With a potential record-breaking snow storm bearing down on New York, I thought I'd share a story with you—and some music. On the morning of Monday, Feb. 6, 1978, I lived in Boston. I was a junior at Northeastern University, a five-year school that allowed you to spend half the year working at a job related to what you wanted to do when you graduated. I worked at The New York Times, and my work semester the previous year had ended in December. I was back in Boston studying in January.
On the morning of Feb. 6, I had early classes. Walking from my apartment on the Fenway to campus, the sky had a fiery orange hue at the horizon. The forecast for the 6th was snow, but in the days before all of the weather technology we have today, Boston's weather predictions on TV and radio often were sketchy and imprecise. So snow was snow in Boston. You put on boots, turned up your pea-coat collar, and life went on.
Before heading to class, I moved my orange '70 Javelin SST to the other side of Symphony Rd., locked it up, pulled down the antenna and headed to Huntington Ave. and the campus quad. When I arrived minutes later, the snow was starting to come down—playfully at first. After my first class, the sky was slate gray and snow was coming down as if someone were shaking sacks of it from they sky. At noon, after my second and last class, you could barely see more than a few feet in front of you. That night, the usual Boston blizzard activity took place—friends over, beers in ice, food from Boston House of Pizza and music.
When I woke the next morning. I was freezing. I got up to see if a window had opened and found the electricity out and the radiator ice cold. I hauled all of the food out of the fridge and freezer purchased the afternoon before and put it all in a red milk carton that served as on of my six album bins. Then I hung the carton out the window on ropes. What I initially thought was a building problem turned out to be an all-of-Boston blackout. The storm's winds had created a coastal surge, and the fierce waves flooded the city's main power station, which back then sat along the harbor. As for the snow, it was still coming down at a rate of several inches an hour without any end in sight. [Photo above, the Fenway mid-blizzard in 1978]
By lunchtime, since it was impossible to cook, a line formed at the one pizza place open on Massachusetts Ave. There also was a line at the nearest liquor store, with only three people being allowed in at a time to gird against shoplifting in the dark. That night around 9 or 10, the power came back on, as did my stereo. The card game resumed where it had left off.
The next day, Wednesday, the sun was out, and around 30 inches had fallen around the city in the two-day period, crippling all of the city's streets. Nothing moved. In fact, the snow had come down so fast and furious on Monday night that thousands of drivers had to abandon their buried cars on Route 128, which ran from Boston to Providence [above]. The snow had outpaced the vehicles.
It was jaw-dropping and traumatizing. The streets were thick with snow and parked cars were buried up to the roof. Classes were cancelled for a week, since neither the Boston sanitation department nor the National Guard could hope to dent the volume. Once the region was declared a national disaster on Wednesday by President Carter, the Army was dispatched with plows affixed to the fronts of tanks and other military vehicles. You can imagine the scene. Within a day, snow banks reached to the second stories of buildings. Students were tobogganing down them. I had never seen so much snow and it was terrifying. The amount of snow was novel at first but with stores closed, there wasn't much to do except remain in your apartment. Cabin fever kicked in after two days. It was too cold to walk far and you couldn't stand being indoors any longer.
What saved me were my albums, which transported my head someplace else. I still remember much of what I listened to. Here are the 20 LPs that I had in constant rotation during the Boston Blizzard of '78—and what I'll be playing today as I write and the snow comes down once again in sheets on a Monday and Tuesday, 36 years later...
- Steely Dan—Aja
- Bee Gees—Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack
- Dr. Buzzard's Savannah Band—Meets King Penett (pre-release DJ promo copy)
- Billy Joel—The Stranger
- David Bowie—Heroes
- Donna Summer—Once Upon a Time
- Roy Ayers—Vibrations
- Aerosmith—Draw the Line
- Grace Jones—Portfolio
- Bill Evans—Alone
- Miles Davis—Miles Ahead + 19
- Herbie Hancock—Head Hunters
- Antonio Carlos Jobim—Wave
- Art Farmer—Septet (Prestige)
- Horace Silver—The Stylings of Silver
- John Coltrane—Coltrane's Sound
- Sonny Stitt—Tune Up (Muse)
- Sonny Rollins—Tour de Force
- Leon Thomas Jr.—Louisiana Slim
JazzWax clips:Here are clips of the Boston Blizzard of '78...
Here's a national overview...
Here's a local overview...