A Spirited Year

by thoughtsonthedead

Twitter programmed the show tonight, Enthusiasts: 6/14/76 from the Beacon Theater in Manhattan and if you don’t know the set list offhand, do yourself a favor and don’t look; just listen. As with most of their ’76 shows, the Dead had forgotten which songs went where and you could hear just about any tune in any slot. (U.S. Blues would still be the encore, though.)

To allow you the surprise, instead of my usual thorough and well-researched show review–

Your what now?

–let’s take a journey back to that magical year of 1976. It was the Bicentennial, and also an election year. Right around this time, Jimmy Carter won the Iowa caucus, and went on to be the greatest ex-president of our time.

1976 also saw the introduction of the first Cray supercomputer, which cost a million dollars and weighed five tons. The machine processed at a speed of 80 megaflops per second, which is a silly-sounding speed. Also, your phone can do many gigaflops a second without breaking a sweat, and it does not weigh five tons, and you can use it to take pictures of your genitals. Taking a picture of your genitals with a Cray supercomputer was not just impossible, it was also probably illegal.

In February, the Winter Olympics took place in Innsbruck, Austria. What a wonderful name: it conjures up visions of hot chocolate and snow and men in their forties who don’t want to discuss what they did during the war.

I was excited when I read about the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. An armed people’s front declared independence; the new country was quickly recognized by some of the most powerful and respected nations on earth, such as Burundi, North Korea, and Madagascar. I’m thinking “breakaway nation befriended by weirdos? This is going to end in a curbstomping! I’m going to read about a massacre I never heard of! YAAAY!”

Except the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is in the Sahara Desert, and no one wanted it; it’s a semi-legal state now, which is the most boring possible outcome.

The NBA and the ABA merged in 1976. (More like the NBA absorbed the good parts of the ABA, plus Bob Costas.) This led to the NBA’s domination of first the country and, lately, the world’s imagination. It also led to the Will Ferrell movie Semi-Pro which, I can’t be a snob about this, has some funny shit in it.

Though the United States might have been celebrating a special birthday, our snowy snugglebuddies that we do some continental cuddling with were not to be outdone, specifically the great city of Toronto, which we know is the capital of Canada. Two important things happened in that world-class city. (Torontonians will always remind you that Toronto is a world-class city.)

The CN Tower was opened, and tenants and business rushed to fill the stores and apartments that did not exist because the CN Tower isn’t a building: it’s just a tower. There’s a treehouse kinda deal halfway up with a disco in it, but otherwise it doesn’t actually do anything. But, for a while, it was the tallest thing ever built. Also–as I mentioned–there was a disco.

Plus, the Blue Jays came to town! They were the second MLB team to come to Canada, and Toronto was vaguely enthusiastic if the team was winning, as opposed to Montreal’s relationship with the Expos. (A very Francophone mix of apathy and disregard.)

Speaking of sport team debuts, ’76 was the first game of the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle, as we know, is the capital of Canada.

The relationship between China and the Soviet Union dissolved in 1976, which was awkward because they owned a dog together. For years afterwards, the Soviet Union would get drunk and call China at three in the morning (which is actually a very convenient time in Beijing) and beg China to get back together, and then call China a bitch, and then cry. All of China’s friends were like, “China, you do not need him,” and China was like “GIVE ME ALL YOUR RESOURCES.”

Not to be outdone by winter, the summer was all, “I have an Olympics, too,” and the world said, “Oh. Will there be any Jews murdered at this one?” and summer said “Sure hope not.” So there more Olympics, this time in Montreal which, as we know, is the capital of Canada.

Mao Zedong died in 1976 and it feels like yesterday. I miss him every day.

Others died that year, obviously. Paul Robeson seems like he should have been dead a long time by 1976. Busby Berkeley died; his funeral was spectacular. Heidegger’s obituary was completely impenetrable. The Soviet scientist Lysenko died, too. (At least according to decadent Jewish science; good Socialist science declared him “very sleepy.”)

Mairead Corrigan received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work ending the conflict in Northern Ireland. The British Ambassador to Ireland, Christopher Ewart-Biggs, was assassinated by the IRA in July.

The Dead were back.