its stereotyping of Turks. Still, it wins an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for Oliver Stone, and another for Giorgio Moroder for its score. Still relatively unknown, ex-Vietnam vet Stone will later write Conan the Barbarian and Scarface before hitting directorial heights and eternal fame in the mid-1980s with Salvador and Platoon.
RCA Records releases David Bowie's double album Stage, a document of Bowie's U.S. tour earlier this year featuring both his early pop, rock and soul material and his more recent, experimental music.

New York City teems with energetic crowds for its annual Columbus Day parade, but tonight an even bigger spectacle unfolds at Madison Square Garden. Progressive rockers Jethro Tull perform for two disparate audiences -- one in the concert hall, and one watching at home on TV -- in one of the first concerts ever broadcast live via satellite. On stage madcap frontman Ian Anderson and his lads blast off the 45-minute transmission with the title track of their latest gold album, Thick As a Brick. "Thunderous applause and the obvious fanaticism of a 20,000 capacity crowd of new generation Tull freaks made it an impressive demonstration of the group's power and appeal after ten years on the road," writes Melody Maker. But the tension and strain on Anderson was obvious, with the knowledge of an estimated potential audience of 400,000,000 TV viewers."

The Be Stiff tour opens at Bristol University in England, featuring such Stiff Records acts as Lene Lovich, Wreckless Eric, Mickey Jupp, Jona Lewie and Rachel Sweet. The package tour will later come to America, where it will be moderately successful.

Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry of Aerosmith are injured in Philadelphia by a cherry bomb thrown on stage by an overzealous audience member. Thereafter, the group performs from behind a cyclone fence.

After three uneven albums of Sixties influenced jams and often structureless compositions, San Francisco group
Journey gets a new lead singer, Steve Perry, who can write songs. Not surprisingly, Infinity is their most successful album to date, and puts them on a course that will eventually make them one of the biggest commercial successes of the Eighties. The LP turns platinum on this date.
Ex-Sex Pistol Sid Vicious' girlfriend Nancy Spungen is found dead of abdominal knife wounds in their room at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. Vicious, who is nearly unconscious due to the effects of several different drugs, including heroin, babiturates and alcohol, is charged with her murder, jailed and then released. Months later, Vicious will die of a heroin overdose before the case ever comes to trial. Their tumultuous relationship will be profiled in the Alex Cox-directed, critically acclaimed 1986 film, Sid & Nancy.
The Roman Catholic Church elects Poland's Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II. Born in Wadowice, Poland, he is the first non-Italian Supreme Pontiff since Netherlands-born Adrian VI's election in 1522, the first East bloc (Slavic) pope ever, and the youngest (58) pope since Pius IX in 1846. He also becomes the third-longest reigning (26 1/2 years) pope, and the second pope elected in 1978 after Paul VI's and John Paul I's deaths. He will be credited as being largely responsible for the ultimate downfall of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989-1991, but also detracted for opposing birth control and condom distribution to prevent AIDS in impovershed countries and suspected of a coverup in the abuses of children that appeared in 2002's publicized abuse scandal. He dies on April 2, 2005, at age 84.
1978 is the year of the movie soundtrack, and Frankie Valli has a Number One platinum hit with the title song from Grease. It is the biggest hit of his solo career and eventually sells seven million copies.
The film Rockers, produced and directed by Greek Theodoras Bafoloukos, premieres in Kingston, Jamaica. This reggae feature, with a plot similar to the well-known reggae cult film The Harder They Come with Jimmy Cliff, stars reggae session drummer Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace; he plays himself, taking on a crime syndicate that threatens the welfare and lifestyle of Kingston's reggae musicians. The film also features such reggae stars as Winston "Burning Spear" Rodney, Jacob "Killer" Miller, Gregory Isaacs, the Mighty Diamonds, Big Youth, Robbie Shakespeare, Dillinger, Jack Ruby, Richard "Dirty Harry" Hall and Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus as themselves. The film's soundtrack also features the music of Prince Hammer, Peter Tosh, the Heptones and others. It will not be shown in the U.S. until 1980, when it will enjoy a brief but well-received run.
After months of devastating news stories and 10,000 reports about defective tires causing nearly a hundred fatalities and injuries, Firestone announces a recall of 7.5 million steel-belted radial tires -- the largest in US history. It also agrees to replace six million more tires at half price. Several months later National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents reveal that Firestone had known about unsafe tread-separation issues since 1973, though it steadfastly issued public denials that anything was wrong. Firestone, the nation's second-largest rubber company (behind Goodyear), soon reports a $172 million loss in the fourth quarter, propelling talk of a sale or merger.
The Clash end their business relationship with their manager, Bernie Rhodes -- the same Bernie Rhodes who will be disparagingly referred to in the line "Bernie Rhodes knows, don't argue!" in the Specials' hit "Gangsters."
Funk-fusion band Earth, Wind and Fire kick off a seventy-five-date American tour in Louisville, Kentucky.

The papal inaguration of Karol Wojtyla occurs in Vatican City, where he told his worldwide TV audience to "be not afraid." His papal election itself was seen as a source of joy to not only Polish people but other non Italians, e.g. those living in or formerly residing in Communist countries. Like his predecessor, John Paul I, John Paul II also chose a simplifyed papal inauguration.

Sid Vicious, who is initiating a solo career after Johnny Rotten announced after a January 14, 1978 concert in San Francisco that the Sex Pistols were breaking up, attempts suicide while imprisoned in the Riker's Island Detention Center in New York City following the death of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, with whose murder he's been charged. Since the Sex Pistols disbanded, Vicious has been spiraling even deeper out of control with multiple arrests, accidents, and overdoses that culminated with his arrest for murdering Spungen. Vicious will die, not suprisingly, next February of complications caused by a heroin overdose, out on bail before he could be tried.

Maybelline Carter, the matriarch of the pioneering country music group The Carter Family, dies at age 69. The group started singing in 1927 and included Maybelline on guitar and vocals. The original group disbanded in 1943 and reorganized later with Maybelline and daughters Anita, Helen and June (who went on to marry Johnny Cash).

CBS Records becomes the first major American label to announce a price hike to $8.98 list price for albums.

Keith Richards's punishment for a heroin possession charge in Canada is a one-year suspension and an order to play a charity concert for the blind.
Shot in three weeks and featuring an unknown actress (Jamie Lee Curtis) and a miniscule budget of $325,000, B-movie master John Carpenter's influential horror film Halloween opens just six days ahead of the scary holiday and scares up some big box office. Curtis (paid $8,000 for this, her screen debut), capitalizes on her famous parentage -- father Tony Curtis and particularly her mother, Janet Leigh, known forever for her shower scream scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Carpenter borrows liberally from that and other horror classics, and with savvy, timely promotion, Halloween torches the box office for $47 million. And so is born the horny-teen slasher movie genre, spawning umpteen sequels and a horrid horde of imitative franchises with "unkillable killers" like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street.
President Carter signs the Government Ethics Law, requiring financial disclosures by all executive- branch staff, and adding restrictions for all federal employees moving to private businesses.
The made-for-TV live action movie Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, starring comic-book, heavy-metal, glitter rockers Kiss as the heroes trying to foil a mad scientist operating in an amusement park, airs on NBC-TV.

The Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond duet "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" enters the Hot 100. It was not their first performance encounter, in fact, they had sung together at Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Erasmus Hall High School in the choir during the '60s. "Flowers" will rise to #1 in early December and spend a total of 15 weeks on the charts.

The Top Five
1. "Hot Child in the City" - Nick Gilder
2. "You Needed Me" - Anne Murray
3. "Reminiscing" - Little River Band
4. "MacArthur Park" - Donna Summer
5. "Whenever I Call You 'Friend'" - Kenny Loggins


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